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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Maybe It’s the Teachers

Last week someone commented on the post about school librarians asking whose side I was on. That answer should be obvious. I’m on the side of truth, justice, and the American way. Librarians are supposed to help people critically assess the comments they find on websites. That’s what I was doing.

The school librarian last week lamented that school librarians have to be their own propagandists, which is true. What’s also true is that they haven’t been very successful.

If you keep up with school librarian news, you’d know that the situation in California isn’t unique. When cutting education budgets, states all over the country often want to cut the libraries first, figuring that if the choice is between the librarians and the teachers, they’ll keep the teachers.

The threat of funding cuts is so common the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) has a "Crisis Toolkit." They have a section of their website dedicated to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, where they complain that "Because ESEA does not highlight the direct correlation between a school library (staffed by a state-licensed school librarian) and increased student academic achievement, library resource budgets are increasingly being used to mitigate the effects of budgetary shortfalls."

School librarianship has been a profession in perpetual crisis for quite a while now. I think it’s even worse than the periodic budget crises of public libraries, because public libraries are visible to and used by the public. School libraries are hidden from the public. I, for example, have no idea what goes on in school libraries. I only vaguely recall my own school libraries, and don’t remember any librarians at all.

Unlike many librarians, school librarians are sometimes unionized with the teachers, but that doesn’t seem to protect them. The ALA won’t be any help, because it’s there for libraries, not librarians. The AASL is there for librarians, but as an ALA division they can’t do much besides put up crisis toolkits. As these things go, it looks like a pretty good decent toolkit, but the burden is still on the librarians themselves.

Whatever they’re doing isn’t working very well, because the librarians are still the first to be threatened with elimination when budgets go sour. When even some teachers think schools don’t need librarians, the librarians are in trouble.

However, as a favor to my earnest commenter, I’ll take the librarian side for argument’s sake. Consider the claims made last week, that America is a land chock full of people for whom facts and truth are meaningless, gullible semi-literates who believe in astrology, crystal healing, Scientology, homeopathic medicine, the prosperity gospel, Marxism, white supremacy, and political promises.

To these more obvious simpletons we can add people who believed that buying houses whose mortgage payments exceeded their monthly income was a good idea. Gullibility triumphs over arithmetic. Or the few daft souls who send their money to Nigeria and wait for their huge cash transfer.

Let us contemplate the range of foolish, ignorant, and gullible people abundantly evident in America and ask where most of these people went to school. They probably went to public school, like most Americans. And in these public schools, they encountered a lot of teachers trying to build their self-esteem, but almost no librarians teaching them to evaluate information. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe it’s the teachers leaving everyone so ignorant and gullible, and we need more librarians to fix the problem.

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Comments

  1. Jesus says:

    The fact is that Librarians aren’t really that helpful in high school unless you are actually an avid reader or are taking AP classes…

    I mean I never asked any librarian for help until my senior year because it was only till then that I needed to conduct research… research from books and not on the internet.

  2. Father of Two says:

    My two kids, both in AP classes, and are no dummies by any means (they take after mom, thank goodness) tell me that all their school librarian helps them with is how to click the Ebsco link and how to use Easy Cite. She and her assistant both have their MLS’s and have union protection.

    If I double my humble salary, I can almost reach one of theirs.

    You wonder why their jobs in general are in trouble?

    Get a clue.

    P.S. I liked the previous AL better.

  3. Verbatim says:

    Meh, I don’t know. I posted on the other topic and mentioned that I am a school librarian (high school) in a boarding school. This is an elite school that accepts about 17% of applicants and sends most graduates to Ivy League and Little Ivy schools, so I guess my experience is quite a lot different from that of a public school librarian. But we teach real research skills for pretty in-depth research the kids do, and our technical services department is similar to that of a liberal arts college library’s TS dept.. Our library is a separate, large, free-standing building. Meh… I guess I do have a raw deal. No summers off, virtually no federal holidays off, and a salary a lot lower than that of most public school librarians (and no free housing either! unlike the faculty here….) I guess the one thing I do have is that I’m not totally humiliated to admit what I do for a job (beyond the general embarrassment of being a librarian.) I usually consider myself to be an academic librarian. But SOME school librarians do real work!

  4. DLJ says:

    I have a hard time believing that the school librarian would be doing anything any different than the teachers are. That is, if the goal of the public school is to turn out students who embrace Marxism, the entitlement mentality, unbounded self-esteem, etc. then the librarians are probably selecting resources which promote these things, and they are directing students to online resources which promote these things. I expect any public school librarian who worked counter to what the teachers were doing would find themselves without a job, and that not because of budget cuts.

  5. SchLib says:

    The reason school librarians are cut first is because when it comes right down to it librarians only see a portion of the students each day. Teachers are more “valuable” because they have to be in the room with 30 kids for the bulk of the day. Same thing with art, music, foreign language teachers, etc. It has nothing to do with the value of the position, and everything to do with containing the kids from bell to bell.

  6. Kaylin says:

    AL, thank you for taking the time to respond! I’m not a school librarian myself, and I appreciated the second look at the topic – thanks for playing “devil’s advocate”. Looking at the other comments on this and the previous post, maybe I’m just a starry eyed new librarian amidst an experienced and somewhat jaded crowd… but I retain my optimism!

    Maybe it IS the teachers – I know when I was in middle school I was thrilled when it was time to visit the school library (we went every week and it felt like a special occasion) but by the time I got to high school, my teachers made research seem like a dull chore that must be labored through at, sigh, the library. If I didn’t already have a well-cemented adoration of libraries and all things books, I may well have ended up considering the library a place to be avoided. Perhaps if teachers and school librarians found a bit more mutual benefit and encouraged students to go, we wouldn’t be seen as dispensable.

  7. Googler says:

    The reason school librarians are being cut is because teachers are promoting Wikipedia and other Internet sources. They only care about the kids passing some test so they don’t really care where the kids get the info, just so long as they have some.

    Plus, if the librarians are gone, there is more cake left in the staff lounge and they can work on the size of their backsides.

    The revolution is coming but will not be reported.

    Why?

    The revolutionaries will not know how to write down their experiences.