Sunday, July 8, 2018

School Librarians: The Batman of Superheroes

I often see School Librarian avatars take on a Superman persona. Just type in "Super Librarian" in a Google Image search and see what you get (

Copy short URL)  Heck, I've even purchased the  "Super Librarian" T-shirt!
Rather than Superman, I feel that School Librarians have more in common with Batman.

Batman is unlike other superheroes. He wasn't bitten by a radioactive spider. He wasn't sent from a far away planet gifted with a unique and super human DNA. He didn't absorb a vast quantity of gamma rays.

Batman is human. . .  just like school librarians.

The thing that enables Batman to be a superhero can be attributed greatly to the tools Batman has at his disposal. School Librarians, like Batman, also have a powerful set of tools at their disposal as well.

POW! School Librarians are alternative fact fighters! They teach students (and teachers) information
        literacy to help curtail the spread of fake news!

                  BAM!  School Librarians have standards! AASL, ISTE, and Future Ready!

                                      SMASH! School Librarians smash teacher/admin fear of new technologies
                                            by providing individualized professional development including
                                            co-teaching when needed!
                                                           ZAP! Full Time Certified School Librarians operating on a
                                                                 flexible schedule increase standardized test scores....
                                                                 without ever once "teaching to the test"!

                 BOOM! School Librarians develop a rich and diverse collection to meet the needs of
                        of their teachers and students!

                                           CRUNCH! School Librarians teach and model digital literacy and good
                                                     citizenship both IRL and on the digital "playground"!

WHAM! School Librarians empower students as creators through creating Makerspaces, either in
         the library or on portable carts for use in the classroom!

                                                         ZOOOM!  School Librarians develop in students a life long love
                                                                 of reading by connecting them with "just the right book"!

These are just a few examples of the tools School Librarians have in their "tool belt".  Administrative support of the library program is critical to the successful, effective, and consistent use of these tools.

Similar to Batman, a School Librarians success greatly depends on their ability to "reach & use" the tools they have at their disposal.  Even Batman can be reduced to a mere human when access to his tool belt is impeded.

A few things than can impede a School Librarian from effectively using and implementing the tools at their disposal include, but are not limited to:
  • Fixed Schedules
  • Funding (or lack of)
  • Spreading one librarian across multiple schools
  • Lack of Administrative support
  • No Library Aide (Robin)
  • Hiring aides in place of librarians

Library Aides are the Robin to our Batman.  Robin doesn't have the training (library certification) or pay grade to adequately do the job Batman (Certified Librarian) can do.   

With this said, Batman needs Robin. School Librarians and Library Aides are an essential team in the endeavor to empower students and teachers from the library.

For Batman to be at his maximum super hero capability it takes a whole team working together toward a common goal.  School Librarians are also empowered with a team. Their team includes library aides, teachers, administrators, a robust PLN (Professional Learning Network), library volunteers, parent and grandparents, community and local businesses.

When we, as School Librarians, find ourselves standing alone, hands tied, we must garner within ourselves to do the best we can and find inventive ways to meet the needs of our school community.  Fighting with ourselves about all the things we simply do not have to ability to do because our "hands are tied" is poisonous and is the tough lesson I have had to learn this past school year. 

Having recently retired after 25 years of service in Alabama, I moved to Texas and "started over" again in an elementary school after 12 years at the high school level.  I had been spoiled in Alabama with flexible schedules and library aides so it came as a shock when confronted with a fixed schedule that was part of the Specials rotation with PE, Art, and Music/Performing Arts. 

For the majority of the school year I had an internal struggle with the inability to access my "tool belt" to provide anything beyond student library services.  My schedule and lack of a full time library aide left me literally and figuratively tied to the library.  Other librarians with similar schedules advised me, "If the Library is considered a Specials class then we should treat the library as a Specials class and close it when no classes are scheduled", (a very rare occurrence in a school with my student population). This advice felt like a betrayal of my professional and personal ethics, yet, trying to go at a marathon pace all the time only caused me to feel like an abject failure because my focus was on all the things I couldn't do.

It was when I finally realized I am HUMAN that I was able to make changes that met my personal and professional standards while also allowing me to jog and/or walk as needed. I also changed my mindset from that of seeing my shortcomings as failures to celebrating the student learning taking place in the library.

I might not be able to do everything I want to do and should do as a certified School Librarian to my level of satisfaction, but I can provide tools to empower my students to be their very own Batman!