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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