School librarian Kristina Holzweiss recently posted on social media wondering what school librarians wished their administrators knew about their jobs. Admittedly, I have an administration that
offers overwhelming support to our school library programming, and it is due to the administration that I am able to offer an award-winning school library program to my students. It did take a year or two upon stepping into this position to get them to understand the importance of school librarians, but through talks, data, and statistics, they were easily able to see how I provide value to our school. However, I am very cognizant of the fact that not all school librarians have it as great as I do.
Oh, the Technology
As a school librarian, I enjoy combining the promotion of book joy and promoting a robust collection and integrating technology for information and instruction. School librarians are known as the keeper of the books, but school librarians are also some of the best leaders in the world of education technology. School librarians are instructional partners, teachers, leaders, information specialists, and program administrators. Incorporating technology in the library is essential. Students and teachers often come into the library for tech help, and I am there to help; however, I cannot spend my day fixing log-ins and working on Chromebooks all by myself and have an effective school library. Kristy Sartain expressed, “I cannot keep doing the jobs of two+ people and be okay with the outcomes. Especially in a school with 2000 students and 150 teachers.” (2022) With schools going one-to-one with devices and classrooms full of laptop carts, it is important that districts hire personnel to help with this huge task. School librarians need time to focus on making sure there is effective use of the technology, and not devoting a majority of the day working on the technical aspects of the technology.
Other Duties As Assigned
I am blessed to have an administration that allows me to solely focus on teaching and learning. I can put all of my energy into matching students with the perfect book, providing resources to my
community, establishing a solid collection, and collaborating with teachers. Even in my district, many of my fellow school librarians are not as lucky. I hear from school librarians all the time who tell me they have 2-3 hours of lunch duty, are in charge of the entire school’s state testing, are responsible for the school’s IEP/IAP meetings, and must also teach class during the day while maintaining the library. School librarian Amanda Elizabeth said it best when she stated, “Asking me to do other duties as assigned doesn’t just take up my time, it takes time away from the students.” (2022) School administrators need to understand that studies link strong school libraries staffed with certified school librarians to student achievement. In Keith Curry Lance and Debra Kachel’s article, “Why School Libraries Matter: What Years of Research Tells Us,” they cite research that shows the following:
Data from more than 34 statewide studies suggest that students tend to earn better standardized test scores in schools that have strong library programs. Further, when administrators, teachers, and librarians themselves rated the importance and frequency of various library practices associated with student learning, their ratings correlated with student test scores, further substantiating claims of libraries’ benefits. In addition, newer studies, conducted over the last several years, show that strong school libraries are also linked to other important indicators of student success, including graduation rates and mastery of academic standards. (2018)
School librarians must be given the ability to do their jobs, which is to focus on the school library.
Advocacy is Not Complaining
Advocating for our jobs is key to showing the world what a modern school librarian can do for a school. Kristin Preweitt states, “I truly love this job and I’m not merely complaining when I try to advocate…it doesn’t mean I think I am better, busier, or am doing more than my colleagues.” (2022) Administrators need to know that school librarians are always having to advocate for our jobs. We are facing cuts in jobs and funding and many other educators do not fully understand the role of a school librarian. This makes school library advocacy is extremely important. Louisiana school librarian Kelsye Baudoin created two graphics titled “What is the school librarian doing?” and “Misconceptions of the School Librarian” that have resonated with me and other librarians on social media. The graphics compare perceptions versus the reality of the job. Check out her graphics on the LASL Resource page.
I am so glad Kristina posed this question on social media. The comments were eye-opening. I encourage all school librarians to share this blog, along with Kelsye’s graphics, with their school administrators. Above all, we need to make sure we keep an open line of dialogue with our school leaders. Some leaders won’t know the benefits of having a dedicated, certified school librarian, who is allowed to focus on the school library, unless we point it out to them.
Elizabeth, Amanda. 2022. “Asking me to do other duties as assigned” doesn’t just take up my time, it takes time away from the students.” Facebook, Hacking School Libraries Group (Apr. 22).
Lance, K. and Kachel, D., 2018. Why school librarians matter: What years of research tell us – kappanonline.org. [online] kappanonline.org. Available at: <https://kappanonline.org/lance-kachel-school-librarians-matter-years-research/> [Accessed 27 April 2022].
Prewitt, Kristin. 2022. “I truly love this job and I’m not merely complaining when I try to advocate…it doesn’t mean I think I am better, busier, or am doing more than my colleagues.” Facebook, Hacking School Libraries Group (Apr. 22).
Sartain, Kristy. 2022. “I cannot be a great librarian and a great Instructional Technologist at the same time. I cannot keep doing the jobs of two+ people and be okay with the outcomes. Especially in a school with 2000 students and 150 teachers. .” Facebook, Hacking School Libraries Group (Apr. 22).
Author: Amanda Jones
Amanda is the 2021 School Library Journal Co-Librarian of the Year, a 2021 Library Journal Mover and Shaker, the 2020 Louisiana School Librarian of the Year, and a 21 year educator from Watson, LA. She’s a teacher-librarian and certified reading specialist at a 5-6 grade middle school. She is Vice President of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians and is the 2019 AASL Social Media Superstar Program Pioneer. Amanda is an active member of several committees for AASL and is on the Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice Awards Committee. Visit her library website at lomlibrary.org and/or find out more about her at http://librarianjones.com/.