What’s in a Name?

Celebrate National Library Week, April 12-18, 2015, Unlimited possibilities @ your library

This week is National Library Week, a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation’s libraries and librarians and to promote library use and support. Tomorrow, April 14th, is National Library Workers Day, a day for library staff, users, administrators and Friends groups to recognize the valuable contributions made by all library workers.

In California, you will find school library workers with many different titles:

  • Library Media Coordinator
  • Library Coordinator
  • Library Media Specialist
  • Media Specialist
  • Library Media Teacher
  • Library Teacher
  • Library Media Technician
  • Library Technician
  • Library Media Assistant
  • Library Assistant
  • Library Data Specialist
  • Library Aide
  • Library Clerk

Of course, no matter what a school library worker’s title might be, most patrons tend to call that person “librarian.” Unfortunately, they also erroneously assume that every librarian performs the same duties.

There are actually only two types of librarians in California schools – certificated librarians and classified librarians.  Certificated librarians hold both a teaching credential and an advanced credential and/or a Master’s Degree in library media.  With this advanced training, they are able to serve as information specialists, instructional partners, program administrators, teachers, and leaders in their school settings.  The heart of their mission is to train both students and staff how to appropriately access, critically evaluate, and ethically use information in both print and digital formats. The infographic located below provides more detail regarding the specific duties performed by the certificated teacher librarian.

The classified librarian is a paraprofessional staff member that may or may not possess library support staff certification obtained from a community college or LSSC approved program. This certification enables the paraprofessional to successfully manage the day-to-day operations of the library.

When schools employ both a certificated and classified librarian, they are able to work as a team – the classified paraprofessional assumes responsibility for most of the operational and clerical duties so that the certificated teacher librarian can spend the majority of his or her time collaborating with teachers to plan units of study, teaching students how to access,evaluate and use information, learning how to use emerging technologies, and providing professional development to staff.

Unfortunately, less than 10% of California schools employ certificated teacher librarians. The majority of school libraries are run by a lone classified paraprofessional staff member, which reduces the services provided to students and staff to that of what many consider the “standard” librarian – someone who just checks out books and takes care of clerical duties.  This is not to say that paraprofessionals are not capable of providing more services; it is just unlikely and unreasonable to expect that one person, who may or may not have received formal training, can provide more than the basics to meet the needs of hundreds of students and staff during a typical school day.

So as we celebrate National Library Week, please make an effort to stop perpetuating the stereotype of the “standard” librarian. Take some time to educate yourself about the type of librarian that your local school employs (or should employ) and how you can support him or her (you can recognize stellar library workers here!). And if your school library doesn’t employ a teacher librarian-paraprofessional team, then advocate for one!

The Teacher Librarian Infographic