Women Doing Literary Things: "Librarians: Informing and Transforming" by Edith Campbell

“I am always nagged by the question “Do I do what I do in ways to attract others to want to do it?” Do the students who see me in the library simply see me as the lady who checks out books or do they realize how involved the work of a school librarian really is?

There is no doubt that I love being a librarian. I love the possibilities, the challenges, the ability to use my creativity and intelligence. I love growing through what I do. It is sad that so many teachers don’t realize how much they can enhance their teaching by pairing with a librarian who is willing to co-teach with them, and it is frustrating that administrators often see us as no more than glorified clerical workers. Perhaps this is our own fault–often we find the need to prove our own worth by having every imaginable school supply for staff and students so that we can be seen as indispensable.

On a societal level, we hear about librarians as a dying profession because with Yahoo and Nooks, well, who needs librarians?

Would this supposition exist if librarians were 82% male rather than 82% female? If the profession were male-dominated, would it be easier to realize the continual evolution to meet the needs of information seekers? Would we be more easily recognized as culture keepers who have a significant role in the book industry if we were not imagined to be old ladies who will shush you? I think if more school librarians were males, they would automatically be seen as tech savvy leaders who can and should make a difference in education. However, most of us are older women. Because librarians professionalize with a Masters in Library Science, most enter the field mid-career.

I am one who entered the profession after years of teaching. I still feel new at what I do and I am still so excited by all the possibilities in front of me! I glow when I get a student to read their first book and my day is made when a teacher tells me they’ve used a link I sent them with a class. I never have an ordinary day, and I don’t feel like I have an ordinary job!

There is something about the nature of librarians that leads us to freely share information with others. Consequently, the camaraderie among those in the field, typically other women, is phenomenal. It is easy to get resources, to meet people and to network around issues. It’s just not easy to be taken seriously outside the field. Here we are in an information profession dominated by women and in the information age, everyone says we’re obsolete. If you take the time to find out what I do, I think you’ll want to do it to!”

Edith Campbell is a high-school librarian in Indiana, whose work has taken her to diverse places including Saudi Arabia and Taiwan. Edith also maintains a blog about improving the literacy of students of color.


Visit her site CrazyQuilts at http://campbele.wordpress.com and email her at crazyquilts(at)hotmail.com

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Comment by Niranjana Iyer on June 22, 2011 at 7:36am
@Anna, Julia: Thank you! I've never met a librarian I didn't like, and so I'm very glad to showcase this profession on this platform. I'll also be featuring an academic librarian and a public librarian in this series; hope to see you again then!
Comment by Anna Leahy on June 19, 2011 at 6:06pm

I'm glad you posted this! Librarians are really important to writers, though I'm not sure how many writers realize what a great resource librarians can be.

Also, as a college professor, I see that some of my creative writing students don't want to teach, can't make a living on their writing alone, and would like to remain involved in education. Librarianship is a really varied field that might welcome them.

Comment by Julia Munroe Martin on June 17, 2011 at 1:33pm
Really great post! I've always really loved libraries (and so appreciated librarians) but it wasn't until I read Marilyn Johnson's book This Book Is Overdue! that I really understood the amazingness of all you do. I have now written several posts on my blogs about librarians, and have met Marilyn at a Maine librarian event -- I admit it I'm a huge fan of librarians and maybe even a groupie! I hate to think that it's a gender issue, but I do fear there's some of that. Thank you for another important post about libraries and librarians!!


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