Jan 21st, 2010 by Cathy Jo Nelson
I was surprised at the news coming out at the ALA Midwinter Conference that our title was changing back to school librarian. The change has garnered some attention here, here, and here, and even wider. I should say though that my surprise was not by the title change, as much as by the manner in which this was done. As an AASL member, I think I do recall completing a survey. But at that time I had no idea the one actionable item that would call for executive board vote would be to change our title from “school library media specialist” to “school librarian.” It would seem more pressing for our profession at this time would be advocacy efforts to save our jobs, not a focus on merely what to call us. There are other even more debatable issues that give “school librarians” need for advice, such as implementation of the new standards, how to motivate and move forward LMS’s out there who are not growing, changing, or adapting to the current trends of electronic or digital everything, and getting our school districts to lighten up on the severe interpretation of CIPA through strict filtering programs used, particularly in terms of sites deemed as “best” by AASL (http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/aasl/guidelinesandstandards/bestlist/bestwebsitestop25.cfm).
I wondered openly with my networked friends upon learning of the name change what kind of discussion had taken place at the affiliate meeting if any, and the feed back we received (through chats, blogs, and email tags) was that the proposition had not caused much of a fuss. To quote AASL Blogger Floyd Pentlin who apparently was there,
“When all of the dust settled (and actually there wasn’t much dust that was kicked up) ‘school librarian’ was the overwhelming choice of those in attendance.”
My dissatisfaction stems from not feeling represented. You would think AASL would want a pulse on how members like or dislike the title that will be used in official documentation from AASL/ALA. I guess one survey from a year or so ago was to be enough input from members, despite the availability of 2.0 tools to reach members and non members alike. Perhaps I’m incorrect in my assumption that the voting members should query us with known issues that will be discussed and voted on, finding out how the majority feel before casting votes. I just cannot believe the vote was truly representative of AASL members, particularly when I reflect on the conversations I had with close friends and networked colleagues upon learning of the change. I can tell you we wanted to see the votes and how close it was, and even transcripts of the discussion before the vote took place.
While the name really is a moot point, each year annually as the Department of Education lists us as support staff instead of teaching staff (the good ol’ 65/35 cents on a dollar funding method) which directly impacts our status in education, changing our name could have tremendously helped with advocacy efforts, and helped many avoid the aim of the ax pointed toward what are considered non-essentials in the school when making those really difficult budget cuts in hard times. The moniker “teacher librarian” would have moved us over to the essential core group in school instead of under the list of non-essentials, who are considered accessories in the school. I am a fully certified teacher. I hold two Master’s Degrees, one of which was required to become additionally certified as a “media specialist” (which is what my TEACHING certificate has as a second certification.) My certifications are listed on a TEACHING certificate. To call me a teacher-librarian is to acknowledge that I am FIRST a teacher, then a librarian. To call me a school librarian allows my entire school environment to easily forget that I am a contributing member in educating our students.
Standing members voice your opinion!
So the name change in my humble opinion just feels professionally like a step backwards. We lost ground with that change. I also want to end with this. This is my opinion, and as a paying/standing member of AASL and ALA, I am entitled to that opinion. I will continue to refer to myself as a teacher librarian, despite this move by AASL for “clarifying purposes.”
Image: ‘Experimental Group Voice singer‘