The School Library – Week 24

Where I went:
This week, I served a great love of mine. I am heartbroken because this love has lost her main caretaker. As such, she will soon qualify as “less fortunate”. 
My love is the school library.
Some background:
When I was little, I wanted to be a librarian. As I grew, my career path ventured in a different direction. Still, my love of the library never waned. 
As a substitute teacher in 2009, I took a long-term position as a school librarian. Finally – I felt “home”. I was meant for this job. I researched certification programs and the possibility of going back to school. Until the full time librarian returned with this advice:
There are no library/media teaching jobs.
My spirit was crushed, but she was right. School librarians had become an endangered species. So, I vowed to be the Best Substitute Librarian this world had ever seen!
Until we moved to a school district that put a freeze on hiring new substitutes.
So, I vowed to be the Best Library Volunteer this world had ever seen!
First Impressions:
Due to budget cuts, our school district eliminated the Certified School Librarian position.   It’s been an emotional pill for me to swallow. Since starting my “Nature of a Servant” experiment, I’ve been spending less hours volunteering at school. Now the school library as I know it will change, so I wanted to spend as much time in there as possible before school let out for summer.
The Job:
I spent 2 1/2 days shelving books. And organizing books. And getting books ready for the fall. And trying not to cry while doing it.
Usually I’m trying to emulate the “nature of a servant” by feeding the homeless, helping out families in need, or volunteering with a Title 1 school. This week, I found compassion spending time with our soon to be unemployed librarian, and trying to make her workload a tad lighter before her job is done for good.
Rather than give you a description describing what I did this week, I’d rather write a letter. Hope that’s okay with you.
A Letter:
Dear Librarians,

Ha. When I say “librarian”, the word conjures the image of an older woman with her hair in a bun, wearing glasses, and holding her finger over her lips shhhing kids. Let me start over.
Dear Library Media Research Specialist,
I am devastated that your job is being eliminated. I think our district is making a huge mistake. Yes, something had to be cut, but I believe there were other solutions to save money. I just hate what this does to the quality of my children’s education.
You have put many years (and dollars) into the training needed for this job. Not only did you need the credentials of a regular classroom teacher, you were also required to obtain a Library/Media Science degree. This is why it angers me when some say, “Anyone can check out books.” 
When I engage people making such statements I spend the next 15 minutes spewing out all that is taught in a school library. Sometimes, though, I run out of energy. Then the person gets my raised eyebrow, “Are you for real? I cannot believe you just said that out loud,” glare.
Never let it be said that you are anything less than amazing. Classroom teachers know some kids in the school. You know every kid. And you know each reading level and each genre each student gravitates toward. When you order a new book, you already know the child who will love it. I think you are magical.
Thank you for teaching my daughters’ how to do research. In my day we had an encyclopedia and a card catalog. The internet has opened up a world of information; some good, some dangerous. The lessons you’ve taught about the rights and wrongs of the online world will stay with them forever. Heck, they’ve even come home to teach their parents.
Thank you for taking the time to find and/or buy all of those books the classroom teachers used for their teaching units. They would not have had the time to put as much research into it as you did.
Thank you for going above and beyond with extras like facilitating the Oregon Battle of the Books competition and setting up rewards for summer reading. I know you put non-compensated hours into these programs  – all for the benefit of encouraging young readers.
I’m sorry I didn’t fight harder for your job. A letter to the school board didn’t do much. I could have been outside with picket signs or done something else out of character for me. But we who are passionate about the school library prefer to spend our time in the corner with a book. I wish I would have done more.
You’ve made an impact on my kids, but also served as a mentor to me. I cherished our literary discussions and looked forward to your book recommendations. 
You cannot be replaced. Classroom teachers rarely have specialized media training, nor the time to teach the lessons you taught. No parent volunteer can come close to running the library as you did.
Your fear is that our community will become complacent. That we will accept the reality of no librarians, and no technology teachers, and 40-50 kids in a classroom. That pretty soon, we’ll all say, “Oh well. That’s just the way it is.” 
I think you’re right – we will become apathetic. And that sucks.
The truth is, no one can do the job of a librarian other than a librarian. Sorry, I mean, Library Media Research Specialist.


  1. Nicole Koenig says

    Wonderfully written, Andee! This tugged at my heart and brought tears to my eyes. Hopefully, boards of education across the country will realize cutting these important members of our faculty is a huge mistake before it's too late, and before it's at the cost of our students' educations and futures.

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