Posts tagged ‘school librarian’

Books still matter (and so do school libraries)

by April Bunn

Times are rough for librarians in New Jersey. In the education world, librarian positions are being cut at an astronomical rate due to severe cuts in state aid.

I have been quiet here on Library Garden lately because I am part of the statistics- my position was cut- leaving our school without a librarian. I have been busy advocating for our positions with my teacher’s association and the New Jersey Association of School Librarians.

While I’m shocked at what happened to school budgets in the Garden State in such a short period of time, I’m finding a shimmer of hope in the cover story of the May issue of the New Jersey Education Assocation (NJEA) Review: Keeping Dewey relevant in the digital age: Why books still matter by East Hanover teacher and author Ralph Rabb.

Rabb argues that with our help, books, in their original printed form, will inspire  literate, passionate readers. His primary concern is that students are doing their reading online and not picking up hard-copy text enough. The new term for all this online reading is called being  “e-literate”.

I was immediately hooked into the article because Rabb describes one of my major reasons for loving libraries since I was very young- the SMELL of books- “It’s absolute olfactory heaven.” He calls libraries “temples built for the love of books” and suggests that teachers need to take their students on field trips to the great libraries, such as the New York Public Library and the Library of Congress.

I take my youngest students each year on a trip to our public library and their excitement is contagious. And while my library is not a NYPL, it is still my temple and it’s still a baby. I’m extra sad to see it close* next year since I “built” it from scratch. The prior superintendent had a vision for the school that included a large library with an adjoining technology lab and they were dedicated in September of 2005. She’d be sad to see this happening.

*I said it was “closing” next year, which I consider the case, but my Board doesn’t see it that way- they think teachers taking their students down to “pick out books”  and volunteers shelving books is keeping it alive. By the way, the technology department experienced no budget cuts.

May 13, 2010 at 6:37 pm 2 comments

Name Change from Media Specialist to School Librarian- moving forward?

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:

What’s in a Name?, LearnCentralWebinar

Nancy White’s Calling All School Librarians!

Cathy Nelson’s Techno Tuesday

School Library Journal

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.

What do we do?

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-

Media Specialists:

  • 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

Advocacy tools:

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.

February 20, 2010 at 8:09 am


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