Tuesday, March 6, 2012

So You Think You Know What It Takes To Be A 21st Century School Librarian? Think Again...

Which picture below would your students, teachers, administrator say best represents you? 

The question, "What is a 21st Century School Librarian?", has been at the forefront of my mind recently for several reasons. First, the best mentor librarian I have ever worked with in my 20 year career is retiring and we are currently interviewing candidates to "replace" her. Looking over the list of questions for applicants has made me pause and think how I would answer these same questions.  Second, I have the pleasure of being included in a unique learning group of school librarians that has allowed me to connect, collaborate and learn from professionals around the region.  One of the first questions our group was tasked to answer was:

Third, the vote for the ASLA Twitter Chat session for March 6th was: 

My research, in an attempt to adequately answer this question, has been saved in my new favorite format: 

I agree that 21st Century School Librarians are: leaders, teachers, innovators, collaborators, problem solvers, technology gurus, and learners.  However, the question itself is fundamentally flawed.  

The question that should be asked is, "What is an effective 21st Century School Librarian".

To be an EFFECTIVE 21st Century School Librarian you must first be LIKABLE, APPROACHABLE, AND TRUSTWORTHY.  Your blog can win awards, you can be on the board of local, state or national organizations, you can host webinars, speak at conferences, and publish books, but if your own teachers, staff, students, and parents would not rise up in arms if your position was on the chopping block, you are simply a body taking up space in the school library.

Last week in our library we narrowed down the key elements to being an effective 21st Century School Librarian: Smile & Make 'em Happy

Too simplistic? Maybe...but I have seen this method work wonders in my current library and with my former co-librarian and it has taken years to get through my thick, anti-social, social anxiety bordering on  Asperger's skull to learn.  

I use to think that taking the time to pay full attention to a teacher or student to inquire as to their family, classes, life was a waste of valuable time. I now realize that socializing is an all important part of the job. 

Socializing = Relationship Building = Trust = Cooperation

Taking the time to go to a teacher's classroom when they need help rather than emailing the answer makes a difference.  Putting down whatever you are working on to smile, chat and interact with teachers/students makes a difference. Treating "interruptions" as welcomed breaks makes a difference.  Ensuring you never make a teacher or student look stupid makes a difference. Keeping what happens in the library in the library makes a difference.  Without this foundation of trust and respect a librarian, 21st Century or not, will never be able to successfully serve the patrons at his/her school.  

For those of you who are socially inept like myself, here is an article I found helpful: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/let-their-words-do-the-talking/201107/get-anyone-you-instantly-guaranteed-1


  1. Love all your resources on Pinterest and honored to be included:) Tiffany Whitehead and I are presenting on this topic at the Follett conference and have some of the same advice. We'll all keep trying to change those stereotypes. Keep up the great work on your blog!

    1. Thank you for the kind comments : ) You and Tiff will do an awesome job for Follett. I've already learned so much from both of you!