A spirited discussion marked the inaugural meeting of NYSUT’s new subject area committee for school librarians, which aims to raise the profile and confront the challenges of members working in this critical profession.
“This is a great opportunity,” said Jacqueline Derouchie, a committee member and school librarian with the Lyncourt Teachers Association who attended the group’s first meeting held earlier this month at NYSUT headquarters.
Committee members discussed book and material budgets, issues surrounding literacy and elementary school-librarian regulations — including the fact that in New York State elementary librarians are not mandated.
“If prisons are mandated to have librarians, then why aren’t schools?” asked Rosalia Carraba, a school librarian with the West Seneca Teachers Association.
Like some of the others on the committee, Derouchie’s journey to become a school librarian was not a direct route. Formerly a business teacher, her position was cut to part-time. She decided to go back to school and earn her master’s degree in library science. Her previous master’s was in instructional technology and media management, and she found the two degrees really tied in with one another.
Research, reading and technology are the tripod of tools for librarians. For example, in addition to keeping libraries properly outfitted with books for their collection, many school librarians are now charged with designing a web page, learning new technology and educating teachers on how to use it.
Nicole Carner of Greenwich worked as an English teacher before deciding to become a school librarian for grades 7-12. The web page she created for her library includes information about Teen Read Week, tech tools, school projects on display, and a book review about the most recent books she read.
NYSUT represents 1,745 school librarians in kindergarten through 12th grade, and another 353 college librarians within the State University of New York and City University of New York system. The statewide union also represents 104 librarians in other settings, primarily public libraries.
“I’m hoping to see if there’s a way we can have an impact on mandates,” Derouchie said of the panel’s work.
NYSUT has 13 subject area committees. Their charge is to relate information on initiatives, needs and programs relating to their specific areas of interest and advise NYSUT on timely concerns confronting their professions.