The “Deal” With a Media Center Librarian

“Do you realize how much you mean to us?”

“You have a great deal as a librarian, I mean, the papers I have to check, wow!”

“I think I might like to become a librarian…”

Maybe it is a given but every time you place yourself, or find yourself in a new situation, you are surprised when you least expect it.  Even though I have made the switch from the emphasis of my time being in a Media Center Library, from the classroom, the overlap continues to reveal itself every single day.  

I remember being in graduate courses for Library Studies and being told, “You are way to nonserious and joking to truly be a librarian.”  – Heck, I even received that comment countless times on evaluations and evaluations from colleagues here and there.  However, deep inside, I LOVED that comment, it was a challenge as well as a message to me that yes, I was on the right track. Wanting to be completely different, wanting to create a whole new stereotype of what a Media Specialist Librarian IS and DOES, and CAN DO was not going to be lined with conformity, anything but.

I truly am grateful for the hardships, trials, and difficult situations I found myself in as an educator, because even of course with the amazing and fun times as an educator, little did I know that would become the firmest, most solid foundation for being an effective and flexible Media Specialist Librarian, opposed to the typical one.  Typically being – quiet, seen between the shelves, always with a book in hand and little else, and confined to a library.  Bleh.  Really?

Thanks to the opportunity to extend myself beyond that stereotype, and colleagues that believed that being a Librarian Media Specialist was being the hub of a school, we lived that day in and day out, and THAT is a true Media Specialist.  Finding out how to bring the community into the library, finding out how to see a wider circle of how reading, impacts bringing the community into the school, how students can actually TALK to authors, how public librarians can interact with students in a school setting and vice versa, how authors can come together and present positive roles on the world around us amid so many crumbling events, false news, coverage, a mix of views and prejudice, and so much more, the fact remains that being a guide to some of the most objective methods to dissect this information coming at people at the speed of light, – a Media Specialist Librarian can make or break the success of a school.I say this because simply sitting at a desk waiting for the world, and student, and teachers to come to you? – I see this as a single main reason why some librarians and libraries cease to exist in some schools and communities.  Laying down and letting events come to you, and hoping they will, is a warrant for one’s death in that career.  In no way, shape, or form, do I feel a Media Specialist Librarian deserves such a job unless they actually ARE living that job.  Case in point, even when you are out on the weekends, I feel a flexible and synthesis-modeled Media Specialist Librarian sees connections in every single event, no matter where you go.  Hmmm, a used book sale, I bet I can find that text on Carpentry that someone was needing while I also remember that version of Harry Potter is outdated, and….okay so you see how that channel of thinking can go with books, it simply does not just remain on the shelf if you are eclectic and synthesis-educationally driven (those are the BEST librarians that always live in AND out of the library itself).

Librarians, and librarians that impact others, take the role of educations, and mix it all up and even they are not sure what they will come up since participants are also so much a part of that creation.  Programs are created from the opportunity that Media Specialists Librarians see around them, book talks with authors in the flesh, putting together Open Mics and turning the library space into a community center, empowering students to be deeply involved in books, authors, interviews, podcasts, mentoring, making, creating, designing, art, communicating, bridging, and sharing.  If you are a Media Specialist Librarian, and NOT reinventing the job every month, then you truly are merely serving lip-service a job that was never meant to be sitting in a chair, behind a desk, or shelving books as a major component of the job, let alone serving the needs of a diverse and ever-changing world. 

Finding unique ways to go to the audiences that are receptors for such a fast-paced world is one huge responsibility, and yet, I have seen so many individuals underestimate the role a Media Specialist Librarian has on the overall tone, feeling, and motivation within a staff of a whole institution.  So much so that I have seen a huge gap between the value placed on a Media Specialist Librarian in an international setting versus the value placed on such a position in the United States.  Hands-down, to date as an educator AND a Media Specialist Librarian, I have never seen test scores, overall academics, morale, and self esteems of educators, students, parents, and alumni soar as much as when a multitude of internal rewards are felt among those individuals, and then, and ONLY then, will an institution be able to grow successfully as a unit.  When the students feel they come to school every day with a personal challenge they look forward to, as well as the staff in all levels, and themselves seeing the opportunity for something to grow within themselves and to be shared among others?- change occurs in a positive directions. 

