The teacher librarian administers all aspects of the library media program. Some people say that you manage things and lead people.

juggle peopleEffective teacher librarians are dynamic educators. They share in the teaching and learning activities of their students and fellow teachers. They are a leader in working with their center’s support staff and volunteers to guide and evolve the library media program. They communicate with administration to align library center and instructional goals, to plan appropriate actions, and follow up with their implementation. They identify, design, and deliver needed staff development programming and support. They continuously evaluate, plan, and revise the goals and activities of their library media program.

An effective teacher librarian’s position is not a place to hideout or escape from student interactions. It is not an “easier job than teaching”; it is teaching - - teaching everyone. It is not a shorter work-day, far from that - - if it is done right! It is a people job replete with professional challenges that require lots of energy, communication skills, excitement, reality, and probably a good sense of humor.

School library media centers vary. Some are in small, rural schools. Many are in consolidated systems serving several adjacent communities.  They are in both public are private institutions. Some are in large metropolitan or affluent urban school systems. Conversely as the community setting varies, so do staffing patterns, position titles, assignment work-times, and the amount and types of library support personnel.

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What are job descriptions?

A job description describes the roles and responsibilities of a particular position. It may be very general or specific depending on the particular position. In some cases, job descriptions are consistent throughout the organization and are directly related to union requirements or salary scales. In other cases, they are built by committees seeking a particular type of person for a job.

Explore the following examples of school library media position job descriptions:

Library Media Specialist, Elementary (K-5), Eau Claire Area Schools, WI

Library Media Specialist, Secondary (6-12), Eau Claire Area Schools, WI

Media Director / Supervisor from Iredell-Statesville Schools, NC

School Library / Media Job Descriptions

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What's the best job for a school library media specialist?

Selecting a position based on a job description can be difficult. The posting rarely provides insights into the support of the administration or the warmth of the teachers.

Seek out positions that call for a certified school library media professional. Don't worry about whether the position is described as a school librarian, teacher librarian, or a school library media specialist. The formal term varies from school to school. You should be more concerned about the expectations of the assignment. Position assignments may be at a single building, a job split or shared between buildings, or encompass an entire school system.

Larger urban or metropolitan schools may have two or more library media professionals working together with support personnel. In this case, you would want to meet your colleague before accepting a position.

Many library media specialists are responsible for two, three, or more buildings. These may be all elementary schools or a K-12 responsibility. Dealing with multiple buildings is much different than working with a single building. Consider that your impact can be lessened because you can only be in one building at a time. If each building has its own principal, you must answer to two separate people and work under two different administrative styles. On the other hand, a multiple building assignment can be much more flexible than a single building. In addition, it's likely that full-time clerical support is provided.

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How important is certification and licensure?

Library media specialists are professionals. As such, professional credentials are important.

The following web resources provide information about certification / licensure requirements and procedures. Examine those for Indiana and any other states of interest:

Indiana Professional Standards Board
Teachers of Library and Media, May 1998.

School Library/Media and Information Technology Certification
Not-to-be-Missed Section:
Advanced Certification as Teacher of Library Media

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards - Early Childhood through Young Adulthood/Library Media

eye means readRead A Higher Standard in M.J. Thomas & P.H. Perritt, School Library Journal, December 2003; 49(12), 52. (Access requires login) Many states have recently revised their certification requirements for school librarians.

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What are the trends in teacher librarian positions?

There are a number of clear trends in teacher librarian positions.

Budget Cuts. In recent years, budget reductions (IN Students Suffer from School Library Cuts, 2004) have pressured many school districts to make drastic program cuts. Sometimes this has severely impacted school communities and has radically changed or eliminated arts, industrial arts and vocational education, home economics, music, and foreign language programs. Often teaching positions have been reduced or eliminated. Sometimes administration has been consolidated. The impact of budget cuts to school libraries are reduced spending for library media programs, the reduction or elimination of paraprofessional staff, and the reassignment, part-time assignment, or elimination of library media specialist(s) positions. For example, the SLMS can be assigned study hall duties or teach courses.

In worst-case situations, professional library media positions have been dropped and clerical personnel have been left or substituted to open the doors and circulate existing collections. In Evansville Indiana, it was recently proposed to eliminate the entire professional staff of Elementary and Middle School Library Media Specialists.

Evidence Supporting Connection of Library and Achievement. As the same time that these budgeting and program staffing pressures have climbed, published research findings have continued to show that library media programs staffed by professional administrators have a significant positive impact on student achievement and school success.

eye means readRead the article A Source for Better Scores? The School Library by K. Patten in The School Administrator Web Edition: American Association of School Administrators, Jan. 2003.

The mandate to measure achievement quantitatively, usually by standardized test, is putting pressure on principals and district-level administrators. Most schools already have one available resource that has been proven to boost achievement levels—the modern school library.

