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Dangerous statements for librarians to make

The online workshop last Monday night made me think a little about how librarians can be their own worst enemies. I shudder when I hear these phrases uttered:

1. But the school HAS to have a librarian/library.

2. The research proves that libraries improve student achievement. (Subtext: So I don't have to.)

3. Kids can't come into the library at _________ time...
           - because I have work to do
           - because I might need to step out and they would be unsupervised
           - because it is MY library and what I say, goes.
           - because I need 4 weeks in the fall and spring to get it ready/shut it down
           - (Subtext: Because they annoy me.)

4. I can't create a good program because I am in a fixed schedule.

5. Having a study hall in the library is out of the question.

6. I let the technology people take care of that (to a teacher who needs help NOW.)

7. Correct bibliographic format is absolutely critical (Subtext: No matter how brilliant the content.)

8. I can't work with a teacher who does not give at least _____ days/weeks/months advance notice.

9. The library catalog information has to conform to _________________ standards and I will spend all my discretionary time cataloging until it is!

10. Computers and the Internet are the bane of reading and rational thought. I refuse to learn about them.

11. Wikipedia/blogs/Twitter/etc. is not an acceptable source of information.

12. If only the principal/teachers/parents knew what I do they'd appreciate me!

13. It's my job to read so if I read on the job others can just think what they want.

14. But ALA/AASL Standards say ___________________________.

15. That kid has shown he can't be responsible so he'll never check anything out from this library again.

16. Computer games in my library? (Subtext: It would just bring kids in and they annoy me.)

17. I can advocate for my own program. I don't need anyone else vocally supporting it.

18. My expertise in children's/young adult literature makes me indispensable to my school.

19. I don't need to collect data about my program. My principal loves me.

20. I don't teach "computer skills." That's the technology department's job.

21. The right job title will make my position more secure.


OK, those are 21 fast ones off the top of my head and are dedicated to Chris Harris who sparked the idea.

I am not convinced that the profession as a whole is in a crisis. But I suspect a lot of librarians (who aren't reading this blog anyway) may be.

And rightfully so.

What other dangerous statements do you hear from your library colleagues that make you wince?


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Reader Comments (36)

Right on. Kudos to you and Chris.
I am frustrated by those in our profession who do not want, because they think they don't need, to take advantage or pursue professional development opportunities. When librarians are given the chance to attend a state conference at no expense to them or their district, including the cost of substitutes, and they don't take advantage of it, I can only shake my head. How can you be an instructional leader if you don't know where to lead? It's not you mother's/father's library world and the librarian is need to be the change agent. We need to be reading, networking, and participating in as many workshop and PD sessions that we can fit into our schedule. I

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarole

"You can't check that out--it's not on your reading level."

"You have to check out an AR book."

"We don't play games in the library! (If we do they have to be educational!)"


April 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim Randolph

Students should never use Wikipedia! LOL I love to teach the lesson about what it is, why it is the way it is, and show off the citations that many of these articles include. But on the flip side, i also like to show off the list of contributors, some of whom come across as quite unreliable. Ranks right up there with not judging a book by its cover.

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCathy Nelson

Here, here!

"no more check out until your return all your books"

"I'm sorry, you have to have your agenda (id) to check out."

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrenda

"FInally! It's about time you returned that book! It's three weeks late!" (and the kid will never check out from that library again...)

"If I let them check out more than two books at a time, then I will have so many more to shelve when the books are returned!" (yeah, and... ?)

None of us is indispensable, and making the library media center our own little cave isn't going to help kids learn nor will it help us do our jobs. Besides, how much fun can it be to rule a silent and empty kingdom?

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJenny Baltes

Twitter and Wikipedia are terrific for pointing you in the direction of information, but I presume you are not suggesting they are sources that can be cited? I've sent out thousands of Tweets and my goal is to be catchy, quotable, RTable - not cite-worthy. And of course with Wikipedia, you don't know anything about the source of the information other than a handle.

April 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMark Moran

Yes I've heard similar phrases and yes it frustrates me that our profession is judged by them. But please don't let this be about library bashing as there are some amazing professionals out there.

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJudith

Another twist on the "I don't do technology". This is something one of the librarians I work with said to me. "I like books. If they make me do technology I will go work in a bookstore".
That's OK with me because I am working on my MLS and I really like her brand new media center and I do technology:)

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDottie

Great post!

One thing I absolutely hated when I was a classroom teacher would be when I'd go to pick my kids up and the librarian would give me a litany of all the stupid little things they did wrong, right in front of them, and how they're such a rough crew.

First of all- don't criticize my kids in front of me, or them. Secondly, I KNOW THEY'RE DIFFICULT- I spend the entire week with them, and you have em for 35 minutes on Mondays....

I feel better now. =)

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Johnson

Pointed remark by librarian to the Instructional Technology Coordinator visiting a librarian with clipboard in hand, pen poised: "Nobody ever listens to us. Why don't you people want to know what our needs are?"

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBill Storm

Here are some more comments that have been heard:
But I am on my plan time and it is unemcumbered time so I cannot check out a book to you right now-or the library is closed because the librarian needs her plan time.
To staff/teachers:
"I don't do printers"

This is a support job that enhances and enriches a student's curricular and personal life. If you don't like working with people and children you are in the wrong job.

