Who’s Absent?

I admit that a lot of things escape my notice. I don’t read all the email messages that come over the GeorgiaMedia distribution list, I don’t attend every conference session, and heaven knows that (after grueling days at work) I sat through many a grad school class in a state of semi-sleep. However, in my twelve years of working in public schools, I can’t recall any significant discussion about how library media specialists are recruited into the field.

Certainly, there are a number of fine graduate programs that offer great programs to those who are interested—but what makes one interested in the first place? What makes a teacher decide to earn a master’s degree in library media instead of administration, counseling, or their current curriculum area? I’m sure it has something to do with the fine examples set by the library media specialists in their schools, but I’d like to know more specifically what it is.

Why is this important to know why library media specialists choose this field? It’s important because we need to become active recruiters—headhunters, even—for the profession. In order to be successful as a library media specialist, one must have a great deal of training, but there are some essential traits that cannot be taught. (I can teach someone to catalog, but I can’t teach someone to love children.) Consequently, it is in the best interest of our students to identify the specific traits that are necessary for success and to actively recruit people who possess them.

So I ask you, fellow library media professionals, how do we recruit the best people into our field? What made you choose this profession? What are the attributes that you feel are most essential to success? What are the best ways to identify the people who have those attributes? What are the best ways to convince those people to pursue the Greatest Job in the World?

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Posted on January 17, 2008, in Ideas and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I recently discovered your blog/website and have really enjoyed reading this and some of your other posts. I thought I would dive out from the shadows and leave my first comment. I am not sure what to say other than I have enjoyed reading and will continue to visit as often as I can.

  2. Katherine Meadows

    I am very interested in becoming a librarian. I will be applying soon to start my MLIS. I can offer you why I decided on this career path. I think it takes a person who has a great appreciation for many subjects and a desire to share knowledge with others to see them fulfill their goals through the resources provided by a library. I have been doing some research on my own and have discovered that there are two dominant paths that lead to librarianship. One is where an individual discovers the magic of a library early on and devotes their time and energy to it. The other is where the individual has experienced the library early on and finds later in life that it’s where they should have been all along. It gets back to the good old personality / skills assessments. Many of the biographies that I have found have one thing in common. They were able to find enjoyment in many career choices, but none were totally fulfilling. One by one, they found their way into librarianship and they all say they’ve never been happier. I think you’ll find the answer to your research question somewhere within personality traits….Hope this helps.

  3. Stephanie A. Jones

    I can speak to this issue since I am in the process of writing my dissertation on this very subject!
    Recruitment of all librarian specialities has been of recurring interest to the library field since the 1920s. One reason is that the supply of librarians cycles through periods of surplus and shortage. Except for short periods of time, there is typically a shortage of youth services librarians, including school librarians. During periods of shortage, researchers conduct studies to determine what motivates people to become librarians. It is assumed that if one knows why people want to enter an occupation, that information can be used to recruit other people into the field. There have been many studies conducted on why people want to become librarians, but the last major study investigating why people want to become school librarians specifically, was a dissertation conducted in 1963! I think the job has changed a bit since then, don’t you?

    There is some evidence that there is a shortage of school librarians now, and that the situation will become worse as the current batch of Baby Boomer librarians retire and there are fewer people to replace them. This fact, combined with my curiosity prompted me to select this as the focus of my doctoral research. (I also think being a teacher-librarian is the greatest job in the world.) My research so far has pointed to one problem with recruitment and that is that the idea that they can be a librarian just does not occur to very many people. So I agree with middlemedia that advocacy is vital, but not just advocacy to fellow teachers. We also need to promote this occupation to our students and demonstrate that being a librarian is fun. Because it is.

    And while I am on my soapbox, I want to encourage my fellow teacher-librarians to consider earning their doctorate so they can teach future librarians. Universities around the country are finding it difficult to find youth services professors, especially those with experience in the field. If you are interested, go to http://www.alise.org and look at the job placement page. You might be inspired.

  4. I believe that media specialists are leaders in the school. True leaders not only create an atmosphere that incites others to “get on the bus,” but also develop the talents of others. By actively recruiting those who have the potential to be effective media specialists, we bring value to the profession as a whole by strengthening the impact media programs have on student achievement.

    Through collaboration with fellow teachers we may be able to identify those interested in library media. This is an area where advocacy of media programs would come into play. Acting as a model of effective instructional collaboration as well as a teacher may inspire others to teach in the largest classroom in the building.

    Kris Woods

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