The Librarian has left the building


I woke this morning to a grey sky, and many pieces of writing about teacher librarianship that my students have submitted as their first dip into a new profession. The grey sky seems to symbolise the mental consternation that is expressed by those entering the profession, and by those responding to the extraordinary changes and cutbacks discussed by  Buffy Hamilton and others at her post Do I Really have to Leave the Role of School Librarian to Work as a School Librarian?

Carolyn Foote and Judy O'Connell

I’m just recently back in Australia, after a number of visits in the USA related to libraries now and in the future. I was fortunate to attend the Computers in Libraries conference in Washington (CIL2012 – do access some of the presentations), and during the three days of the conference was delighted to spend time with Buffy Hamilton, Carolyn Foote, Sarah Ludwig, Polly Farrington and others involved in services to school libraries. I was struck by the extraordinary passion, the outstanding work happening every day  – and by common complications (in some schools) caused by the ignorance and lack of vision demonstrated by school leaders when it comes to libraries.

The reality is that teacher librarians  can be the best person to have in your school – but only if they have actually learnt how to fill that role well, and have understood and assimilated the principles of embedded librarianship.That’s what undertaking a Masters degree in Teacher Librarianship is all about! It’s an energising and complex profession that you just can’t learn on the job.

As Buffy rightly argues, we do not need to leave the role of librarian to become a better librarian.  What I sincerely believe is that we need school librarians to be recognised for their significant and vital role in the life of a school, and we need for their position to be better staffed and better supported within the school.

The School Library Journal allowed a provocative piece to inadvertantly lead a discussion that is vital to school library futures.  Linda W. Braun interviewed Sarah Ludwig, whose session I enjoyed at CIL2012,  and in showcasing how Sarah Ludwig left the library, became a tech coordinator, and forged a path to the future implied that perhaps this was a good thing.  It was not!

I believe that Next Year’s Model (term used by the school library journal)  is not the school librarian escapee – any more than the classroom escapee was ever the right person to be a school librarian!

I loved Sarah’s presentation at CIL2012, because she was engaging and clearly enjoys working hard to make a difference.  She is achieving some of what is possible as a teacher librarian.

Sarah Ludwig at CIL2012

So it was  nice – it was not innovative! The model adopted by her school was nice – it was not innovative. I’m guessing that Lorri Carroll
Director of Technology and Information Services Hamden Hall Country Day School is in fact not a qualified teacher librarian, though she certainly recongises what it is that makes Sarah’s work relevant to her school. The fact that Sarah said in the interview piece, and at the conference,  now it’s easier to get people to trust my opinion on technology, which enables me to do more than I could as a librarian is a reflection of the challenges in the teacher librarian profession.

It’s so important to look past technology, and to stay with the model that Buffy and other leading teacher librarians espouse in their work  (under circumstances that almost few Australian teacher librarians need to contend with) and to continue to shape a responce to change in the profession. This theme is not unique to school libraries – it is the same tune throughout the LIS sector.

We have had  better solutions taking shape in many Australian schools. In Hybrid Synergy – the Future of School Libraries you can read about a model that would suit Lorri and Sarah to a tee! Check out St Ignatius College, Riverview here in Sydney. They have realigned their library services to create a new hybrid synergy under the direction of the  Head of Digital Learning and Information Services (who IS a teacher librarian), supported by several  Digital Learning Facilitators who teach a subject as a classroom teacher, work with a faculty, and also support students reading, learning, and research needs in the library.  Of course, with such a commitment to empowering student learning, there are other important roles such as a Library Manager, and library and media technicians.

In other words – poor school, rich school, country or city school – we need a great teacher librarian at the helm to lead learning and innovation with and beyond technology!

Good luck to any teacher librarian of quality who becomes a curriculum leader, technology leader, Principal, or who takes on any number of other significant roles in the education sector.  Education is all the richer for it – but don’t leave for the wrong reasons!

Has the librarian left the building?

Ask yourself ~ Who is better off now? What stupid cutbacks by senior administrators has resulted in a move that will impact future generations of kids?  What is it that needs to change in our understanding of Teacher Librarianship so that we can make more of a difference? In times of economic constraint, why are school libraries under threat?  Are teacher librarians committed to keeping up-to-date? What do we need to change to improve?

The time for libraries is now!  .

Image: cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by heyjudegallery

12 thoughts on “The Librarian has left the building

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  8. You ask essential questions, Judy, questions we should be asking ourselves every day (as teacher librarians). In particular, “what is it that needs to change in our understanding of Teacher Librarianship so that we can make more of a difference?” For me, understanding this began with the subject ‘Teacher Librarian as a Leader’ when I did my M.Ed (Teacher Lib) at CSU. It shocked me to realise that we weren’t meant to sit complacently in the library regardless of how amazing our library looked and functioned. It challenged me to push myself into the role of change agent. Over time I realised that the success I had in working meaningfully with teachers and the principal class centred on a relationship of mutual trust and respect. Sometimes this takes a fair bit of time and patience. Whether we like it or not, teacher librarians are often seen as ‘outside the teaching cohort’ and we need to build relationships so that teachers become our partners. Thank you for the links in this post; I’ll be reading those with great interest.

    • You’ve put it in a nutshell! You’re so clearly following the pathway to future excellence, and I know you have become an inspiration for many of us! Glad your CSU study helped you along the way too! :-)

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