I recently (read, yesterday) had a conversation with a friend. Now, this friend is pretty involved on the state and national level and has some definite opinions about what it means to be a “real” school librarian – certification, belonging to your state/national organization, advocating for your program in the school and outside, etc.
Some of that I agree with, but some of it… not so much. Where we disagree is on certification and on involvement.
Certification means, to most, your state saying “You’ve passed a test, jumped through hoops, taken classes, and now you’re qualified to be a school librarian”. It shouldn’t mean that. I don’t have state certification. I do have my Masters in Library Science from an accredited (by ALA) graduate school. Does that make me less of a librarian? Am I somehow not “real”? Why don’t I have state certification? Because in the Independent School world, we don’t need it (just as our teachers don’t need state certification). This doesn’t mean that our schools have lousy teachers and poorly run libraries filled with idiots. Far from it. Usually – in my experience – the librarians are passionate, involved, creative and have great programs that send students to college (and beyond) well-prepared. Of course, there are some that give lie to that statement, but aren’t there equally bad, uninvolved, unmotivated librarians that do have state certification?
Let’s not assume that the one (great program blah blah blah) necessarily follows from state certification.
As for involvement, again, we disagree. I, out of my own pocket, paid for my membership in my state and local and national organizations for both independent school librarians and for all librarians (in case you’re wondering, that’d be HVLA, AISL, NYLA/SLMS, ALA/AASL/ISS). That was when I started. I’ve dropped NYLA/SLMS because I just wasn’t benefiting from it. SLMSian propaganda to the contrary, it just doesn’t speak to my needs as an IS librarian, nor do their conference programs (and I did attend two conferences). Perhaps things have changed, but I doubt it. I dropped AISL because the conference was more a networking opportunity than a real learning time – not that networking isn’t important, but I already had a local and national network. It seemed redundant. Except…
Many librarians don’t have an active local organization. HVLA is 40+ years old (approaching 50!) and is still going strong. I’m lucky like that. Those IS librarians that don’t usually belong to AISL and reap the benefits of membership and networking. Some, not all, also belong to ALA/AASL/ISS. But many don’t because of money. I understand that. If you don’t have much to begin with, the $25/year membership in AISL seems very reasonable compared with $145 for ALA/AASL/ISS. Not to mention that you know exactly what your dollars are paying for.
I’ve seen many discussions on LM_NET, AASLFORUM and other e-lists about this issue: how do you allocate (and justify) professional membership dollars? I can understand, and sympathize, with people in Texas that only join TLA or those in NY that join NYLA. It’s expensive to have multiple, at times overlapping, memberships. If you can’t afford to travel to conferences (either because of budget or personal reasons or the school won’t let you have the time off), then you can’t. There shouldn’t be any stigma or shame attached to that.
Yet there is. I hear it all the time from my friends – no certification, no professional involvement = a disgrace to the profession. Yuck. Almost makes me want to be Groucho.