Ghost of School Librarians Past

2066607181_5bd07ab622_mJust like Ebeneezer Scrooge in the Dickens’ classic, our profession is haunted by ghosts of our past, our present, and our future. There is the bespectacled spinster, hair in a bun, wearing sensible shoes with finger to pursed lips – that spirit of librarians everywhere we just can’t seem to shake–who would prefer students look but don’t touch. There is the pleasant-enough lady sitting primly in a rocking chair reading aloud from an outwardly facing picture book to a group of cross-legged students. The children are captivated with the story but what is there in this image that points to our instructional value? This ghost represents our non-instructional classification that has devalued our role in the school community and led to so many roadblocks for us. More recently is the smiling school librarian positioned over a student working at a computer representing the spirit of tech support.

Linda Williams (2016) talks about the ghosts of the school library profession in terms of critical issues that have continued to haunt us over the years.  “Our standards and guidelines were not widely accepted by the educational community, and the role of school librarians was [and still is] often misunderstood or given no credibility” (p. 46).

As Scrooge was given a peek at his life to come, what might we see if the ghost of school librarians to come offered us a glimpse of our impending future? Would there be anything to see in a potentially bleak future where school systems eliminate our positions or replace us with techs and clerks. Scrooge chose to come out from under his blanket to face his ghosts as we must likewise face ours.

Scrooge’s former partner, Bob Marley, admonishes him saying, “No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused.” My school library students, many in their first school library positions, taking evening graduate coursework after a full day at school trying to keep their heads above water, do not readily embrace evidence-based practice, especially when they see little evidence provided by practicing school librarians. They resist adding one more thing to their overflowing plates and bemoan the chasm between their reality and the graduate school pedagogy. However, I know they get it, I know they will one day pick up the gauntlet, and I am inspired and heartened by the advocates they will become. They love the profession and they know their value as school librarians. My students do not need a ghost of school librarians to come to show them that they must make their opportunities work for them now if they want a future.

Tis the season!


Dickens, C. (2009). A Christmas carol: A ghost story of Christmas. Waiheke Island: Floating Press.

Stop 13 Scrooge_03” by Pensacola Winterfest is licensed under CC by 2.0.

Williams, J. Linda (2016, September/October).  Building the strong foundation.  Knowledge Quest, 45(1), 44-49.


Author: Anne Akers

Clinical assistant professor in the Department of Library and Information Studies at the University of NC at Greensboro working with school library candidates. Former elementary, middle, and high school librarian in Virginia, Mississippi, and North Carolina.

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics

1 reply

  1. I like your descriptions of the library ghosts. My admins are super supportive of the school library, but there are two of us, so we are able to take on a lot of roles, projects, and opportunities. Within my school, I feel respected, but just today someone (not in the ed. field) told me he was surprised I have such a mundane job. Maybe that’s a mix between old sensible shoes and pleasant-enough lady?

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