I am currently working on an entry for the School Libraries E-book Project, which is something I am looking forward to reading. I’m eager to hear from librarians and educators whose voices aren’t always represented in traditionally published materials, and I sincerely hope that the project attracts the participation and readership of people outside of librarianship.
One of the submission guidelines did give me pause, however. The firm instruction that all entries must “be positive” made me wonder about the message this book will be sending. Reading through the project coordinators’ rationale, though, I completely understand why they seek to find authors who can focus on the positive aspects of the future of school libraries.
The past few years have been incredibly hard for school librarians (indeed, for librarians and workers of all types). Staff morale for many school librarians is at an all-time low, and this is the result not only of budget cuts and job insecurity, but a result of the complete lack of understanding of a school librarian’s role. Librarians have always suspected that Joe Public doesn’t actually know what a librarian does, but the fact that some principals and head teachers didn’t have a clue came as a surprise to many. Librarians have had many discussions on blogs and forums regarding this issue, so I understand why the e-book creators want to move away from the negativity and focus on the constructive, practical steps librarians can be taking to ensure students get the most from school libraries in the future.
Reading Barbara Ehrenreich‘s Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America & the World (or, Bright-Sided, as it is titled in the United States), however, has got me thinking again about librarians’ insistence on always seeing the bright side of things. I don’t mean this as a dig at the e-book project creators at all, but I have had many conversations with librarians in which the conversation steered away from difficult issues. In my previous post, when I attempted to share my concerns with the impending restructuring of library services with my head teacher, she brushed aside my concerns, assuring me that it would “never happen to them.” Of course, the restructuring has now happened, and that school has been without a qualified librarian since I left nearly a year ago.
I am often encouraged by other bloggers to maintain a positive outlook when blogging about library issues. Whilst I do attempt to avoid getting personal or bad-mouthing previous colleagues, I do think it is important to be realistic when it comes to the challenges of librarianship, particularly school librarianship in the United Kingdom. School libraries here need a major overhaul if they are to truly serve students (and allow librarians to keep their jobs, of course).
In order to move forward, it is important for librarians to admit that there are issues we need to address. I’m not saying that endless moaning about low pay, teachers who don’t “get it”, or nonexistent budget is the answer, but some constructive criticism is needed. Even more controversially, perhaps it is time for a discussion as to whether the new arrangements in some Scottish school libraries will actually lead to better services for students, or whether they are in fact band-aid measures that will only lead to the dissolution of school libraries in the future?