Friday, June 8, 2012


A Hot Potato

Based on some of the comments we received in the poll for Myth #5, this topic of titles and certification touched a nerve among our readers.  I see this as a positive, because it leads to discussion, and discussion can lead to greater understanding among individuals... If we all keep an open mind.  

So before we look at the poll results, let's talk about who we (all of us) are.

Who We Are

People who work in libraries love books or students or reading or teaching or technology or organizing or some of the above and sometimes all of the above.  We are a passionate group.  We come to the library from different walks of life and specialize in different aspects of librarianship.  We begin our role of librarian before, during, or after becoming certified.  Some of us are assigned to the role, some of us volunteer.  Some of us take two or three or more years to complete our degree; others take the fast-track and complete it faster.  We are learners and we are teachers.
In the case of these Flying Librarians, Ann and I were both certified teachers who moved into the library and started working as our schools' librarians before we were certified.   Personally, I found this to be invaluable and enriching.  EVERYTHING I was learning was immediately applied.  I had a group of peers and an expert (the professor) with whom I could bounce new ideas and improve them before trying them out with students. One vivid memory during my LMS classes is of analyzing the materials in my reference section (back in the day when we had large reference sections), and discovering materials I would never have seen until it was time to weed them.  It was eye-opening to the classroom teacher in me who would have used said materials if I had known they existed.  

What is in a Name?

I worked in the library.  I was in charge of the library.  I taught students in the library.  I called myself the librarian.  I will not apologize for taking on the title before the certification... What else would I have called myself?    But herein lies the conundrum we face... Because we do not have clear titles, the definition of a librarian is muddied.  The public has developed their own understanding of who we are and what we do based on their prior experiences.  And some of those experiences are 20+ years old!

Most people would never walk into a doctor's office and call everyone in there a doctor.  And doctor could get away with calling herself one before she has completed her certification.   But in the medical world has provided a number of titles to identify at what level a doctor is: intern, resident, board certified.  Librarians do not spend time as interns or residents, but perhaps we should.  

I have worked with certified librarians.  Some were amazing, some were less so.

I have worked with library staff who were certified teachers who have taken classes but not finished their library degree.  Their years of experience give them an edge over those with LMS degrees just starting out in the library. 

I have worked with library staff who were not certified teachers, not taking LMS classes, but worked magic with their students on a daily basis. 

Currently, I work with some of the finest library assistants who receive minimal guidance from certified librarians, and do a fine job of keeping the doors open and the books circulating while they juggle non-library related duties.   


As school library positions are cut, it seems that our job has been boiled down to book circulation, and the common belief is that ANYONE can circulate books.  Anyone can.  But can ANYONE assess a students interests and reading ability through a casual conversation?  Can ANYONE teach a student how and why to access a database rather than "do a Google" search?  Can ANYONE convince teachers that graphic novels are really books with merit?  Does ANYONE know what to do when a parent comes in to request a book is removed from the shelves?  Does ANYONE know why we do not arrange a library by reading level and restrict students to the books that an automated reading program has identified at their "instructional level", but allow them free access to information so they can satisfy their curiosity and information needs? 

So what is the difference between certified school librarian and ANYONE?  The #1 difference is that we are teachers, and we need the public and our supervisors to know that. How are you spreading that message?

Poll Results:


  1. Cindy Rogers, you make me proud!!!! What an awesome write up and I must say you have created a most impressive infographic!

    On another note, I think it is interesting that 55% of survey responders would prefer a different name. Before I was a certified librarian, I called myself a media specialist and now, I think I prefer teacher-librarian. Great data to mull over this weekend.....

  2. I am a library cler who works 1/2 time at our high school an 1/2 time at our middle school. I used to have 2 brilliant librarians who I worked with but budget cuts left just me.
    I was recently interviewed at Race for the Cure as the NHS advisor who brought the students. My quote appeard in the Detroit Free Press as Ellen Pruner, librarian. I was mortified. Although I now do the work of the librarian, clerk and every other job they throw at me I would never claim a degree I didn't earn.