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Things I think teacher librarians should unlearn (20 & counting)

In a blog post today, Scott McLeod shared whathesaid’s list of the 10 things he believed teachers should unlearn.

Scott and whathesaid got me thinking about what ideas or beliefs our own subset of educators might also want to lose.  (I got carried away and I will probably continue to add to this list.)

A bunch of things I think teacher librarians should unlearn:

  1. That the little things really matter to those we serve and teach.  (For instance, whether or not we decide to shelve Mc and Mac together.)
  2. That Boolean logic is the best search strategy since sliced bread.
  3. That Wikipedia is bad, or less-than-good, in all contexts.
  4. That databases are the only online sources with value and credibility.
  5. That having a web presence, no–that having a really good and really useful web presence–is optional.
  6. That someone else is exclusively or ultimately responsible for learning relating to information and communication and search technologies.
  7. That the price initially quoted is the price you have to pay. (Thanks, Mom!)
  8. That issues relating to Fair Use are generally going to be answered with the word no.
  9. That no really means no or will continue to mean no when it comes to issues relating to access to the information and communication tools of today and intellectual freedom.
  10. That libraries should be quiet.
  11. That libraries should be tidy.
  12. That a library’s effectiveness and impact should be measured by the number of books it circulates.
  13. That your stakeholders automatically will know what you contribute to your school’s culture.
  14. That a library is merely a place to get stuff.
  15. That your collection should be just-in-case rather than just-in-time.
  16. That someone else is responsible for your professional development.
  17. That ubiquity won’t change your practice profoundly.
  18. That your library is bounded by its walls.
  19. That your library is open from 8 AM to 3 PM.
  20. That there is a box. (to think outside)

Wanna meme this one?

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. I love this list too!

    Just to clarify: that other list wasn’t mine. There’s a link at the bottom to the original source!

  2. Sorry Scott! And thanks. I edited for the correction.

  3. Great list! Especially numbers 10 and 11. And #2 is awesome. We are so beyond that now!

  4. Joyce –
    Great list! I was sent a link to this and will certainly forward it on to others.
    I just realized that I am not getting updated feeds to your blog using Google Reader. Have you heard from anyone else that is having this issue.? I just realized that the last automatic feed was for May and when I unsubscribed and resubscribed I still did not receive anything past May.

  5. This list is good for ALL librarians, particularly administrators, not just teacher librarians!

  6. beckyjohnson says:

    Great list. Great timing. I too like #10 & 11.

  7. I LOVE this list! Thanks for putting the twist on the original unlearning list by whathesaid. Some of my personal favorites are #12 & 13, #5 (yes!), and #16 & 17. I wonder how many more items we can add to this list? In fact, I’m thinking that the word “optional” should be added to the list. Optional is no longer an option for us. Imperative seems like a more appropriate watchword for our profession right now.

  8. Excuse my error in the attribution in the post above. The 10 things to unlearn is correctly attributed to whatedsaid – Sorry Ed!

  9. Hi, I’m Ed of whatedsaid :)

    I like your list even more than my original one. Especially #20.

  10. Joyce,
    Add another one:
    That all librarians are women.

  11. Christina says:

    I love this list – mostly. I am a 26-year-old, pretty digitally-savy school librarian. I guess I don’t understand why we need to do away with quiet, tidy libraries. What about technology eliminates the need for quiet spaces? It seems like there are less and less of them, but there are plenty of noisy spaces – cafes, cafeterias, etc. Quiet is not particularly profitable, imagine if you couldn’t talk at a Starbucks, but it is valuable. It’s a public service that libraries can offer, and I don’t want to abandon it so quickly.

  12. Fabulous list! I would add to #16: …that someone else is responsible for teacher’s professional development. If we do take charge of our personal learning, we are full of great things to share with others!

  13. I think numbers 3 and 4 are contradictory. Personally i think Wikipedia is a fine source- as a sta4rting place, not an ending place.

  14. Well done! Let’s tackle those memes, by questioning their connection and value in relation to what we are truely all about! I often find myself wondering if I should do a librarian course as I am now working in a Library (Learning Reource Centre) and then I look at what my Learning Resource Centre is all about and I realise that if I had been trained to see Booleen as the bees knees and that once the Reference section has failed me then the search is over (slight exageration) my LRC would be very quiet and very tidy and very boring!

