Collaboration Definition 1 or 2

When a word means something very different

Some words in the English language have two very different meanings—for instance, the word compromise. One person may use the word by its first definition to reach an agreement or meeting in the middle. However, another person might immediately think of the second definition. This definition communicates that someone has settled for something of lesser value or compromised their principles.

Collaboration is one such word that school and academic librarians have used in one way that may be misinterpreted. The essential meaning of collaboration in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something.”  However, if you consult the Oxford Reference Dictionary, the same word means “Traitorous cooperation with an enemy.”

Is collaboration the right word?

collaboration Survey

I never thought I might be on such a different page until the initial responses from a recent faculty collaboration survey came back with a solid “no” we do not want the library or librarian’s help. Not yes, or even maybe, which was a possibility, but no. Did the faculty use the Oxford dictionary and think I was asking if they wanted to cooperate with the enemy? As more survey results come in, I am hopeful that we will get the opportunity to work with faculty in the coming year.

Unfortunately, I believe teachers are hesitant to collaborate with school librarians. This apprehension is because they have lost so much classroom instruction time due to the pandemic. They do not have time to figure out how librarians fit into the equation. This reluctance leaves school librarians with considerable responsibility. We must research how, in 2022, we can help the teachers teach without encroaching on limited instruction time!


Suppose you search Google for “how a school librarian can help you,” there are more results than one could read. The current climate and the time crunch may call for quite different techniques.

Instead of asking for classroom or planning time, perhaps we can become a digital resource for a teacher. Many academic libraries have begun focusing on the user experience. This type of shift may require an extensive overhaul of our school library website. It may also find us outside our comfort zone to make video tutorials that teachers can use on-demand.

Here are some articles that may help with new ideas for “collaboration.”

Collaboration by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images


Author: Hannah Byrd Little

I’m a dedicated Library Director at The Webb School of Bell Buckle, leveraging my background in higher education libraries to guide students through the crucial transition from school to college and beyond.

I am honored to have served as the AASL Chair for the Independent School Section in 2023 and am excited to begin my upcoming role as Director-At-Large for the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) later this year, following my previous experience as a Member Guide in the AASL Emerging Leaders program. These appointments reflect my commitment to advancing library education and professional development on a national scale.

With experience in state-level leadership through the Tennessee Association of School Librarians (TASL), including serving as TASL President in 2012, I bring a wealth of knowledge to my role. My educational background includes certifications as a Library Information Specialist for PreK-12th grade, a Bachelor of Science in Communications (Advertising & Public Relations), a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Studies (Education & Information Systems), and a Master’s in Library and Information Science.

Categories: Community/Teacher Collaboration, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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