Reading this article in the School Library Journal reminded me of a recent conversation with some English teachers at a conference where I presented on the topic of How To Get a Kick Ass Librarian. Those teachers told me that they really didn’t understand what it was that their librarian did all day. They told me that mostly their librarians were in their workroom and mostly sitting at their computers, even when there were classes in the librarie, and that they wouldn’t think of asking them for help finding them or the students resources, they didn’t seem to think that their librarians would want that. Frankly, I was shocked!
I asked the teachers what they thought the librarians were doing on their computers and they told me that they had no idea. One even told me she had worked in the librarians office for a period of weeks in order to find out what the librarian did all day and at the end of that time was no wiser. They told me that the librarians very rarely came out of their workrooms and then only to tidy shelves and maintain the library. They said they thought there was a complete lack of understanding of what librarians did. I think there is a complete misunderstanding of what librarians can do!
This is a problem though. I investigated further. I spoke to English teachers at our school. I asked them if they had experienced ‘the librarian is in the workroom and is staying there syndrome’ and there was an overwhelming yes response to that. They suggested that it is not normal practice in schools for librarians to be out in the library assisting them and their students. So, all the current talk in SLANZA circles about EBP and proving how what you do makes a difference to teaching and learning in your school is for naught if school librarians are not out in the library and making that difference, but instead are sitting in front of their computers doing …. something that is probably very useful to them, but not to the students and teachers they are supporting. And we are support staff, we are supposed to be supporting those people. Yes through resourcing the library (perhaps that is what some of that computer time is about) but also through working with the staff at your school, alongside them and therefore alongside the students – you know the ones whose learning you are supposed to be making a difference to. You aren’t going to make any difference to them at all if you sit in your office all day. Yes you have to do the cataloguing, the processing and all those other library business things, but you have to make a difference and the only way you’ll do that is to get out there and be with the people using the library.
Now I’m not suggesting that you are a teacher, or even a teacher aide. I am suggesting that you are the best resource in the library. That you know heaps of stuff about what you have in there, where you can get more, that you are a key person with a distinct role in the school, come on folks, talk yourselves up, get out of the office and live up to the talk. You know your school needs you, needs your skills, needs the resources you provide. Get out, sell yourself, sell your services and get out of that workroom. You can do the workroom stuff when classes are not in the library.
So who does see what you do? Is it only you? Who would notice if you didn’t do what you do? How many of those things you’ve always done are vital to the students and teachers experience of the library? Have a think about it.