The Cult of Pedagogy Podcast, Episode 226

Jennifer Gonzalez, Host

GONZALEZ: Here’s what I used to think a librarian did: (1) organize and fiercely protect large collections of books, (2) check those books out to visitors, and (3) shush people. As libraries started to house more technology, I added a fourth role: manage and protect the tech. That was about it.

But over the last ten years, whenever I set out to find information about teaching strategies, educational resources, technology for schools, or pretty much anything related to improving learning for our students, someone would inevitably pipe up and say, “Librarians can also help with that.” 

And now that I’ve finally taken the time to learn more, I realize I had no idea just how many things librarians can do for classroom teachers. If your school is lucky enough to have a full-time certified librarian, it’s likely they are not being utilized to their full capacity. In fact, your school may be one of a growing number of schools that are eliminating librarians altogether, and that is a mistake.

In this episode, my goal is to explore all the ways a certified school librarian can make teachers’ work easier, more efficient, and more effective, and to make a strong case for why every school needs one. 

I’ve invited four accomplished librarians to help me: the first three are K.C. Boyd, Karina Quilantan-Garza, and Lauren Mobley, all current librarians who have been nationally recognized for their public work to advance the cause of librarians. The fourth is Barbara Paciotti, a retired librarian with over a decade of experience who now works for me, curating my content on Pinterest and keeping a sharp eye on all of my past work to make sure it stays accurate and useful. If there is anyone whose voice has been most persistently in my ear about making more space for librarians on Cult of Pedagogy, it’s Barbara’s. All four educators have fantastic online platforms where you can learn more from them — if you come over to the site, click the Podcast page, and go to episode 226, you’ll find links to all their resources, plus a full transcript of our conversation and links to all the stuff we talk about in this episode.

Before I play our conversation, I’d like to thank our sponsor, WeVideo, a cloud-based interactive video platform used by millions of educators and students. With WeVideo, educators have everything they need to create dynamic learning opportunities in the classroom. Easily assign pre-made video projects in just a few clicks and collaborate with learners in real-time. Embed interactive elements like multiple choice questions, free responses, and discussion prompts into new or existing video content, and watch engagement soar. Meet students where they are, in a medium they love, and develop crucial 21st-century skills like creativity, communication, critical thinking, and collaboration. WeVideo makes it easy to create videos, podcasts, GIFs, and more — no matter who you are. Try WeVideo today and maximize engagement, retention, and performance in the classroom. Visit to learn more.

Support also comes from The Modern Classrooms Project, which empowers educators to meet every student’s needs. Created by educators, for educators, the Modern Classrooms Project can help you create your own instructional videos, design structures to support self-paced learning, and ensure that each of your students achieves mastery. Join their free online course to learn the basics, or sign up for their Virtual Mentorship Program, where their experts will prepare you to launch a Modern Classroom of your own. If you’re ready to transform teaching, visit to start learning now.

Now here’s my conversation with Karina Quilantan-Garza, Lauren Mobley, Barbara Paciotti, and K.C. Boyd about school librarians.

GONZALEZ: Welcome. I’ve got four fantastic librarians here, and I am going to start by having them just introduce themselves and tell us a little bit about who they are. So I’m going to just go in the order of my screen. Lauren, why don’t you go first? 

MOBLEY: I knew I was going to be first. Yay. Just felt it. Hi, everyone. My name is Lauren Mobley. I am a middle school librarian in Atlanta, Georgia. I have been a school librarian for three years and am really passionate about getting kids who don’t have any interest in reading somehow engaged. So I’m all about collection development, sharing resources to support teachers and other librarians with kind of flipping their collections and making their spaces from dormant into dynamic places that everyone wants to be. I also host a school librarian podcast called Library on Lock. So I’m so happy to be here and really excited to be with you, Jenn. So thank you. 

GONZALEZ: Oh, thank you. All right. Karina, let’s hear from you next. 

QUILANTAN-GARZA: All right. Well, hi everyone. My name is Karina Quilantan-Garza, usually just go by Q on social media. I am a middle school librarian media specialist in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas. So I live and work on the U.S.-Mexico border in deep South Texas. So most if not all of my students are bilingual or dominantly Spanish speaking. And my campus prides itself on bilingual education programs and access. So that’s usually what I do is offer library services in both languages. It’s a tri-city district. It’s comprised of about 40 or more schools, so it’s a pretty, pretty big task. In addition to that, I’m a university instructor and a doctoral candidate researching librarian professional development. I’ve been recognized as the Texas Library Association Librarian of the Year. Last year, I was honored to be the School Library Journal Librarian of the Year finalist and the Library Journal Mover and Shaker. 

GONZALEZ: Oh that’s a cool title. Okay. Next, Barbara? 

PACIOTTI: I wrote it down. My name is Barbara Paciotti. I’m in the Dallas, Texas, metroplex. I have a master in library science and certified in the state of Texas. I became a school librarian in 2000 right on the cusp of technology, and my Title I middle school was the smallest, but we had the highest diversity and transience in our district. And then in 2005, we received the highest number of middle school students from Hurricane Katrina, which was a challenge. Then in 2008 we became accredited as an international baccalaureate school. So I loved all of these challenges, I really did. But in 2013, at the end of the year, I had to retire due to health reasons, but I still maintain an online presence and try to continue contributing to librarianship online. 

