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School libraries in Egypt

Role of school librairans and new technologies in educative action

By Soha Saad-Wakim, Coordinator at the Catholic Schools Training Centre in Alexandria

le nouveau Centre de ressources documentaires et numériques CRDN du Collège Mère de Dieu Alexandrie- 201©cdussolLibraries and information services undoubtedly play a key role in access to essential documentary resources. Their action encourages cultural development and contributes to maintaining intellectual freedom.
School libraries are supposed to make an important service structure available related to the school’s aims. These libraries must support teaching syllabuses. They must acquire books and information supports to encourage reading and stimulate intellectual curiosity. They must also satisfy the needs of teachers and administrative staff.
It is also indisputable that media libraries or multimedia spaces in schools provide an opportunity to open up to the world and spectacularly develop the level of access to information and knowledge.

We have the opportunity to work with children, teenagers and youths who, with or without our help, try to find what technology has to offer in different fields. And if children have access to information freely circulating on the Internet, they more than ever they need help sorting through this information and assessing the relevance of the sources they consult.
If we are not careful, there is a risk that young people will remain superficial and suffer a lack of in-depth culture.

ecole Girard Avril 2011tablo numerique @cdussolSchools in Egypt are slowly adopting these technologies. They have discovered that although traditional classes remain important for many teachers, they cannot ignore new technologies which are now highly significant. This technology incites, encourages and give pupils an appetite for learning.

More specifically in our daily reality there are many head teachers who believe in new technologies. However, certain problems exist:
1. Lack of means: schools do not have enough means to purchase IT tools
2. And if schools do manage to purchase this IT equipment, they do not know when it will be able to be renewed, so it must be well kept and maintained. This prevents free access for pupils.
3. Teaching staff do not necessarily have the necessary skills in this field. Plus any change is disruptive.
4. We know that there are many e-books available, but we do not have enough facilities in schools or the know-how to use them.
Furthermore, this new technology is rarely integrated into the progression of different disciplines.

However, all is not lost. There are nevertheless certain teachers who, despite everything, resist what holds them back and try to discover, explore and train themselves in implementing new practices in their classes.
As a training centre, we encourage new technologies in all their different forms.
There are refresher courses for teaching staff and on almost all courses we include an NICT module for teachers.

How therefore can media libraries be combined with new technologies
since they both serve information and culture?

How can media librarians and IT teachers help other teachers and offer new resources to pupils and apply new technologies in libraries?
However, today we face another difficulty.
Most schools have a computer room for IT lessons and sometimes for searches which pupils want to do, as well as libraries for books and reading. Very often Arab libraries are dedicated to lessons imposed by the department of education and a French library, which is free, but librarians do not have enough training to know what to do with the lessons they are given.
Media librarians are mostly people who did not choose to do this job and don’t believe in what they are doing. They hope that the time they spend in a school is a stepping stone until a teaching position becomes vacant or available. How is it possible to find qualified librarians to purchase books, organise collections and advise pupils and teachers in how to best use the library.

Rare are those who, after having taken on such responsibilities, actually believe in what they do and have become references for their colleagues. Media librarians, in addition to all the above, are not readers and as far as I know do not know how to encourage others to read or give them an appetite for reading.

It should however be dais that there are media librarians who make media libraries true places for welcoming pupils and who are specifically part of all projects in their schools.
In such cases, it is the media librarians who fight to obtain 4 or 5 computers in their space to combine with books, digital supports and the Internet.

Une enseignante avec Safinaz El Antabli-responsable du CDI du Collège Saint Marc dialoguant avec leurs homogues du collège Grande Bastide à Marseille en vision conférence-2014©cdussolWe want to have libraries with enough qualified staff, books and above all technologies, bearing in mind the fact that this has a determining impact on school performance and the fulfilment of pupils. This is why librarians and specialists need to be hired who have skills in supporting teachers, the management and organisation of school libraries. These are things to which we aspire.

We continue to hope because projects already in place such as the Marseille/Arles – Alexandria twinnings have enabled several media librarians to carry out valuable work because they are highly motivated.
Projects such as the reading challenge have enabled librarians and teachers to work together and to make pupils aware and motivate them to read and sometimes even analyse texts.
We continue to hope that thanks to training courses to learn to update collections, we will be able to attract teachers and pupils to this place which should be open to everyone. The media librarians will be able to better understand their role and importance in schools, even if they are undoubtedly faced with many problems and much resistance.

To conclude we all know that a well managed library is a true lung for schools providing a breath of fresh air for pupils. Librarians are in an excellent position to support both teachers and pupils.

Our meeting today could be the occasion to implement shared projects which will shed further light on the important and essential role of media libraries and will enable us to finds ways leads to combine books and technology.