Attrition in the Profession. Another trend occurring in the school library profession is the attrition of certified school library personnel as significant numbers retire and leave the work force. In recent years, the impact of this has been lessened by the elimination or consolidation of professional positions and in some U.S. regions, the relaxation or modification of certification/licensure requirements allowing certified teachers or displaced professionals from outside education to easily fill vacant teacher librarian positions.

Many schools function without qualified school library professionals or stretch such individuals to inadequately cover multi-building assignments or entire school systems. On the bright side for employment, there is and will continue to be a need for certified professional school library media specialists. Securing a job may require relocation to another region. Ensuring success may warrant that candidates be proactive in their job search, display a strong technology background, demonstrate skills of collaboration and information inquiry, as well as have successful classroom teaching experience.

Trends in Indiana. The data gathered for AIME (2004-2005) indicates that a fulltime school media specialist at one building will be more likely to secure grant money, collaborate with the community library to extend programs and use of resources, to provide access to more online information resources through a local website, and provide more frequent collaborative instruction (than situations where the media specialist must serve more than one building). Also, a SLMS is a little more likely to participate in AIME Media Fair and the Young Hoosier Book Award. (Callison, 2006)

So if you are serving as a fulltime school media specialist at one building, in what ways might you document that you are “worth your salary”?

In tangible dollars:
Grants, book fairs, proposals to the PTA, collaboration with other teachers for departmental funds coming to the library media center / services

In intangible dollars:
More use of resources and technologies (more frequent use and better use); enriched curriculum

In semi-tangible dollars:
Access to more resources guided through other local collections and online

The data also show, as they have each time gathered in Indiana over the past 20 years and in other states, that there are fewer dollars per student, on average, invested in collections from the district’s funding when there is a fulltime media specialist in the building and a fulltime district media supervisor (because there are only so many dollars to around…more staff usually means fewer dollars for resources coming directly from the central fund…but more external dollars and more programs, because media specialists have time and encouragement to do so).

eye means readRead a School Staffing Survey 2000 called Looking for a Few Good Librarians by N. Everhart in School Library Journal, Sept. 2000; 46(9), 58. (Access requires login)

Skim Filling the Void by N. Everhart in School Library Journal, June 2002. (Access requires login)

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What should I do if I decide to apply for a position?

Be enthusiastic, don't apply for a position that you are not excited about - - then during the process work to confirm that the job is as you expected, that your needs and skills match those sought by the employer.

Be prepared before going to an interview. Gain as much information as you can about the job and its location before the scheduled interview. While you are there, you should interview the employer (some of this is done overtly). An interview should give you a chance to determine whether you and the school staff are compatible. The employer will expect you to have questions but much can also gathered by close observation . . . and know when to turn a job offer down.

During the job interview process, relax and be yourself. You are a school library media professional.

eye means readRead Finding the Right Address by G. Harzell in School Library Journal, May 2002; 48(5), 33. (Access requires login)

Also explore resources provided by these websites:
101+ Commonly Asked Interview Questions from A.E. Robinson (Public library perspective)
Frequently Asked Interview Questions from the School of Library and Information Science, University of South Carolina
Interviewing Process Broken Down, The by S. Lee at LIScareer
Job Interviewing Resources by A. Limpitlaw and R. Schaafsm from the American Theological Library Association

Check Your Understanding

information powerInformation Power: Program Administration - Principle 2.

In every school, a minimum of one full-time, certified/licensed library media specialist supported by qualified staff is fundamental to the implementation of an effective library media program at the building level.

Using the examples as a guide. Write a job description for your dream position. While this page should be realistic and include the specific requirements of the typical job description, it should also incorporate areas that reflect a forward-thinking school. This job description should fit on one page.

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Make It Real

wall hangingExplore current vacancies to get an idea of the types of positions that are currently available. Note the certification requirements and whether the position requires a multiple building assignment.

Create a list of questions you would ask before applying for this position.

Use Library Job Postings on the Internet or SLIS Careers as a starting point.

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Read More About It

Certification – School Library Media

Indiana Professional Standards Board
Teachers of Library and Media, May 1998.

Guidelines for Performance-based Library Media Specialist Evaluation (PDF file) from Missouri Dept of Education

Johnson, D. The Why, What, How and WHO of Staff  Development in Technology - The Growing Importance of Teacher Librarian’s Role in Helping Create Technology-Savvy Educators in ISIS2000 Online Conference, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia, July 2000.

Margolis, R. A Measure of Respect. School Library Journal, Sept. 2002; 48(9), 56. (Access requires login) . . .
Katherine Bassett is convinced that the new national certification will prove her point: librarians are damn good teachers.

School Library/Media and Information Technology Certification
Not-to-be-Missed Section:
Advanced Certification as Teacher of Library Media

Interviewing/Job Hunting

Careers from School of Library and Information Science, Indiana University

Learning About the Job from American Association of School Librarians

Librarians from the Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Library Job Postings on the Internet
Lists jobs around the world.

School Library Job Descriptions
Sample job descriptions

School Librarianship as a Career from American Association of School Librarians
Information for those interested in becoming school library media specialists as well as those seeking to recruit people to the profession.

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