What is your title at work? Do people understand what you do by your title? Does it matter? Controversy abounds in the world of school librarianship.

When I began my work experience as a librarian in the K-12 education system I was a teacher. In fact, as time went on I was often the most credentialed teacher on my campus with as many as five credentials under my belt. Interestingly, my own instructional colleagues often did not know that I was a credentialed teacher with all of the same rights and benefits that they had even though I attended all faculty meetings and even taught research skills to their students. I was not alone in this strange no mans land of misunderstanding. As a member of the California School Library Association (CSLA) I watched the membership grapple with this conundrum from one end of the State to the other. I think part of the problem was a lack of proper understanding of what the lone school librarian was doing in that big book and computer filled space. I believe the thinking was that if the name was more descriptive things would change (does that ever really work?).

Frankly, upon entering the profession I thought my title was “school librarian” because that is the term I had always known for this position. However, I was quickly informed that my title was “library media teacher” because that better explained what I did (although I found it a confusing mouthful). I was told that “Librarians” were all about books and we were so much more now that technology was such a large part of our lives. Additionally, it brought the word “teacher” into our title which was a pitch for more understanding about our standing with our campus communities. Apparently I was not alone with my feeling that the “library media teacher” moniker was clunky. A few years ago the CSLA’s legislative committee was able to get the name officially changed on the government website and related documents to “teacher-librarian” which is what you will find today.

And that should be the end of the story, no? Actually, no. We have a new twist. At the national level of library associations there is a group called the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). In my opinion they are the big dogs of school library land. They make the national decisions which naturally means the States should follow their lead. Makes sense right? CSLA may not feel that way. Although “teacher-librarian” is clearly preferred here in California AASL had other ideas. They recently pronounced that the official name for the profession is going to be “school librarian”  (mon dieu!). So now we have a bit of a schism…who is to be called what? Canada prefers “teacher-librarian” so the AASL was not looking for world-wide continuity. Some in the profession (outside of California) are baulking at the AASL and saying they will continue to call themselves by a name other than “school librarian” due to its passive and outdated inference. Is it okay to go by whatever works in your work environment even though the government documents do not support you? Or is it better to go with the nationally recognized standard? Some people really do have a dog in this fight. However, I have to ask myself why?

As for me, I have gotten out of the K-12 political system. I am a “librarian” at a college. Yes, I am a tenure track faculty member. No, most faculty and staff do not realize that I am also a professor. We are well respected and seen as a vital part of the academic community all the same and that’s good enough for me. Perhaps there is too much emphasis on the title in K-12 , perhaps the interest this kind of thing generates should be moved into the realm of advocacy at the local level to educate the public about what they do and save their jobs.

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