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Monday, January 18, 2016

Don't confuse your google search with my degree

This mug appeared on my facebook feed about a week back. Since then all my teacher librarian friends have been clicking like and sharing.

The funniest thing about this is that it isn't a new design or phrase. A bit of searching (aided by my library degree) revealed many different companies selling a similar genre of mug, there is even one on Amazon (lets talk about copyright here!).

But for me the message of the phrase is indicative of the discrimination that I once felt when I first started working in a school library as a Teacher Librarian.

When I had maternity leave with my second child, I decided to start my Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship) journey.  I had tried to start it a number of times but there were unforeseen circumstances that had prevented me from completing the applications. But after Nicholas was born, I knew that I needed to do something, I wasn't happy with "just teaching" anymore. I was teaching Information Technology and Humanities, yet still yearning for the opportunity to be creative like when I was a Head of Learning Technologies (or equivalent).

A former Teacher Librarian at my school had commented that she thought I would be good working in the library, I had the knack. So when Nicholas was 6 months I applied to study and got in. With a few RPL's under my belt I returned to school with a year of the degree under my belt and the timetabler at the time was very supportive in giving me a 0.2 and then 0.4 in the school library as a teacher librarian.

But everyones attitudes were not so positive about my career move; one of the teachers that I shared my office with commented that "all you do is read books and drink coffee". This teacher also believed that the library databases were a "waste of money because the kids had google to do their research with" .... Of course I had just completed the first few units of the degree filled with all the positive aspects of what a teacher librarian was meant to do. I was armed and ready to argue the case for a proactive Teacher Librarian within in the school.

Another colleague asked me whether I was "moving into retirement", because "that is what teachers do when they don't want to teach anymore". The school Principal told me that there was no future in Teacher Librarianship and that I should study Knowledge Management and go into consulting. The Director of Curriculum, didn't quite understand what we did in the Library and was therefore quite reluctant to support any new initiatives or funding.

In my first few years as a Teacher Librarian, I felt that I was continually fighting against the establishment when all I wanted to do was raise the academic standards of that school. Needless to say, I moved schools when I got my degree.

What I have learnt from my first school experience is that Teacher Librarians have to be visible and build social capital with the teaching staff.

I love being a Teacher Librarian because I get to solve problems on a daily basis and improve the teaching and learning environment for both teachers and students. My job is hands-on and hard bloody work at times. Sometimes I have to work like a demon in order to meet the needs of my teaching staff. Teachers come to us because they see us as part of their collaborative team, we help them with preparation, authenticating tasks, workshops; there isn't much sitting around and reading occurring! My reading occurs on weekends in a mad rush to finish a book to support a teacher or student.

We say yes to anything and everything within reason to support the learning environment.

So please don't confuse your google search with my Library Degree!

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