According to the CBSE manual which highlights the factors involved for accreditation of any school, the library is an essential factor. Or rather a mandatory feature for a school. Yet very little has been done to improve the status of school libraries and school librarians over the years. There is no particular governing body or school association where school librarians can put forward their grievances or share their desire for improvement via training and special instruction. The professional course for librarianship does not prepare for a career in school librarianship. It does cover academic libraries but the starting point of any child’s education which is school and the school library is given a passing mention. Besides training in classification and cataloging not much is there concerning a school library.
School Libraries are the heart of any institution. A school with a well-stocked library and a proactive trained librarian will always be an edge above the others. Schools with well-functioning libraries show better performance in language, communication skills, research and helps in creating 21st-century learners. The role of a school librarian has undergone an immense transition in the past few years. From being a mere bookkeeper, he/she is now known as an information specialist, library program coordinator, research coordinator, library, and media specialist. The list is long. The worrying side of this story is that there is no parity in this among the school librarians. Not all are given the same respect or have the same magnitude in their professional lives.
In many schools, there is still the need for an awakening that a librarian can do much more beyond books if he/she is given an opportunity and essential training. This was best revealed under the circumstances post-Covid, where innovative school librarians stepped up and showed the world that we are education warriors. But do we get due credit?? The answer is sadly no. Post-Covid, librarians across the world had to take on a heavy yoke which most often carried no relief or reward.
My counterparts across the world lost their jobs as it is easy for a school that is functioning online mostly, to do away with a librarian since it works in a physical set-up. Little do these realize the negative impact of this action. Schools fail to see the significance of engaging a librarian in online teaching. When the world suddenly moved to digital mode, they needed to take the librarian and use the skills to help the school community. Cost cutting and strict budgets made librarians lose their jobs than other professionals in a school set-up.
In the Pre- Covid times, schools, where the librarian did nothing more than the mundane lending and borrowing of books, saw the maximum backlash of cost-cutting. The job was not required Post-Covid and hence removed without any guilt.
If I talk about India the situation only gets worse. In government schools, there is no librarian in most cases. In schools where there is a librarian, he/she has been asked to go on indefinite leave putting it under a slightly soft umbrella of a sabbatical. In private/ public schools, the scene is better though not completely. In some schools where the Heads understand and appreciate the value of a librarian, the staff has been engaged in online library lessons where the librarian connects with the students remotely with storytelling lessons, read-aloud sessions, etc. These librarians have surfaced as education warriors in India wherein they took the mantle of connecting students with books through the digital medium. Library crossed the physical borders and reached the homes of each child. Librarians made resources available to support teaching and learning through blogs, virtual libraries, E libraries, and so on. Some librarians have been assigned co-teaching duties, teaching other subjects like language skills & GK, after school activities for reading clubs, or engaging in debates, competitions, and school events. During this pandemic, librarians have taken on different roles which are distinct from their usual role. But it must not be mistaken in believing that the position of a librarian is anything less or something that can be relegated. It is rather a time to recognize the librarians as highly adaptive, flexible, and versatile.
On the ground level, the key issues remain the same. Lack of training in digital tools, the undervalued role of the librarian, lack of understanding from Heads, increasing use of librarian as an activity teacher, all contribute to the position of a Librarian being undermined and not given the due worth we deserve.