OK, so I’m in the online dating game again. That awful meat market parade. The fate worse than a root canal.
Don’t get me wrong — there can be excitement and fun conversation and joking and a cup of hot chocolate thrown in sometimes.But other times, it can just be horrid. Like when a guy just insists that you’re going to love bow hunting OR monster trucks OR drag racing OR things I can’t discuss on this blog (but you know what I mean). Sure, with the right person, you might go out on a limb and try those things. And you can tell they’re really excited about converting you, so excited that they ignore every, “I don’t think that’s me,” or, “I’m uncomfortable with this line of conversation,” or, well, you get the picture.
And it was in the midst of one of those “conversations” that it hit me, something that Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary said to me one day years ago, when I had a summer gig driving musical artists around:
Sometimes, what the other person is offering isn’t what you need.
I remember those words from 20 years ago with crystal clarity. He went on to say that it doesn’t matter how enthusiastic, generous, or sincere the giver is. Sometimes, the recipient just doesn’t need/want/have to have it. And no matter how much a guy wants to teach me to bow hunt, I just really plain old seriously totally don’t want to do it.
Yarrow’s perspective reminded me (you are glad I’m transitioning off the topic of online dating, aren’t you? You’re literally exhaling with relief?) of the whole brou-ha-ha over on the Tempered Radical blog in which blogger Bill Fassiter asked librarians to tone down their librarian-as-superhero rhetoric and consider the unseen impact of their words.
It wasn’t that the original post bothered me, really. I quickly bookmarked it to share in my school library management class. His perspective as a non-librarian was important for us all to hear. However, LibraryLand quickly pulled out all its guns to fire back and the post was pulled, then put back a few days later. Fassiter felt assaulted in his email account, on Twitter, and on blogs.(As I say when potential dates question librarianship as a leadership profession, never doubt the power of the Library Mafia.) Fassiter was making a point that in our zeal to save our jobs, school librarians sometimes oversell themselves and oversell products (like being the building’s “reading expert”) that the buyers (especially colleagues) didn’t want to hear. You’ve got a great incentive program? Great, but it doesn’t fit with our standardized tests.
You throw poetry jams? Great, but I don’t have time to spare to bring my kids.
You think you can teach reading? Great, but what do I teach?
You can find me 1000 articles on response to intervention? Great. I wanted two.
As a reading teacher, he doesn’t want to hear librarians describe themselves as the cornerstone of the reading program. That’s what he thinks his job is, and he’s having a pretty hard time doing it given all of the NCLB-related assessments and instructional constraints placed on him that are not placed on classroom teachers. Just like Yarrow says. What was being offered wasn’t what was needed. Just like I kept trying to say to these guys who were looking for a neon-manicured, lusty NASCAR fan. What you want, I don’t have. What I have, you don’t want.
Fassiter has been through quite the proverbial ringer, so I won’t quibble with the ancillary points he makes that ruffle my feathers (I’ll leave that to bore future dates with). They’re there, and I think the online conversations on listservs, blogs, and Twitter feeds point out some concerns.But let’s get back to his core point: that classroom teachers might resent us if we say we’re the Thneeds of a school. It stings, but it’s a fair point.
In 2010, it’s getting harder and harder to use the word “the” in describing ourselves. We’re no longer THE non-fiction folks, THE readaloud folks, THE tech folks, or THE guide to resources. “A” would be much better than “the.” We may have specialty skills, both those common to the profession (database searching) and as individual as we are (writing reader’s theatre scripts for a class to use), but we’re rarely the ONLY person with that knowledge.Stop for a minute and think about the librarians you know. Can we really say we’re the ONLY folks who do any particular task or function? Good librarians fill in the gaps in the school they’re in … but so do great administrators, counselors, Enrichment specialists, or classroom teachers.
The only thing I think we can safely say is that we are THE ONLY folks who do MARC bibliographic. And frankly, we don’t even do that very much anymore. And even more frankly, I’m not sure MARC matters much to administrators.
I’m saddened that Fassiter doesn’t envision that a librarian could help him with the obviously arduous tasks he faces in meeting a highly-codified, highly-standardized, highly-assessed curriculum. Would splitting his class in half let him give an intense test-prep session to each half while the librarian engages in some of the holistic language arts activities both parties think students are missing (or vice versa)?
Still, I tell the future librarians in our class that our job is to meet needs where they are. If the teachers need help with standardized test prep, we should be there to help. And we should all be advocating that a curriculum based around test prep does not benefit students or teachers in the long run. In the meantime, I’m off to polish my profile. Maybe listing that I’m skilled in MARC has been what’s missing all along.