This week I had the pleasure of participating in the annual Virginia Association of School Librarians conference in Norfolk, Virginia. I’ll admit that I was a fish out of water — the only teacher in a sea of school librarians. Even though I don’t know much about the Dewey Decimal system or online catalogs, they made me feel right at home.
As I sat at dinner, listening to their conversation about teaching and learning, I realized that unless you have had the privilege of working in a school over the past decade you may not understand what school librarians actually do. Librarians are not a braggy bunch; so I feel inclined to set the record straight on their behalf. You probably think they spend their entire day shelving and checking out books, while shushing students. It’s time to set aside these stereotypes and give librarians their long overdue kudos.
Librarians teach — a lot
First and foremost, school librarians are teachers. If you walk into our school’s library on any given day you are likely to see one of our librarians co-teaching or independently teaching a lesson. In order to pull this off, librarians have to be content experts in everything from science to math to PE. Moreover, librarians have the ability and desire to teach children of all levels and learning styles.
Librarians are Apple Geniuses in disguise
Librarians know A LOT about technology. Our librarians are the go-to teachers in our building for everything tech. They help us search the web, use Twitter, create our own websites, and help us learn how to use Google Classroom.
They also help teachers integrate technology (from laptops to iPads) into instructional practice. The best thing about librarians is that they not only know about the latest cutting edge technology, they feel like it is their job to share it with you. In fact, they are better than Apple geniuses because they will help you even if you are using a PC.
Librarians inspire “makers”
Recently, the makerspace movement has taken hold of American librariaries. Rather than just offering books to students, libraries now offer materials for making, allowing kids to enter the space and create and collaborate. For example, in our Kilmer Library kids have access to a 3-D printer, materials for textile making, art supplies, LEGOs, and even old projectors and printers that they can rip apart with tools and remake into something new.
Librarians are instructional leaders
Teachers lean on librarians a lot. I come in with an idea and the librarians help me make it happen. They design curriculum, create materials, and help teachers reach targeted goals. They librarians aren’t just teaching the lessons, all too often they are the visionaries behind the creation of the lesson.
Librarians don’t shush
Modern day libraries don’t have a predetermined volume level and that’s a good thing. Just like classrooms are learning spaces so are libraries. Sometimes they are quiet and sometimes they are loud because kids are working and learning together.
Librarians are “people” people
Librarians do all of the things above and still manage to keep all of our books, magazines and resources ready for us all to learn and discover. I can always count on our librarians to help students (or me) find the perfect book. This means that rather than hiding in the stacks, librarians are “people” people.
They have to know us and connect with us in order to help us find what we need in the given moment, whether that’s something for a research project or a book designed to feed the soul. Often, I see kids seek sanctuary in the library and our librarians welcome them. At the library, anyone and everyone can find their place and fit in.
You think of them as serious, but so many librarians have a quirky, funny side. I am not trying to put all librarians in the same basket, but rest assured that in a lot of school libraries there is levity and humor thanks to librarians. Don’t believe me? Check out these fun bulletin boards from Pinterest or my favorite example of witty, library humor: the battle of the books between two libraries during a recent World Series when Kansas City took on the New York Mets.
Librarians are some of the hardest working people you know
If they are good, they work really, really hard. A colleague of mine recently remarked about our school librarian, “there’s no one who works harder.” That’s the truth. School librarians keep so many balls in the air, allowing kids to feel welcome in their space, teaching, shelving, inventing, and leading. They never turn teachers or students away. If you need help; they are there no matter how long their to-do-list is.
In the end, there is a reason that libraries are often the soul of a school — it’s because there is an amazing librarian at its heart.
On that note, I think I will head to my school library now. Afterall, I need a book, help with a lesson, some tech tips, and some positive energy…..where else would I go?
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