Posts tagged ‘media specialists’
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Specialists- at least that’s what’s listed on our teaching certificates- but not necessarily the name listed in our outdated job descriptions and contracts.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.
It’s a buzz word everywhere. You’ve seen it at ALA, AASL and every faculty in-service. If you’re like me, you’ve got it in your PIP (Personal Improvement Plan) and you start the year out with high hopes of all the amazing collaborative projects you’re going to do with the teachers in your building. Then, somewhere around October/November, you realize that your co-planning time is limited or non-existent and many of your teachers are so regimented with their schedules that they can’t see how these shared projects will actually help them in the planning, implementation, and assessment processes. We have a wide range of responsibilities and we deal with most of the people that work in our building in one way or another. Collaboration should be our middle name, right? You would think so. I’m here to point out one reason why it might not be working and to give you some hope for looking at collaboration in a new way.
Working with the “enemy”
One definition of the word is “To cooperate treasonably, as with an enemy occupation force in one’s country.” Sounds inappropriate for the school setting, right? I think it might be quite relevant. If we imagine the school building as a country, it’s easier to understand why teachers feel like their classroom is their ‘territory’. In my elementary school setting, the teachers are alone most of the day with their students. They bring and drop off their students to specials, such as gym, music, or media center and often feel as if another classroom is “enemy territory.” If you’re lucky enough to not be a prep coverage for that teacher, and they stay with their class, which I have for a few periods a week, the challenge becomes involving that teacher in the lesson in order to keep them from running off to make copies and phone calls, or my favorite, sitting and correcting papers. They don’t feel comfortable teaching or taking the lead in “your” classroom. We can change that.
Start small and socialize
Knowledge Quest, the AASL journal, features collaboration (“Social Scholarship”) this month. Barbara Schultz-Jones’ article, “Collaboration in the School Social Network” connects the popular subject of social networking to the school setting. Seeing the Media Specialist as a social network organizer will help to make connections between the ‘territories’ within the ‘country’ of the school. The teachers will feel more at ease when things are less structured and we start with small connections between our curriculum and theirs. For example, I recently showed a video on shapes to a 1st grade class and the students responded right away saying they had just learned about shapes and engaged their teacher from the back of the room to show off their knowledge.
Get involved- take the initiative
Collaboration, in all its facets, can be successful and seamless if we take the initiative to build relationships that break down the borders. Watching students make connections between subjects, or forget they’re learning as a result of a well-planned project makes it all worthwhile. Volunteering to work on curriculum development is a great way to harvest professional relationships with teachers and curriculum supervisors (who can be great supporters of your program).
Celebrate the small things and the success stories
Why not think more creatively about all the things we do each day that don’t traditionally count as collaboration and stop focusing on the “projects” that we aren’t able to do with colleagues. Media Specialist, Mary Alice Anderson, in her article for Multimedia Schools, “The Media Center: The Many Faces of Collaboration” suggests that we “celebrate the varied aspects of our multi-faceted roles” by including the support we give throughout the year to teachers, staff, as well as parents and the community. Do you organize the school’s book fair? How about author visits or other school-wide assemblies? Maybe you’re the “go-to” person for website help and technology issues. Our ability to help the entire school succeed is just as valid as a project we would specifically work on together. How about publicly acknowledging and praising those teachers that embrace collaboration? Students can describe how they felt learning and working that way and be your best publicity.
Anything is possible
We work hard to create an inviting atmosphere in the Media Center that feels like home to every person that enters, including students, parent volunteers, teachers, administrators and even our public librarians. We are responsible for supporting the school’s curriculum in many different ways, and with that, we have the power to break down barriers as we go along.
This year, I’m going to include some of the less traditional collaborative projects in my end-of-year meeting with my principal, and make sure to quantify how many people were willing to work collaboratively throughout the year. It’s time that we advocate for our program to all who “occupy” our building.
The White House Conference on School Libraries, in 2002, presented a session that is sure to inspire you to find a way to makeover your program to a dynamic, integrated media center, with you as the “information consultant” facilitating collaborative work throughout the year. The conference notes can be found at the Institution of Museum and Library Services site: http://www.imls.gov/news/events/whitehouse_2.shtm#kcl.
Keep your enemies close, but your fellow collaborators closer.