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRati SInghal

On the flip side, why do librarians constantly have to justify their existence, when classroom teachers do not? I have also seen some pretty disengaged teachers in my professional experience, and yet, they are not marginalized as a group, the way librarians are. There are good and bad librarians and good and bad teachers, and the list could go on. Sometimes it does get a little wearisome to have to explain for the nth time why you need a Master's degree to be a librarian, and that no, you do not just read all day.

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRobin Henry

My pet peeve is hearing "Oh, I'm too busy to do......" I was presenting a session at the Michigan Joint Education Conference last summer -- a wonderful conference for teachers from lots of different disciplines to learn together -- and I was talking about the value of collaboration. I was presenting along with science and geography teachers from my school and going on about all the ways in which the teachers and I work together. The classroom teachers in the audience were very excited about the possibilities, and then one of the librarians in the audience piped up and said something along the lines of "Don't assume your librarian has time to help you like she does. I'm one person and I ahve all these other things to do."
I was so flabbergasted I was rendered speechless, and that's saying something! I think after a pause I went on, but, boy, did I think of some good comebacks after the fact!

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCheri Dobbs

Forgive me if I repeat anyone, but I also shudder to hear:

1. I don't have TIME to do anything new.
2. I don't allow that in MY library (by the way, it is not YOUR library it belongs to the school and the students).

But on the positive side, how about things I love to hear?

1. Are there any resources on teaching information and technology literacy skills to ___________ graders?
2. I am starting some book discussions to get more high schoolers reading. Any suggestions?
3. I got assigned a study hall but am making the best of it because I am having the students help me develop a digital story telling project.
4. I have so many teachers wanting to bring their classes to the library that I wish there were more hours in the week.

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMary

I agree with the vast majority of this. However, I do think that it would be *really* inappropriate to ever leave students unattended in the library. I am lucky to work in a library with enough staffing. But there are some libraries out there with just one librarian.

Also, the problem with games (and I like games) is that they eat up bandwidth. If you are low on bandwidth, they can really affect internet speed adversely. And while I like games, our school board prohibits them. So there is no way that I can invite students to come down to the library & play games, regardless of my persona/professional feelings about the issue.

April 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkrisjacobson


Good points on games/bandwidth I I hadn't considered. I learn as much from Doug's readers as himself. When I put down the games comment I was thinking of a time when I saw a kid come into the library because his debilitating allergies prevented him from going outside to recess on a beautiful spring day with his fellows. He was the only student in the library and wanted to play games on the computer. Even though there are tons of links to (educational) games on the computers, the SLMS made him do a test prep program instead, telling him that the library was not. for. games!


April 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJim Randolph

My library is full of gamers at lunch (I wrote my masters thesis on video games so I am biased) What really annoys me is the amount of money being spent by all departments on books that are available as e-books for free. My school has cash problems and my belief is if we get if for free we can purchase other resources that are not available for free thus increasing the collection. What really annoys me is most people are basing their opinions on how they learned at school; my memories are of many bored hours in class. It seems many students are feeling the same thing today. Teachers need to engage students with all media and as librarians we have the opportunity to become "the how to manual" for all media.

April 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLibrarian

Hi Ninja,

Yes, dangerous if we wish to stay relevant/liked by students for sure!


Hi Cathy Jo,

I LOVE Wikipedia, especially since I can check the authority of those who edit the entries. It's here to stay so we may as well teach people to use it well!


Hi Brenda,

Yeah, needing my library card at my PUBLIC library makes me mad!


Hi Jenny,

I always thought empty libraries were boring places as well.

Thanks for the comments,


Hi Mark,

I've seen Tweets and Wikipedia cited by New York Times columnists. I guess I'd be less accepting if it was my master's thesis!


Hi Dottie,

When I hear remarks like the one you quoted, I want to use my dad's old line: Is that a threat or a promise?


Hi Steve,

Glad to be here for you,


Hi Rati,

Good additions to the list. The "not on my planning time" is a dangerous statement to make for sure!


Hi Cheri,

It's really all about establishing priorities - yours or the those you serve!


Hi Mary,

I'll admit the positive statements are useful. Just not nearly as much fun to write ;-)

Nice seeing you in GR last week!


Hi Ninja,

There are other options to games than banning them (setting bandwidth priorities with a packet shaper, etc.) I had to eliminate any resource by format (games) rather than judge it by content.


April 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson


I think you hit the nail on the head with the words "MY LIBRARY."
If we all consider that it isn't a librarian's library - but it is a STUDENT LIBRARY - and make our decisions based on what students WANT and NEED - then most of the other phrases go away!

Here's mine - "I don't get any support from my administration." My response: Support doesn't just happen, YOU have to go out and build it. No one walks in to the school library and says, "What do you need?" You've got to ask and give them opportunities to SEE what impact you have with students. Support from administrators, teachers, parents and students is seeded, grown and blossomed through advocacy.


April 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCathi Fuhrman

OK, I'm confused. Why is this a bad statement? I tend to agree with it! "But the school HAS to have a librarian/library."

April 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdigliberry

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