July 19, 2008
What’s in a name?
About ten years ago (maybe more) the name of a school librarian changed to “media specialist” with a few variations to that. SC calls our certification media specialist. But with the name change came the impression that we were not educators, but rather support people. It didn’t change much for the elementary people, who despite the name change and its implication that the library media specialist could pull magic media tricks out of a hat, many continued to be a gate-keeper of books and a place to send a class so a teacher could have precious planning time. I would wage 65% of all elementary schools use their “media specialist” as a babysitter who keeps kids while teachers plan.
So what should we be called?
Names can have varying meanings and interpretations. Guru Dr. Joyce Valenza began marketing herself as a “teacher-librarian” a good while back. At first I was reluctant to call myself this. But when I realized the title media specialist did not denote that we were teachers BEFORE we were librarians, and it eliminated the mindset of school leaders that the position was potentially an educational leader in the building, I decided to adopt it to. Few realize that teacher librarians (especially now in my state) are certified only through a graduate level degree. (Note: there area still a few in SC who currently serve in this position that received their degree in an undergraduate program. The degree now, though, is only available as a graduate program.) Most are teachers well before they are teacher librarians.
Library Media Specialist? Teacher Librarian? 21st Century Learner?
Our state gives “teachers” a small stipend at the onset of school to purchase consumable supplies. After the first year of it, there was talk of NOT giving it to media specialists, guidance counselor, or speech therapists–as we were not considered “teachers” and shouldn’t have the same needs. There was a failure by some to recognize the contributions these people make to the school program. So I fully embraced the title teacher librarian then to make sure everyone perceived me first as an educator, then as a stakeholder in the school as a whole. Of course I feel we have to earn our merit in their positions, but embracing a title that helps everyone see us as an equal in the building goes a long way.
It’s funny to reflect here on this now, as I really want to be seen as a 21st Century Learner now. I’ve said this before (compliments of Liz Davis today), so sorry if I sound like a broken record, but the term “teacher” in today’s world has come to imply that the learning is done, and it is now someone else’s (students) turn to learn. I wholeheartedly believe it is (in the words of Bud the teacher) pedagogical malpractice to stop learning if you work with students. So now I have to rethink my title too. Hmmm, what shall we call ourselves?