For many years, I've had a slide in one of my conference presentations about the word "support." When thinking about school libraries, I really dislike that word a lot. So much so, I try really hard to never use it when talking about school libraries. I don't believe we are there to "support" anything. We are there to be a part of the action!
Part of my dislike for the word is the perception it gives others—especially others who don't get what we do! It marginalizes us in their minds immediately. It also pushes us to sidelines like we don't need to be involved in curriculum discussion, school leadership, professional development, etc. We have to be at the big table, and sometimes the word support puts us at the kiddie table!
Part of my dislike for the word is from actions that came from it. If we're just there to support, then maybe we don't need a budget. Maybe we don't need an assistant to handle the clerical tasks. Maybe other things can be dumped on our already full plates. Librarians are doing amazing things every day, but it can be even more amazing when libraries have the budget, staffing, and time they deserve.
Part of my dislike for the word is that the reality is we have way too many school libraries that are run by support staff. While we continue to fight the good fight all across this country, the reality is there are places where support staff are running school libraries. These folks are often dedicated and doing all they can, but the services they provide cannot equate to having a certified person there. Where we do have librarians, it is important that there be a higher level of services, so using the word support doesn't help there either.
I could go on and on, but I'll stop. The bottom line is I dislike that word when talking about school libraries—a lot. So, it isn't necessary a change in what I do in my library, but rather to reframe how I describe it.
For example, when I'm pulling or selecting resources, I am intentional in buying things for instruction in my school. I use those resources to open the doors to collaborative discussion. I use that opportunity to make connections to what is happening in the library and classroom. I'm not supporting anything at this point, but rather being an active participant. Even if the teacher uses those resources without me, I was part of the conversation. To me, this is active involvement and not just support. There are lots of other examples of simple things we do that could be perceived as support but really are active and intentional parts of learning in our schools.
Our presence in the school is so important. We need to be attending professional development with teachers. We need to be there when there are curriculum discussions, planning sessions, and the vision for the school is decided. We need to be on committees and actively involved with how the library integrates throughout the whole school. Often there is only one of us, so we may have to be intentional and selective in what we get involved in, but we can't be on the sidelines.
So, consider how you talk about your library. Make sure to frame what the library does in terms of being an active participant in the learning in your school. I believe we aren't there to support anything or anyone, but rather we are there to be actively involved in curriculum, involved in instruction, and involved in evaluation. We are already doing these things I know, but part of that work is making sure we frame the discussion so that others have a clear vision of what we're doing, too. The school library is a critical part of preparing students for their future, and we do that by being active, visible, and involved!