Monday, June 17, 2013

How to Survive the Zombie Librarian Apocalypse Survival Tip #4: Share.

Zombie Librarians don't share.  Instead, they hide in their offices counting library fine money while lamenting the fact that no one in the world seems to understand the rigor and importance of their job.  Zombie Librarians feel misunderstood and, as a result, they have mastered the role of "outsider."  They are grumpy, sullen and superior all at the same time.

And this is bad.  Really bad.  And let me tell you why.  

A few years ago, when library jobs were on the chopping block in my district, my principal came to me after a particularly heated meeting and said, "I'm worried that the voices of principals with bad librarians are going to be louder than those of us with great ones."  In other words, principals (teachers, parents, etc) will fight for people and programs they know are valuable while, and this is important, being willing to  compromise the others.  What's more, it only takes a few "zombies" out there to make things really REALLY tough on the rest of us.   We may out number them, but it won't matter if their bad practice infects those with the loudest voices.

So... what's the antidote to this form of Zombie Librarianship?  That's easy.  Sharing.  If it's true that no one in your building really understands your work or how what you do impacts students, well... there's only one person who can change that. (Hint: it's you!)  And if information about your wonderful programming and stellar instruction isn't making it home to parents as a topic of conversation around the dinner table, well... there's only one person who can change that too. (Hint: it's you!) And if your greater community and local power players (think school board members, the mayor and state legislators) have yet to pay a visit to your school's library to see your students in action, again, there's only one person who can change that! (You get the picture).

The good news is, there are tons of ways to share. Whether you rock the school website, create an awesome, (interactive), data wall, distribute an amazing annual report, publish regular newsletters, hold tons of library- family nights, invite the media to cover library events or a combination of all of the above (plus countless other examples), the ways that you can share your work with the world are as limitless as your imagination.

What's more, sharing isn't just a best practice, it's marketing, it's advocacy and in these uncertain times, it brings you one step closer to job security. Obviously, at this point, we all know there's no silver bullet when it comes to stemming the tide of red ink that all state budgets seem to be drowning in, but that can't stop us from doing everything in our power to make sure that libraries top the list of things our principals, teachers, parents and community are willing to fight for.  

And, this is where the rubber meets the road, because sharing our work isn't about keeping librarians off the unemployment line, it's about saving libraries for kids.  As far as I am concerned, every bad librarian (and teacher and principal, etc) out there SHOULD get a pink slip. Further, if I'm completely honest, then I have to say that despite the economic uncertainty of the past few years, I've never feared for my own job - because I knew that even if all library positions in my district were cut, I'd find work somewhere.  Call me cocky, or worse, but I'm smart, capable and, frankly, I'm a darned good teacher.  I'm not worried about me. 

I worry about more important things: like kids not having access to libraries and their skillfully curated collections, like kids missing out on the kind of great collaborations that only classroom teachers and teacher librarians can create together, like kids having no access to the kind of inquiry and essential skills based instruction that libraries can naturally cultivate, like kids having no place in their lives where reading is modeled and promoted as something joyful and pleasurable, instead of just instructional.**  Truly, mass librarian unemployment doesn't hold a candle to these concerns.  So... I became a compulsive sharer because, my students deserved it, and I'm pretty sure yours do too.  Besides, if nothing else, there's no way I was gonna let the zombies win!  

All of that said, since posting my presentation on How To Survive The Zombie Librarian Apocalypse, I've gotten lots and lots of questions about the images I used in the presentation.   Basically, all of the inquiries boil down to 3 questions, which I am going to try to answer here:

Did you draw the zombies yourself?
Answer:  Yes!

What did you use to draw zombies/create the presentation?
Answer:  I drew the zombies using an iPad app called Art Studio, which I have written about here.  (I feel the need to emphasize here that I am not an artist, seriously... I can barely draw a stick figure given pencil and paper, but there's something about the iPad, and this app in particular, that makes it easier for me to create the ideas floating around in my head.) Once the zombies were all drawn, I used Comic Live (a program I learned about from Gwyneth Jones) to create the slides themselves - which I then exported as images and uploaded to PowerPoint.  Sounds complicated, I know, but I promise, it's really not.

Can I use the zombie images in my [insert your project here]?
Answer: Yes!  And why???  Because Zombie Librarians don't share... but I do!  And, in order to make this easier, I've created a "Zombie Librarian" set in Flickr and uploaded all the images there.  These images, like all the stuff I share, are licensed with an attribution, share-alike, non commercial Creative Commons license, meaning a) you have to give credit b) you have to let others use your remix of my work and c) you can't make money from their use.   So... what's mine is yours, provided you continue sharing what you create.

Finally, let me just say that I created the Zombie Librarians as something of a joke, except not really, if you know what I mean.  Unfortunately, there are still too many librarians out there for whom the term Zombie Librarian might actually be a compliment. However, I believe there's more of us than there are them.  And what's more, we're bringing the awesome!  So, watch out!

**I want to go on record as saying that I know there are many classroom teachers who strive to cultivate readers (as opposed to test takers) in their classes, who focus on inquiry and participatory learning (as opposed to standardized instruction) because they know its what's best for kids and who have turned collaboration (both within and without the physical confines of their buildings), into an art form.  Further, I do not believe libraries hold the patent on this type of teaching.  However, in my experience, after a decade+ of high stakes testing, I know these teachers are the exception, not the rule AND (more importantly) I believe that these kinds of instructional practices should be the central mission of school librarianship. THIS (and only this) is what school libraries should be about.  It should be the core of our work. (Books, technology and the "stuff" that fills the room are only tools for delivering instruction).  My point is only that if school librarians ARE doing the work they should be, their absence would leave an indelible gap in the lives of students - and that is something worth fighting for.


  1. Brilliant! Just brilliant! Srsly, LOVE the pep talk, the message, the graphics, the Flickr set [rubs hands with glee]... well - everything! You rock my dear friend!

  2. You know, I know so many cool librarians, but you are so right about the duds--they are the ones people really remember. I am changing schools in August, and one of the reasons is because my current school is test-driven, and my new school seems to be more learning-driven. Also, my new school will have a PHENOMENAL librarian--in her words "We are eager to support your instruction and to help your students develop effective information literacy and research skills in all areas."

    Can't wait!!

  3. I could not agree more, with you and with Gwyneth! This is great stuff, I am just learning but I am going to re-tweet! I am in master's program for LS, and I have been observing this and saying this to administrators for years! Some of us are our own worst enemy, we need to turn this around!

  4. thanks for sharing your thoughts! I couldn't agree more regarding the damage done by the few, and I adore the pictures you drew! Especially the shusher with the "I heart books" tshirt...

  5. Thank you for all the sharing that you do. It is inspirational to this LMS/Teacher-Librarian starting her second year. You and your blog never cease to amaze me!

  6. Well, viva la resistance against the zombie librarians. Some nice artwork too.