Thoughts on School Library Media Specialists from a Group of High School Teachers-To-Be (Part 1)

“Will you come speak to our class of preservice high school teachers about the role of media specialists*?”

When this question came my way a few months ago, I jumped at the chance to share some insights about school librarians with a group of future high school English teachers. We know that most preservice classroom teacher education programs do little to address the role of the school librarian in student learning. (See Judi Moreillon’s work for an important exception to this general trend.) Although I knew a two-hour session was not an ideal design to transform thinking about today’s school librarians, I was determined to make the most of the opportunity.  My next few posts will share the content of the session, as well as some of the information I gathered from the future teachers who attended.  I found their views to be thought-provoking, and I hope you will, too.

As I considered how to approach the session, I kept thinking about the stereotypes that seem to persist in many pieces of writing about school librarians (not to mention conversations). In spite of all the blogging, presenting, tweeting, writing, and sharing that excellent school librarians have done in an effort to share the way librarians and libraries have evolved, every time I turn around I see the shushing, bun-headed, glasses-wearing librarian stereotype evoked again (and again). With that in mind, I decided to start the session by placing the staid stereotype front-and-center and work from there.

Some of you may know that I am a poetry fan. When I am teaching, I start every class with a poem, often related to whatever topics we are working on that day. I try to include poetry in presentations as well.  So, I searched for a poem to relate to libraries, and found this powerful spoken-word poem by John Goode that addresses the librarian stereotype in an interesting fashion.

In my next posts, I’ll share more about how these young teachers viewed media specialists, and how I tried to expand their ideas.  If you’ve had the opportunity to do similar programs, I hope you’ll share some of what worked well in the comments.

(N.B. In line with the largest professional association for school librarians in the USA, I prefer to use the term “school librarian” in much of my writing. However, the term used in our state is “media specialist.” So, I tend to move back and forth between the terms, and even combine them at times. Interestingly, one member of the class approached me after the program to tell me that she thought that using the term “school librarian” is part of what may be holding school librarians, and perceptions of us, back. After the session, she said she thought “media specialist” was a much more accurate depiction of what today’s school librarians do. Interesting, to say the least!)


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