Quite some time ago, I published a post called The Role of the 21st Century School Librarian that still seems to garner some attention.  In it, I spent some time wondering about what a School Librarian is and what one does.  Since then, I’ve had this discussion numerous times in various venues with a variety of people.  I’ve found myself in times of stark clarity and times of indistinct muddled confusion.  This past term has seen more of the latter than the former, but one idea surfaced that maybe is more true than any other: it doesn’t matter.

If you’ve spent any time on my blog, you recognize that I’m all over the map.  I’m like a puppy who keeps getting new toys.  I find something that is fun to play with and then chew on that until the squeaker breaks.  Sometimes that takes a day.  Sometimes, the toy is durable and I chew on it for weeks or months.  But at some point, a new toy comes along and I’m off.  Now, I’m not fickle in that I won’t play with just any toy, but if a toy falls into a certain category, then look out!

School Librarianship (or Teacher Librarianship) is that category and my interests within anything that touches that category are broad.  Ultimately, if it’s about any kind of self-directed learning, I’m all over it.  I’ve written about inquiry, I’ve written about providing resources for students, I’ve written about Personal Learning Environments, I’ve written about educational technology, and I’ve written about making.  And my interests don’t stop at what I’ve written about.  There are many other topics that I dabble in but don’t feel confident enough to write about.

Ultimately, I think that a Teacher Librarian’s primary role is to set the environment for and model inquiry, and there are far too many ways of doing that to capture in a nice, neat little title.  In my school, that causes problems, because people see me as serving different needs from ed tech, to reader recommendations, to research skills.  Many don’t have a clue what I do and certainly can’t define my role.  That bothers me to a point, but I’ve also come to a place where that is actually very liberating.  If I am the one that sets the environment for and models inquiry, then I truly can do that in any number of ways.

That is why I’m embracing makerspaces and I’ve found myself in a position leading a new STEM cohort at my school next year.  What do I know about high school level science and math?  Not a lot.  But I’ve got team members who do.  I know something about making and design thinking and have a thirst to learn more.  Do I know more than the students who will be in the cohort?  In some ways, yes, but in many ways, I will learn from them.  What I do know is how to set up an environment to make the experience rich and, hopefully, exciting.  I do know about finding resources to feed the learning and I know a lot about asking questions.  That’s pretty much what I do!

I find myself in a position of self-doubt.  I ask myself, “What right does a Teacher Librarian with a background in music have leading a STEM cohort?”  But in terms of setting up an environment for inquiry and modelling an inquiry mindset, who better is there to do it?

So, I’m proposing that we get rid of titles and job descriptions and just be comfortable being the more experienced learners that play/learn/work alongside our students.  It’s more fun that way anyway.

2 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. When jobs are on the line can all those skills add value to the title and therefore help increase our brand or does sticking to a title like Librarian put us in jeopardy of being thought of as antiquated keeper of books because of what is portrayed in pop culture and sometimes reinforced by a few untrained, unwilling, or lazy bad apples? I agree with you that a high-quality Librarian has a multitude of skills that develop and grow with new students, new knowledge, new understandings, and new ideas of how, when, why, where and what humans learn and teach. Librarians’ approaches to teaching and learning are untethered by a textbook and a classroom with one door. Librarians are connected with the community and with the world through ongoing inquiry that develops, uncovers, and hopefully challenge subject-area knowledge by encouraging teachers and learners to venture beyond the day to day didactic curriculum. So should Librarians move beyond or embrace the title? Both!

    1. Amen, Jenny! The title is both restrictive and expansive. The bigger challenge is to enlighten our constituents of our expanded or redefined roles. We are the book lovers, but more importantly, we are the information/learning lovers!

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