School Librarianship: What’s In It for Me?

tooting_hornsSchool librarians are members of a service-oriented profession. The majority of us come from the ranks of classroom teachers and many of us tend to think of the needs of others before we think of our own.

However, in order to sustain motivation and enthusiasm for our work, we must determine what is “in it for us.” Dr. Ken Haycock who is the director of the Marshall School of Business Master’s Management in Library and Information Science program at USC and a former leader in the (School) Library Power movement, has a famous (in school library circles) saying: “People do things for their own reasons.”

School librarianship has given me the opportunity to teach students at all instructional levels. (I love working with kinders and their heroic teachers for one hour at a time!) Over the course of my career, I have co-taught in every content area, which has provided me with continuous learning from outstanding educators. I have co-developed curriculum to engage and motivate students and have created opportunities for children and youth to use the technology tools of the day in their pursuit of learning and sharing their new knowledge. I have collaborated with classroom teachers, public librarians, and community members to spread a culture of literacy.

But perhaps most of all, I have had the opportunity to serve alongside some principals as co-leaders who guided students and colleagues as we pursued the most effective strategies for teaching and learning. I am proud of the work we accomplished together. I am in debt to the thousands of students and hundreds of teachers who have shared their learning journeys with me.

This deep sense of satisfaction and pride and the opportunity to extend my reach beyond the classroom out into the entire school learning community and beyond is what’s in it for me. I cannot imagine a more fun, meaningful, or impactful career as an educator than that of school librarian. (Yes, principals’ work is meaningful and high impact, but I suspect it is not as much fun!) The desire to spread the potential impact of professional school librarians on teaching and learning and to help future school librarians embrace a leadership role is why I am a school librarian educator today. (That and the fact that I can no longer serve in a school library the way it should be done; I cannot be on my feet from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. every school day!)

Tooting our own horns can be difficult for some of our school librarian colleagues. But sharing our essential contribution to teaching and learning is our responsibility. The photograph above of school librarian colleagues Debra LaPlante, Diane Skorupski, and me was taken at the American Association of School Librarians National Conference in Pittsburgh in 2005. We had just completed a collaborative presentation about classroom-library collaboration for instruction called “Sharing Our Exemplary Work, or Why We Should Publish Our Collaborative Lesson Plans.”

Let’s keep on showing other educators and administrators why school librarians are even more needed today than ever before. Let’s exceed our own expectations as instructional partners and leaders in education. And let’s achieve this together.

Photograph from the Personal Collection of Judi Moreillon used with permission

How I Became a School Librarian

This month the Building a Culture of Collaboration co-bloggers will share how we got into the school library profession and why we love it. Thank you to co-blogger Karla Collins for suggesting this topic, which seems fitting for February. I look forward to reading the BACC co-bloggers’ stories, and we hope BACC readers will share their stories  as well.

heart_slibrarianshipIn 1989 when our family moved to Tucson, classroom teaching jobs were scare. (I had been a fifth-grade teacher in California.) At my husband’s suggestion, I took a high school principal out to dinner to ask her what my future prospects might be. Over dessert, Carolyn asked me what I enjoyed about being a teacher.

I told her I loved to read and discuss books with kids, and how satisfying it was for me to watch students grow as readers and writers. (I especially loved our adventures in writing poetry and the poetry book students created at the end of the year, a copy of which I still have.) I enjoyed getting students excited about research and doing group projects. I shared with her that students had maximized the use of the one (!) computer station in our classroom, which we used for writing activities.

Carolyn’s response took me totally by surprise. “Well, then, you should be a librarian!” Our K-8 school in California had had a “book room” and a teacher who was assigned part time to attempt to keep it in order. There was no librarian or library program. It had never ever occurred to me to pursue a career in librarianship.

Carolyn introduced me to Betty, the librarian in her school, and I started volunteering the next week. I fell in love wholeheartedly with the library (the way I had as child selecting my books from the public library bookmobile that came to my elementary school). Students came into this high school library with whole classes, in small groups, and independently to research curriculum subjects and topics of personal interest. The librarian pre-planned lessons with teachers. There were books, books, and more books, as well as periodicals and more computers than I had ever seen in one room in a school (ten maybe?). And the room itself was spacious enough to have many activities all happening at once. There was something about the openness, the possibility, the ever-changing environment in that library that made me realize I had found my teaching “home.”

By January, 1990, I had been accepted into the Master’s program at the then Graduate School of Library Science at the University of Arizona. (Later, Betty was one of my instructors.) In the foundations course that first semester, I learned that the core values of librarianship aligned with my personal values. I landed my first school librarian position at Elvira Elementary School in 1991, the year before I completed my degree. Since then I have served as a school librarian at four different elementary schools, as a second librarian at a comprehensive high school, and on one combined junior high/high school campus.

In addition to being a librarian, I have held many jobs, but my greatest satisfaction has been serving as a collaborating school librarian on school campuses where administrators and educators worked as a team with a shared commitment to building a culture of collaboration and a culture of learning with students in our schools.

On Thursday, I will share what’s in it (school librarianship) for me. Coincidentally, TWU graduate students are also sharing and discussing this topic this week as well.

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