Finding Time to Manage the School Library

When I was in library school, I had to take a course called school library management. It was a very straight forward course in terms of what school library management actually meant. What they didn't teach us was how to juggle getting all the management tasks done in between teaching classes, fielding research questions, readers' advisory, running clubs, dealing with technology issues, helping with whatever problem walked through the door, etc. 

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I have a sign in front of the circulation desk that encourages all who enter to interrupt me. Yes, I really do mean for the students, teachers, administrators, staff, and parents who walk through the doors to talk to me and ask me for help or assistance. That is a big part of my job--to be a support to all members of the school community. Also, a part of my job is to deal with all library resources including print and electronic materials as well as hardware that gets checked in and out of the library. This means that often I am in the midst of trying to complete a task when someone approaches me at my desk. 

On Friday the 20th, I decided to concentrate on getting some of the library management tasks done before the holiday break which began on the 23rd. I was able to get the school set of 30 iPad Mini devices into the library circulation system. I had been planning to do that for weeks. Luckily, I had a student worker helping me on Friday because I gave him the job of renaming the iPads to reflect their barcode number. The renaming took seconds, but I also asked him to update the operating system which was a long and tedious proposition. He will have to finish that after the holidays. I have been working on a book order for several months. I have the money, but I always agonize over my list because money is in short supply. I worry that I might make some bad purchases or miss something important. I finally decided to go with the order that I had, and I have already started a new list so that I can order books in late February, too. I actually think that it is nice to have new books trickle in. That way students will visit the library often looking to see what is new on the shelves. I also like to wait until the ALA book award lists are out so that I can add those to my collection if I don't already have them. After I placed my order, I realized that School Library Journal just announced their top picks for the year. When I looked at the top tens for 2015, I saw that I had some of the titles in my collection, but I would need to add some to my next order. Finally, I wanted to work out the kinks with MackinVIA so that I can share it with my students. 

Find out more about MackinVIA
Sometimes, it is just impossible to get any project fully completed in the library. It is just me serving 550 students and a faculty of 35, though I have one student worker scheduled during 3rd period every day. Very rarely do I have parent volunteers. So it is no surprise that over a year ago I researched creating a MackinVIA account as a portal for all my library resources, but the account had never been opened. I finally did it, and you know--it really didn't take that long. MackinVIA is a free resource from Mackin that provides a portal to all the digital content that the library owns. I understood the process, but I didn't realize how easy it was to get it set up. I had to send in a list of all my library's databases with user names and passwords. I had that list for a sign that I post by the computers in the library. Getting that information took minutes. Then I needed to submit the MARC records for my eBooks of which I have close to 600. I thought that was going to be a difficult chore, but it wasn't. We use Follett's Destiny as our library management software. In Destiny I searched the catalog for all my electronic books, then I just added them to a new resources list. You can easily export the MARC records in a resource list. Mackin houses the links to your resources for free. Mackin migrates your resources to VIA for free the first time. The next time that you add resources, Mackin will charge a fee.The students have a user name and password that they use to access the portal and from there the students can open any of the databases without needing to input user names and passwords again for the various databases. 

The PFTSTA Library MackinVIA

I want to explain the impetus for finally creating the MackinVIA for my library. After the holidays, there is a scheduled librarian meeting for the district. At this meeting a rep from Follett is going to explain Universal Search. When I went to explore Universal Search, I got excited because I thought it could do exactly what MackinVIA does. In theory, you can add all your electronic resources to the search function and access all content right in Destiny. I was unable to do that, so my students can use the Universal Search, but the results will not include all the library's resources. Let me explain the issues. 

 This is a regular search conducted in Destiny
I like the fact that I can add my databases to Universal Search by myself. You open the Catalog tab and open the Search Setup listed on the left. From there, you open the Enriched Content Searches tab. Under this tab are listed all the possible databases that you can add to Universal Search. There are even some great free database sites to add. The biggest problem is that some of the databases that my library subscribes to are not listed. I have purchased Britannica Encyclopedia Academic Edition. It is not available. The district has purchased a set of databases from Gale. Some of the databases that we own are listed but not all of them. This means that my students cannot use Universal Search as a one stop shop. I called Follett to find out if those databases could be added. I was told that if the resources is not listed, then it cannot be added to Universal Search. That truly bummed me out. 
A Universal Search in Destiny

If I want a true one stop shop for all digital resources, the students have to use MackinVIA. Now it is ready to share with my students and the rest of the librarians in my district. We shall see if the students like the idea of the portal or if they continue to use the set up that we have had in place for years. 


  1. I have a few books through a Mackin Via trial, and my students have no interest in them. I've helped kids set up accounts and download books to phones, but they never read things in the phones! I have 750 students, and after I lost my assistant a dozen years ago, I cut back on some things. Definitely no clubs or book groups! Mainly readers' advisory all day, some tech support, and all management stuff before school. It's frustrating, but we all do what we can!

    1. Besides ebooks on MackinVIA, you can add any databases that you subscribe to. I have added Gale and the two subscription encyclopedias that we get.I also have purchased electronic non-fiction books from Abdo digital that are there, too as well as some from Follett Shelf. It is not just for ebooks--it is for all digital resources.

      I think that if we train our students to use the digital resources, then they will. There has to be content available that is of interest to them either reading for pleasure or material that will help them complete assignments.


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