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I have never seen hands-on projects that involve STEM and STEAM fall by the wayside.  Being a hands-on advocate for diversity is a day in and day out occupation, I hear podcasts on NPR, and I think of ten different people to connect with and to have conversations with that particular themes tie to into something they do.  I read a great author and my brain thinks of all the possibilities of bringing an author to our living room and seeing what they can do to motivate the individuals around me from all walks of life, educators, students, alumni, local bookstores, and more.

I would like to say since I made a difficult decision to relocate back to the United States from Mexico it has been so easy.  There are a hundred ways that has not been easy.  Yet, within one month, as a Library, we have connected with the Greenwood Public Library to offer Library cards to high school students and finding them ways to access texts in the state through the interstate library loan program, increasing the number of pubic library card holders, connected with local bookstores for authors in residence and setting the path for an Author Among US to occur in the states, (occurring in Mexico),  connecting, with local bookstores to enhance the school collection, finding interviews that can be skyped with in other countries as well as in your “backyard”, deciding Open Mics are the abilities to connect with local businesses and bring talent into your library, finding ways to utilize all kinds of research and developing lists of databases that students can use as a means for discovering new research, redefining the library to mirror a bookstore and have students, teachers, and alumni feel there is something for them while rediscovering texts that have been there all along, allowing the “feel” of a library to be one compared to your favorite cafe, bookstore, and community center wrapped up into one, having FREE activities, be it a YA scavenger hunt, the opportunity to write your own novel, the chance to use technology in coordination with your public library and school library, becoming a part of self-directed podcasts that get to know authors and introduce authors more to the world around us, and SO MUCH MORE.

Yes, being a librarian can be an easy gig, should it be?  Not really.  It should be a position that wears you out as much as teaching all day in a classroom with 100 different learning styles, and finding ways to met every one of them, which is the task at hand – while leading countless numbers of individuals to discover what a library, and Media Specialist Librarian, can really do, to bring the world outside, right to your very doorstep.

Yes, when students stopped me and told me, “Mr. Brake, do you realize how much we appreciate you?” – I almost fell over.  It was perhaps one of the nicest things students could say in a brand new environment, and I did have to pinch myself to make sure they were talking to me.  Yet, we all need to be advocates for a profession that often is underwritten, disregarded, and stereotyped to DEATH. I felt comments as these validate the fact that a librarian is one of the most active members in a school – and of not, comments such as these are not worthy of being received.  

When teachers have the opinion that you have an easy job compared to them, (and I have been there with the 10+ hours a day to barely stay EVEN for a day as a teacher let alone the social expectations today of a teacher) – then the Media Specialist Librarian needs to do MORE to reach educator with the resources they need, ay in and day out.  Without having that opinion, Media Specialist Librarians can reinforce how long, hard, and complicated their jobs can be if you think of the countless ways to reached educators, without being asked, with resources that will ease the burden they face day in and day out.  Unless you have been a teacher regularly, truly passing down to do’s is easy without realizing how much time in a day to do these effectively, and REACH THE STUDENT, is really a reality.

Finally, when students actually see the diversity a Media Specialist librarian can have, never having the same day and the ability to change environments around them, that is equivalent to the letter you receive as a teacher years later, telling you they are successful because of you.  The notion that this can’t happen as a Media Specialist Librarian, and also come from educators is crazy.  Of course it can.  It just depends on what happens, and what doesn’t happen, behind that Media Specialist Librarian Desk.


About Harry Brake

Employee of Woodbridge High School, Library Media Specialist, Media crazy! :)
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