GONZALEZ: Thank you so much. Finally, we have K.C. 

BOYD: Greetings. My name is K.C. Boyd. I am a middle school librarian, currently working for the District of Columbia public school system. This is my seventh year working at Jefferson Academy and my 25th year working in school libraries. I was blessed to be awarded with the 2015 Mover and Shaker award, awarded by Library Journal, and I’m also the 2020 School Librarian of the Year awarded by School Library Journal magazine. Thank you. 

GONZALEZ: Congratulations on that. All right. So we, we’ve got a couple of goals here. The first thing we’re going to talk about, and I mentioned this as we were talking earlier, is that over the course of the years of doing this, I had a lot of times when I reach out to, you know, my audience in various spaces to give me advice on, you know, ideas for classroom lessons or instructional things. Inevitably, somebody will pipe up and say, “Don’t forget that your school librarian can also be a huge resource to help teachers with this.” And, you know, I felt like that voice kept coming up, and I thought, let’s just really focus at first on, I think a lot of teachers don’t know, are not aware of all of the things that a trained librarian can actually do to support them as teachers. So what I would love to do is have each of you share at least one thing that, you know, is sort of on your heart of things that you sort of wish teachers knew that librarians could do for teachers. K.C., why don’t you start us off? 

BOYD: Sure. School librarians have a wealth of knowledge and understanding and practice with technology. Oftentimes my colleagues just think all I know is just, you know, the books and print materials, research. And then they kind of look at me like, whoa, you know how to, you know, get the smart board running. You know how to use iPads and link all of the apps and build websites and use Canvas, which is a tool that we have in my district to, you know, as a learning platform that really helps our students with their workflow as well as Clever, which is a wonderful landing page for all of our, you know, resources that we use online. And I always get this look like, wow, you know, or just like recently, we’re going through hiring some new employees. And I had to remind, “Remember, I could help in this area. You guys can spend all this money on this employee, and you have someone here that has the experience.” So sometimes I think they forget, and we just have to nudge them a little bit and make them remind, just remind themselves that, remind them that, you know, we can support, greatly, teaching and learning in the classroom. 

GONZALEZ: All right. So that technology piece is really, is really important. Karina, what about you? What do you think is something teachers need to know? 

QUILANTAN-GARZA: Well I think that there’s this misconception that the school librarian is only in charge of books. And that usually hinders what type of collaboration we can potentially do with the teachers. So one of the most surprising things that I usually bring up to people that work on my campus is I’m not just books. This space is not just about books. Yes, there’s definitely a heavy technology component, especially now in the era of AI. We’re usually the first line of defense, not just to learn the tool but also to evaluate the tool. And what they learn throughout the year, just like K.C. mentioned, I have actually a campus now with many new teachers and because some of them are fresh out of the teaching certification program, something that those programs don’t mention is the value of school librarians on their teaching. So my job, in addition to yes, reading promotion and resource curation are collaborative projects. And because our role is so encompassing of cross-curricular units, I try to make sure and advocate that I can facilitate those collaborative partnerships between not just the teacher and I but also their entire class and across subject areas. Because teachers in their content areas also kind of work in silos, and in Texas we’re very assessment-heavy due to the state exams that they have to take. So it’s a lot of having to overcome the stigma of well, we’re just focusing on the test, and this is what we can do and having to convince them that their participation and their involvement in library lessons can also be a line to what it is that they’re teaching, and it’s not a waste of time. It’s helpful because I’m trying to target all these different skills all at once, and they don’t know that until they experience it. So I try to build partnerships with at least one or two teachers first, and then they kind of spread the word and they realize that the librarian and the library is more than just quiet spaces with just books. It can be rowdy, it can be messy, and that’s what I hope that they gain when they visit. So I love it when they’re surprised, when they walk in, they’re like, “Oh my God, it’s not quiet in here.” I’m like, “Yeah, dude. I am the loudest one.” So keep libraries loud, you know. 

GONZALEZ: Yeah. That’s great. That really does fly right in the face of sort of the, the stereotype of what a library is. Lauren, what about you? 

MOBLEY: So I think that something teachers should know about librarians and how they can support them is by bringing so many creative ideas. And what I mean by that is of course, you know, we’re over the books and we do technology, but if they’re ever stumped and it’s like, “How do I approach this?” or “I need an idea,” they can always come to the school librarian and get some type of creative support and ideas for their class or some type of lesson that will enhance their instruction by making the lesson more engaging or fun and of course hitting all those standards, like Karina mentioned. I also wanted to say that they may not realize that the library of course is a safe space for students but it’s also a safe space for them. I have a lot of teachers who will come, and they just want to take a second, they just want to take a second to sit down or maybe they want to vent to me. 


MOBLEY: So really, it’s a, it’s a space where everybody, you know, is welcome, including them. So if they need to get away and take a minute, they’re welcome to do that too. And of course get ideas when they feel like, “I don’t know what to do.” 

GONZALEZ: Yeah. Do you, is that part of like a library science degree, is the instructional strategies? Or is it just, I’m seeing everybody nodding, yeah. 

QUILANTAN-GARZA: Yes. A lot of our programs also teach us the instruction design process. So while they’re focusing on the content, we’re also trained to develop instructional materials and assess technology tools that’ll fit seamlessly into their instruction. And that’s something that I don’t think they know either is that we’re trained in so many different areas and across different subjects. We’re not just helping the ELA classes, which is often a huge misconception, just the reading and writing classes. We know a lot about mathematic tools and apps and different databases for social studies. And how else are we going to maximize these resources unless we’re building those relationships with the teachers? And that comes from educating them first. 

GONZALEZ: Yeah. I don’t, I don’t think a lot of teachers know that. Definitely not. 

PACIOTTI: I don’t think a lot of teachers realize that most school librarians were actually teachers for a while before they became librarians. 


PACIOTTI: And in many states, it’s required that you have teaching experience. So we get additional education about integrating various things into subject areas, so we come with our own background in education plus our additional learning that we’ve gotten from our advanced graduate education. 

GONZALEZ: Right. Barbara, what else would you add to this question about things that teachers don’t know? 

PACIOTTI: Well I want to make a shameless plug for The Teacher’s Guide to Tech. I think every school librarian must have that in order to —

GONZALEZ: Okay, that’s my thing, so she’s plugging my thing. 

PACIOTTI: — in order to be the tech guru of the building. One of the things that I think is real important is building research partnerships with teachers that don’t realize how important that, it is that we can do that. I actually went through and identified 46 national standards for middle school in various subject areas that either require or align with students doing research. And I usually try to actually create a lesson with a subject area, and then take the lesson to the teacher so they can actually see visibly that this is what I can do to enhance your classroom activities. The other thing that I do is at the beginning of the year, I have actually a teacher orientation, much like the student orientations that we have. And I, I send out little invitations for them, and I customize parts of the library for different subject areas by displaying resources that we have and putting catalogs for additional resources that they can look through and suggest items to purchase. And I also have a little online activity on one of the databases that they can access for their particular subject area. And so they actually can see how to use that online project. And the other, the other thing that I’m real big on is I, when I learned about a kanban, I went nuts because it’s a board that shows the progress of what you’re doing. And I found it to be so valuable. I actually had it in my office initially, and actually moved it out into the library bulletin board next to my circulation counter because it shows everybody what you’re doing. Because there’s an online Google Doc that has 116 things that librarians do, and more than half of them were what I call invisible work. They’re not seen. But when we have something like a kanban there where they can document all the projects that we’re working on for them and for their students, they come to realize what an important part of the campus and the curriculum that we really are. 

GONZALEZ: Yeah, yeah. I can sort of hear the brains of librarians all over the place sort of like popping right now with ideas. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sat in a faculty meeting in a library of the school and not, not ever been toured around that librarian by the librarian to show what I can use as the teacher. And yet we’re always gathering in those spaces, and so we bring our kids in there, but it’s never been something directed to the faculty. So I think that’s a really great idea. 

PACIOTTI: Plus I have food. 

GONZALEZ: Food is absolutely necessary. 

MOBLEY: Actually, I got this idea from K.C., that I needed to speak at the beginning during pre-planning, not post-planning, pre-planning, and let my teachers know, you know, I’m available and this is what I can do. 


MOBLEY: And so I have a menu of services of, like, here’s the rundown on what I can offer you. Of course, the paper wasn’t enough. I kind of had to advocate for myself and my program. 


MOBLEY: But by being vocal, like, “Hey, I’m here to help,” made me more accessible and made overall it more welcoming for them to come and approach me. 

GONZALEZ: Right. It sounds like school librarians have to do a lot of their own PR within their buildings to just let people know, here’s what I can do for you. So that’s great. Anybody else, before we move to the next question? Want to, like, throw something else out there that teachers should be aware of? 

BOYD: Yeah, you know that we have degrees and many of us have multiple advanced degrees. I remember when I first got started working at my school in D.C., I put on my signature line all three of my master’s degrees, you know, the acronyms for it. And I had a couple of teachers, they were like, “Whoa, you have to get a degree in library information science?” See, and that’s where that conversation comes in in terms of it’s actually a program, it’s a curriculum that has to be followed. You are professionally trained. You just can’t jump into this position, and this is one of the reasons why it’s taken me three weeks before I could open the library up because the person that was in it beforehand decided to genrefy, got frustrated halfway through the process and quit. So these are little things that, that come up. And it’s a teachable moment, and it’s also helpful for everyone to get to know each other in terms of what the skillset is because that’s what is valuable, you know, in today’s school is the importance of using all of that talent in your building so you can support students to the highest capacity that, you know, you can possibly support them in. 

GONZALEZ: Absolutely. So I have been made aware slightly, but you all probably know better than I do that school librarians are at risk right now for several reasons. My understanding is that, that jobs are being cut in a lot of schools and we are aware of the fact that these broader anti-CRT or anti-woke movement librarians are kind of on the frontlines of that also. So let’s talk a little bit more about where these threats are coming from and, you know, sort of what’s going on. So Barbara, you’re going to take this one first, and then we’ll have everybody else add to that. 

PACIOTTI: Yeah, I just I, I came across this called the SLIDE report for School Librarian Investigation — Decline or Evolution? And there’s so much information in here, but I’m going to try to parse it as much as I can. In the 2021-22 school year, according to NCES data, 7.1 million U.S. Students were in districts that had no, no school librarians. That is 35 percent of all local school districts. I find that astounding. 


PACIOTTI: This report, it’s a research study on the decline of school librarians about, and it covers the decade preceding COVID. Between 2010 and 2019, school librarians decreased by 20 percent, but teachers were reduced by only a little over 1 percent. During that same time period, instructional coordinators increased by 34 percent, district administrators by more than 16 percent, and school administrators by more than 15 percent. So clearly admin were more important than school librarians. 


PACIOTTI: And that’s something directly from the report. This is actually a quote from the report. “School funding alone is not sufficient to explain the presence or absence of librarians in the district. Surprisingly, districts spending the most and least per pupil are more likely to have school librarians than districts in between.” I thought that was pretty interesting too. And finally, summarizing, schools who lost and are without librarians are predominantly high poverty and non-white Hispanic with high numbers of English language learners. And the, one of the people that did this research project, he’s Curry Lance who’s a leader in our industry, in our profession, rather, said what our analysis of this data shows is much more alarming than the decline by itself. It’s the inequity of the decline. Not everyone is losing their school librarians, but the ones who can least afford to lose them. And then the co-author of this, Debra Kachel, says that students who seem to benefit from and need school librarians the most were in the districts that were less likely to have them. It’s really an equity issue. And I think that’s something that’s important for us to address is that there’s so much controversy going on now about equity and social justice. And I don’t know that people realize that librarians are caught up in that, not just because of the banned book issue but, but because of the whole idea of having a school librarian at all. 

GONZALEZ: Mhmm. Karina, I’m going to go to you next because this seems very close to sort of your own background in terms of getting a library going, if I’m remembering your story correctly, that you sort of were able to raise funds for a library to even exist in a school that didn’t have one?

QUILANTAN-GARZA: Well, when I first, when I started teaching, I worked at two schools. One was a middle school, the other was labeled as a junior high. And they did not have a full-time librarian and it was actually closed off to the teachers. One of them was due to litigation because of a hurricane that passed through our area, and the other one, well, was because of not having a school librarian. When I, and I think that’s what motivated me to go into the library and become a librarian was because as an ELA teacher, I knew, I was a library kid, right, growing up. I knew that my job was to provide rich literary experiences for my students. A huge indicator of success for my students because they live on the border and a lot of them can be considered undocumented, don’t have the means to travel or get these experiences to give them that background knowledge. So I tried to fill that gap by the readings that I offered in the classroom. And when we finally got a librarian at one of my campuses and, you know, having these conversations with her, she was the one that encouraged me to go to library school. When I made it into the library, there was, oh gosh, I did a collection analysis and less than 5 percent of our bilingual collection was, you know, books in Spanish, I mean. It was, it was pretty sad state of affairs at that point, right, because here I am trying to promote a bilingual library and not having books in Spanish for my students. So I had to look for grants to help me fill that need. And even though it was, it was something that I did and I got several grants funded, it still isn’t enough, in the end. It still isn’t enough. And I think, and this is just my opinion, but I think what needs to happen are more grassroots movements from librarians and educators to convince these political stakeholders and help them realize that funding is so important. Granted, education funding is so important, right. 


QUILANTAN-GARZA: Every year I hear that there’s cutbacks. Every year that I, every year I hear that roles are being cut. Like, in Houston just recently they made their library centers detention centers, and they said it was to increase reading scores, literacy scores. Right? How that makes sense, I have no idea, right, because that, that is a logic I do not understand. Even as a parent, I can’t imagine seeing my kid go to his library and see nothing but desks in rows instead of a librarian doing read alouds and working with Ozobots and helping teachers. It takes the spirit out of what we call the heart of the school. And a lot of it comes from the misconceptions about our role, and that’s something that we’ve already discussed, right. There’s a lot of emphasis on standardized testing and schools prioritize testing resources and staffing towards the subjects that are directly tested. And it marginalizes the support for library programs and librarians. 


QUILANTAN-GARZA: And they may view us as outdated or irrelevant, and it’s a failure to recognize that our roles are in constant evolution. We’re evolving as hubs for information literacy, resource support, research support, and technology integration in addition to literacy. So we face a lot of these challenges and as much as we try to do to advocate strong advocacy efforts, I think these decision makers may just overlook the contributions that we, that we make. And it’s so important, like you said, we’re our own marketers and our own PR, which is why I make it a habit to put out a six-week newsletter at the end of the six weeks and tag everybody on social media. Create a social media account, not just for myself but also the school library. Offer news bulletins. Put out tech tutorials for the teachers, for the students, for the parents, in English and Spanish. And everything that I can possibly do not only because I know that it’s the right thing to do but I also have standards that I need to, to, to hit, right? Not just the knowledge and skills standards for each subject area but also the Texas library standards, the AASL standards, looking at the Future Ready learning frameworks, and ISTE standards. And that’s what people don’t realize is that we’re taking into consideration all of these things, and we’re trying to shift the mindset because there are changing educational priorities. Yeah. 

GONZALEZ: Who would like to go next? We’ve got Lauren and K.C. that you can go next on this, on this topic of the, the decrease in librarians.

MOBLEY: I’ll piggyback. Great points, Karina. That, you know, it’s so important to advocate in. This is, I think social media is a really big component now. Of course, you know, community newsletters, and I’m so enamored by Mychal Threets, the public librarian, and I hope that some of that will spread, some of that love for libraries that he’s kind of generating will spread to school librarians. Because a lot of it is they just don’t know, and they think that it’s supposed to be a quiet place. They don’t know we do technology. They don’t know we have all of these skills and these degrees. And you can, you know, shout it from the rooftops, but it kind of takes a community of everybody and a mindset shift like Karina mentioned about what’s possible and what we do so that everyone can see our value. And it, it really is disheartening that we have to prove our value because I don’t think that it’s like that for other positions. So we’re always kind of fighting to, to show, “Hey, I’m a resource. I can do this. I can help you. I have all these tools.” You know, it’s, it’s hard work, but if we all pitch in and do it, then it can make a big difference. 

GONZALEZ: K.C., what do you think about all of this? 

BOYD: I work at a district that is under mayoral control, and when you unpack that and you look at different large urban cities across the country, many of them are under mayoral control. So that means you have more people sitting at the table making some decisions that are not exactly, they don’t exactly have a background in education. In the case of my district, we have someone that is not, that does not work under the umbrella of the school district, but their, their, their job is aligned to supporting the work that we do. Ironically, they were a superintendent. And so I say all that to say that sometimes the threats can come from within your organization. In the case of my district, we had an individual that led a pledge to say, you know, librarians aren’t needed. We’re trying to cut the budget. We’re trying to raise scores. We’re going to enact a lot of reading-based automation programs, a computer essentially, you know, to really get the kids reading. And we’re going to, you know, especially in the Black and brown neighborhoods, we’re going to close down the library programs. And that’s what happened in my district now going on four years ago. It was right in the middle of the pandemic, you know, when all this was going down. And it’s really a shame, because I look at some districts that have adopted this mindset of, you know, those from within don’t value the program. In many cases, they don’t understand the program. They haven’t looked at other districts with similar, other districts that are very similar in terms of do they have a lot of Title I kids, do they have these issues, you know, and this type of population. And they looked, they, if they were to look at some districts that are thriving, that have school librarians, they wouldn’t make some of those decisions. But they don’t want to because they’re determined to bring in programming. 


BOYD: Or experts at paying for relocation services and very large fees to pay these people to come in and do consulting, which in many cases, from my experience of 25 years, I haven’t really benefited from a tremendous amount of consultants that have come in. They’re in, they’re out, one or two years and that’s it. 


BOYD: But the thing that really just rocks my boat is that how folks want to just wipe off the library program with a stroke of a pen, and they don’t recognize the hurt and the problems that occur as well as some of them have had the mindset of, “We have public libraries. We don’t need a school librarian.” That’s where our disconnect is right there. You don’t understand. It’s two different types of programming, and we’re with the kids all day long. We understand the curriculum, for crying out loud. So threats from within are very serious. And though in our case it’s calmed down, it’s going to ramp back up and it’ll ramp back up every couple of years, and we have to get on that, that, that boat of, you know, we have to advocate for ourselves and pull the entire community behind us. But it’s a shame that we have to deal with this, internal threats. 

GONZALEZ: Yeah. That’s, I mean and also that, that consumes a lot of your time and resources that could otherwise be spent supporting teachers and —

BOYD: Oh God yes, oh God yes. It’s very difficult and it’s mentally draining. 

GONZALEZ: Yes. And it’s funny because we talk so much in this profession too about teachers not having enough time to do what they need to do. And when you bring in a consultant or add a program, that’s just one, that’s, the teachers still have to do that stuff. Whereas if you’re getting supported by a librarian in your building, they can actually take a little bit off of your plate and add support as opposed to just handing you more and more stuff that you have to do on your own. Barbara, what did you want to say? 

PACIOTTI: I was going to say, I really, I appreciated the comment that you made, but one of the other things that I want to add that I think is a real danger to our profession, not just as school librarians but to education, is that even in schools where there is still a school library, the librarian, the certified librarian is being replaced by a clerk, basically somebody that may not, may barely have a high school diploma, may not have any kind of advanced education. They’re a support staff person. And they bring them in to merely check out books. And one of the things I am on probably about a dozen different Facebook groups that I’m active on. One of the things that I’ve discovered is so many of these, these ladies and gentlemen are coming on saying, “Please help me. Please help me. I don’t know what to do.” They, they have the best intentions, but they have had no training. Most of them aren’t even teachers. So they’ve been thrust into this position because administration does not understand what the value that a school librarian brings, not just the school library. So I think that’s another thing that really needs to be a concern of ours. I like to call them understudy librarians because they’re trying very hard to learn what they need to do for the kids. But the more often that this kind of thing happens, the less likely teachers are, in that building, are going to be to understand and learn what a librarian can do for them. The less likely that librarian will be replaced, and that’s one of the things that the SLIDE report brought out, that of the librarians who have been lost, none of them, none of them have been replaced. That we are sending a whole generation of kids to college with absolutely no background in libraries or research. 

GONZALEZ: I was going to ask, you know, with all of these positions closing, it sounds like one of two things that happens is they will either just close the whole library period and not let anybody in or hire what you’re saying is like a clerk or somebody who just will check books in and out, just basically running the logistics of books, and that’s it. Does that sound to the rest of you that’s about what you’re seeing in terms of when these positions are getting closed? 

QUILANTAN-GARZA: Yeah. I’ve seen that happen here in Texas. And although there’s a library clerk to, let’s say, push the books, how well versed are they in literature trends and different techniques to promote those books? And knowledge about authors, knowledge about genres, the knowledge needed to sustain a well-diversified collection of non-fiction materials for either leisure or research purposes. And even if there is a library clerk, what I’ve seen a lot of times is that they’re eventually pulled out for different duties, be it subbing for a class or covering the front office. They’re more than likely never in the library full time, and what needs to happen is just a shift in mindset for the people that are making these decisions, these policymakers, because I think their conceptions of librarians and libraries are stemmed from their own experiences of libraries when they were kids. And what we’re trying to do is promote a new generation of well celebrated and beautifully crafted library programs that engage not just the students but teachers and reach the overall community. 

GONZALEZ: The part you mentioned about the knowledge of literature and genres. I mean that really resonated with me because what K.C. was saying about schools just wanting to bring programs in, and those reading programs. And those are, the ones that I remember seeing back in the day were never really literature based. The writing that students were reading were just passages created by test creators. They were not the kind of reading that were really going to create readers, basically. And so if we’re replacing good books with just passages for students to read for comprehension, these kids are never really going to develop the skills to be really lifelong readers. And a trained librarian is going to, it sounds like is going to really help with that, in terms of recommendations and advice to teachers and that sort of thing. So we have this situation going on now where we’re losing schools. And I’m even thinking, some people may be listening to this thinking, “Huh, you’re saying my librarian should be able to do all this, but the person working in my library can’t do all that.” Because maybe it’s somebody who’s just been thrown in there without any of this training. So if teachers and parents are listening to this thinking, “What can we do about this?” Are there any things that can be done in terms of trying to offer some support for a movement toward, you know, supporting more of these full-time positions of librarians with degrees in the building? K.C.? 

BOYD: Go to your school board meeting and ask the questions why. Why has the library program been closed? Why do, why don’t we have a certified librarian? What measures are you taking to find certified librarians? Why is it that this librarian is working on multiple campuses within the district? You know, there’s a whole lot of explanations they will give. “Oh, well we don’t have, we can’t find any.” Well first of all, they don’t check School Library Journal and also the boards for school librarians. You have to recruit a school librarian a little differently than a classroom teacher. You know what I’m saying? But, but, you know, it’s, it takes a joint effort, it takes an effort of, of being consistent and not taking an excuse, many times a flimsy excuse, you know. A New York, New York City administrator was saying, “Well they’re just not getting their degrees anymore.” They are. We are still getting our degrees in library science. But here’s the thing. We will not go into these districts where there’s a massive exodus every four to five years. That’s a waste of our time. And I’m sorry. A classroom teacher wouldn’t do that either. 


BOYD: So let’s just be real about that. So, you know, you know, go to the school board and be a nuisance. That’s what I say. 

GONZALEZ: Yeah. It sounds like in order, like maybe some preparation for that if people are a little bit further behind on that would be to just get to ask the questions around your district, around your building to find out even, what is our situation? Do we have a, is the person who works in our library a clerk or are they a certified librarian? How did that happen? Are they, are they running out of the building, you know, every day because they’re actually serving several different schools? And maybe, maybe a lot of teachers are just so busy and overwhelmed that they don’t actually know what their current, you know, offerings even are. And then yeah, go, go to your districts. What else? What other things, maybe, are things that we can be doing? 

QUILANTAN-GARZA: I would say investing in your own professional development. Inviting teachers and administrators to library conferences. There’s something that we have at the Texas Library Association Conference annually called Teacher Day. And librarians are encouraged to invite teachers from their campuses to come to the conference and learn about what we do. And I love that initiative and I love that program because the teachers eventually learn about what we do and not just, “Oh, the books, and the technology,” but getting to know the community, getting to know the people that run not just their own library spaces but how we connect with other librarians to empower each other in this profession that is being subjected to some pretty hostile decisions. And like K.C. had mentioned, staying consistent, administrators love data, anything with data. So if I approach my administrator about a potential service or program that I want to implement, sometimes I do it without permission and just ask for forgiveness later. But if it’s asking for funding for something specific, be it more books for Battle of the Books or, you know, to, to update a certain area in my collection, I present them with data as part of my argument. You know, you want the students to read this much? This is where we’re at only because these are the books that are not being circulated due to their age or because they’ve been so used that they’re ready for weeding. And I make sure to go with an argument backed up by data, be it the infographics that we create every six weeks, also at the end of every term, about how many visits we’ve had, how many classes have been seen, how many books have been circulated. And tracking all of that and either putting it all together in a newsletter or an infographic or even just an email goes a long way. And something that could be done, just like Lauren said, social media has been very useful, a lot of collaboration with the public relations department if the district has one has been extremely beneficial for our department in our district. And I commend our district librarians for staying consistent with that because it has helped us a lot. 

GONZALEZ: Barbara, you’ve got an advocacy tool kit that you’re recommending. Can you tell us a little bit about that? 

PACIOTTI: Yeah, the American Association of School Librarians has prepared an advocacy tool kit. It’s a free download and I’ve got the link there. And I think that it’s real helpful because a lot of school librarians may want to do something to advocate more for their library, but they aren’t quite sure what to do. And this advocacy tool kit is a way for them to learn what they can do to make their position and their library and their library program more visible in the school community. So I think it’s, you know, I, I think it’s worth mentioning. 

