"Whereas, the overarching strategic goal of the American Association of School Librarians is to achieve universal recognition of school librarians as indispensable educational leaders; and
Whereas, the AASL Affiliate Assembly requested that the AASL Board of Directors choose a title for its professionals that is clear to other educators, administrators, and the public; and
Whereas, a recent AASL survey indicated confusion, misperceptions, and inconsistencies about various job titles in our profession; and
Whereas, AASL needed to agree on a common nomenclature for all publications and advocacy efforts; and
Whereas, the AASL’s leadership reviewed the data, identified the advantages and disadvantages of the various titles, and held a focused and extensive discussion.
Therefore be it resolved, AASL officially adopts 'school librarian' as the title which reflects the roles of the 21st century school library professional as leader, instructional partner, information specialist, teacher, and program administrator; be it further resolved that AASL will advance and promote the title 'school librarian' to ensure universal recognition of school librarians as indispensible educational leaders.
The following guiding principles govern these actions: Open dialog concerning knowledge of our stakeholders’ needs, wants, and preferences; the current realities and evolving dynamics of our environment; the capacity and strategic position of our organization; and the ethical implications relevant to this decision." -motion presented to, and approved by, the AASL Board
During the ALA (American Library Association) Midwinter Conference, the AASL (American Association of School Librarians) division officially adopted the title of "School Librarian" to designate those professionals who work in a K-12 school setting.
According to AASL blogger Floyd Pentlin,
"...the Affiliate Assembly brought the issue to the Board’s table because of the lack of clarity of the various names we call ourselves was thought to be muddying our message and even our advocacy efforts.
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."
A number of "school librarians" questioned this decision.
Alice Yucht asked, "Can you tell us how/why teacher-librarian ‘fell by the wayside.’" Cathy Nelson wondered, "Is there an available recording or transcript of the Affiliate Assembly’s discussion available at least to members? If I continue to call myself a Teacher Librarian, is this hurting our cause?"
Replied Mr. Pentlin,
"This was the information that was part of the packet when we started discussing the issue: Annual 2009 Affiliate Assembly statement of concern requested action of AASL 'for future publications, AASL should remove the "media" from the naming of professionals. Whether we are called School Librarians, Teacher Librarians, Library Teachers, or Teaching Librarians is a state option. The American Association of School Librarians should choose a term for its professionals that is clear to other educators, administrators, and the public and also indicative of our role as teachers.'”
He goes on to reassure Cathy that,
"I can’t imagine that what title you choose to use will 'hurt our cause.' There was a lot of discussion about the fact that perhaps the title wasn’t very important in the long run but what we actually did in our job that will make the difference."
Terry immediately responded,
"...Why select a moniker so anchored to the past? Labels matter. Some of our constituents (policymakers, legislators, BOE’s, administrators, parents) still see “school librarians” as the position holders of the past. In states where “school librarians” are categorized as “instructional support” instead of teachers, “school librarians” are among the first to fall under the budget axe..."
I find myself in total agreement with those who question this decision.
Although requirements vary from state to state, in New York, to receive permanent state certification as a "school media specialist, school media specialist (library), school media specialist (educational communications)":
"The candidate shall have completed two years of school experience as a media specialist and a master's degree in the field of school media or school media (library) or school media (educational communications). The total program of preparation shall include 12 semester hours in professional education, 36 hours in school media or school media (library) or school media (educational communications), and a college-supervised practicum."
As Terry pointed out, labels matter. Too many parents, community members, legislators and, yes, teachers and administrators, fail to acknowledge the diversity of responsibilities and level of professionalism required of "school librarians."
Public and academic librarians are rarely, if ever, seen performing the routine clerical tasks that are necessary in a library: checking materials in or out, shelving books, requesting interlibrary loans, etc. School librarians may or may not have aides or assistants available to take care of these mundane but vital jobs.
"Outsiders" don't see the informal collaboration, reader guidance, and information search assistance that is part of the school day. They aren't there to watch a school librarian jettison a lesson plan in order to accommodate a classroom teacher's request for student research time. They don't understand the passion and commitment required to maintain a balanced and responsive program.
I worked hard to achieve my status as a Teacher/Librarian and will continue to refer to myself in those terms.
What's in a name? A world of experience and knowledge, that's what.
"What's in a Name?" by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com