But I get concerned when I hear that someone wants to be a librarian because they are tired of teaching, because they want a desk job, because it's less work. Because, well, it isn't. Every level is different -- I speak with the voice of a middle school librarian. And I really want you to join this magical field, but I want you to do it for the right reasons.
Tired of teaching?
If you are are tired of classroom instruction, school librarian is not the job for you. Sure, we don't have to manage huge amounts of parent communication (some librarians at other schools ARE on the master schedule, teaching technology classes, reading classes, yearbook classes, research classes). We may not do as much grading (although I know that 9 out of 10 of us offer to do grading for the instructional components we support) but we DO spend a whole lot of time teaching. Sometimes I teach seven out of seven periods in a day, without a planning period or lunch. I run a busy, instructionally-focused middle school library and we often have two or three classes in the library at a time.
Our kind of teaching is very different from that of a traditional classroom teacher -- I have different kids every day, different subject areas, every day. We collaborate across the curriculum and I find that I often have to change my teaching style to align with the teacher with whom I am working. And sometimes I wish for the kinds of relationships that classroom teachers have with the students they see day in and day out. Are there days when I don't teach? Yes. And I spend those days handling the administrative tasks required of a large library program: ordering, reporting, planning, drumming up business (outreach), managing the physical space, tech trouble-shooting and more. In short, don't make the choice to become a librarian because you think teaching is too difficult or exhausting, because if you do the librarian job right -- you'll be just as busy in a library as you are in the classroom.
Want a desk job?
Teaching is hard work, absolutely. Some days, I know that teachers don't sit down. I get it. And I get it because I actually never sit down either (I don't have a chair, so that helps). It's not uncommon for me to get to the end of the day and realize that I haven't even been to the bathroom since I left my house in the morning (#bladderofsteel). I move from teaching a class to helping a student find the perfect book to attending a CT meeting to co-planning with a colleague to curating resources to troubleshooting a printing issue. Don't make the choice to become a school librarian so that you can sit behind the circulation desk, checking out books all day. Don't make the choice to become a librarian so you can hide in the stacks on a rolling chair, shelving books month after month.
Dying to work less?
Teaching is a job that takes an incredible amount time. Every good teacher that I know spends many evening and weekend hours working way beyond contract, grading and planning, attending professional development sessions, learning and growing, with their students always at the top of mind. And so does every good librarian I know.
I am incredibly lucky that I don't feel like the work I do at home is torture (I also know that I come from workaholic stock and I can't help it). I enjoy reading young adult lit. I like to participate in evening Twitter chats with educational colleagues. It's invigorating to attend an edcamp on a Saturday morning. I am often kept up late at night trying to figure out ways to convince library non-believer colleagues that we can support them and their students. I lose sleep over budgets as we work to keep a large library collection relevant and diverse and current. Do I sometimes wish that an idea that changes Monday's lesson completely comes to me before Sunday afternoon? Of course I do. But as is the life of any educator, that doesn't always happen. Don't make the choice to become a librarian because you only want to work bell-to-bell.
The case for becoming a school librarian
So, why should you become a school librarian?
Become a school librarian because you love teaching and learning and teaching kids to learn is the best way to empower them.
Become a school librarian because you want to create a safe space for your students to read and think and create.
Become a school librarian because you like to collaborate with colleagues, planning meaningful instruction for all students across all content areas and academic levels.
Become a school librarian because you want each day to be different from the next.
Become a school librarian because you are good a juggling a million things at once.
Become a school librarian to build and grow the kind of library that your students and staff deserve.
Become a school librarian because it's the best job in the school. I promise.
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4/26/2017 09:23:24 pm
Yes. This! All of it! Thanks for putting into words what we believe! Sincerely, an elementary teacher-librarian
4/26/2017 09:54:27 pm
Thank you for reading the post -- so glad to hear that it resonated with you!
4/27/2017 01:15:22 am
The TL role is a dual one - teacher and information manager (aka librarian). It is evolving as technology evolves, includes a curriculum design and teaching role as well as the ability to manage a virtual and physical library. It is complex and time consuming and definitely not for the faint hearted. It is the best job in the school, but you will teach and interact with all students and all staff, not just a class or three. Be prepared to be challenged and become a practising lifelong learner. :) BC
5/24/2017 08:01:10 am
Absolutely! We do so many different things!
5/1/2017 02:43:10 am
Totally agree.You gotta be hands on and absolutely creative for this job position. No way around it
5/24/2017 08:01:37 am
Exactly -- "no way around it!" :)
Julie in Germany
5/1/2017 03:31:33 am
Thanks for the article. I'm just starting on my journey to become a school librarian. (First MLIS course beginning in 3 weeks.) After working 7 years in an international school as the assistant to the elementary school principal I've longed to teach and am looking forward to learning the skills I will need to join the fascinating, challenging, ever changing field of teacher librarian:)
5/24/2017 08:02:25 am
Your adventure has just begun! Welcome to the field!
10/24/2018 08:57:31 am
I think the role of the librarian is evolving as it should. If a school already has credentialed teachers teaching Computer science and English the librarians job isn't to teach the classes instead of teachers. I have seen elective teachers ...art and music or drama get cut so the librarian schedule can increase time with core academic classes. As much as I feel librarians are essential ...their survival does not mean replacing electives teachers in a schedule. Art , photography and drama taught by experts help students get a holistic education.
11/1/2017 11:09:25 pm
11/1/2017 11:14:03 pm
I have a typo!!! I meant to say engaging LIBRARY! Our librarian, again, is fantastic! But, she is a little old school. I want our library to be the heart of the school.
11/7/2017 06:39:22 am
12/22/2017 05:25:33 pm
Yeah, just go for the easy job and be something like an engineer.
4/25/2019 11:23:08 pm
What a terrific post! I am researching for my next podcast episode and would love to cite this and mention a few key points. Thanks so much for all these great ideas.
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