For years now, school librarians have suffered an identity crisis. Just what are we called? Media Specialists? School Librarians? School Library Media Specialists? Tech Integrationists? Teacher Librarians? There has not been a cohesive moniker for our profession since the ‘70s when the term “Media Specialist” came into vogue to explain that school libraries housed more than just books, and school librarians were curators of information in all formats. Today, almost fifty years later, patrons use libraries for use of free Internet, video games, audio books, movies, music, meeting space, cafés, portable digital devices, databases, magazines, newspapers, and yes, actual books. The public understands that libraries are multi-purpose community spaces, yet they are unaware of what the role school librarians play in those spaces.
Three years ago, when Duval County Public Schools decided not to fund school librarians in middle and high schools, and only fund elementary school librarians part-time, I did an unofficial, informal survey of parents and the community. When I asked parents, “Do you realize that your school no longer has a media specialist?” I got varied responses from blank stares to responses such as, “Well, in times of tight funding, there may not be money for specialists.” Yet when I phrased the question as, “Do you realize that your school no longer has a school librarian?,” parents wouldn’t even believe me and were aghast that their child’s school was without a librarian. I firmly believe that the discrepancy in what we have called ourselves all these many years has helped lead to the decrease of our profession in schools. I believe there is a correlation between the inconsistency of our title and the misunderstanding of our true role in schools.
AASL voted several years ago to use “School Librarian” as the profession’s official title (http://www.ala.org/news/news/pressreleases2010/january2010/adopt_aasl). This past year, the peer-reviewed journal Library Media Connection became School Library Connection, and you will notice FAME’s Committee for Governing Documents has strived for consistency by using the term school librarians throughout FAME’s Bylaws and Policies & Procedures. Providing this consistency with our title is a first step for our profession to reestablish our vital role in education. The next step will be to make sure we are consistent in how we fulfill that role, proving our worth as essential instructional staff.