As the school year begins, some of you may be starting as a school librarian for the first time. With my position, I am able to work with new school librarians in my district. Whether the librarians have just a few or many years as a classroom teacher, they step into this new role feeling overwhelmed with the common question, “Where do I begin?” The following hopefully answers that question and more.
Build Relationships: When I go out and speak to groups and advocate for classroom teachers working with their building librarians, I sometimes hear a comment or two about how they don’t feel comfortable approaching their librarians. Get to know the staff. If it is the football coach, ask about the hot summer practices. A teacher with a new baby, find out how they are doing back at school. Find ways to connect so they will feel comfortable approaching you. Provide food at staff meetings or place a coffee pot in the library for teachers to use. I knew of a librarian who would send birthday cards to each teacher every year.
Dive into the Content: Grab the curriculum guides for all content areas. If your district has a scope and sequence, locate it. Print the guides and grab a highlighter. Highlight topics, skills, and any other details for each grade level and subject area. Yes, it can be overwhelming and time consuming, but it is worth it. When teachers plan a lesson with you, grab the binder to help guide the conversation. Over time, you will not need to refer to it as much as the first year.
Be Patient: When you enter your library, you may want to rearrange the space and make it “your space.” There are times when this is necessary, but I caution you to show some restraint. Give yourself time to view how the space is used by your staff and students. Notice things that could be improved and things that work great. This includes weeding your collection the first year as well. See how the staff and students use your collection. It may explain why you have an overwhelming amount of graphic novels or solar system books.
Become Familiar with the Collection: Get to know your collection by walking the shelves. If your cataloging system provides reports, run a report to view items with the most checkouts. If you are lucky to have a library aide or clerk, involve them in the collection discussion. Often, they will see it in a different way that can be helpful.
Enjoy the Transition: If you are transitioning from the classroom into the library, there are times when you will wish for the small classroom again. Don’t worry – this is expected at times. In the library, you have an open space with flexibility. I love how each day is new and different. Students may come in to check out books, classes may be scheduled in the library and a teacher will stop by wanting to plan a lesson – all at the same time. The library may appear loud and active. Our teaching is always on display – and that is great. Encourage others to walk through the library or hold meetings – they can see the impact you have on students and the active learning environment of the library.
Ask Questions: Ask questions of the library community. Visit Twitter and follow #tlchat. Post tweets asking for advice or ideas. Join your state and national library organizations. You are not alone in this journey – there are many resources available and helpful advice.
If you are reading this as an experienced school librarian, what would you add to this list? What was the best advice you received?
Good luck this year as a new school librarian! We are cheering you on to represent the library community well.
Author: Becca Munson
Becca Munson, Librarian, is a National Board Certified Teacher with over 24 years of experience in education. Becca is the Coordinator for Library Systems in the Blue Valley School District. Previously, she was school librarian at Blue Valley West High School. She opened two buildings in Blue Valley and spent some time as an Ed Tech Specialist before returning to libraries. Becca supports over 45 librarians and support staff as they work to fulfill the mission of flexible scheduling, collaboration, and literacy.