Monday, November 8, 2010

A Long Look In The Mirror

Call it what you want.  The elephant in the room, a tough pill to swallow or just the ugly truth, but either way, it's time for school librarians to face the facts:  We are part of the problem.

One of the reasons why school systems around the country feel like it's okay to slash our budgets, cut our clerks and/or eliminate our positions altogether is because they see us as disposable - and it's not that difficult to figure out why. The fact is, we are living in a data driven world.  The pot of money that school districts have to pull from is, and will continue to get, smaller.  Programs that don't produce results and/or can't be directly linked to student achievement are, for better or for worse, seen as superfluous.

It's time for us to take a long, hard look at our programs and then ask ourselves some tough questions:

Are we the answers to our stakeholders problems?

As Deb Logan points out, teachers and administrators don't care how many copies of Harry Potter we have.  They are not interested in whether or not our security gates work or the average age of our 398s. They want to know how we can help improve our students' reading scores.  They want to know how our programs impact the literacy levels of our school's English Language Learners or how we can turn students with no internet access at home into effective users of 21st century technologies. If we're not the solution to these, and countless other, problems faced by our teachers, parents and administrators, they WILL NOT fight for us - and, really, why should they??

Can our programs be directly linked to student achievement?

Students are constantly being asked to prove that they've completed the tasks we assign them.  Ultimately, we are only assigned one task: to impact student learning... and I'm not convinced many of us can prove we're actually doing that.  We have to find the quantitative link between ourselves and student achievement.  What's more, if that link doesn't exist, we need to change our practice so that it does.

And finally, if our programs do impact student learning, why are we the only ones who know it?

It's time to pull our collective heads out of the sand.  Flying under the radar and hoping no one notices us, is not a plan for sustainability or even survival.  Furthermore, no one is going to magically fly in and convince others, on your behalf, that your job, programs and/library are worth saving.  In the end, YOU are your own best advocate, or in some cases, worst enemy?

Which role are you playing?


  1. I think librarians and teachers will constantly be trying to prove ourselves. We're seen as dispensable because we have rules, goals, agendas that are unattainable. We can help teachers and students as much as possible but if the admin or school board thinks it's not enough, we're out of luck.

  2. This is SO true. HOW do we do it? How do we quantify our impact? We are currently struggling with this in our district library dept. What assessment tools are you using?