GONZALEZ: Yeah. I’ll make sure that the link to that goes in the, the blog post that’s going to go with this conversation. 

PACIOTTI: Something else I wanted to add too that I think would, would make a big difference and thank you so much, Jennifer, for doing this. Because it’s national educational bloggers like you that will get this message out to not just other teachers but to other administrators because I know a lot of the blogs that I follow are used often by higher educational personnel. And so making them more aware of the situation and making them more aware of the value that we offer I think is a good thing. Certainly teachers will, after listening to this podcast and reading the blog, will be so much more aware of what their school librarian can do for them. And if, as you say, they go to the school librarian and talk to the person and that person doesn’t know what to do, then because they’re not a school librarian, then that’s going to make those teachers say hey, why don’t we have a school librarian? So on the national level I think that people who address the, the national education community as a whole can be very helpful in making this the information that we share here more well known. 

GONZALEZ: Yeah, I hope so. K.C.? 

BOYD: I want to piggyback a little bit on what Barbara said. AASL, of course, is an organization that many of us pay membership into that is there to support us. But I truly believe in order to fight these fights that are very new to the field of library, library information science as it pertains to school librarianship, we have to spread our reach out to other organizations that have specialties in dealing with advocacy. One I’m thinking about off the top of my head is EveryLibrary. EveryLibrary was very, very instrumental in our win in D.C. because EveryLibrary understands the political side of librarianship and how to get those wins and get on the referendums and get us to be a part of a talking point for a particular candidate. And see, I didn’t know anything about that. Because the only thing I did was just go to voting booth and vote, cast my vote and I was gone, you know. 


BOYD: I didn’t understand all this other stuff about, you know, the political side of this. And John Chrastka, who is the president of EveryLibrary, taught us just that. PEN America can’t say enough about them. PEN America has really stood up for school librarians in this fight with dealing with all this craziness, you know, in terms of us trying to just wade through all these problems that just have come to our front doorstep with book bans. And they have stood very strong and tall with us. And of course, NEA. NEA has really been a big help to us as well. So, you know, here you have three different organizations that have three different focuses. Some of them are strictly for libraries and some are just for education, period. But at the end of the day, they’re here to support and help. And I think that we do have to stretch beyond the American Library Association, which is great but the more voices we have in this fight, the better chance we have in winning it. 

GONZALEZ: Yeah. Okay, so there’s a call to action to those organizations, other organizations that might be able to also join forces with you to get this message out a little bit more. So what I would like to end with, we’re going, we’re going to find out where all of you can be found online in a few minutes, but my last question for you that’s got any meat to it is in your opinion, why are librarians essential in schools? And Lauren, since we haven’t heard from you in a little bit, let’s have you go first. 

MOBLEY: Oh I’d love to. Libraries are essential in schools because they are hubs that everyone can kind of go to and gas up. Students come there to feel seen, to feel welcome, to feel safe, to get their fix of books, to talk to friends, to learn. And teachers can go there to get resources, also, I’d like to talk about, you know, school librarians are able to use the space. And so I’ve had a lot of classes who will just come and kind of just be, and I can, you know, help them with research. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a full-fledged lesson, but to kind of have that support. And without that, there’s not really an area where everyone can kind of come and exist to learn. And so the school library is essential, and every school really must have one. 

GONZALEZ: Karina, why are school libraries and librarians essential? 

QUILANTAN-GARZA: Oh man. Why are we essential? Because we are. Just trust me. No. Well, I feel everything that we’ve talked about has kind of led to this question. Because we can talk about advocacy and all the things that we do in our roles, but what is it all for? And libraries are essential and school libraries specifically are essential for the students, and it’s all about what it is that they need. Ultimately, our schools are like microcosms of society, and eventually, even if they’re not a traditional library goer, the goal is to get every student on campus to acknowledge that our libraries are places where they can have that freedom of expression without being judged. That libraries and librarians are there to support them, not just with their education but to help them become lifelong learners and to help them cultivate their own creativity and their skills so that they become innovative members of society. And that’s only possible if everybody’s on the same page. And as much as a student will go through school and participate in a classroom lecture, there’s nothing like the experience that they’ll get in a place where it encourages community engagement and equitable access to the resources that they not just need but they deserve. 

GONZALEZ: Wonderful. Barbara, let’s hear from you. Why are libraries and librarians essential to schools? 

