As this is my blog, I can say what I want! So, I will explain to anyone who is interested why I am having a break from SLN (School Librarians’ Network). Sorry – it is a long post!
First of all, I must say that I think SLN is a wonderful source of support for school librarians and Elizabeth Bentley, the list owner, deserves a medal for starting it and maintaining it so well for more than ten years. However, from time to time things get out of hand on the list. Sometimes I have been part of that myself – I am not perfect! Today was the final straw for me and I decided that the only way to stop myself from sending a message I might later regret, would be to unsubscribe for a while.
What sent me over the top was this comment:
“With the help of SLN, a subscription to SLA and the purchase of its very good Guidelines publications plus bags of enthusiasm anyone can become a school librarian.”
This was part of a message defending the position of unqualified people running school libraries. It was in reply to something I had posted about the need for training. My messages were a bit sharp, I know, but I am astonished that anyone would think that training is unnecessary! We all need CPD – I am not so arrogant that I think that I no longer need any training myself! I was not even talking about the professional education that I, and others on the list, have undertaken.
I was also angry that anyone should think that the knowledge and experience of professional librarians count for nothing. After all much of the “help from SLN” consists of exactly that! So, the writer of that comment, and others like her, agrees that she picks our collective brains, but on the other hand denies that we need qualifications to do the job!
Again, I know that there are exceptions in any milieu – there are some dull, disinterested professional librarians around who should never take up a post in schools; there are also some colleagues, without professional librarianship qualifications, who do a fantastic job in their schools. I have met truly awful, disastrous teachers too, and some brilliant teaching assistants, but that doesn’t mean that I support teaching becoming a non-graduate profession. At the very least school librarians should work to take the necessary training and acknowledge the expertise that has come with professional education and experience.
So, I do not apologise to anyone for my fundamental belief in professional qualifications for school librarians. Enthusiasm is great – we can all go a long way with that – but we also need a grounding that education gives us. Many years ago, I strongly believed that school librarians in the UK did not need a teaching qualification in addition to one in librarianship. Recently, after interacting with our international colleagues I am changing my mind. A teaching qualification can also bring so many facets to the job, that many of us struggle to develop on our own. Realistically, it would be very difficult for us to undertake teacher training in addition – there are no financial incentives or rewards for us to do this. But I think that it would possibly help us, not only to do an even better job, but also with our status in schools. It would also help us to focus on what a school library is about – teaching and learning, extending the curriculum, reading development, using technologies, and so on – rather than book marks, nice competitions, pretty displays – necessary, but not the “meat” of our raison d’être.
A friend has just sent me this – I was about to write exactly the same thing, but she has put it better:
Imagine this scenario. A message is posted to the TES Forums:
I have recently been appointed to teach at a primary school nearby. I have no experience or qualifications but I am determined to do a good job. The school realistically cannot afford a qualified teacher so they have appointed me. Please give me all the benefit of your expertise and training so that everyone will think I am doing a good job”
What do you think the reaction would be? A big fat raspberry at the very least! Yet, why do we accept that very same thing in our profession? Talk about turkeys voting for Christmas!
When the last professional school librarian leaves and turns out the lights – where will you be?