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The School Library Challenge: Misconceptions and Stereotypes

Updated: Apr 3, 2023

Children in a school library working on laptops
Children in a school library

Why are school libraries so misunderstood, undervalued and closing? I wrote a Tweet this week - 5 misconceptions of school libraries and asked for more. Sadly this list will continue to grow...

1. Librarians only issue and return books

2. The library budget is just for the library

3. The library is only for the English and possibly History department

4. The librarian doesn't leave the library

5. The only purpose of the school library is to promote Reading for Pleasure

6. Everything is on the internet so we don't need libraries (@beardybobbyjay)

7. We will call it resource centre administrator, pretend it is not a skilled job and pay you just above minimum wage (@nell_bish)

8. Anyone can run it (@PMM54)

9. Anyone / Any English teacher can be a librarian.”Similar but different skills. There are outstanding English teachers out there. There are outstanding librarians. Some people are both, but the roles have differing priorities. (@72Scopley)

10. We say shhhhh all the time, I’ve had people say it to my face, trying to be funny, it’s not (@librarydonna)

11. We only know about paper books and don’t like or use technology (@librarydonna)

12. Librarians read and shelf books all day (@sylvianursebc)

13. Librarians are always female (@sylvianursebc)

14. The library must always be quiet (@sylvianursebc)

15. Are not relevant anymore because everything is online (@sylvianursebc)

16. If the Library is empty except for the Librarian, they want nothing more than to have three high profile students left with them for a couple of hours by SLT. 'They can help you put books away!' Yes, that's definitely all I've got to get done for the next two hours (@RedWoman1552)

17. Libraries are an optional extra (@DrHeery)

18. Now we've got Google and Kindle, we don't need libraries (@DrHeery)

19. You need a master's degree to run the library?? (@mrterborg)

20. The librarian doesn’t live in the library - They have a home and family (@library46)

21. The librarian hasn't read every book in the library but has read a lot! (@library46)

22. That we sit around sipping tea and reading books. That we are in charge on textbooks and Chromebooks (@Sdeyoung1)

23. The school library is only for the promotion of reading - La biblioteca escolar és només promoció de lectura (@Bibliojuvenil)

24. It's only for naughty kids and book worms (@therroneill)

25. Librarians don’t need to socialise with other staff (@HeartOTSchool)

26. Librarians don’t need lunch or can eat at their desks surrounded by kids (@HeartOTSchool)

27. The books don't appear on the shelves by themselves: professional librarians put much care and thought into carefully curating collections which reflect learning priorities, individual tasks and current trends (@LargsCampusLib)

28. That library spaces can't play/encourage games for learning in physical environment (@preedipbalaji)

29. I have time to fix the photocopier and report every fault in the building (@sara13librarian)

Why is this list a problem?

It is important that although this list does make me smile, angry and frustrated there is an important message here. Every child deserves a school library and unless we can start to dispel some of these misconceptions our school libraries are going to continue to close. Our students and teachers are going to have less quality resources, less critical thinking skills, less independent learning...less, less less... Don't let this happen due to a lack of understanding.

Jane Reid @JRLibGal explained the problem well in her response to my Twitter post "Even in established school libraries there is still so much misunderstanding of our role when years of work can be discarded on a short term gain"

What can you do now?

I am sure this list will continue to grow but if you would like to know more about what school librarians really do I have written many blogs so maybe you could maybe start here. Why it's time to start taking your school librarian seriously

Once you have read it, go and talk to your school librarian about what they can really do for you and your students.

If you would like more information I would always be happy to talk to you about a ways to integrate your school library into your curriculum. Contact me for a chat today!

476 views2 comments


I had a student say yesterday that they would like to be a librarian - it looked easy. I gave her a quick list of everything I had to do just in that hour alone. She went a little quiet.

You're right, just getting people to listen and understand what happens in the library is the main battle. Those who already know, know because they work with me!

I'll keep chipping away.


Mar 24, 2023

An excellent post, am not surprised by any of the things on the list. Having worked in the library sector for 20 years - it's deeply frustrating that many of these misconceptions have been around for so long. I think librarianship is possibly one of the most misunderstood roles around. I do believe that one of the best ways to try to challenge these misconceptions is through examples of effective, impactful best practice. That said, it's often a major challenge to even get the opportunity to talk about what we do with key people and be taken seriously.

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