Real Librarians

School Librarians Are Real Librarians

About fifteen years ago I attended a state library conference as a university library assistant. At the time I was in the process of getting my Master’s degree in Library and Information Science. I went to a session about career information and the presenter was rather pessimistic about the field of librarianship. Since I had decided to focus on school librarianship I mentioned that this field had many jobs in our state since school librarians were retiring in great numbers. The presenter’s response was “No, I mean real librarians.” I was speechless and I was apparently the only school librarian in the room. She quickly backtracked and since I was seeing red I don’t remember much after this statement.

If I were quick with words (and not so angry) I might have said “School librarians are the librarians who do it all. We are the reference desk, the collection development office, the computer lab assistants, and the circulation managers at our school libraries.”

Core Values of Librarianship

After the recent questions about credentials and degrees recently covered by both ALA and the KQ blog, I wanted to revisit some of the most important parts of my training. My graduate program had a course that covered the core values of librarianship with Dr. Esther Swink, one of the nine professors in my MLIS program. This course has been the cornerstone of my career in library science. No matter how much the industry changes and library trends come and go, these key values help guide my decisions even today.

Cross section of a Sterappel apple

These are some of the Core Values of Librarianship as adopted by the ALA Council in 2004 that we studied heavily in my graduate program:

  • Access
  • Confidentiality/Privacy
  • Education and Lifelong Learning
  • Intellectual Freedom
  • Preservation
  • Professionalism
  • Service

Protecting the Staff

Some of the ways the wisdom of this one course has informed my practice have to do with the highly relevant issues affecting school libraries. Most importantly protection, advocacy, and leadership. First, how do faculty and administrators perceive the position of librarian at my school? Do I protect not only my job as school librarian but also the position itself? Of course, we want to be a team player and help in many areas that support the entire school program. However, we do not want to become the permanent test proctor, copy girl, textbook coordinator, laminating queen, study hall proctor, substitute teacher, or babysitter. There is nothing wrong with helping out with any of these school tasks, but the first thing that should come to colleagues’ minds is that a librarian is a professional who holds to these core values of librarianship.

Protecting the Space and Programming

All librarians should be dedicated to service and access. But we are losing space to offices, classrooms, and even our own makerspace. We must ask ourselves are the activities a good fit for the library, do they support service and library access? Or is the library facility thought of as just a really great space? Other questions we might ask are what activities add to the vision and mission of the library? What activities do no harm?

A great place to find fun and unusual programming is the American Library Association Public Programs Office website Programming Librarian.

Protecting the Curriculum

Finally, what are we teaching in the library? Are we swerving too far into another lane? We want to remember the values of education and lifelong learning. When we focus on technology are we teaching high-tech information literacy and information access? When we focus on language arts are we teaching research, copyright, and intellectual freedom? With curriculum like everything else, we must go back to our core values. Because, yes, school librarians are definitely real librarians.


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: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Makerspaces/Learning Commons

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2 replies

  1. Thank you for posting this! I wear many hats at my school like many school librarians and sometimes feel the “library” part of my job is getting lost.

  2. Yes to everything in this post! My co-lib and I are outlining our focus/goals for the next school year, and your post has been very inspiring.

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