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Librarians: The Best Teachers

Updated on January 4, 2018
George Peabody Library
George Peabody Library | Source

Why I Love Being a Librarian

As a librarian at my church, I get to share some of my favorite things: books and ideas. Parents and grandparents ask for suggestions for children's reading. Pastors recommend books from the pulpit and I make sure we have those books available. Everyone occasionally needs some help with personal finances, child rearing, or relationships issues--and there are books for that, too.

I don't consider myself a teacher, really. Rather, I help people find the resources they need to teach themselves. Perhaps that does make me a teacher of sorts, since a teacher's goal is to enable the student to function without the teacher, given time and practice.

Librarians can make the difference by encouraging reading in ways classroom teachers might not. Often it is through introducing a reluctant or discouraged reader to a special book that will turn on the light, such as the Little House books or the works of J.R. R. Tolkien.

A Shout Out to Libraries

"I don't believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don't have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn't go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.”

― Ray Bradbury

Founders were Readers!


Ben Franklin: A Reader

Benjamin Franklin, like many of America's early leaders, was largely self-educated. His autobiography is an interesting study in how a young man may teach himself to write and argue with skill, using whatever books he can get his hands on.

In 1731 Franklin founded the Library Company of Philadelphia. His personal library had over 4,000 books at the time of his death.(1)

(1) Ben Franklin was a Librarian

Free Reading v. Schooling

John Taylor Gatto, in his excellent Underground History of American Education, spends several pages extolling the advantages of a library over a classroom. Among them, he says, "The librarian doesn't tell me what to read, doesn't tell me what sequence of reading I must follow, doesn't grade my reading. The librarian trusts me to have a worthwhile purpose of my own."

While teachers should teach children how to read, they should then make sure those children have opportunities to exercise those skills on great books, not awful textbooks written by committees. Even as a child in school myself, I declared that I wished I could simply have the school bus drop me off at the Indianapolis Central Library every morning instead of school. School took up so much time when I could have been reading!

The following table summarizes more of Gatto's comparisons of classrooms and libraries:

A Comparison of Libraries and Schools

Librarian helps you choose books.
Teacher tells you what to read.
all sorts of books
Read without interruption.
Reading interrupted by "comprehension questions."
tolerates eccentric reading
prescribed sequences of reading
diversity of books and ideas
politically correct books and ideas

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    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 2 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      I'm sure good teachers would agree with you! Reading and taking the initiative to teach yourself is a great way to learn. School is so much of "force fed" education it makes it no fun at all. Children should be encouraged to read book that they find interesting and will help the learn on their own at the same time.

    • kschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 2 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      I certainly did not intend to put down teachers--at least not good ones--because I recognize they operate under at set of ridiculous political rules that seem designed to drive any truly educated person who wishes to teach insane! The librarian's duty is to provide access to information without judgement, offering to help the pre-reading child as well as the businessman and the teenager find whatever they themselves decide they need. The teacher is forced to be a follower of rules--rules that change all the time and never make any sense.

    • allpurposeguru profile image

      David Guion 2 years ago from North Carolina

      Thanks for this hub. When I was in school I almost always enjoyed anything I found at the library more than whatever my English teachers assigned, and it may have to do more with the fact that I didn't have to come up with the right answers to any questions than with the books themselves. To this day, I doubt if what I enjoy most (Christian fantasy by CS Lewis and others) would ever show up on a school curriculum. So I appreciate the contrast between librarians and classrooms--although I hope no one reads it as a putdown of teachers!