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What’s in a Name?

A recent announcement from AASL regarding a decision made at ALA Midwinter has many of us scratching our heads.  AASL has passed a motion officially adopting the title of “school librarian.” The reason  given is that legislators, community members, and other fellow educators are “confused” by the multiple titles that we use: library media specialist, information literacy specialist, teacher-librarian, media specialist – the list goes on.  According to Floyd Pentlin, who posted the news to the AASL Blog ““school librarian” was the overwhelming choice.”

Some pretty passionate comments follow the blog post, and certainly the first TL Café  Webinar organized by Joyce Valenza and hosted by Mike Eisenberg  and attended by over 80 educators around the globe seemed to indicate there are many who disagree with this decision, and passionately so.

In Colorado, we probably have as many different titles for the role of school librarian as any place else.  Often times, as in my district, the title is dictated by Human Resources – something not easily changed.  But I can’t help but wonder – does it really matter?  Can the title alone make or break us? I think that in these trying times, when budgets are being sliced and diced, at the local, state, and federal level –no one will be making decisions about what to do with the school library based on the title.  If there is a person in the position of school librarian who is indispensible, making an impact (and showing it!) on student achievement, creating a culture of collaboration, and being a leader in the integration of 21st century skills – whether that person is called a school librarian, library media specialist, or teacher-librarian – they will survive this and any future budget crisis. 

What do you think?

Nancy White
Co-President, CASL

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2 Responses

  1. Nancy, your last sentence and key phrase is the most important in my mind:

    If there is a person in the position of school librarian who is indispensible, making an impact (and showing it!) on student achievement, creating a culture of collaboration, and being a leader in the integration of 21st century skills – whether that person is called a school librarian, library media specialist, or teacher-librarian – they will survive this and any future budget crisis.

    School librarians must get out of the mind-set of thinking about the place, the program, and the job. Things are changing and we must be ready for those changes. Our mantra must be ALL ABOUT THE STUDENTS.

    I’m in the process of examining unique ways and places school librarians, etc., etc. can gather data to show their own impact on student achievement. (Yes, there are national studies, but our tax payers are local to each school library.) It is up to each of us to be positive proactive leaders in our own buildings and communities first.

    If you have come up with data to support your own professional practice, please share your ideas while you’re thinking about what your next title will be

  2. Su, you and Nancy have both hit center target. Your second paragraph says it all. Each individual librarian will need to step up and become a leader in their own building. It is all about gathering data and showing their own impact on student achievement.

    In reference to the librarian’s name change, I agree with Nancy. Her quote, “But I can’t help but wonder – does it really matter? Can the title alone make or break us? I think that in these trying times, when budgets are being sliced and diced, at the local, state, and federal level –no one will be making decisions about what to do with the school library based on the title. If there is a person in the position of school librarian who is indispensible, making an impact (and showing it!) on student achievement, creating a culture of collaboration, and being a leader in the integration of 21st century skills – whether that person is called a school librarian, library media specialist, or teacher-librarian – they will survive this and any future budget crisis,” says it all.

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