Respected professionals?

Teacher librarians are facing a public relations crisis.  We know from the House of Representatives report in 2011 that teacher librarians are either seen as “dragons in pearls” guarding the collection, or as poor-performing teachers placed in a role where they can “do the least harm”.  Schools around the world are shutting their libraries in favour of online media services.  The public wonders why we even have libraries in the days of Google.  Libraries in the US, UK and now Australia are losing government funding.  As teacher librarianship students we are told that we are training to be specialised professionals with valuable skills and knowledge to offer, but studies and actions show that teacher librarians are not highly valued.

Right now, I don’t know that I can argue differently.  In my post-graduate studies I am confronted with twaddle. For those not familiar with Charlotte Mason, books that are twaddle are ones that are dumbed-down (amongst other things).  I feel that I am not getting what I am paying for.  Or, really, what the government is currently loaning me money to pay for.

I am sick of my recommended readings in course content being filled with slideshows of 20+ slides that contain roughly 200-500 words with some pretty images and no real content.  I’m sick of videos of trailers for picture books, opinion pieces by book bloggers and videos that were obviously produced for high school or early college assignments.  I’m sick of out of date readings that refer to “up and coming” innovations like the Nook.  I’m sick of opinion pieces that are all fluff and no substance.

If we don’t have an evidence base for our practice, then how can we call ourselves a profession?  Article after article I read suggests that while we can show correlation between having a teacher librarian (or school librarian or other local variant) and improved academic performance on standardised testing, we don’t have a solid base of evidence for *what* a teacher librarian does that improves outcomes.

And why aren’t we engaging with controversial issues?  Maybe we will cover some of this when I get to cataloging next year, but I’ve read more on the controversial nature of cataloging that I imagine we will ever read in our course.  Why aren’t we looking at alternate career paths, the things that our library degree can train us for even when the job title doesn’t mention “library”? Why aren’t we examining the colonisation mentality that pervades libraries, and how we can knock down the institutional barriers to engaging meaningfully with indigenous people and respecting their knowledge, right to self-determination and a voice on their own matters?  Why aren’t we discussing that libraries aren’t neutral, that they aren’t a “safe space” for everyone?  Why am I learning far more from my own pursuit of professional development and knowledge than I am from a post-graduate degree?

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