What a New School Librarian Needs to Know Part 2
As I reflected on my last post, I realized that I had more to say about being a new school librarian. First, I want to talk about technology. I remember many years ago (in the 90's) one of my colleagues in my district told me that she did not need to learn how to use technology in her library. The building that she was in was built around the early 1900's, and she had only one electrical outlet in her library. At that time, my library was computerized. I still had the old card catalog card system, but circulation was all done by computer. I thought she was crazy because technology was changing my world. If I wanted to prepare students for the next step after they left me, I had to embrace the technology.
If you are a techno-phobe, I don't think that you can be a good school librarian. You don't have to know all the answers, and you don't have to know everything there is to know about computers and programs. You do have to be a risk taker and willing to try technology. We are preparing our students for a future that we cannot imagine. It is important to model for our students and teach them that you don't have to know everything about the capability of any device to use it. You can have students use Animoto to make videos or Swift Playgrounds to code robots even if you don't know how to use those programs. Let's show our students that we are life long learners.
As librarians we have always been curators of information. I spend a lot of time curating the resources that my students need for particular assignments by creating digital tools for them. This is very similar to the old days when a librarian would pull books off the shelf and find magazine articles about a particular subject only now it is in a digital format. When the alumni come back to visit me after their first year of college, almost all of them want to explain how much they are using the databases at their university for research papers. Most tell me that they spend little time in the college library, but they make use of its many, many resources. If we don't give our middle and high students many opportunities to access digital databases and other electronic resources, they will be at a real disadvantage in their later education.
As the only librarian in my school, I am the only teacher in the school who serves every single student in an academic capacity. Of course we have others on staff who work with all students including the administration, counselor, and PE teachers, but I am the only one who assists directly with the curriculum being taught in the classroom. As such, I believe that I have a responsibility to set up parameters for the whole school in regards to research, note taking, creating citations, and following MLA guidelines. When students visit the library for lessons on information literacy, I expect the teachers to listen too because both of us need to have the same expectations of the students. The same holds true in an elementary school only the librarian will focus on the beginning steps of information literacy. This is one of the aspects that I like best about being a librarian because I get to build on the skills that I begin with the 6th graders until they reach 12th grade, and I am making sure that they are ready for college.
One of the very reasons that I created this blog back in 2009 was for advocacy. What happens in the library is usually the process not the product. Unless we blow our own horns, no one will know what we are doing for the students in our schools. You have got to let all your stakeholders know about the exciting things happening in your library on a daily basis and that includes parents, teachers, and administrators, and depending on where you are that could be community members also. My principal knows about my blog, but I don't think that she reads it very often. So when I say something that I think she needs to hear, I send her the link to the post. We have daily announcements that are read to the students and emailed to parents, and I try to post something from the library every day. I always write an article for the school's monthly newsletter. I also have a Facebook and Instagram account for the library and post there regularly. I know that parents and the community see those posts. Then I have a twitter account for me, but I use it professionally to share what is happening in my library. You need to find your comfort zone in spreading the word about what you do, but consider it a critical part of your job.
Lastly, I want to talk about leadership. When I said earlier that you need to set the tone for teaching research skills at your school, you must do so with confidence. If your teachers are going to listen to you, they will need to view you as a teacher leader. Some of you will take on this leadership role with ease, others will shy away from it. You are teaching every student in your school. You have expertise because of this--make sure your faculty sees this expertise. Don't worry about assuming this role on day one, that is not possible. You have to grow into, but you need to see that you can grow into it.
Just remember to breathe and take one day at a time. I will never be able to finish everything that I want to do in my library, my school, for my patrons, and for myself professionally. Realize that is normal, and that if doesn't get done now, it will at a later date.