Ten Things

10 things classroom teachers need to know about modern school librarians

1)    We hate quiet.
Oh, sure, the typical view of a librarian is an older woman, in a cardigan and cat-eye glasses, with a tight bun, shushing everyone who dares to make a sound. That may have been the case a long time ago, and may still be the case with some dinosaur librarians (they still exist, sorry!), but generally, librarians don’t like quiet. Quiet means that no one is collaborating. We would rather have a loud library with tables of students and teachers talking about a book, project, essay, collectible card game, what-have-you, than a library with students just sitting there reading.
This isn’t to say we don’t appreciate students working alone or a student reading alone, but the library is a common place where everyone can work together and communicate. Work alone at home; work together in the library.

2)    We love collaboration.
We love to see students collaborating, but we also love to collaborate with you, our classroom teachers! Let us know what you’re doing in class. Bring classes to the library. Email us with your lesson plans so we can jump in and say “I have an article you can add” or “Bring the class down, I can show them this resource.” We can even build new lesson plans with teachers.  We might know a resource for 3rd graders that you can use for your struggling 7th graders (or a resource for 7th graders that you can use with your advanced 3rd graders). You’ll never know unless you ask.

3)    We are technology people at heart.
The printed page may die at some point (most of us hope it won’t). However, we love technology. We love eBooks, iPads, apps, electronic journals, Web 2.0; everything we can get our hands on to help students, we’ll at least try it out. We can try to troubleshoot whatever issue you have before you bother the people in the technology department. We can teach students how to do almost anything that has to do with basic computer skills, and we can teach teachers how to use productive tools to add to lessons, or new ways of having students show what they have learned (isn’t grading papers getting a little boring?).
If you have a new Web 2.0 tool that you want to try, ask us. Maybe we’ve already tried it and we can give you advice. Maybe we haven’t tried it, but we’d probably be happy to test it out with you.

4)    We don’t read all day.
We wish we did. Most of our time is taken up with helping students and teachers. If we’re lucky, we can read while eating lunch … unless, of course, that time is also for helping students and teachers. Some of us will just keep the library open during our lunchtime to allow students and teachers access to the library (just because we’re eating doesn’t mean you don’t need something). We do this without worrying about it; lunch isn’t as important as helping someone find the right resource.

5)    We don’t know everything.
Sadly true. But, we do know where we can FIND everything. Give us a little time and we can probably find you that article on some ancient philosopher that you learned about that year you thought you wanted to be a philosophy major before you switched to biology.

6)    We’re all passionate about something.
Some librarians are science fans, some read only classic literature, some read CNN daily, and some only read The Onion.  Most librarians will know something very geeky, so ask and you may find someone with a similar taste. It is pretty fair to assume that most of us know something about either Downton Abbey or Doctor Who (or both).

7)    We network like crazy.
We don’t just network with people, but we network with libraries too. Most librarians will have access to at least two libraries, possibly more. We’re in a small field, so there is camaraderie between librarians. We can send emails on the most obscure questions and get a reasonable response.

8)    We fight for your right to access information.
All librarians, not just school librarians, are fighters for free access. We love sharing resources. We fight to keep books from getting banned. We fight to keep information as free as possible.  We won’t limit a student to certain books based on reading level alone: students can read above or below level based on topic.

9)    We protect patron privacy.
A school librarian won’t tell you what books a student is reading, but they might let you know when a student loves a certain author or may be struggling with a personal problem, without going into detail. We also won’t tell parents what their child is reading, unless the child has said we can. School librarians walk a fine line between patron right to privacy and mandated reporter.

10)We’re in an ever-changing field.
Teaching is always changing, and librarianship is always changing. Do we invest in eBooks? Do our students even have access to computers at home, let along Kindles, Nooks, or iPads? How can we help support a 1-on-1 school environment? How do we handle this shift from physical books to digital? And how to we pay for it all? Many school libraries are under-funded. You think that teachers spend a lot on classroom supplies? Librarians will go out and buy books out of pocket because funding can be very hard to get. A library budget needs to cover not only books, but databases & journals (if the school is paying for them and not piggybacking on other libraries), audiobooks, computer software, and processing supplies (barcodes, spine labels, toner, due date slips, stamps, and more). Therefore, school librarians love free resources, even if it means we need to learn new ways of accessing information!

Bonus Reminder: We’re teachers too.
All school librarians, in order to be properly certified, need a Master’s degree and a license through the state. In MA, we are “Library Teacher, K-12.” All of us have done student teaching in an elementary school AND either a high school or middle school. We go through a lot of the same process that teachers do: MTEL, mentoring programs, student teaching. We may not have a classroom specialty, but that doesn’t mean we won’t do everything we can to help our classroom teachers out.

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