‘Tis the Season: Ten Ways to Make the Library a Teacher’s Gift

“For it is in giving that we receive.”
–Francis of Assisi

There’s a simple, lovely pleasure in gifting, isn’t there? We love to watch gratitude take over a face, knowing that for one, brief second, we infused joy into somebody’s life. We find peace in ourselves by delivering peace to others.

This is a busy time of year in schools–one that puts a great deal of pressure on our teachers. But let’s remember that as librarians, our very career is to serve others. We are the ultimate givers. And we can make this strained season in schools easier by offering up our services to the educators in our building. 

So how can you make the library a gift for our teachers? Here are some ideas:

Deliver professional articles to mailboxes. Don’t ask your teachers what they want from you. Instead, let them know that you see them. You understand their practices and professional passions. Slip articles in their boxes with a personal note that recognizes the hard work they do. Acknowledge their interests with kind words and personalized readings.

Offer frequent and relaxed PD. Offer short, relevant, just-in-time PD sessions during lunches, breaks, or after school. Give a 15-minute Twitter demonstration, a reminder of how to navigate databases, a showcase of new texts, a tour of the media lab. Invite them lovingly, promote it shamelessly, offer frequently, and don’t get discouraged or upset when some teachers don’t come. Don’t take it personally.

Share grading responsibilities. Offer to grade research papers alongside your teachers. Use your MLA and grammar expertise, so that your content teachers only have to read for accuracy. We are much faster at recognizing anomalies in citations or Works Cited. By doing this, we cut the teacher’s grading load in half. It is a gesture that promotes collaboration and shares the ownership of research instruction.

Integrate tech support. Integrating technology into lessons in ways that deepen understandings and make teaching and learning more efficient is a time-consuming practice. Do the footwork for your teachers and be present in the classroom while students apply technology to their lessons. Removing the fear and the frustrations that are often intrinsically wrapped up in tech integration is a kindness that most teachers will willingly receive.

Allow time to talk. I always joke that I am an academic bartender. Put a counter between a patron and a worker, and stories unfold. Listening to teachers is a gift we cannot underestimate. In the library, we have a very different perspective–we see all educators, administrators, and students in a building, and we can often offer up words that can ease teachers’ frustrations or worries. We can offer different perspectives that encourage teachers to see things new ways. Listen intently and genuinely–it is important work.

Bring the library to them. While we always want students in the library, the reality is that on certain days the transition from the classroom to the library is a time-eater. Bring the library to your teachers’ classrooms. Load up your arms and carts with books and resources and make yourself present in the classrooms, freeing up some time. You can never over-give the gift of time to a teacher.

Give them pleasure reading. Remember your teachers are readers, too. Order, shelve, curate, and recommend books to them. Buy the latest romance, the hot mystery, the award-winning drama and let your teachers know you have those books there for them. We know our students thrive in library environments when we say, “I found this book for you.” Do the same for your teachers. Honor their reading tastes and take the time to tell them you are thinking of them with these selections.

Provide quiet spaces. Sometimes it is impossible to get work done in a classroom during a plan period. Other teachers or administrators stop by, janitors chat, students ask for help. Offer teachers places of refuge–quiet tables in the back, silent side rooms, secret hideaways where they can sit, reflect, and get caught up without endless interruptions.  And then honor their need for isolation; leave them alone.

Supply treats. There’s no doubting that sometimes teachers need a piece of chocolate. Be the one who has it ready.

Nurture the love of reading in their students. The best gift we can ever give our teachers is roomfuls of students who love reading. The amount of pleasure reading a student does is one of the greatest indicators of academic performance. Which means we need to work hard at getting kids excited about books. Make sure your enthusiasm is contagious. Building a culture of literacy love is an investment in every teacher’s class. Give it your all.

How do you make the library a gift?

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Author: Angie Miller

Angie Miller is a 7-12 school librarian in Meredith, NH. The 2011 NH Teacher of the Year and the recipient of the 2017 NH Outstanding Library Program of the Year, Angie is a TED speaker, National Geographic teacher fellow, and freelance writer who writes for her blog, The Contrarian Librarian, and is a regular contributor to sites like EdWeek and the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet. As a co-founder of the initiative, Let the Librarians Lead, Angie leads professional development, speaks to audiences, and advocates for school leadership through librarianship. Her book, It’s A Matter of Fact: Teaching Students Research Skills in Today’s Information-Packed World, published by Routledge, will be on shelves in January 2018.



Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration

4 replies

  1. Angie,
    I LOVE this article. I was just brainstorming ideas for my media specialists to reach out to teachers and your gifts are perfect. Thank you so much!!! I will be sharing your article with every media specialist at Forsyth County schools in Georgia.

  2. Super post on how to build a collaborative culture in a school! Thank you, Angie!

  3. All great ideas, Angie! Today was International Tea Day, so I invited teachers and staff in for a cuppa from my extensive tea stash.

    I was most struck by your comment about being the academic bartender. Maybe it really is the counter that makes us the go-to spot to vent:)

  4. Long years ago before Kindles and Nooks and bookstores were on corners, I used to ask my teachers if they wanted to order holiday gift books from my jobber and get the discount. It reminded them that books were great gifts and they loved having that much of their shopping taken out of their hands and my jobber loved the extra sales.

    When I became a library coordinator, I was organizing a new elementary collection with the basis integrating classroom collections from teachers in two other buildings. I made the same offer which got me a little out of their anger at having to give up their classroom collections. The really interesting thing was the next year those teachers called me to see when I was going to take their holiday orders.

    Your comments are so golden. It’s too bad they aren’t out there for a wider audience. They should be shared widely.

    This year I am trying to be both politically correct and yet maintain the religious aspect of the season.

    Merry Holidays to all

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