Friday, January 27, 2012

What am I supposed to do again?

With budget cuts, changing technology and educational reform, the role of a librarian is changing drastically. How do you justify your role as librarian in a place that may not understand that you can be a valuable member of the instructional team, or that your role can be more than shelving books, laminating all the things*, and providing a space for faculty meetings.
To me, there are three specific ways in which you can position yourself as a member of the instructional staff, rather than as a member of the paraprofessional assistants.
First, know what you are responsible for (what is defined in your job description)and be really flexible. As discussed in the Knowledge Quest article, Developing the Vision: An L4L Job Description for the 21st Century, the librarians job description has changed dramatically in the recent years, and the new role embraced by AASL includes leadership in instructional matters, as well as in the library setting. Honestly, reading the sample job description is rather overwhelming, how could I possible do all those things and be really effective? Especially when you consider the practice of having librarians go between schools (I was reading a post on LM_NET about a woman who was in charge of seven elementary schools, that's not librarianship, that's administration). Sometimes doing the best job (or even preserving the job at all) requires sacrifices. So, if it's the choice between having no librarian at all and managing more than one school, the answer seems less daunting. The flexibility of the role is

Second, pick your battles. Yes, we want to be agents of change, as discussed in the Harada and Hughes-Hassell article Facing the Reform Challenge: Teacher-Librarians as Change Agents, but we also need to realize that change takes time, building trust and mutual respect, and can't be forced upon people. I saw this recently at the schools I'm working at. Both are implementing changes in the grading/assessment. The first one introduced the change in a professional development course, where no one had heard about it beforehand and had no time to adjust to the ideas presented; they reacted poorly. The second one has introduced ideas at every faculty meeting, discussing possible changes they can make and how the can implement these things on their own. Clearly something is coming down the pipe, but the faculty has been given the time and information to prepare themselves for the change. By planting seeds of evolving instructional and technological practices, school librarians can begin to implement the educational reform that is so desperately needed. Sure, they aren't going to succeed every time, but they can help change minds, and one mind changed will help others to change, and eventually we'll have a new generation of teachers who will demand the reforms that we need.

Third, be a lifelong learner. The theme that goes through all the articles we read was that we have specific duties and we can't let them fall by the wayside. We need to be constantly evolving our practice, improving our instructional techniques, and modeling the lifelong learning behavior that we want to see in our students. In order to do this, we must participate in professional development, read relevant material (journals, books, etc.), and interact with fellow school librarians to learn what  is and is not working. Being an expert, as described in the classic How People Learn, takes continual practice. In the book  The Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell it is proposed that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. As a second year student in a SLM program, I have nowhere near 10,000 hours. It is going to take years of practice, learning, and new understanding to become a good school librarian, and that only happens if I continually work on my skills.

Overall, it can be rather daunting, but it can happen. I know I have the motivation and the desire,  now I just need the patience to know that it won't be perfect all the time, and I won't necessarily succeed at everything.

Original comic from, Template from


  1. Let's circle back to the idea of change, change agentry, and multiple buildings when we meet today ... big ideas. Very big.

  2. I LOVE that cartoon. It's hilarious :)

  3. I agree about picking your battles. Indeed, we need to be savvy.


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