I just returned from a wonderful, inspiring event, the biennial convention of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). Two of the highlights for me included the "Treasure Mountain" pre-conference, and a speech from Scott Bacon, principal of Blue Valley High School. He told of the importance of collaboration with his school's media specialist, and even displayed a shared mission statement for the library. Wouldn't you want to work here?
But, the euphoria was interrupted when I got home after a fellow librarian pointed out a letter to the editor written about our State Superintendent, Glenda Ritz, in the Indianapolis Star, published online on November 15, and in print November 18. Here is an excerpt:
Instead, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: We are being led by a librarian (media specialist)! Nothing against librarians (media specialists), but I have had many of them work for me over the years while serving as a school administrator. They are, as a group, wonderful people! However, they are trained to do a certain type of job and “leading” is not what they are trained to do. Nor are they knowledgeable about administrative legal issues and consensus building...We just need a leader in the superintendent’s office who knows something more than the Dewey Decimal System and how to follow orders from the unions
It turns out that the writer had been dismissed as a superintendent in Missouri in 2009 and now works as a realtor in Indiana, not licensed as an educator in our state. Why does he perpetuate the "keeper of the books" perception? Has he even been in a library media center since 2009? After all, things have even changed a lot since then. Many of today's library media specialists are among the most networked, collaborative, technologically-advanced teachers around, and I was just with over 2000 of them in Hartford. Making generalizations about an entire group of librarians seems as illogical as making assumptions about ...superintendents.
Members of our listserv were mad; boy, were we mad! But, one of the aspects of media use we consider when working with staff and students: evaluate the source. Why was this published? Ultimately, I think the Star probably hoped that this article would provoke the firestorm that it did. They are in the business of selling papers and delivering people to their website's advertisers.
Can I do more as a media specialist? Absolutely, and I learned a lot in Hartford that I can use immediately. I attended sessions on collaboration, web 2.0 tools, eBooks, literacy research, high-achieving students, virtual learning commons, technology integration, MakerSpaces, and much more. I'm sure I will never meet this person who attacked our profession, but, at the end of the day, I don't do my job to prove people like him wrong; we choose and continue in our profession because we want to assist students and staff discover the joy of learning through any platform. We want them to be successful consumers, evaluators, and creators of information. It is not about us. I think that is true leadership.
UPDATE: There have been several letters of support for Ritz in the Star since (and a few detractors). This letter on leadership came from Rachel Applegate, Chair of Library and Information Studies at IUPUI.