School Librarians: What Do They Do All Day?

The bulk of a school librarian's work happens behind the scenes.

Many adults reflect fondly on their experiences with school libraries and librarians. Most remember having stories read aloud to them in earlier grades and developing research skills later on.

The best school librarians seldom mind working with students since it’s their teachers’ responsibility to monitor their development and assign their grades. But most school librarians love their jobs and pass that enthusiasm on to the students they work with.

What Does It Take to Be a School Librarian?

Licensing-wise, the requirements for school librarianship vary from state to state, each having its specific expectations. For permanent certification, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) requires librarians to hold a master’s in library and information science. Still, it does not necessarily require public school librarians to possess teaching certificates.

On the other hand, in Oklahoma, school librarians must have a master’s degree. If the master’s degree is not in library media education or library and information science, then the certification candidate must complete twenty-four semester hours of coursework in library media.


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Typical School Librarian Responsibilities

School librarians in primary and secondary schools typically help students learn how to locate and check out books and use the library’s resources for research, focusing on acquiring and evaluating information. They also help teachers find resources to use for lesson plans.

As literacy advocates, librarians make a variety of books accessible to students. They also promote reading, create strategies to help struggling readers, and draw from various sources to make reading more enjoyable. In this role, school librarians:

  • Model good reading skills and habits.
  • Suggest books that would be appropriate for the age and interests of the class.
  • Encourage students to share what they’re reading.
  • Offer read-alouds for younger children.
  • Upgrade and maintain library technology.
  • Manage library budgets and projects.
  • Follow district policies for selected library materials and disposal.
  • And much more.

K–12 librarians also do a great deal behind the scenes. Depending on their employment structure and protocols, school librarians are usually responsible for organizing and maintaining a school library’s collections, providing access to library and media resources, and assisting students and staff with their questions and needs.

School librarians do incredible things for children without asking for anything in return. Many are passionate about enhancing children’s love for reading and want to help them succeed academically. Unfortunately, their effort frequently goes unnoticed since much of their work occurs behind the scenes.


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A Day in the Life of a School Librarian

There are all kinds of school librarians, ranging from kindergarten and elementary to middle school and high school. As any high school teacher or graduate knows, every type of school is different. And so are the librarians who staff them.

Elementary: Kindergarten to Fifth or Sixth Grade

Storytime is always a favorite for younger kids. It helps build their reading and listening skills. It also helps create a passion for learning that, hopefully, gives them a head start for the higher grades. Many school librarians love working with kids in kindergarten and the primary grades.

But some also relish kids’ curiosity in third through fifth or sixth grade when they take on research projects and have a librarian ready to help. They start learning where and how to locate the needed resources to help them succeed in high school, college, or their career.

One school librarian explained, “A third-grade class comes in for their lesson. They return their books in the book drop and meet me on the class rug. The updated lesson goes smoother than yesterday. Students are given their library cards and begin to browse for books.”

Middle: Sixth or Seventh to Eighth or Ninth Grade

Many people say puberty and early adolescence are some of the most challenging grades for any schoolteacher or librarian. But librarians (who usually don’t assign grades) might do the trick. After all, the research projects get more sophisticated in these grades — and a capable librarian knows where to look.

Middle school librarian Kati Fink remarked, “My middle schoolers do not have scheduled library classes. So after buckling on my “brainstorming” hat, I have found monthly times to meet with each grade for Book Talks or themed activities to promote circulation and reading for fun.”


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High School: Ninth or Tenth to Twelfth Grade

High school librarians don’t bring kids to the library since they can find it independently. But that doesn’t stop them from coming. And librarians still have a lot of work to do.

One of the main functions of a high school librarian is helping students with research. Students and librarians often discuss a topic together, with the librarian suggesting resources and assisting the student in finding and using the materials, including books, periodicals, websites, magazines, and videos. Teachers may also request resource recommendations from the high school librarian based on what their classes are studying.

A high school librarian is also responsible for checking out and processing returns of all library materials. Such tasks include keeping track of what class or student has items and when it’s time to return them. Depending on the school, this may include charging late fees and contacting parents about overdue books.

High school librarians often provide instructional discussions on conducting research, including searching the internet properly and finding books in the library. The librarian may also teach students to cite sources in their research and use encyclopedias.

A high school librarian usually administers the library’s budget and orders materials and resources for the library. Once the items are available, the librarian is often responsible for cataloging and storing the resources. This typically includes updating catalog records for the library’s computerized system.

A person in this job at any grade level is also responsible for planning, organizing, and implementing events held by the library. For instance, book fairs are often run by the school’s librarian. So, you can see how much work school librarians accomplish in a workday. They barely have the time to read their favorite books — but somehow, they fit that in, too.



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