Written By Karen Haggard
This article is adapted from a presentation I did at TASL Conference 2019. Although the presentation was aimed at new librarians, there are nuggets here for librarians at any level of experience. The Seven C’s will be be shared over the course of three blog posts; part one covers the first two C’s. Note: extra resources for this series can be found at this link: https://wke.lt/w/s/YrwF0Z
The Seven C’s for School Librarians are:
Cultivate a Positive Presence
Care & Feeding of Administrators
Contemplate the Work
Connect to Grow
Care for Yourself
Act enthusiastic and you will be enthusiastic. -Dale Carnegie
Cultivating a Positive Presence
We all know those negative stereotypes of librarians. We may have even known some librarians that personified those stereotypes. However, we can take advantage of the opportunity to cultivate a POSITIVE presence in our own libraries. My husband is fond of the Dale Carnegie quote, “Act enthusiastic and you will be enthusiastic.” Online, I found this expansion of Carnegie’s quote online in the form of a business card by Jay Danzie:
How can you cultivate a positive presence? Say “Yes” as much as you can. If you can’t say “Yes” right away, try “Let me give that some thought” and give a time to get back to the person with your response. Take the opportunity to greet people (students, faculty, the superintendent) when they enter your library. In announcements, refer to yourself as “your friendly librarian.” I had a sign on my desk that said “Please Interrupt Me! Your request is important!” It helped me to remember that those interruptions were interactions with my stakeholders, which was my work. Be approachable. Smile and be friendly. And always be ready to laugh at yourself.
An inviting and welcoming space also contributes to a positive presence. Keep it simple; too much stuff is overwhelming to many of our students. Here are a couple of tricks I’ve learned. First, if you put up some of that blue painter’s tape, you can use hot glue on the tape to hang light posters. I used this technique to cover our circulation desk in black paper as a background for cut-out words in bright colors. Anything else would have ruined the veneer on the desk but everything peeled right off at the end of the year.
Second, use cheap frames to post signs. IKEA has some or check a dollar store in your area. Use paper with sticker letters in your school colors or some of that colorful bordered stationery or just bright colored paper you can find in an office store. Framed signs are a way to label displays, post what you’re reading, or whatever else you want to call attention to in your library.
One time that I was less than positive can serve as a cautionary tale. My library clerk had always handled the school’s laminator, which was housed in the library’s workroom, but when her position was cut, it was left to me. Changing the film on that beast was a 30-minute job that required my complete concentration. I hated the laminator. I insisted that teachers take training with me to use it, and I kept a list on the wall above the laminator of who could use it. Talk about perpetuating those negative stereotypes – Ouch!
A teacher found a picture online of Vicki Lawrence with a stunned expression and a caption about the laminator being down again and emailed it to the faculty. I copied it and posted it above the laminator and tried to lighten up. Finally, the art teacher took pity on me and volunteered, bless her, to change the film when it was needed. But I had let my resentment create ill will with teachers that was harder to repair than the laminator itself, instead of looking for a more creative way around the problem.
Care and Feeding of Administrators
Do you know what’s important to your administrators? What keeps them up at night? Does your school system have stated goals? Does test data indicate an area that could be improved? Start with these. If you don’t know, JUST ASK! Then look for ways you can make an impact at those intersections.
For example, Collierville Schools had a stated goal to improve ACT scores, so the librarians planned an ACT night for students and parents. We invited a principal and a guidance counselor to talk about the testing process, we presented the free resources available through TEL and how to access them, and the public librarian shared additional resources they had available and signed people up for library cards on the spot. One parent thanked me at the end of the presentation for saving her so much money! That one night was a big win on so many levels!
Your school may need help in improving vocabulary or math scores. Brainstorm ways the library could target this need. Perhaps you could post word of the day or math questions throughout the library or in the hall just outside. How could you leverage your idea to include other specialists or the whole school?
Make sure your admin is aware of what you’re doing. I recommend a brief monthly report focused on student outcomes. Include pictures of students using your maker space or involved in centers or whatever is going on in your library. Share all the collaborations with teachers for the month. Don’t use library lingo. It’s fine to share your circulation statistics but only IF you show growth by comparing it to previous months or if you tie it to student outcomes.
Find out what your admin focuses on in professional reading and offer to help them set up a reader alert through TEL. When you return from a conference (essential if your school paid for it!), share a couple of things you learned with admin to show that the time was well invested. Volunteer to present at in-service or faculty meetings, especially if you have a great new thing to share with the faculty. Invite the admin to visit your library to observe the maker space or a collaborative activity in action. Attend PLC meetings and find ways you can collaborate with teachers to enhance instruction. Offer to serve on committees, especially those that deal with curriculum or a school evaluation. Make sure that when the admin thinks of leaders in your school, you come to mind. And always be a team player!
Next Time: Communicate and Collaborate
Karen Haggard retired in May after 16 years as a school librarian in TN (and a few years as a public librarian in at least 3 different states.) She is enjoying the time to read and to pursue her love of quilting, usually while listening to an audio book. She volunteers 2 mornings a week with Arise to Read, helping 2nd graders learn sight words to improve their reading skills. And she loves being near her family, especially being able to recommend books to the youngest members.