SJSU iSchool Teacher Librarianship Alumna Publishes Original Research

iStudent Blog

Published: June 29, 2017

Allison Rothman knew something needed to be done about the local middle school’s use of e-readers. There was no continuity with choice of device or downloading service, and school librarians were venturing into uncharted territory with little guidance and few standards. Being both a teacher in a city school and a student at the SJSU School of Information meant that Rothman had immediate access to the resources she needed to make something dynamic happen for her students.

The iSchool’s Teacher Librarianship program enables graduate students to get both an MLIS and their California teacher librarian services credential by following the specific career pathway. Other career pathways allow for a lot of freedom in choosing coursework to achieve a MLIS, but the Teacher Librarianship program requires students to take very specific courses.

Rothman completed the required courses, including two semesters of Info 298, and received her MLIS in the Teacher Librarianship program in 2016. The Info 298 courses allowed her to create a research project that would examine the use and availability of e-readers and open-sourced materials that children and schools had to choose from. Inspired by an Info 285 Research Methods class, Rothman worked with Teacher Librarian Coordinator Dr. Mary Ann Harlan to craft the project and draw up a research proposal. Harlan understood that with Rothman’s intense interest in this project and the concurrent accessibility of a group of students created a perfect recipe for an original research project that would result in a better alternative for Rothman’s culminating experience than a thesis. Together, Rothman and Harlan crafted a set of learning outcomes and deliverables and wrote up a research proposal for approval by the International Research Board (IRB). “In these projects, I see my job less as professor and more as a mentor,” says Harlan.

After seeing the immediate need for original research around e-readers, Rothman began the project in the spring by compiling the material she would need for her research, including acquiring the Kindles her students would use and writing up, sending out and collecting guardian assent forms. The entire summer was spent working with the IRB to get approval for her project. Due to the sensitivity the IRB has with the use of minors for research, Rothman had to work to make the language of the proposal clear about her intentions and her relationship with her subjects. In fall, the research and the school year began in earnest. “You’ve really got to hit the ground running,” says Rothman.

Rothman used her time at the iSchool to incorporate her course work into doing meaningful work in her classroom and school district. During the same time, she also had to communicate to school administrators and the technology department about the pressing need for the curriculum to move at a faster pace in order to keep up with today’s rapidly evolving technology. Too often, the software would need to be updated before the curriculum had even been uploaded to the Kindles.

As Rothman neared completion of her project, it became apparent to Harlan that more than just the iSchool needed to be aware of this original research. It just hadn’t been done before. Harlan urged Rothman to submit her final research paper to several professional journals. In August of 2016, Knowledge Quest, the journal of the American Association of School Librarians accepted the article, where it went through another editorial process. The article was recently published in the May/June issue Knowledge Quest.

Rothman continued to learn about the research process even after graduating, picking up a lot of information about the publishing process along the way. For instance, while the SJSU iSchool chooses to emphasize the acquisition of a teaching credential and uses the job title “teacher librarian,” Knowledge Quest uses the term “school librarian.” A rose by any other name…would still teach kids in a school library. Rothman soon learned there is a lot of give and take in the editorial process. She realized that while some elements of her publication she could let go of, when it really mattered she would need to speak up and defend her research. This also proved true when selecting the graphics for the publication. When the stock photos selected for her publication were blatantly unrepresentative of her school’s demographics, she was able to discuss the pictures with the publisher and get them changed.

Not only has Rothman graduated from the SJSU School of Information and become a teacher librarian with an original research project under her belt, she might come back as a guest lecturer in one of Harlan’s classes. “It’s the kind of research that I am very interested in sharing and looking to incorporate into the curriculum,” Harlan says. And now she can share it with her students without having to go out and find the research or do it herself. It’s already been done—by an iSchool alumna!

For related stories, be sure to check out:
Exploring iSchool Career Pathways– Teacher Librarianship

From Great Grad School Paper to Getting Published–SJSU iSchool Student’s Work Goes out into the World

image courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS