More Initial Impressions: School Librarians

In my previous post, I looked at some of the ways a group of high school English teachers-to-be thought about school libraries. I used to get a sense of the nouns, verbs, and adjectives they associated with school libraries.

In that session, I also asked them to think of 5 nouns, verbs, and adjectives to describe school librarians.  The wordles I created from the words they came up with are embedded below.

One thing I ask my students to do before they create clouds like these is to predict what they think will be the largest words.  What do you think might dominate the way these educators think of school librarians? Once you see them, consider: what might these tell us about some of the challenges school librarians still face in transforming ideas about who school librarians are and what they do?

Librarian nouns….


I was surprised that “glasses” was the largest. It dismays me that words like “teacher,” “knowledge,” and “researcher” are so much smaller.

School librarian verbs…


I can’t help mentioning the several variants of “shush,” but the dominance of the word “read” is also discouraging, I think.  Although most school librarians are avid readers, school librarians have long battled the perception that they read all day.  In addition to the shush variants, there are also other verbs that I think of as similarly disciplinary: glare, scolding. But, there are also many words I would call positive…helping, listening, educate. Although I am glad to see “teach,” I would like to see it more prominent. What do you notice about this cloud?  What is missing?  What surprises you?

Librarian Adjectives


I’ll confess, I was not at all prepared for the dominance of the world “old.”  When I saw it, my jaw dropped. Because I am connected with so many young, forward-thinking librarians, I just don’t think about age that much.  We do see positive traits such as helpful, smart, and nice as sizable parts of the cloud.

This exercise was a brief attempt to get at some of the background thinking that these young educators brought to the session about school library media specialists. Honestly, I was not surprised by a lot of the content. In my next posts, I’ll discuss the program we shared with the teachers and some of their reactions.

Thinking back, I wish I had sent the survey out well before the session, so I could have planned a more tailored presentation based on their wordles. Instead, I did this at the beginning of the session and then tried to inject comments based on these data as the presentation went forward.

Although it was somewhat disappointing to see these impressions, it also made me even more thankful for the invitation. How many groups of young teachers don’t have the opportunity to hear about school library media specialists in their preparation programs?  How many impressions like these go unquestioned, unexamined, and unchanged? How do impressions like these make us think differently about what school librarians might see as classroom teachers’ unwillingness or reluctance to collaborate?  More importantly, how can we continue to address and transform the impressions classroom teachers have of school library media specialists?



2 Responses to “More Initial Impressions: School Librarians”

  1. 1 missbexm 11.22.2012 at 9:05 pm

    Reblogged this on English Teacher's Toolbox and commented:
    How interesting!

  2. 2 Robyn Matus 11.11.2016 at 7:57 pm


    I came across this blog post when I was researching homework help and how teachers can promote school librarians to their students. Librarians provide students with a wealth of information and oftentimes, they even provide one on one assistance, which is hard to come by these days!

    I was intrigued by the experiment you included here. It just confirmed my desire to promote school librarians, especially as a resource for homework help.

    -Robyn Matus

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