Pop Goes the Library

Using Pop Culture to Make Libraries Better.

by Sophie Brookover, Liz Burns, Melissa Rabey, Susan Quinn, John Klima, Carlie Webber, Karen Corday, and Eli Neiburger. We're librarians. We're pop culture mavens. We're Pop Culture Librarians.


What Do School Librarians Want and Need?

The June 2007 Issue of School Library Journal had a letter to the editor, Proud to Be a School Librarian.

Katherine Koenig has an eloquent article on what school librarians do; but in the middle there was a part that made me cringe. Here it is: So when I get phone calls from public librarians offering to do booktalks for me or to teach my students how to use electronic databases, I have to wonder, when will the rest of the profession get a clue as to what school librarians do?

Uh oh. Booktalks and databases are definitely part of my standard pitch, a pitch that was taught to me by other public librarians. "This is what we can offer schools," I was told, and sure enough, schools do take me up on it and I visit and booktalk. As for databases, that offer usually is only accepted by those schools who don't have a school librarian.

Why are these two things public libraries offer? Here is what I've been told, which may or may not be accurate. Booktalks because public libraries have more recreational reading than school libraries, due to funding, so with booktalks we can tell kids about books not in the school library. Databases because our databases always seem under used, with parents and students surprised at what is available. After the tenth kid comes in and acts as if they have never heard of Ebsco & don't know how to use it, we assume that a school visit on searching in Ebsco would be welcome.

So I cringed not because of what Koenig said, but rather, she nailed what it is I offer. But I wonder: what does Koenig, and other school librarians, want when I call? After all, we both serve the same students so I do believe that there are things we can do together. The question is, what? Yes, I know school librarians are busy; but so are public librarians. So please, if we call and offer something you don't want or need, let us know what you do want or need!

Thanks to Biblio File for starting this conversation and reminding me about this letter.

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  • At 7:51 PM, Blogger Jess Nevins said…

    Huh. Have to admit, my experience in offering talks to schools was much more positive. Of course, I was in a rural county where the school librarians didn't have MLSes and had limited computer experience themselves. Maybe things are different in Pittsburgh.

  • At 9:59 AM, Blogger Mlle. Librarian said…

    Not a school librarian at all - just a library student at the moment - but I've had quite a bit of contact with current and future school librarians at this point. What I've gathered so far: it is totally going to depend on the school, its resources, and the librarian. There is just such a range of what is available at the school level, and a such a range of priorities and abilities from system to system and librarian to librarian. Some school libraries depend on a close relationship with the local public library, while others are quite self-sufficient, thank you.

    I think what's needed (hard to do given busy schedules) is a more extended period of conversation before offering anything specific. Find out what each school librarian is doing and what they wish they could be doing. Maybe there is something you can do to help. But don't assume anything.


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