More Reflections on the Name Thing

Recent conversation:

“Suzie is a wonderful librarian,” said the principal.  Turning to me with a horrified look on her face, she said, “I’m sorry.  A wonderful media specialist.”

“I am a librarian,” I replied.

“That’s right,” agreed the principal.  “When you started you were probably still called librarians.” (Uh, no, but nevermind that…)

“But I am a media specialist,” said the newbie Praxis school librarian, “because I do other things besides just books.”

Before I had chance to give the elevator speech, the principal was off directing workers, an the “media specialist” was off setting up her book fair.  I am still shaking my head, but no matter that.  What matters is the sheer lack of ignorance of our profession even by those who attempt to practice it.  Before I get to the real point, let me take a minute to catch everyone up.

The term media specialist evolved to signal that school librarians were now responsible for infusing the wonderful world of audiovisuals into the curriculum.  In 1982 I was charged with cataloging A/V as part of my student teaching assignment.  This new term “media specialist” was coined to cover the additional job description.

But here’s the thing: librarians have always evolved to meet the community need. We have cataloged scrolls, runes and art.  We have cataloged and preserved vital documents and diaries.  We have lent toys and tools, audiobooks and DVDs. No name change was necessary.

Here’s is another thing:  everything is a medium, from a pencil to a book to a database.Every tool, from a crayon to a laptop is technology.  It is not important what it is; what is important is what it does. While the form may change, the function has not. Librarians still catalog and facilitate the use of all media.

I don’t need a name change to describe what I do; I catalog and facilitate the use of all media.  I am a librarian.   I don’t spend my time reading books and magazines; I spend my time assuring these resources are used in an equitable manner, available for all.  I am a librarian.

I don’t need a name change to describe what I do.  And neither do you.

I think we degrade ourselves by seeking new terms for what we do.  If people stereotype us, then they have not had the opportunity to be inspired by a super librarian. Blow their socks off.  And remind them that is what librarians do. And don’t ever apologize for your career choice!

There are, of course, many different library specialties, or which being a school librarian may be the most all-encompassing.  We are library directors, subject librarians, electronic resource librarians, reference librarians, catalogers, collection specialists, and teachers. But first and foremost, we are school librarians, and we will adapt to what ever the future of educational technology throws at us.

I am a school librarian.

You are a school librarian.

Say it.

Be it.

Own it.

And don’t apologize.