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Why Libraries and Librarians are so Frequently Undervalued

Updated on February 21, 2015
Rosie writes profile image

Rosie was an elementary school teacher for 13 years, teaching grades 3-5. She is now a Library Media Specialist in an elementary school.


The Reasons Why Libraries and Librarians Are Undervalued

It is true that librarians are often overlooked and undervalued. I have seen it for myself in the elementary schools I have taught in. The same scenario replays again and again. Teachers planning together and struggling to come up with resources and ideas to meet school district student goals, while never reaching out to the librarian for help.

Frequently funds for libraries and librarians are cut and this is caused by a few different things. The first one being that the importance of the library is never brought up in teacher training. Teachers become consumed in their work and never think to look to the library for assistance. The point is that librarians need to be actively communicating with teachers and administrators, providing relevant information and resources, assistance and collaborative opportunities to them often.

In addition, the progress made by librarians in improving student achievement is easily overlooked by administrators as it is harder to define by them. Librarians are also “isolated”, working by themselves and during times of the day when teachers and administrators are in social settings. This means librarians have to keep evidence of their impact on student achievement and have to make time to be seen which can be a challenge.

Librarians are to blame somewhat for their being viewed as dispensable by teachers and administrators. They often show one another all of their ideas and successes, but do not share these things with the school community. As librarians, we have an enormous task before us that we cannot ignore.

Ways Librarians Can Create Awareness

According to Gary N. Hartzell, a former school administrator, there are three major ways to turn the tides in the perception of the school librarian. First is building and maintaining positive relationships with administrators and teachers who are leaders in the school. These people will support the librarian and hopefully have their back when they are not there. They will know how important the librarian’s position in the school is and will want to support them. To achieve this, I think it is essential for the librarian to be present at meetings, providing effective input, and offering assistance without being asked. It is also important to provide beneficial student activities where student achievement is easily observed. Activities such as Battle of the Books, Accelerated Reader, author events and book clubs show vast reading improvement among a school population.

Another way Hartzell suggests is by writing articles and making presentations for audiences other than librarians. Librarians share ideas all the time, but often fail to tell anyone else about their successes. I think by making this change, librarians can have a huge impact on the way others think.

Lastly, Hartzell says that librarians not only need to be part of supporting organizations, but need to be active in their organizations to make an impact in the way librarians are viewed. Participating in presentations, being a part of lobbying activities and writing grant proposals are just a few ways to make their ideas heard. It is clear that librarians need to be vocal to make changes happen.


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    • Rosie writes profile image

      Rosie writes 3 years ago from Virginia

      Thanks prairieprincess! The school systems where I live have become very "top heavy" with too many people making decisions that are not beneficial to students or teachers. It is shocking how many of these people have never taught in a classroom. Librarians promote reading and that is key to student success. I am a new librarian this year and I feel I am having a huge impact on students already. I am in charge of a 5th grade reading program called Battle of the Books, doing a 2-month long research project with 5th graders, leading a team in a school-wide initiative to all read one book with loads of activities, completing my first book fair this week (a ton of excitement), will host another book fair in February, working with teachers to match students with books on their DRA levels, planning and implementing lessons on every grade level to boost weak areas, building our professional library collection, helping teachers with all technology-related issues, and so much more. Librarians are essential.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 3 years ago from Canada

      Rosie, I find it so sad that many schools here in Canada have either cut out their librarian, or cut her hours substantially. I agree that the librarian plays such an important role in the school, helping to promote literacy among all the students. I like your point about the librarian also being there to help teachers find resources. Great article!

    • Rosie writes profile image

      Rosie writes 4 years ago from Virginia

      Thanks Mary. Collaboration has a big payoff - those who have tried it, know this.

    • Mary Merriment profile image

      Mary Merriment 4 years ago from Boise area, Idaho

      Great article. Teachers and Librarians collaborating together does sound like they could make a great team effort in gathering ideas and data.

    • Rosie writes profile image

      Rosie writes 4 years ago from Virginia

      Thanks Rachel. I hope to be like you, and communicate with teachers and administrators about the wealth of resources on a continuous basis.

    • Rachel Horon profile image

      Rachel Horon 4 years ago from Indiana

      Wonderful Hub! When I was working in a school library, not only would I ask the teachers what they were working on in class, but also the students. Both tend to forget that along with the bounty of information on the internet, there are resources inside the library itself. Even just displaying a few books on the shelves can lead to an increase in knowledge in order to make connections between texts and lessons.