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. 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
This is the final of three blog posts, covering the last three C’s.
Contemplate the Work
If I’d known as a first-year librarian about the reports I had to turn in at the end of the year, I could have done a much better job of keeping records to make that process easier. Find out what’s expected of you, and work with the end in mind.
Two of the most important people in your building are your plant manager and your bookkeeper. Make friends of both and be especially professional in your dealings with them. A little treat at Christmas or their birthdays is appropriate if you are so inclined. Stay on top of your money. Make sure you meet deadlines and spend it all. Keep records of everything so you always know how much you have left.
Get to know the AASL standards and how to communicate them. Begin implementing these in your library. You should also know the TN Standards for School Libraries. Use these to set goals for where you want your library to be. (Link in Wakelet resources: https://wke.lt/w/s/YrwF0Z)
And you should definitely know how you will be evaluated so that you can be on track in your planning and teaching.
One way to come up with activities and promotions for your library is to follow the calendar. There are several listed in the Wakelet resources at the link above.
Take a hard look at your collection. What policies are already in place for the collection? Do you need to develop or update these policies? Work on building a balanced and current collection with the resources you have. Give teachers and even students input in your purchases. James Allen in Kentucky gives his elementary students a budget and lets them choose books for the collection. (@TLJamesA).
Promote your collection through creative displays: you’ll find great ideas on Pinterest. Be ready to booktalk titles at any opportunity. Encourage students to make book trailers or to use the Chatterpix app to make book talks. And unless your collection is brand new, you will need to weed outdated titles. Don’t try to do it all at once but take a section at a time. Run a Follett Titlewave Report to help you. When you take out the old stuff, the rest of your collection has a chance to shine.
Here’s a hint from my friend Mary Ann Cole that I found helpful in my work: Create a document called PUN, for Passwords and User Names, and use it to record all those PUNS you use in your work. Password protect the document with a password that’s easy for you to remember and save it to your desktop for easy but secure access. Every time you create a new account, put the info in this document.
Your position as the librarian is a unique one that puts you in touch with every student in your school. Always be aware of this big picture as you plan lessons and activities for your school.
Connect to Grow
Someone has used the silo as a metaphor for librarians. We are usually the only one in our building doing our job. And we may be the only one at our grade level in our district. Therefore, it is vitally important to make connections to help us to grow professionally and to prevent feelings of isolation. Amy Poehler gave this advice in a graduation speech at Harvard:
“As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.”
Networking through TASL is a great first step. At conferences and summer PD, get to know some other librarians that you can reach out to when you need to bounce an idea off someone else. Submit entries for the TASL Bookmark contest and encourage your students to vote for their favorite VSBA book. Volunteer for a committee or to help with Conference.
I highly recommend joining AASL as soon as you can afford to do so. Their publication, Knowledge Quest, and their conferences every other year are great resources for librarians. Being an AASL member is the best way to keep current on the new AASL Standards.
There are a few other professional organizations that you might find helpful, if you have time and money: International Literacy Association, Future Ready Librarians, ITSE. You can choose to follow one or more of them on social media. EdWeb.net has several professional learning communities that relate to librarians, with monthly webinars that you can watch at home in your pajamas.
Find some people in the library world that you want to follow on social media. Here are a few suggestions: Mr. Schu, Donalyn Miller, Jennifer LaGarde (aka Library Girl), Tiffany Whitehead (aka Mighty Little Librarian), Shannon Miller, Joyce Valenza. Check out AASL’s yearly list of Social Media Superstars. Add some of your favorite speakers from Conference and some authors you like. Follow some people in TASL.
For me, it was also helpful to find a local connection. I was inspired by a speaker at TASL Con one year to start a group of middle school librarians in my area. We met periodically to talk about what we were reading or doing in our libraries. Folks in this group were my go-to people when I needed advice, since I was the only middle school librarian in my district. When I moved to a high school, I helped start a group of local high school librarians. We took turns meeting in each other’s spaces, an inspiration in itself. We even started our own high school version of Battle of the Books. We had a loose agenda for each of our meetings, but it only served as a jumping-off point for further discussion. Because our meetings were so focused on being a high school librarian, one of the people in our group asked for and got permission to count these meetings toward professional development.
You could start with your TASL regional rep or just go out and start your own group of librarians. Find a mentor. Be a mentor to someone new in the profession. Pay it forward.
Care for Yourself
Being a teacher is naturally stressful. Add to that the isolation many of us face by being the only one in our building who does this job. It’s important to find YOUR balance. Tiffany Whitehead shared a picture of five seesaws that has stuck with me. They each had a label: Curriculum Support, Digital Citizenship, Research, Reading for Pleasure, Technology. We have to find the balance of all those seesaws in our library’s focus.
About six weeks into my first school librarian job, I had a major meltdown, due in part to the normal factors and in part to my desire to do everything at once. My principal gave me some very wise advice: You can only eat the elephant one bite at a time. I have had to learn that I can’t do everything, but I don’t let that stop me from doing something.
Here are some of my tips for taking care of yourself:
- Eat lunch every day. Even if the library has to be closed for 30 minutes.
- Don’t stay late every day.
- Read or do something fun for you on a regular basis. (For me, that’s sewing time, usually while listening to an audio book.)
- Be mindful and realistic about what it will take to sustain a new idea or program. Bouncing your idea off a fellow librarian can be very helpful here.
- Utilize student labor when appropriate. You might have a Library Crew or a group of SPED or transitions students who dust your shelves and keep them in order. Thank them with end of the year or semester breakfast—they love donuts!
Be ready to learn from those behind you and ahead of you, even the negative. Learn from your own mistakes. Keep a sense of humor and be able to laugh at yourself. Focus on a Growth Mindset.
Always keep in mind that YOU are the local Recruiter for future librarians. Yours is the face of librarians to the students, teachers, and parents in your school. Be positive in your interactions; that will help you sell your program in the best way!
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.