April Wathen of George W. Carver Elementary School in Lexington Park, MD was named Hero of Equitable Access by School Library Journal and Scholastic in the 2017 School Librarian of the Year Awards. Below, she shares five things you might not know about librarians today.
Not too long ago, I was out to dinner, celebrating a friend’s birthday. When someone asked me what I do for a living, I proudly shared, “I am a teacher librarian!”
The response was, “Oh! So that’s a fancy term for librarian, and you check out books to kids. Got it.”
On the flip side, in a recent conversation with author Liz Garton Scanlon, when she learned I am a Pre-K—5th grade teacher librarian at a Title I school, she said, “Oh, you get all the grades!! Lucky you—and, also, amazing you.”
When is the last time you thought about the duties of a 21st-century librarian?
Gone are those days of simply curating and circulating books and sharing stories with children. Now, we get to do so much more.
Below are five things you might not know about librarians today:
We are customer service. We have the power to positively affect many lives through our work. We pair closely with our administration, teachers, students and parents on a daily basis. We have the ability to create lifelong readers and a population who is digitally literate. We learn our customer’s needs and desires and allow them to see mirrors and windows through books. It is powerful work.
We get to teach any topic, anytime. Think, just for a second, we can incorporate our American Association of School Librarian (AASL) standards into just about any topic. Feeling more New Generation Science this quarter? Go for it! Feeling more math-centered for the quarter? Do it! Our standards fit any topic. There is no limit to the topics we can use for design, inquiry and personalized learning. We meet students where they are so that they can succeed!
We get to see the same group of students grow over the years. I cannot think of a more rewarding position to be in than to watch babies cross our threshold as they join us their first years in elementary school, that timid year as a 6th or 7th grader, or high school freshman, only to see them blossom as learners, to allow them to believe in themselves and see the power of their voices. I hope this makes your heart soar as it does mine.
We get to see the connection sparks fly! How often is it that a position permits a person to encourage students to “hang out” with top professionals nationwide? We are lucky to be able to connect students with local businesses to enrich the lives of students. We have the privilege of breaking down so many walls and barriers for our students, and we get to see the sparks fly when connections are made.
We get to play all day! Just about the books? I don’t think so! Who would have thought, ten years ago, that the library would be called a Learning Commons? Now we have the joy of introducing students to robots, circuits, sewing, weaving, knitting, engineering, identifying problems and creating solutions, making with hundreds of students across the state in a statewide maker day.
Of course, school libraries cannot meet their maximum potential without true collaboration of classroom teachers! They are an important part of this puzzle. Teachers: we have so many skills and ideas we are itching to share. When you are stumped with that lesson, looking for a trusty sidekick, or simply looking for a resource to add a little burst of excitement to your lesson, reach out! We are here to assist you in any way you need. Remember, teamwork makes the dream work. We are in the business of making student dreams come true!
Photo of April Wathen by Jill Springer