Back in September, School Library Journal ran an article suggesting to new school media specialists/school librarians what they can do to get their career off to a good start. The recommendations were really pretty good and several I couldn’t write better myself. There were just a couple with which I didn’t agree, but my experience is different for the person who wrote that is. We have to find what works best for us and for our school.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece which appeared as part of the Women Doing Literary Things series and in doing so, I took a rare opportunity to look at my profession from a feminist perspective. I realized that one reason librarians are seen as a dying profession rather than as a profession vital to every citizen in the 21st century is because we’re a majority female profession. We’re seen as quiet, mousey ladies who refuse to give up books, never go out into the world and who think a mouse is a critter that lives in the stacks. Nothing could be further from the truth! Librarians are all about 21st century literacy skills!!
I often read advice that says the librarian should be on every school committee, stock every oddity that anyone in the school may or may not need at sometime and I think in getting caught up in being everyone’s everything at school so that we seem relevant, librarians lose focus and dilute our purpose. I’ve been asked for everything from Christmas wrapping paper to paper plates. I don’t have most of those things. I do have a Masters degree, hours upon hours of professional development training and the mission to prepare students for the 21st century. I’m a teacher!
I’ve been thinking about the advice I’d give to new librarians. I’ve been working on ideas and I’ve decided to put pen to paper before I forget all my wonderful advice. The advice I have comes from stuff I’ve experienced over my short career in the school media center/library and most I’ve learned the hard way. I’ll print this list and put it where I can read it, I mean please don’t think I’ve mastered all this or feel that I am the model librarian. I am a work in progress. I would hope my colleagues could say that I am so much better at being a media specialist than I used to be. In fact, I think the key to my advice is to know that there is always more to do, more to know, more to experience as a librarian. It’s a career that compels you to keep learning!
- It’s your job that keeps getting in the way of you doing your job. All those little interruptions, the people asking questions, the phone calls and seemingly requests for you to perform a clerical duty? That’s your job! I learned this while working on my Masters and it has stuck with me.
- Read materials that your patrons read. If you’re a teen librarian, then read teen books. Corollary: Know what online tools and sites your patrons/students use and advance your skills.
- Routinely evaluate your services. Have students and staff evaluate your performances, use data to evaluate your effectiveness and share the results.
- Keep learning. Keep learning new online tools, master new technologies, read articles from a variety of disciplines and attend conferences. Sticking to the library journals, information technology blogs and education literature won’t help you when students are researching the effects of human interaction in Yellowstone.
- Join professional associations, including listservs. Listservs are easy ways to exchange information and build professional learning communities; however they should be used wisely. As a school media specialist, you should know how to research to find data comparing Nooks and Kindles. If you want to know what to name your teen book group, or what they might want to read, then ask your teens! (pet peeve, sorry!)
- There is often little to no training when you begin working in a school district so get to know librarians in you district and know who can help you with policies and procedures. Network locally!
- Know that you’re the most important resource in you media center. This doesn’t mean you have to know everything, but you should know where to find solutions.
- Respect your patrons. They’re not always going to look like you, read what you read or listen to your advice, but they’re who we serve in the library. For some, this may be their only spot of comfort so accept them, help them and friend them! Get to know what your regulars like and share new items with them. Embrace diversity and prepare your students for with whole wide world!
The links really are interesting and I hope you click them all. But, if you only click one, go for the last one!