  15. HD Librarian says:

    This list is great for me because it validates almost everything I aim to do in my library…and it’s nice to know that other librarians agree that quiet and tidy libraries are gone with the wind…. now if we can get elementary teachers to think the same way! I hope you don’t mind if I print this list out and post it in a prominent place for all to see! Thanks for sharing.

  16. Karen Kliegman says:

    Wonderful list that I will share with my fellow librarians and librarian grad students! I am in 100% agreement on all of them!

  17. That students can only check out two (pick any number) books for two weeks.
    That students can’t check out books over holidays.
    That the books in a library “belong” to the librarian.
    That we still need a reference section.

  18. Doug Bancks says:

    Thanks for creating this list Joyce. Makes one reflect.

    BYW, I too have not been getting the feeds to your blog via Google Reader since May. Not sure why this one came through though. Any suggestions to get connected again?

  19. Great list! I was delighted to get a new post on my Yahoo reader. I thought you had taken the summer off.

  20. This is a fantastic list! So timely, too. I love all of it.

  21. Gwyneth Jones says:

    Brilliant! And just in time for me to share with the librarians of my county….we’re talking advocacy and I can see that a lot of these mesh with that topic…heh heh heh!

  22. I’ve printed this out and stuck it up in our library office. Couldn’t choose my favourites – all spot on. This kind of list comes from extensive experience and deep understanding of what really matters in the school library. Thanks, Joyce. (Oops, that comma doesn’t really matter either…)

  23. ChiDragon8 says:

    In a world where chaos is becoming normal I think libraries should be a space where peace and quiet is guaranteed, especially at a school where we are influencing future generations. Not all schools have student body’s where everyone walks around with a I-Phone. Listen, there just needs to be balance between the old and the new and this list is quite impractical and somewhat disrespectful to a budding school librarian such as myself located in a underserved community.

  24. ChiDragon,
    I am sorry you found my list “disrespectful.” My library buzzes with activity. This activity is productive and exciting. I am not sure how peace and quiet really is a value that influences future generations. In fact, as a budding librarian in an underserved community, perhaps we need to help you find ways to connect your learners with some of the engaging learning tools they need to participate. It’s not merely about walking around with an iPhone, it is about learning to think, create knowledge, share, communicate, and make a difference in a networked world.

  25. Joyce and ChiDragon, I can relate to both of you. I was raised as a 21st century librarian in the US and now moved to Spain and work as a teacher librarian in a Spanish bilingual school (not international school, but a traditional Spanish school with mostly Spanish students). I came with the idea of a 21st century library and realized that the library concept in this school was somewhat medieval. I have changed some things (like using the library as a punishment place). In terms of a quiet place, the principal wanted a place were you can hear the movement of a fly. At the beginning, I decided to let students use the computers freely and be noisy. Even a mother one time shush me!! and librarians were used to shush from their desks. Anyway, in one point, we needed to start being stricter with the quiet policy. Being a school in an old part of town, silence is valued and appreciated. The school and the streets that surround it are VERY noisy, and Spaniards also talk with loud voices. So, the library even though it’s not very big and serve kids from 3rd to 12th grade (around 800 students), it’s is the only place were you can find a little bit of peace and quiet. It has became a very popular place though. Instead of asking for quiet, what we are asking students is to be productive. It’s not quiet by all means (but quieter than outside its walls) since many of the tasks students need to do in these days are in collaboration with each other, I told librarians to change the shushing attitude and now they walk around and make connection with kids instead of shushing. I think that what’s more important it’s the atmosphere a library creates than how quiet it is, since that is a relative term.

  26. I have to vote for school libraries that strive to be somewhat quiet, neat and organized. Not tomb or church-funeral quiet, but not the caf either. Students tell me they appreciate being able to come to the library for the quiet. Many students need this as a respite and as a model. Maybe we’re just talking about degrees.

  27. Janet Sager says:

    To this list I would add: The librarian needs to stay in the library.


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