School Librarian  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotSchool 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 world.

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."

dotSchool 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, etc.]."

"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.

dotSchool 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 issues.
  • Teaching his two classes.

dotThe 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 vary.

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 learning laboratory."

dotThe 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.

At a Glance

Organize the library collection and help teachers and students make use of it

  • You have to keep up with new technology
  • You will probably have to spend time outside of working hours looking for new library material
  • Consider a degree in education and one in library science