Gaining recognition for school libraries

As many readers will know I was recently nominated for the CILIP Information Literacy Award as part of this year’s LILAC conference.

It was a great honour to be asked to submit something let alone make it into the shortlist. The inclusion of school librarians has been extremely sparse over the years (to the point where I was only the third in the award’s history) and I think this is for a number of reasons.

When looking at the other projects and nominations it’s hard to see how I even managed to make the shortlist. The librarians making up the rest of the list are working in big institutions, doing amazing things and reaching so many people. Yet when I think this I also think about the importance of information literacy in schools and its teaching to our young people.

All the shortlisted librarians are indeed doing great things and making such a difference but as school librarians we must remember that the work we can achieve in our schools can go a long long way to helping others in their roles. In fact maybe they are able to make such a difference because of he poor nature of information literacy instruction in schools?

We have the potential to give young people the head start, the framework, the scaffolding on which they can build on over time and through the rest of their lives. Our ability to arm them with the skills is invaluable and should be seen as such.

It was a shame that the nomination didn’t cause more interest from other school librarians, willing to support ‘one of their own’ and use it as an example to show their schools what is possible and why it is important that in their schools they are given the opportunity to show their worth.

A colleague, not that long ago, said to me that he felt in school librarianship ‘there is an unsavoury, condescending clique, perpetuated by certain people and it leaves a bitter taste.’ What he was referring to, I think, was that there are a group of school librarians who like to sing each other’s praises and talk about raising the profile of school librarianship saying we should take all opportunities that arise to talk about what we do. However this only relates to things they do or have achieved and no one else outside of this. I think he felt annoyed that in fact this whole statement has a feel of passive aggressiveness to it by trying to state how they are ‘in it for school librarianship’ whereas in fact they are just in it for themselves and talk double standards when their actions speak more than their words.

Now, I don’t always agree with everything my colleague says however he is not the first person to say they feel like this. So whether these people’s perceptions are indeed correct it doesn’t really matter as the point is there are people that feel like this. They feel that those school librarians that seem to get ‘coverage’ or are the loudest aren’t giving the right representation of the profession, that they are part of a clique that isn’t welcoming to ‘newbies’ or those that don’t ‘fit’ the mould (whatever that might be).

If we truly want to raise the profile, to show the benefit of what we do then we seriously need to think about how we represent ourselves and how we are perceived within our own profession. For if there are those that in the profession that feel this way towards the clique then what do people outside the profession think? School librarians don’t get the plaudits that are deserved and the recognition of the importance of their role but how much is this down to those school librarians in the ‘limelight?’

A question I think we all need to consider.