Updated: Feb 8
I was really lucky to land a job at Newcastle City Libraries as a library assistant straight from school at 16. I had always enjoyed visiting Jesmond library as a child and had reasonably fond memories of my middle school library so when I started work I really felt I knew what libraries were about. How wrong I was! The world of libraries is vast, exciting, mind blowing and an adventure of learning I could not have even begun to imagine at 16.
I could go on about my learning journey in libraries and especially school libraries, but as interesting as that would be (only joking!) I would rather explore how people end up as school librarians and know what their job entails. Some may have done the degree in Library and Information studies others have done no formal specific library qualifications. Some may have gone on and gained their CILIP certification or chartership and others not. I need to say here that whatever qualifications you have as a school librarian are irrelevant to this post. It is what it is and we have many very professional school librarians out there without any library related qualifications and that is great. What is wrong with our profession is that if you were to line up all our school librarians, qualified or not, and ask them what hours they work and what they do there would not be a standard answer amongst them.
My last post 'Can we really be all things to everyone?' touched on this. If school librarians as a professional body can't give a clear message about what we do how do we expect schools, teachers and students understand? Ask a school if they think a school library is important, without question they would say yes. Ask them what the role of the school librarian is you would also get many different answers.
My thought process is this; my knowledge of libraries at 16 was just what I had seen as a library user and for most of us that knowledge will never change. We think we know how libraries work but most of us really don't have a clue until you actually work in one. Now I also know that you could say the same for most jobs. My husband is an accountant and I don't have a clue what he does but I would not expect to join a business as their accountant and try to learn how to do the job on my own. If they are employing a non qualified accountant they would expect them to train on the job. This would be formal education as well as learning on the job from others already in the role. However, this kind of support is not available to our current school librarians.
Many find themselves in a school where there is no structure for them, they either follow what the previous librarian did or work something out that links to their passion whatever that might be; literacy and reading or tech or teaching information literacy or all of this. There are many great people out there to help if you can find them. The School Library Association, CILIP School Library Group and the School Library Network or groups on Facebook, I follow The school librarian's workshop, Future Ready Librarians and Hacking School Libraries, and the numerous groups on Linkedin but you need to know about them in the first place. If you don't know any other school librarian how do you start to find help?
So the purpose of this post is to highlight the need for school librarians across the country to want to be part of something more. To create a profession to be proud of, to be able to stand up and say this is what we do and that every child deserves the same. Whether you are doing amazing things in your school or you are sitting behind a desk counting the minutes till you can go home. It is time to change, it is time to say that you want more, more training, more support, more opportunities to make a difference to the children and teachers we work with. it is time to support each other and be proud of our wonderful profession that we know makes a difference to every child who walks into our library.
If we can do this for ourselves we are then in a position to educate teachers about what we do. My dream is that one day, a new teacher to a school will know they need to find the school librarian to ask about collaboration opportunities within their classroom and the resources available for their subject. The teacher and the librarian will be on the same page and the learning for everyone will begin from the start.