It Doesn't Mean What You Think It Means

Perceptions of the School Librarian and Their Work


  • Elizabeth A. Gross



prospect theory, expected utility theory, decision to retain, school librarians, school libraries, school librarian status


A survey of stakeholders—superintendents, principals, and board members—explored their perceptions regarding the work of degreed librarians. Results showed that there is an understanding of school librarians’ contributions to student success in learning. When asked what the school librarian does, however, the responses focused on facilities management and read-for-pleasure suggestions. There is ample evidence that the work of the school librarian in the school community increases both standardized test scores and reading scores for an entire school where the librarian is a degreed teacher. Many of the respondents affirm that they are aware of these findings. The decision to retain a school librarian is often framed as a struggle between retaining a classroom teacher and retaining the librarian. Respondents said they understand the benefit of having a school librarian. However, the cognitive bias involved in thinking about the contributions of a school librarian does not secure the position of the school librarian. Prospect theory dictates that the decision to retain needs to be reframed in order to preserve access to school librarians’ contributions to the school community.