Posts filed under ‘advocacy’
A post by Cynthia Lambert
In the past I have blogged about what surprised me when I first came to libraries. Many people commented on the drunken patron—an unexpected customer service challenge if ever there was one. One thing I expected, but three years later still have no idea how to deal with, are the mentally ill or chemically altered patrons. I am not alone.
When I get together socially with librarians both new and seasoned, often the talk of customer service turns into laments about the homeless, the mentally ill, drug addicts, and the unwashed. No one it seems has any idea how to properly help and/or deal with these people. Why is that?
A March, 2009 article in Public Libraries gives a list of 10 tips for dealing with the mentally ill, all of which suggest training. In library school—only one class, a class on communication, even touched on the issue of mentally ill people at the library. Of the four libraries I have worked in, not one gave me training, despite mentally ill, homeless, and drug addicted patrons causing problems—some small, some very significant. In fact, at one, most of the staff simply will not deal with the issue. Rules in place against sleeping or pornography are ignored and management explicitly stated that maybe it is best to just let them sleep unless another patron complains.
The San Francisco Public Library is trying something new to deal with the problem. They have hired a full-time social worker. While I think that is fantastic, the reality is that very few libraries have the money to hire adequate library staff these days, let alone getting into the business of health care. So what is there for the rest of us?
Other than a handful of articles, I have found no indication of a training program in place to help library staff identify and deal with the mentally ill or drug addicted. I am sure there are many programs out there, I simply cannot find them. I found programs for educators, for families, for children, for teens, and for law enforcement, but nothing for libraries and library professionals.
The literature I did find is limited, suggests speaking to experts, and provides a list of ‘tips’. Much of what I do know, I have learned informally on the job or from other librarians. (For example, never yell, speak harshly, or seem upset–simply speak in a calm voice, speak clearly and in short sentences, show respect, enforce the rules).
Librarians love training. We love meetings. How many offers of training on Twitter or Facebook have you seen in the past year? Now think about how many you have received for dealing with drug addicts or the mentally ill? How many hours have you spent in endless meetings discussing the best way to support e-books? Now consider how many hours have been spent on dealing with difficult patrons in a safe and effective manner (and get management does not cut it given there lack of availability at night and on weekends).
So I ask you dear readers—please send me your training programs, your tips, your tricks, and your coping strategies for dealing with the mentally ill or drug addicted. It is my goal to create an online professional directory of services, training, tips, and discussion to assist library professionals in dealing with the most needy and most challenging of patrons.
by April Bunn, Media Specialist, Teacher-Librarian, School Librarian
NAME CHANGE ALERT!
The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) decided to change our job title. We’re going to be called School Librarians… again.
The board of directors voted for the change at January’s midwinter meeting in Boston. The response has been heated.
|Response to the news:|
Many feel this name change represents a loss in a long-standing battle with our image . University of Washington I School professor and school library advocate Mike Eisenberg responds, “To me, it’s retro – conjuring black and white images of stereotypical 1950s librarians.”
My first response is one of fear. Taking the words ” media specialist” out of my title will just give the powers that be (Board of Ed. or the state) more juice to eliminate my job. Public and academic libraries have held on to the traditional title without change through the years, so what’s the difference? In schools, we’re in a crises of unknown identity- Administration still doesn’t know exactly what we do.
“Branding” the Name and the Space
In New Jersey we are School Library Media Specialists- at least that’s what’s listed on our teaching certificates- but not necessarily the name listed in our outdated job descriptions and contracts. In other places the most common title is Teacher-Librarian. In a power-house packed webinar, called What’s in a Name?, Mike Eisenberg encouraged us to find a consistent “brand” in what we do. Our librarians, our spaces, and our local and national organizations all have different names (i.e., Media Center, School Library, Information Center). In the Garden State, we were ahead of ourselves when the Educational Media Association became the New Jersey Association of School Librarians in 2006, to match the national organization of AASL, and help people understand who we are. Maybe we just didn’t see that this change was always in our future?
Do we need the word “Teacher”?
As an elementary teacher, I would prefer to have “teacher” (Teacher-Librarian) in the title, but either way, it’s a “kinder and gentler” name for what I do- Media Specialist was always a foreign concept to young children. It also coordinates much better with my colleagues in public and academic libraries.
The problem continues to be that the public doesn’t understand all that we do in a 21st Century learning environment. As a single-operator school librarian, I wear every hat, from traditional storytelling and book searches to Web 2.0 infused lessons, and I work every day to keep my program afloat and dynamic.
In an effort to include advocacy in this post, I looked for a good job description for our position. I like this one, by Sara Kelly Johns, President of AASL (and currently running for ALA President), describing our essential (and varied) role in the school-
- work with educators to design and teach curriculum
- create curriculum and promote an engaging learning experience tailored to the individual needs of students
- evaluate and “produce” information through the active use of a broad range of tools, resources, and information technologies
- provide access to materials in all formats, including up-to-date, high-quality, varied literature to develop and strengthen the love of reading
- provide students, educators, and staff with instructional materials that reflect current information needs.
Budget Cuts & Lost Jobs
If the state and school boards really understood what we do, they wouldn’t approve massive job eliminations during budget cuts, like the local situation in Woodbridge, where they eliminated all the elementary school librarians, serving 16 schools, in a massive budget cut this year (by the way, in that article, they called them “librarians”).
If there is a person in the position of school librarian who is indispensible, making an impact (and showing it!) on student achievement, creating a culture of collaboration, and being a leader in the integration of 21st century skills – whether that person is called a school librarian, library media specialist, or teacher-librarian – they will survive this and any future budget crisis.
- Nancy White, on CASL’s blog
I love my job, no matter what the name or the place is called. I pledge to continue to work as hard as I can to keep my board and community aware of what I am doing as Media Specialist, Librarian, or Teacher-Librarian in our Media Center, School Library, or Information Center.
School Libraries Work!-outstanding resource, including research statistics on the impact of school libraries on student achievement.
NJASL Advocacy Wiki- great resource, including procedures and contacts divided into areas of concern
I hope we can save ourselves before it’s too late, and stop this nonsense of cutting positions that are essential in the 21st Century.