This past week I’ve been reading with equal parts dismay and anger about the roles of librarians vs. policemen and teachers. The dismay is a “wow – has it really come to this” reaction, the anger is “what on earth is going on “ reaction.
Let me explain. Ann Dutton Ewbank posted a link to a Letter to the Editor she’d written regarding budget cuts in Phoenix. The responses were, to say the least, interesting. It’s horrifying to me that we’re really at the point of comparing apples to kumquats (or, as overheard on The Good Wife, spaghetti and hydrogen) – each are valuable to society in very different ways. This “economic downturn” has pitted potential allies against each other for valuable – and scarce – budget dollars. If I had my way, we’d all suffer equally. 30% deficit? Anyone that receives funding from that source loses 30%, across the board. No special deals, no judgment calls about who deserves more money or less, just a flat budget cut.
Of course, that won’t happen, will it? Unions are too powerful (and do not get me started on those! Yes, unions are valuable but many have cut sweetheart contracts that compel governments to pay over and above what is really necessary and are simply killing any hope of rational budgeting. But that’s for another blog, another fight.). Scare tactics abound, and the public’s hope of getting a fair, well-thought out compromise is slim.
But at least that’s between two different sectors. Even worse is the fighting within our supposed “home”, the school. I’m referring, of course, to Bill Ferriter’s post “All Hail the Mighty Media Specialist”. In it, he takes issue with some of the librarian rhetoric and – I have to confess – rightly so. I have no patience with the idea that we are the reading or learning specialist in the school. We aren’t. Some of us may have that specialized training, but most of us are librarians (aka “generalists”) and the educational component of our degrees probably isn’t the equivalent of that required of qualified reading or learning specialists.
We are definitely a part of the teaching team. As such, we need to make connections with teachers and collaborate with the other “teaching specialists” (which is where I classify myself) to create an information and resource rich environment that encourages and supports students. What doesn’t help is language that implies that without us, students will fail. (Apologies to those who think that all those studies say that; they don’t. They say that we do have a positive effect on student achievement, an entirely different thing.) That without a qualified school librarian in the building, a love of reading and information literacy cannot be achieved. They can – but with us as collaborators and teachers, it’s better for students. His last post, “Hail in a Handbasket” says all this from the teacher’s viewpoint.
Dividing “us” from “them” isn’t going to work, either in terms of school or public budgets. So here’s my radical thought: why not take all that time and effort and rhetoric and really practice what we preach about collaboration. Let’s work with police and fire departments and teachers and reading specialists and janitors and everyone we can think of – let’s get our message and mission “out there” without comparing our worth to anyone else’s, and let’s help them do the same. What’s the phrase? United we stand…