PACIOTTI: I’m a real research-based person. I did not come from an ELA background. I come from a science and social studies background. And so research is real important to me, and I like to read research. I wanted to state that dozens of research studies over a 50-year period have shown that school library, the school library, is second as a predictor of academic achievement. It’s higher than per pupil spending, it’s higher than teacher-pupil ratio, it’s higher than minority education or adult education level. The only thing that has a higher correlation to student achievement is poverty, and there’s evidence that school librarians can even prevail over poverty. And I have that information if you want it for your blog. One of the things that I think is so important, not just reading but sustained silent reading. So often students are encouraged to read books, but if a student doesn’t like a particular book, they should be able to turn it back in. But how are they going to know that they like or dislike a book if they’re not given enough time to read and get involved in that story? And one of the things that I did as a librarian my third year, fourth year that I was a librarian, was I instituted this, what we called DEAR time, which was reading, those English language arts teachers would bring their students to the library. And during that time, I would give them plenty of time to check out a book, and then they would sit down, and they would read silently, and it would give them a chance to find out if they liked that book. And then if they didn’t, they could always go back to the shelves and get something new. I instituted silent checkout where I would go to the tables and call up a table or two of students. They would line up, and then they would check out silently. This was so successful, this program was so successful, that in a four-year period, our reading scores on our state tests went up about 20 points. So I know that this works. I have actual data that shows that this works. In fact, our school district was so impressed by the results of our middle school rise in reading scores that they implemented mandatory language arts visits every second or third week for all the middle schools in the district. It really had an impact. They tried this reading 10 minutes at the beginning of every class, but that, my teachers, after about six or eight weeks, they hated it because the kids, 10 minutes isn’t enough for them. They need to have more. They need to be able to really read. And so many of our kids that come from troubled backgrounds or backgrounds that are very not typical upper middle class are not going to have the time when they go home to be able to read. So telling your kids to read 30 minutes every day is just not going to cut it anymore. We really need to give our kids the chance to spend time in the library reading and developing the ability to read for long periods of time. I, of all the things that I did when I was a school librarian, that’s the thing that I am the most proud of, and that’s the thing I promote the most to other librarians is convince your language arts teachers about the importance of every other week visits, even every three weeks wasn’t enough for my teachers. They wanted every other week to come to the library and spend the entire period in the library. And I was fortunate, our school was small, so we only had two teachers at each grade level. So you might have to space it out a little bit but allow the kids to come in and spend the entire period in the library. And the teachers would read as well. And it was just such a rewarding experience, and it really works. That being said, I also think that the library has to be a multifaceted learning space, and I know that there’s so much more emphasis now on having makerspaces and things like that. And while I think that’s very important for the library to be a, a multifaceted learning space, I think it’s important for us to remember that our primary purpose as a school librarian is to support our teachers and the curriculum that they’re teaching. So whatever we can do to focus on that is going to be essential because that’s, that’s what we’re there for. 

GONZALEZ: Let’s finish with K.C. Why are libraries and librarians essential?

BOYD: Well, libraries and librarians are essential because they’re everything. We change lives. And being, you know, working 25 years in a school library, I have seen lives that have been impacted and changed for the better. I’ve had a number of kids that have come through my doors that come from different backgrounds, beliefs, cultures, religions. And, and they come through the doors, and they feel welcomed and affirmed. They feel safe, and they feel that their voice can be heard. And we don’t have many spaces in the school where all that comes together. And this is why we have to have this space for these kids, and especially for me, I’ve worked in K-12 libraries in different moments in my career, and now I’m back working in middle school. And after being down at middle school for 10 years, and I, I’ve observed my students are self-identifying themselves within the LGBTQ+ community. I was used to that happening with the kids in high school 10 years ago. Now the kids are doing it in junior high and sometimes even younger. Why not have this specific space for kids so that they can feel loved and affirmed and they can learn more about themselves and the world in which they live in? So libraries are everything. They are essential. They are places where our kids can grow, and they can thrive. And they should be in every school across this country, and if it isn’t, then we need to figure out a way to make it happen. 

GONZALEZ: So the last question I’m going to ask all of you, you’re all doing great work online. And so where would be the best place for people to find you and connect with you online? K.C., we’ll go ahead and start with you and work our way backwards. 

BOYD: Sure, no problem. You can find me everywhere pretty much online @Boss_Librarian. My students gave me that nickname several years ago because they said, “She’s so doggone bossy.” So it stuck. So boss_librarian. 

GONZALEZ: Okay. And Barbara? 

PACIOTTI: Well, one of my teachers called me the goddess of all that is known. I was very flattered by that. My favorite thing. I just loved it. I have a blog called Looking Backward, but the easiest way to find me in just about any place is typing in I also am on Facebook and Twitter, X/Twitter as @barupatx, B-A-R-U-P-A-T-X. That’s it. 

GONZALEZ: All right. Three different spots. And you, and you have, and you actually do kind of a lot of work to help other librarians also. Like, you shared a lot of your secrets based on your own experience as a librarian through your stuff. So if people are not aware of it, they should go and check that out, for sure. 

PACIOTTI: Thank you so much. 

GONZALEZ: And Karina? Where can people find you online? 

QUILANTAN-GARZA: Well I do have a blog, Cue the Librarian on social media, X, and Instagram. 

GONZALEZ: And is it a letter “Q” or is it, it’s C-U-E, right? 



QUILANTAN-GARZA: So it’s spelled C-U-E the Librarian. 

GONZALEZ: Okay. Cool. And then Lauren? 

MOBLEY: So you can find me online at Mobley in the Mix and 

GONZALEZ: Awesome. All right. Thank you all for spending this hour plus talking about this. Hopefully as Barbara was saying, we can start, we can get this stuff into more people’s awareness and, and hope to sort of fortify the movement in general so that we can strengthen libraries in our schools. And thank you so much for the work that you’re doing out there to support libraries.

For links to all the resources mentioned in this episode and read a full transcript of our conversation,  visit, click Podcast, and choose episode 226. To get a bimonthly email from me about my newest blog posts, podcast episodes, courses and products, sign up for my mailing list at Thanks so much for listening, and have a great day.