and a recipient of a 2017 MSLA President's Award.
Being a librarian is a thankless job; being a school librarian is even worse.
Reason 1: Early Mornings.
The school day starts anywhere from 7am until 9am; but of course, teachers (including you!) have to be there before classes start. This means that if your school starts at 8am, you should probably be there by 7:30 or 7:45 at the latest, or else students will be lined up outside your library door, impatiently waiting for you to show up and let them in. These kids will be the kids who need to print an assignment for their class that starts at 8 (“Well, Miss, you see, what happened was...”); or who simply must tell you about their newest break-up; or who want to get your advice on what color they should dye their hair next. These kids are often the most needy kids; you’ll often realize that they need snacks, breakfast, juice, gloves, and a hug. They’re some of the best kids to get to know. They’ll be willing to help you shelve books, talk about new books to order, and always know when you need a compliment to cheer you up (“Miss, did you
cut your hair? It’s cuuuuuute!”). Accept that you are one of the reasons they come to school; that you might be the most understanding adult that they know; and realize that you are going to cry when they graduate.
Reason 2: Graphic Novels.
Graphic novels are the bane of a school librarian’s existence. If you have the misfortune to teach elementary school, be prepared for an endless stream of Baby Mouse, Squish, and Captain Underpants (or whatever the kids are reading these days). These books will get so ratty from endless grubby hands that you will have to buy new copies every year or invest in overpriced library bound copies.
At the high school level, you would think that students would have grown out of reading what are basically picture books. Oh no, they’re more obsessed than ever. There are hundreds of manga titles, some of which have as many as 40 or 50 volumes, and they’re still coming out with more. There are dozens of different superhero and other popular collected comics, and heaven forbid that you mix up DC’s New 52 Batgirl with the classic storylines instead. You’ll also have to look up the chronologies of these series because, of course, some stories only make sense in order (go ahead, try to figure out Marvel’s House of M chronology and which books contain which issues and what other crossover volumes you’ll need if someone wants to read all of Hulk’s storyline but doesn’t need all of Thor’s. I’ll wait.)
To make matters worse, students will want to talk to you about their comics! You may wind up bombarded with questions and opinions about stories you know nothing, nor want to know, about (“In Ms. Marvel, she gets mutant-like powers from...” or “X-23 is so much cooler than Wolverine, but I wish that...”). Of course, once you express your own opinion (“I really like how Ms. Marvel and Miles Morales Spiderman teamed up to ...” and “X-23 is one of my favorites, but ...”), you’re doomed to near endless conversations and speculations with some of the nerdiest kids ever, and you’ll love it so much that you will get distracted from other tasks (like writing this article for MSLA). Ideally, you’ll be able to connect with a local public library and get graphic novels on loan from them in order to help your students and yourself keep up with this demand, because no budget will ever be enough to purchase all the books your graphic novel fans will read.
Reason 3: Student Work
At some point in your school librarian career, you will be asked to help students with classwork or homework; quite likely long, research paper assignments. If you wanted to help kids with writing a paper, you would have become an English teacher, right? You became a librarian so you could read books, not write papers!
you can say that my personal opinion is that we brought the war upon ourself the second we decided to place our hands in someone else's lunch when we clearly have beef at home. we just wanted more than we could really eat. And it was like we had thrown all the food up that wasn’t ours to eat, like Vietnam’s business. (Price, 1)
It would be similar to a small child trying to steal someone else's lunch while they have plenty already; the U.S. government just wanted more. (Price, 1)
At some point in your career, you’ll realize something important. You will realize that being a school librarian is the absolute worst job you could ever have chosen for yourself and you’ll get out. Or, you’ll understand that being a school librarian is amazing and exactly what you are meant to be doing with your life. We get to be more than classroom teachers, since we meet our students at a different place, both academically and physically. We often get to be “the cool adult” who sets aside a snack, or who protects the safe space, or who can literally get into a conversation about Dora the Explorer with one student (“Miss, did you know that the Dora theme song changed in 2005? From 2000 until 2005, they had a computerized theme song.” (Abrau)) and circuitry with another. We get to help them find their next favorite book and see their eyes light up.