Our first discussion assignment in my collection development course was to read the article “Are School Libraries at a Tipping Point?” by Margaret Sullivan and respond to the prompt: Are we (school librarians) tipping backward or forward? What are our greatest strengths and our greatest weaknesses? How would you advocate for school libraries more effectively?
Here are my thoughts on the issue.
I see so many articles about librarians embracing their role as information literacy leaders. Librarians who are utilizing makerspaces, augmented reality, gaming, inventive programs of all kinds. I see librarians on Twitter networking, sharing ideas, supporting each other. These things make me believe that librarians are tipping forward. Committed to the mission of the school library.
Every school, every library, every librarian is different though. I also see librarians who are content to sit behind the desk, check out books, read a story to the little kids, and call it a day. Those librarians are doing a disservice to their schools and to the image of the library as a whole. Fortunately those librarians are the kind who do not write articles or connect on social media or present at conferences, so their complacent attitudes are not being spread beyond their library walls.
I believe that school librarians as a whole are tipping forward. New librarians are being trained to embrace the future and strive to push libraries further.
These librarians are directly related to our strengths and weaknesses. Our strength lies in the librarians that are committed to being ready for the future, who connect with other librarians, work together, mentor new librarians, and share resources. They are a more visible public face, vocal in advocating for libraries. Conversely, our greatest weaknesses are the librarians who are content to check out books and little more. To their school community they are the public face of libraries, leaving the impression that the school library is stuck in the past and is not relevant to the 21st century learner.
Being an advocate for school libraries, combatting the negative image created by the complacent librarians, begins with becoming the best librarian you can be. Keep an open mind, explore and embrace technology, engage with students and teachers on a regular basis, foster positive relationships with administration so that they can see the true value of the library, collaborate with fellow librarians. Remain educated and up-to-date on what is going on in the library world at large. Embody the old cliché of “be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Sullivan, M. (2010). Are school libraries at a tipping Point?. Teacher Librarian, 37(5), 84