School Librarians

I saw this weekend that the American Association of School Librarians voted to make the official title of "The people who work in the part of the school that checks out books, equipment; who strive to be instructional leaders; who do things that aren't in their job description but do them because they are asked; who are information specialists; who are teachers; and who are program administrators" to "School Librarians". Here's the link to the ALA press release.

In the Library Media Listserv provided by the Utah Education Network, there were many differing viewpoints on what this really meant.

"'Disappointed' doesn't begin to express how I feel about the AASL leadership...AASL hasn't done any favor for the profession by taking a step backwards," said one prominent professional.

Another replied, "I would like to say I feel most proud when I tell someone I am a librarian."

Someone else said, "I detest the term media specialist."

Another shared a story of calling a school and asking for the Media Specialist, then, after a moment of silence on the other end of the line, said the magic word, "Librarian," after which the call was immediately transferred.

Obviously, this is a point about which "School Librarians" feel very strongly. Thankfully, the idea that a title is not the fight anyone should be fighting was brought up. One person suggested the title doesn't matter if there isn't money to fund the program. Another person emphasized that the title doesn't matter if people still don't know what they do.

Since I have taken this position in our new school district, I have learned A LOT about what librarians do and don't do. How did I learn that? I went to the libraries and saw what they were doing. And therein lies the problem.

Let me put it this way: It makes sense for me to know what a director does by seeing the film he created. It makes sense for me to know what a coach does by seeing his team play on the field. However, I don't want to have to go to the Oval Office every day to see what the president is doing. I want him to tell me what he is doing. In the same way, I want the librarian to tell me what she is doing. There are too many people that have incorrect perceptions of what the librarian does.

It doesn't matter what the title is, it only matters what people think the title means. Librarians, get your message out there.

Have a Good Life.


    Okay, Jethro, let me tell you about my day today. I got to school at 7:20 a.m.; the library had opened at 7:00, so we already had tutoring going on and about 25 students in the library. Before school started we had more than 50 in the library—I helped a couple of students find books, helped a teacher, and worked with a student with a computer problem.

    1st and 2nd I helped 7th graders in a LA class find books and do research on WebPath Express. When I wasn’t helping them, I was trying to compile information to make new ID cards, helping my aide get the fine notices out, and trying to finish getting ready for my Honors LA 9 presentation (which I had spent 5 hours on Saturday working on). The Honors presentation on Primary and Secondary Sources went pretty well, so the work was worth it. (That was 4, 5, and 6). I taught them all a new word “autodidact,” (thank you, Darren Draper) used a Google Doc for the assessment, and did a PP case study that I think they were even a little interested in.

    Oh, 3rd—the teacher’s “prep” I spent trying to track down the financial information on a set of DVDs that had not been delivered directly to the library. The school secretary needed the paperwork, and I had to contact 3 people in order to find out that “no one” had the paperwork, so I emailed the company for a duplicate. I also chatted with a parent who brought her sister for a tour of the school and rearranged the scheduling of the computer lab because the Knight of the Quarter assembly reception was supposed to be in the library and hadn’t been put on the calendar.

    During lunch I answered questions for my aide, went to the office to double-check on a reception to be held in the library on Wed. afternoon, and talked to a teacher while eating at my desk. 7th I had 7th graders again. After helping for half the period I went to my desk to try and prepare some media release forms, so I could take pictures to document a grant I wrote last spring. Also talked to one of the teachers whose classes will be in the library tomorrow about the books we had pulled for her classes.

    After school I helped the PTA yearbook volunteer get her group working on the computers on the yearbook. Helped a history teacher find videos, talked to a World Geography teacher about an upcoming research project, and talked to the Honors 7 teacher about two upcoming projects (no, they don’t want to collaborate on Fridays; they prefer to do it after school). In between the first 2 teachers, I made a webpage for the counselor for a 7th grade survey. He wanted to make transparencies and make sure everyone had an overhead to show it, and I convinced him that we could do a webpage and everyone could show it on their LCD. I was planning to go home at 3:30, but I left school at 4:15.

    PS. I didn’t have time to send the email I had intended to send all day to the teachers/staff asking for items for the school newsletter due to go out on Friday and asking them to remind their students to read the book for our author visit next week.

    PPS My aides changed a bulletin board, processed 2 boxes of new books, gave additional training to our new library aides, labeled a bunch of professional books, and did some regular maintenance on the school mobile lab while manning the circulation desk. They most likely did other things, but I was so busy, I wasn't really paying attention.

    PPSS Every day isn’t like this, but I’ll bet every library-media teacher (that’s my preferred title)in the district could tell you about a day that was as busy as the one I had today!

    For an inspirational view of what a school library can become, check out Pat Gerstner's Timpview High library in Provo. She has revamped it physically to make it inviting, while still staying on the cutting edge of technology and the teaching of research and library skills.

    @Mrs.Bates You should keep a journal. ;)

    @Lynda I should check out her library. I have been meaning to. I am sure I could figure something out.

    I agree with the person who said they feel most proud calling themselves a librarian — it's certainly the title that sparks a glint in a child's eyes.

    I feel like my duties as a "media aide" in an elementary school are similar to those of a prep-chef, dishwasher, short-order cook AND waitress at the only lunch counter in town.

    But man, how I love to see those customers smile, especially when they respond to their teachers' prompt to "thank our librarian" by botching my name with such beautiful enthusiasm.