Which came first? The library or the librarian?

I’m not a big fan of standardized tests. But I am a HUGE fan of school libraries, so the fact that a study in South Carolina showed that “…English language arts and writing test scores tended to be better for schools with better funded libraries with provided computers that were served by at least one full-time certified librarian and one part-time assistant” is good news to me.

Although I wonder if the librarians truly have to be certified as school media specialists or simply “real” librarians with a master’s degree and plenty of experience.  Like me. 😉

This doesn’t surprise me. Libraries aren’t about books. Libraries are about PEOPLE. And that includes librarians as well as their patrons, whether children, teens, or adults. How can you learn to use the resources without a well-qualified person to help you?

Don’t get me wrong – I love library volunteers. They are wonderful men and women, without whom many libraries could not remain open. But it boggles my mind when school librarians are seen as an extra, an amenity, a nonessential position on the staff budget!

Volunteers and/or teachers out of their classrooms are NOT librarians. They rarely have the experience and education necessary to make a school library come alive. It’s not about checking the books in and out or ordering from a recommended reading list. It’s about knowing why some books become the “It” book and why some don’t. It’s about knowing how to make a reluctant reader love the library. And about challenging advanced readers to try new genres or formats. And most importantly, about the children you serve.

Every library has its own patrons, and every patron population is different. While there is a body of professional knowledge librarians use to provide services, you can’t provide those services in a vacuum. Once more, it’s about the PEOPLE. Not the BOOKS.

Although it’s kind of a chicken and egg situation. No books, no patrons. But the saddest library in the world is one that isn’t being used. Without patrons, a library isn’t a library. It’s just a room full of books.

And a library without a librarian to love and care for it? Shudder.


3 thoughts on “Which came first? The library or the librarian?

  1. I love all things books. Libraries, librarians, book stores. and I love your philosophy that being a librarian is about people. You must understand people in order to pair them with the right books. But I do have a question, how does a librarian know why a book becomes the “it” book when publishers and authors can’t seem to figure that out? I suppose there is no magical formula for the latest trend, but as long as kids keep reading that’s all that matters.

    1. How do we know why a book becomes an “It” book? Because the kids tell us! 😉 Seriously, though, we know this for our libraries, not the publishing world as a whole.


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