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Serving the Non-Certified – or Not?

Greetings from AASL in Pittsburgh where I have spent most of Thursday in my capacity of editorial board member for Linworth and in a “think-tank” for Scholastic. At both meetings an interesting question was raised, one which had also come up a year ago at one of our state school library association membership meetings.

“How should we be serving those working in school libraries that may not be certified and have minimal to non-existent training in librarianship?”

It is an interesting and dangerous question, and one that seems to be more important each year, as non-certified library staff (seemingly) replace more and more professional library staff in schools.


Define “certified”. I have my MLS, but I am not a state-certified school librarian (most independent schools do not require that). I would wager that I run as good (if not better) a program as many of my state-certified peers.

Comment by Laura — October 6, 2005 @ 9:12 pm

Since I was very recently one of those “uncertified” I wanted to throw in a few thoughts. I have a masters in instructional technology and am certified in that area. My technology degree involved some credits from a school of library and information science as well as other courses that overlapped with library classes.

I was working as an instructional technology coordinator when, after two failed state-wide searches, I had an opportunity to move into the library world as a school library system coordinator. I immediately began pursuing an MLS and have since then received supplemental (temporary) certification as a school librarian.

Now I will be very open and honest in saying that there were those who felt that I should never have been hired. This wasn’t a case of an organization choosing to “downgrade” their services by going with an uncertified person, but rather an inability to find a certified candidate.

My commitment to finishing my MLS and receiving full certification is making my life rather difficult (not whining, it was my choice to take a job that would include receiving two additional advanced degrees). I appreciate the “support” I am receiving as I work towards this. I actually have it a lot easier than others, though. In New York State, in order for a teacher to become certified as a school librarian she/he is going to have to take an UNPAID 2 month leave of absence from their job. And yet, I see a lot of cases where uncertified teachers are stepping up to the challenge because they want to be fully committed to meeting the library and information needs of their students and school.

Providing support to non-instructional staff that are serving as “library managers” is another issue entirely. I struggle with that as well, but in the end I probably come down on the side of not cutting off my nose to spite my face. I hate that districts are forced to do this (and hate even more when they just decide to do this), but I also don’t want to hurt the students because of “bad choices” by others.

Comment by Christopher Harris — October 7, 2005 @ 11:31 am

There are two distinct camps on this issue. If we provide training, professional membership and support materials to these folks, we are enabling these sorts of displacements. Are we, in other words, directly contributing to the demise of the profession by helping create minimally functioning replacements for those of us with MLS degrees?

The other camp says, “Face reality. These folks exist, they are NOW serving our kids, and for the sake of the kids they work with, how can we not give them all the skills we can? Our children’s interests must supercede our professional pride.”

Man, this is a tough one, and one that goes to long-term and short-term best interests of kids. And I am undecided, believe it or not.

I did explore this topic in a “banned” column back in 1995.

Love to hear your opinion on the topic. Support the non-certified or not?

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