Someone recently called me a ‘literati’. It was a wonderful, yet undeserved compliment. Literati, I am not. My undergrad degree is in economics, I entered education as a Social Studies teacher and stumbled in to the field of librarianship through a love of books and a program that funded my MLS. I’m a school media specialist (i.e., librarian). I don’t wear a bun (hair’s too short), don’t shush people (often) and don’t get to spend any of my time during my work day reading. I think that’s the most dominant perception of school media specialists, so few people know what we do, including principals and superintendents in whose school we work. I even had an administrator regrettably tell me that when working on his administrative certification, he was told the library was one of two areas in a school that could be cut and the school wouldn’t feel the pain. This is such a sad, antiquated way to feel about media centers in the 21st century!!
Sure, I work to build a lifelong love of reading. I cannot tell you the joy I have when I get a student, who has never read a book before, to read and enjoy one! But, this is becoming the least of what I do.
I actually have a curriculum and it’s called ‘information literacy’. I teach students how to locate, select, organize and present information. I’m the one who teaches students how to search the Internet, what a good site looks like, how to use encyclopedias, book indexes, dictionaries, databases and other print and non-print reference sources. I teach students and staff how to use Word, PowerPoint, and search engines besides Google. I teach students (and teachers) about the ethical use of information. Teachers often come to me to help them plan and teach research lessons. I order books and materials they might use to support lessons they teach, organize lists of resources for units and sometimes make presentations to classes to provide background information. When I’m not working, I’m reading professional information, books in my library and mastering new technology skills (forgot to mention I also supply and train the school with cameras, SmartBoards, recorders, televisions and DVD players as well).
My youngest son used to tease me about doing nothing but reading all day since I’m a librarian. I wish! In fact, if there is a librarian job where you get to read all day, please call me!! There are too many days when I’d be tempted to take it!
Even with all that school media specialists do to help students be successful beyond high school (And we do way more than I’ve listed. We also plan programs after school and often collaborate with community members to bring more resources into the school. And, it seems everyone in the school thinks we’re they’re personal resource.) Even with all this, schools are still quick to cut our positions, expecting teachers or volunteers to maintain the libraries. When the trained professional is gone, they’re no long media centers: they are simply repositories of books!
I originally wanted to write this post to kind of explain why I so often have posts that deviate from books and readings, but I soon saw it as an opportunity to explain what your local school librarian does. It’s easy to lapse into complaining about how misunderstood our job is, but I’d rather surprise people with what I do than to do something because it’s expected! It’s also easy to complain about the poor shape of my own media center where in a school of 1500+ I now work alone to do what three of us used to do. But, at least I still have a job. Too many school media specialists around the country are losing their jobs. How are students being prepared for the new global economy when…???
I love working in the media center. I never felt such satisfaction as a classroom teacher. I’m still teaching, though just in a much larger classroom!