Librarianship: Not a Job, an Avocation


I have written so many times about school libraries and the funding/staffing crisis that I feel like the proverbial voice in the wilderness. Bemoaning the lack of stable funding, staffing cuts, and doing more with less has become a broken record. Even though this crisis has spread to Chicago, Philadelphia, and most of the West, people are tired of hearing about what many perceive as an isolated issue.

Recently I was reminded by the book Librarians with Spines that librarianship is more than a job, it’s an avocation. Max Macias’s introductory sentence, “Libraries struggle with change…” sent a tingle down my spine and made me remember that as librarians we are the agents of change.  Macais goes on: “We need new ideas, new forms of representation, new forms of organization, new ways of thinking about organization and these avenues will not spring forth from old waterways.” Later in the book Candise Branum in her article “CritLib Management: Leading and Inspiring through a Social Justice Framework,” writes about the negativity of silence. “The act of neutrality is the act of siding with the status quo.”

Too often school librarians and staff depend on the status quo rather than take a chance and innovate. Since we have done this successfully in the past, why rock the boat? Do we really need to add LGBTQ collection development to elementary libraries? What if parents complain? Do we really need to interfile Spanish and/or other language books? Do we need to have realistic fiction that resonates with our student populations but may be uncomfortable to an adult? Do we really need to have Urban Fiction/Hip Hop Lit in our collections? And have we looked at our American Indian/First Nation collection lately and weeded for stereotypes and authenticity? May’s School Library Journal is devoted to equity and includes book lists and articles to “inspire a just, inclusive society.” In Librarians with Spines, Cathy Camper’s article about her book Low Riders in Space notes that “…the most successful books will be the ones that reflect cultures truthfully and are written with respect and research.” While we may not be comfortable or experts with some subjects, we must remember that inclusivity means providing literary opportunities to all our students especially those who are marginalized.

Tom Torlakson, the California superintendent of schools, has set the standard for inclusion in a letter sent to all District and County Office of Education Superintendents. In the letter he writes, “California’s Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act, found in Education Code Section 51204.5, requires public schools to include representations of and contributions from people of color; people with disabilities; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. The additional titles in Recommended Literature offer even more stories of diverse people and lifestyles, giving California’s students the opportunity to engage with works that represent both themselves and others.” I am proud that I have been a long-term Recommended Literature committee member and part of the core group that included these titles.

Rather than keeping the status quo in our K-12 libraries, let’s become vocal advocates for change. We need to leave our comfort zone and invent new ways to provide services effectively … we need to leave diversity and embrace inclusion…we need to remember that society is changing and we need to change with it! Do I know how to do all of this right now? No, but I am not ruling anything out.


Author: Kate MacMillan

18 years as Coordinator of Library Services for Napa Valley USD and Napa Valley School Library Consortium; 2010-current CDE Recommended Literature Committee member; 8 years as an outside library consultant for Follett Library Resources; 6 years as a Napa County Library Commissioner; Current member of California Dept of Education’s Literature Committee; Napa TV Public Access board member; ALA, AASL, CLA (Californiia Library Association), CSLA (California School Library Association) and CUE (Computer Using Educators). Conference presentations include: United We Stand; School and Public Libraries Working Together (CLA 2016, CSLA 2017), It’s Not Your Mother’s Library 2012 and 2013 (CUE); Enhancing Online Resources through Library Partnerships (CUE 2010); Implementing School Library Consortium (CSLA 2008); Athletes as Readers and Leaders (2008 Association of American Publishers & CSLA Project). Contributor to School Libraries: What’s Now, What’s Next, What’s Yet to Come!

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Collection Development

2 replies

  1. I feel you on the exhaustion of constantly advocating for school libraries! It can seem like we are isolated prophets wandering in the wilderness.

    I believe that one way we can become better advocates for school libraries is to see ourselves as part of a larger movement for defending public education. Collaboration with teachers on issues that affect public education writ large are one way that we can defuse the isolation. This involves recognizing librarians and teachers as workers, as well as advocates. Change will not come without attention to the material conditions that structure (and often limit) our lives and the lives of our students. Teachers’ unions are a great way for librarians and teachers to collaborate by defending funding for public education. With teachers on board, we can advocate for diversity and inclusion in both the library and the classroom.

  2. Agh…. I am the product of spell check… there is a typo in the blog that I didn’t catch! The correct spelling is Max Macias, not Macais. My apologies to Max and all readers.

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