November 30, 2015

Tasha Bergson-Michelson | Movers & Shakers 2014 — Tech Leaders



Instructional and Programming Librarian
Castilleja School, Palo Alto, CA

MLIS, San José State University, 2001; MA, Regional Studies: East Asia, Harvard, 1997


Photo by Jeff Cable

Google Goes to School

While enrolled in the MA program at Harvard University in 1995, Tasha Bergson-Michelson acquired valuable online database search skills from librarians as she continued her undergraduate research on Chinese sign language. A research junkie, she was well on her way to becoming an anthropologist but began to consider librarianship after the librarians took her under their wings. The deal was sealed on a drive to Cape Cod with her college friend Ursula Scholz, now head of access services at Loyola University in Chicago.

Bergson-Michelson’s obsession with search eventually led her to Google. Before joining the Castilleja School in Palo Alto as an instructional and programming librarian in August 2013, she served as Google’s search educator (2010–13). She built two massive open online courses (MOOCs) for its Search Education hub—Power Searching with Google and Advanced Power Searching—reaching several hundred thousand registered students across hundreds of countries. Her other Google-era accomplishments include building a coalition of librarians and educators from various types of organizations who are as passionate as she is about the importance of “meaningful search work in the ‘real world’ of the Internet, the open web, not merely the librarian’s traditional world of firewalled databases,” says Kristin Fontichiaro, a 2012 Mover & Shaker and clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Information.

“What was so compelling about creating the MOOCs was that I had to figure out how to convey search skills in a way that people from all over the world could understand and find comprehensible and also interesting enough to stay engaged when it was a free course that they could quit at any time with no repercussions. It was very, very tricky to craft,” explains Bergson-Michelson.

She is currently leveraging Google’s “innovate and iterate” philosophy in her new role at Castilleja, an independent school for girls from sixth through 12th grade. She’s creating a new library curriculum to teach research skills to students, based on incremental and integrated learning experiences.

As educator Debbie Abilock puts it, whether at Google or school, “Tasha revolutionizes how we think about teaching information literacy skills, encouraging us to tap into our tacit knowledge about the research process and find new ways to transform the previously unspoken into the teachable.”

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