School librarians are a lot like detectives. But instead of solving crimes,
they help students and teachers track down the most reliable information.
This information might be found in print or in the constantly evolving online
Like other types of librarians, school librarians develop, organize and
maintain their library's collection. They search for information, arrange
for loans, handle library materials and arrange for kids to use materials
in the classroom.
"There's a wealth of materials in every school collection," says Michael
Nailor. He's a former high school librarian in Pennsylvania. "Not just the
physical books, but the websites, the databases, that school librarians can
lead kids to."
School librarians play a key role in teaching students how to search for
different types of information and how to evaluate it. In short, they teach
research skills and media literacy.
School librarians also help other teachers be more effective. They show
teachers how they can maximize the use of library resources and media equipment
in their classrooms. That requires them to have a good grasp of whichever
subject is being taught. It also requires knowledge of technology.
"The access students have to mobile technology has been the biggest change
that I have seen in my 10 years in the profession," says Stuart Levy, a teacher-librarian
at an Oregon middle school. "The whole social networking aspect has greatly
changed how students share their information [for research, book reviews,
"When I went to library school, programs like PowerPoint and Access were
being taught and there was no such thing as social networking," says Camille
Callison. She's a university librarian.
"Staying on top of new technology such as Facebook, Twitter, Prezi, blogs,
virtual reference and LibGuides is a must," says Callison.
School librarians are often classroom teachers in addition to librarians.
This means they must balance teaching responsibilities in the classroom with
their library duties.
"My current assignment is 60 percent teacher-librarian and 40 percent
classroom teacher," says Levy.
Levy says a typical day for him might include any or all of the following:
- Meeting with a teacher or a team of teachers about curriculum.
- Covering the library checkout desk when the assistant isn't there.
- Doing some ordering or dealing with accounting work.
- Supervising students in the library.
- Doing presentations in the library or a classroom.
- Assisting a student with an issue with school or personal technology.
- Sending e-mails out to staff about something that he read.
- Meeting with the building's information technology staff about various
- Teaching his two classes.
The working hours of school librarians are often the same as school hours.
These librarians get a good part of the summer off. But working hours can
Keeping up with new technology often means attending seminars and other
educational events on weekends. School librarians may also have to spend a
lot of time outside regular working hours looking for new library material.
"Trends that are happening include a move to more digital resources, particularly
information resources at the secondary level," says Linda Shantz-Keresztes.
She's an education and school library consultant.
"Print fiction literature is still the most accessible format for elementary
and secondary students," says Shantz-Keresztes.
"The physical space of school libraries is transforming into Learning Commons,
[which means] less shelves, more moveable tables, chairs, hand-held devices,
wireless access, so that the 21st century school library becomes an active
The physical requirements of this job are minimal. The profession is fairly
accessible to people with physical disabilities.
"Education, volunteer activities and job shadowing are all activities
that make any young person considering a career as an academic librarian more
employable," says Callison.