Jennifer Northrup, The Candid Librarian, recently posted her reflections on the reputation of school library media specialists, noting that “one bad apple” hurts the reputation of the group collectively. Of course she is right. I could have written that post myself.
She noted that people who don’t see the value of their library media specialists have not seen a good one in action. But sometimes value is hard to judge, depending on what a particular school or district wants from their librarians. In some schools we are expected to be planning period teachers; in others we are in charge of making all technology work. The expectations others have of us seldom resemble what we see as “our jobs.
Jennifer asks what we can do to repair the visibility, prestige and status of our profession that is “misunderstood and often misrepresented.” Her answer is to make all of the perceived duties of a media coordinator secondary to the learning needs of the students.
I agree, but I wager that it is not enough. Even if we as individual, isolated LMSs do the most stellar jobs of “preparing our students for the 21st century,” chances are no one will stand up and a say, “By darn, our kids would be living in the 20th century without her!”
No, we have to be loud, and we must be united. Here are some of the things I am trying to do to raise “appreciation” of us misunderstood people.
First of all, I have somewhat quietly usurped professional development for my district. Again, Jennifer is correct: student learning comes first. But how can we address our commitment to embedding and embodying Standards for the 21st Century Learner when no one in our buildings know such standards exist? For that matter, when some of our LMSs don’t know they exist?
My resolve is that my fellow LMSs use adoption of the Common Core as the springboard for talking about what we teach and how we teach it. We have spent several sessions mapping our state library media standards to AASL’s Crosswalk to the Common Core. My goal is to have us develop at least 10 common lessons, at least in terms of content and standards, for each grade level K-5. Then, we need to study the delivery of these lessons to both our faculty and our students.We need to collectively engage in reflection of these lessons and find ways to improve our craft. Then we need to share our craft with students, teachers, parents and administrators. Loudly and in unison.
I began spreading the gospel by attending a 4th grade team planning meeting at my school in mid-June, after the children’s last day was past. I proposed to them a year long collaboration built upon three or four PBL units. I explained that I hoped to be put into the planning period rotation for the fourth grade but that in addition I wanted more from them: I wanted a half-hour before each teacher’s plan to co-teach the skills and dispositions needed to carry out the PBL units. More shockingly, I asked them if information skills was not inserted into the specials rotation, that I could have their classes for two half hour periods each week. They agreed.
I want to use this proposed 4th grade experience as a showcase for collaboration and benefits of a streamlined library media curriculum. When my data is collected and organized, I intend to spread the gospel up the food chain to the district administration. I want to show them what a real collaboration built upon shared goals can do for student learning. And I want each of the librarians in my district to do the same.
Ultimately, I think that by showcasing what is good about our profession – loudly and shamelessly – will call attention to those “rotten apples” in our ranks. Perhaps principals will start questioning why the rotten ones are not living up to or teaching the standards. And perhaps, once administrators know the possibilities, there will be impetus to insist on change.