Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Guest Post: Are Media Specialists Irreplaceable or Dispensable?

For the last five years, I was a library media specialist in two elementary schools in a small school district in the Midwest. I loved my job; I loved the students I taught; I loved working with the fantastic paraprofessionals in the libraries and being surrounded by books and new ways to learn every day. But it wasn’t enough for me. Is it for you?

Ever since I started grad school to get my library media license I’ve heard professors and fellow media specialists go on and on about how no one understands what media specialists do; how we are never supported; how we are often the first ones cut, even though studies have shown that having a library media specialist in your school raises test scores. I’ve read about how important it is that we advocate for ourselves; how we need to help administration and school board members understand what it is we do and how we help the entire school – teachers and students – reach their full potential. Honestly, though, I rolled my eyes at all of these articles and blog posts and conference sessions. After all, I had a secure media job. Sure I covered prep time (that is, after all, what made it secure), which meant that most of my day was spent teaching, and the remaining moments (including my own prep time) were spent doing the jobs that actually define a media position – assisting teachers with technology, setting up computer programs for students, reading up on new technologies and books. But it wasn’t until I resigned this spring that I really began to understand how little we media specialists are understood.

I resigned in order to move closer to my family, but when another media specialist in the district decided to go back to the classroom, and the other two specialists in the district were interested in tech jobs that were open, the district saw an opportunity to rid itself of media. (While at the same time adding about 1000 student iPads, thus officially becoming a 1:1 iPad school, K-12.) What a punch to the stomach. What a way to say goodbye. While I joked that I was like Beyonce – “Irreplaceable!” – I was actually very hurt. When I was hired five years ago, there was no media curriculum. Over the last five years, I created my own, and while it was by no means perfect, I am proud of the program I created.  But now no one was going to continue what I had started.

I think what we all want in a job, whatever our occupation is, is support, understanding, and accountability. I did my job well for five years, but I wonder who noticed, besides the students who (hopefully) learned a little bit -- about technology, about learning, about literature. Perhaps that’s all that matters – that I taught my students well, that I shared my own love of learning and literature and technology with them. But it’s not enough for me.

In my next job, I dream about having the full support of my bosses. I dream about my bosses actually understanding what it is I do. I dream about having a job description. I know I won’t be finding that in a school library media position. And while it’s been sad to say goodbye to the students and to the colleagues and friends I’ve worked with for five years, I am ready, excited, and optimistic that, while I do not expect to find a “perfect” job (Does that even exist?), I do hope to find one that holds me accountable for what I’ve been asked to do and that makes me feel appreciated for doing it. I sure hope to find it.

Author has asked to remain anonymous.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Honesty is Alive and Well

Now that we are about three weeks into the summer, I decided to stop by school to catch up on mail, deliveries etc. It turned out to be a very interesting day. In my box of mail, there was a rather thick and rather well-taped box which bore a return address from West Virginia. When I said it was well-taped, I meant really secure. Of course I was suspicious, since 1. I never ordered anything from West Virginia, 2. I had no idea who the person was who send this package, 3. The news makes us concerned about strange packages. Once it was opened, I was surprised to see a library book which was stamped with our school's name, and a note which read:

Well thank you, Ed! You were honest enough to take the time to wrap up our book and send it back home. (We are Ridgefield Park, not Ridgeview Park) The book had last been renewed in 1969 and cost $5.95. Copyright: 1937. I was reminded of the Seinfeld episode in which Jerry has a book which is decades overdue, and the library sends a man name Bookman to collect the outstanding fee.

This event proved to me that there are still honest people out there. Oh, and by the way, Ed, when a late fee exceeds the price of the book, we don't charge the late fee; just the price it will cost us to replace the book. Thank you again for taking the time to send the book back to New Jersey!!


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