The other day I got into an "argument" with a student about whether or not I was really a librarian. His position was that I wasn't a librarian--I was actually a teacher who happened to have an office in the library.
It was a weird discussion to be having. As the conversation continued, it became clear that he was, in no small part, trying to annoy me. But I don't think the original statement was meant just to taunt me. We ended up trying to pull in other students to make our respective cases--his that I wasn't a librarian, mine that I really was. The general consensus seemed to be that I was definitely a librarian. And probably also a teacher.
I was thinking about the discussion I had with him, and with other students, in light of one of the phrases I so often hear when it comes to changing the perception/image of school librarians:
"how do we make them see that librarians [fill in the blank]"
This was not a student I know particularly well, nor have I worked with him a lot. He's new to the school this year. There's nothing I've done to try and "make" him see anything. I've just been doing my job the same way I've been doing it for years, and he came to his own conclusions.
We will never "make" anyone understand anything about school librarianship. We will do our jobs, and people will come to conclusions. It is frustrating that our colleagues, our administrators, and our legislators don't always understand our jobs. But there is no position statement or pamphlet that will truly change that. They are carrying with them perceptions of school librarians formed when they were in school.
If we concentrate on our students, our future colleagues, administrators and legislators won't need to be "made" to see anything. They will carry with them the perceptions of school librarians they are forming right now. Which is why we need to hold ourselves--and each other--to a high standard. Unfortunately, there are school librarians out there who are not doing us any favors when it comes to the perceptions of school librarians students will carry into the future.
I have met librarians who say, "this tech stuff is interesting, but it has nothing to do with my job." Or, "collaborating with teachers just takes too much time." Or librarians who express, in dozens of little ways, their general disinterest in students who don't come naturally motivated when it comes to reading and research.
We don't know which students in our library today are going to be future teachers, administrators, or legislators--but I guarantee their rosters are going to include today's unmotivated or struggling students who don't feel welcome in their school library. And by the time they're adults, there's nothing we will be able to do to "make" them change their perception. The only time we have for that is right now, with the students in our schools.
I don't know what to do about school librarians who are unconcerned with the perceptions their students are forming about libraries. It's a bigger issue than I feel equipped to address. So in the meantime I go to my library, and I do my job. And if my students graduate thinking of a school librarian as "a teacher who has an office in the library," I like to think I've done a pretty good job.