Editor’s note: This article was originally published on December 16, 2013.
For the past few months, in addition to being a full time student, I’ve also been working as a librarian at an elementary school. The other day, I was talking to a friend about my job, and she excitedly asked me, “Do you read stories to the children?! I used to LOVE when librarians would read me stories!”
This tiny comment made me irrationally angry, and in my head, I started ranting: librarianship is about SO MUCH MORE than books and storytime. Librarians do so many different things, from archives to digitization to information literacy-why don’t people realize this?!
But then I stopped to think for a moment, and I wondered WHY, exactly, I was getting so angry. Yes, I wish more people understood the variety of different roles librarians can play, and didn’t picture librarians as people who sat behind a desk reading all day. And yes, there are a variety of amazing nontraditional roles out their for librarians to pursue. But at the end of the day, I’m glad I spend my days helping students get excited about reading. I’m happy to be a “traditional” librarian.
Does this mean I don’t think students need exposure to technology, or digital and information literacy instruction, or the opportunity to create things using digital media? Absolutely not. These are important skills for them to have as they navigate a society that is increasingly reliant on technology.
I am very glad that many of my classes in library school have featured forward-thinking professors and exposure to new resources. I think it is great that library school teaches us to be creative and innovative, because libraries need to evolve to meet the needs of their communities.
But none of this really matters if the patrons we serve can’t read. They won’t be able to check out eBooks, or evaluate and analyze information, or read the directions for an online form, or even check their Facebook pages, if they don’t have basic print literacy skills.
The students I work with are 5-9 years old. They still have a sense of wonder and curiosity and excitement about EVERYTHING. They love checking out books, and they can’t wait to share with others the cool things they find in those books. When they listen to a story, they hang on to every word. So yes, I continue to start many lessons with a story. And I continue to focus on how to find books in the library, and genres of books, and reader’s advisory, and other “traditional” librarian duties.
Don’t worry, I don’t view my library as a book warehouse, or sit behind my desk reading all day. I still teach my students about research, and databases, and using web 2.0 tools to share their knowledge with others, and digital citizenship. But those read alouds? They are helping students to develop the literacy skills to do all those other really amazing things. And so I’m happy to spending my days “reading to the children,” in perpetuation of the librarian stereotype (sometimes I even do it while wearing a cardigan). Because that is what my community needs right now.
What are your thoughts on the more “traditional” librarian duties? Do you have a favorite book to read aloud to kids? Let me know in the comments, or find me on Twitter @alisonjane0306.