A Joint Responsibility – School Libraries

School Libraries, when they are successful are vital to a school. Yet so many schools across the country do not have a library or have a library and do not use it/support it successfully. There are many debates on who should manage a school library from professional to non-professional but this debate is not for this article (however in a previous post I have spoken about this here).

As much as I feel that there is a problem with the management of schools not recognising the importance of a school library I think there also needs to be a certain amount of joint responsibility about the success or lack of a school library.

It’s very easy to blame the establishment and leadership teams for not supporting the library and arguing towards making school libraries statutory in schools or stop schools from achieving ‘outstanding’ if they fail to have a library in place, however this can only ever be a long term goal, if it is even achievable and not a short term one. This is especially the case when we see in Ofsted’s latest report Better Inspection for All, 2015 that they won’t even extend this compliment to a music department in a school!

In between this happening (or not as the case will most likely be) what are we to do? Not try because ‘it doesn’t matter anyway we’re not statutory!’ Or do we actually realise that the success of a school library is about a joint responsibility that even though it may feel like we are not getting anywhere we need to keep doing all we can to make sure we keep up out end of the bargain.

If we as school librarians are not part of the solution then we are part of the problem. We need to be doing all we can to show the worth that we have in schools. To show our school leaders that there is a point to a school library, that we have a worth and what that worth actually is. However for this to happen we actually need to achieve something in our schools and to do this we need to be clear on what a school library actually is. How can we expect others, outside of the profession, to understand what we do if we are not clear and vocal on this enough? How can we expect to see a library and a librarian in every school when we don’t even call ourselves by these titles or name the place we work in as so. For schools that have been forced to change their names I would suggest that this is the result of our profession not being clearly defined on who we are and what we do and for those that choose to change their titles themselves I would ask why and suggest that it is decisions like this that further undermines our cause.

What we need to do as a profession of school librarians is decide upon who we are and what our roles and benefits are in schools and not just tell people this but show them. Ok so every school is different and roles will change slightly depending on locality, type of school etc but we can still formulate a vision of our key values and define our stance within schools. This surely has to be the way forward, to be clear on who we are and what we do and to communicate this clearly to all.

And then, only then can we start to expect the school to do their bit to. To keep up the other side of the bargain. When we show what we are capable of and instil that trust in us then we can make the expectations on our schools to do their bit on this joint responsibility.

Once they know our worth and see how clear our message is it is then down to the schools to back us, to give us the opportunity to show what can be achieved with a school library and a school librarian. But their expectations of us will be high. We have put ourselves on pedestals so as a profession we also need to have a joint responsibility to keep up our end of the solution. For if we can’t do this, if not all of us believe in this, stand by this, then we cannot hope to change people’s opinions of us.

As much as the success of school libraries is a joint responsibility across the school it is also one across our profession that we all need to buy into.

“If we build it, they will come.”



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