I am an introvert. Susan Cain’s Quiet was a revelation for me to read. So, it should not have been a surprise when I jumped at a chance to work as the sole librarian at a very small independent school.
Working alone provides a number of advantages. I get to be the go-to person for reading recommendations and curriculum support. I work with everyone – or at least everyone who ventures to the library. This means that I get to know everyone and to see a very broad picture of the school and its mission. Hill Top Prep has been a one-to-one school for almost 10 years, so the library wasn’t the hub for technology, which has meant that as an introvert, I also have some quiet working time in the library when I can recharge while working on day-to-day tasks.
On the downside, while I had the opportunity to develop working relationships with many of the teachers, administration had little reason to wander into the library. And like any school, there were a few faculty and student hold outs when it came to utilizing library services. This inevitably leads to the question that rankles every librarian. “What is it you actually do all day?”
Being on my own in the library has meant learning how to become my own biggest cheerleader. New books, book displays, and a fun blog and tumblr are great, only if people know to go looking for them.
Hill Top is a very small community. Students, faculty, and staff total around 125. We all come together each day for Community Meeting where we share the day’s announcements. This provided a perfect opportunity to book talk new books or encourage check outs before breaks or impending snow storms.
This was a great start to making myself known. It was a chance to address the whole school, including faculty and administration. Even those who didn’t use the library often knew what was going on. The drawback: I could go a few weeks between announcements if there were no new books, holidays, or inclement weather. And although I had established myself as someone who used and embraced technology, I continued to portray the library as “books only.”
So I recently took a page from blogs such as YALSA blog, The Hub, and Knowledge Quest. Announcements took on a regular schedule. New Book Wednesdays and Classic book Fridays became staples of the weekly routine. Throw in Monday’s App of the Week and I was a regular standing before the community and posting online.
Some advantages to this new schedule were easy to anticipate. I could spread out the novelty of new books and still highlight books that have been in the collection for a while. It allowed me to plan out my announcements and posts as far in advance as I wanted – no more quick grabs before going to a meeting. The library was now front and center three times a week and talking technology as well as books.
Administration took notice. On more than one occasion I received a compliment on all of the things that were going on in the library. An unexpected perk was the increase in circulation among faculty and administration for their own pleasure reading.
The biggest unexpected outcome from this planned presence was the increase in student involvement in the library. Almost immediately I had students, and even a few parents, stopping in the library or emailing me to suggest apps for App of the Week. Over time, students started asking to book talk something they had just read or any new book. When students heard I would be out of school for a few days for a workshop, they would offer to make my announcements for me. The administration may have appreciated me getting up to talk about things, but they loved seeing the students up there addressing their peers.
We all know that our programs are vital to the school community. It’s easy to think that most everyone appreciates what the library has to offer. But we need to constantly look for ways to call attention to ourselves. And if we do it right we may just find people in our schools who want to cheerlead for us.
Have you found a particular method of self-promotion that has gained attention for your programs? I’d love to hear about it!