Middle School Monday: Embracing our Book-ishness.
Last week, I wrote something review-ish. It was frankly more of an ode to a book than a review of one and I am happy to own that fervent love of a book. I’m also proud to own (and advertise) the consuming love I have for MG and YA books in general.
It was striking that several times last week, I came face-to-face with the idea that school librarians today don’t really know a lot about books—aren’t really expected to know a lot about books. That we are primarily focused on technology—either integration or fixing equipment.
An aside: Surely this started when we started calling ourselves media specialists? Anyone else cringe at that term? It sounds like we work at a big-box TV store. Even worse, it doesn’t connect what we do to the public libraries that our students can visit for their entire lives and the academic librarians that they will encounter when they go to college. I am a LIBRARIAN. I work in a LIBRARY. That library is housed in a school. Yes, of course, we deal with technology—just like our fellow librarians in other library settings.
That was a long aside. Back to the story. In several, separate incidents, fellow educators expressed surprise that youth literature was a huge part of my life or thought that I was unique in our profession. Why is that surprising? When—as school librarians—did it get less obvious that we love and know books?
Another aside: I know several wonderful school librarians who freely admit that books are not why they became a school librarian. They are more focused on access to information or the excitement of good research. That’s awesome, too! A major plus of the school librarian role is that it can look different for each of us.
But, I know, I know that there are many of us who are here because, for us, kids/teens + books = paradise. I’m beginning to think that perhaps we make this obvious in our individual interactions with teens, but that when we are speaking to staff—because of the role that many of us find ourselves in—we are passing on information about technology, copyright laws, equipment purchases, software fixes, and a million other things that aren’t literacy, books, or reading. Our love of books is getting lost under all the other information we’re distributing. Have people forgotten that we know books? That we are focused on reading, engagement, and literacy?
What’s the fix? Just as we advocate for our libraries and ourselves, I think we also have to make our ‘book-ishness’—and our knowledge about literature and literacy—more public. Not just with our teens or a few colleagues, but throughout the school.
I’d love to hear how you are a public beacon for reading at your school—not with your students, but with your colleagues. 🙂 Do you have a teacher/staff book club? Do you do (novel) book talks at staff meetings?
Would anyone like to write a review—or even an ode—to an ‘under the radar’ book? I’d love to publish some on this blog. You can then link to your review on your library website or school newsletter and advertise in your school. You know. To show off your ‘bookish-ness’. And expertise.
[I’m serious about the reviews. Contact me at @BespokeLib if interested!]
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About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
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