Yesterday I wrote a post in my school library blog about my visit to Kim Yeomans’ primary school library. I wrote it because I feel strongly about voicing the uncertain future of school libraries and teacher librarians. Kim’s current principal values her and her library but next year is uncertain with the appointment of a new principal. The same goes for me and my school library when our principal retires if I’m to be realistic. The fact is that while we do the best we can in our roles as (teacher) librarians, we can never be sure how much we are valued and what our future holds. My post about Kim’s library and how it is a shining example of the heart in her contribution to the learning and wellbeing of her school can be read here.
I believe that we need to stand up and let people hear our voice, fellow teacher librarians, because we can be and sometimes are overlooked or misunderstood by principals and the school community for whatever reason – whether they are too busy to notice what we do or perhaps their perception of teacher librarians is stuck in a stereotype that does us no favours, or whether it is because what we do is not intrinsic enough to what they do in their classrooms. Perhaps what we do remains for teachers and principals as ‘what they do in there’ instead of what they are doing with us for our students. Whatever it is, we cannot remain silent if want to ensure our continued survival.
Kim wrote this comment after my post:
Thank you for acknowledging the importance of primary school libraries. I am saddened and frustrated that primary school libraries are rapidly disappearing along with teacher librarians. I am currently one of only two full-time primary teacher librarians in our zone. I am fortunate to work in a school where both my teacher librarian role and the library are valued, but a change of Principal means extinction could be lurking around the corner. Earlier in the year I wrote this blog post, “A school library without a librarian is a room”.
Recently author Nick Earls won the hearts of teacher librarians when he wrote a blog post advocating the importance of teacher librarians and school libraries.
Nick Earls is very clear about the importance of school libraries staffed by teacher librarians – bravo to your post, Nick! –
Each time I’m told that a school no longer has a teacher-librarian, I’m told that the school still has a library, as though the building does the job all by itself.
Some advice to anyone running school budgets anywhere: CUT THE TEACHER-LIBRARIANS LAST. Cut other things and give the T/Ls more money. Cut other things and hire more of them. Sell as many lamingtons as you need to to keep them. Because I’ve seen what they do.
Kim: As a passionate teacher librarian I will continue to the best of my ability to ensure our library is a welcoming, vibrant and inspiring learning space that is an integral part of our school’s teaching and learning program and the hub of our school…for the 530 students I teach each week.
Thank you for writing such an affirming blog post. Your photos have provided a lovely and rare opportunity for me to see our library through someone else’s eyes…
Thank you, Kim, for being such a shining example of teacher librarians as essential to the learning in schools, and for alerting me to Nick Earls’ post. I’m pulling out some more of what he says:
Promoting reading promotes literacy and prepares students for life. Promoting reading promotes questioning, exploring and thinking. Reading broadens a student’s view of the world, knowledge of it and understanding of it. Reading can dramatically increase a student’s options for the future. Reading can help erase disadvantage and create advantage. Reading can increase understanding and empathy. Time Magazine recently headed an article Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer because there’s evidence it can and it does.
In her post after having read Nick Earls, Kim lists what will no longer exist in schools if the teacher librarian is not valued enough to be worth funding –
If there is no longer a teacher librarian who will…
- Greet students with a smile and welcome them by name as they enter the library
- Create a warm, vibrant and welcoming space that is open to all and a haven for many
- Provide spaces where reading can be shared and social or done alone snuggled in a bean bag
- Purchase books that will inspire; fuel imaginations; enable walking in others’ shoes; foster an understanding of self; and move readers to laugh, cry and ponder
- Expose students to a variety of illustrators and explore the power of visual images
- Read and skilfully bring books to life with genuine love, appreciation and knowledge
- Enthusiastically talk about and recommend books
- Make reading fun and positive
- Take time to match students to the ‘right book’ to meet their needs and interests
- Organise books to make them appealing and easy to browse and access
- Design activities where literature can be explored, discussed and brought to life in various ways
- Encourage and celebrate reading with Book Fairs, Book Week, Author visits, Premiers Reading Challenge and other fun reading events
- Teach students skills needed to access, use and present information ethically
- Plan with teachers and provide resources for classroom reading and inquiry
- Believe in and promote the power of reading for enjoyment and learning
I could add more from the secondary perspective but perhaps it will keep for another post.
Kim finishes with this quote:
“It is not enough to have a school library, however clean and airy and stuffed with books, e-readers, computers and tablets. A library without a librarian …is a room” Alan Gibbons
I hope with all my heart that principals and members of school communities will value their teacher librarians and libraries so that they are no longer an endangered species but an irreplaceable part of learning and teaching in schools.