As summer draws to an end, it’s a good time to start thinking about back to school activities to build collaborative relationships and create a warm and welcoming place, both physical space and virtual, for our students, parents, and faculties.
Let’s take a quick assessment:
1) How’s the signage in your library? Does it project an air of possibilities and not a list of rules and dont’s? For example: “No food or drinks. No games. No electronics.” Why? How about replacing it with “Responsible use of games, food, drinks, electronics permitted.” This is the first impression many people will have of you. The number one complaint we hear in our district office is librarians being too strict with rules and regulations. If you’ve got a person wanting to use your facility and you turn them away because your rules don’t permit it at that moment, you may never have another chance to win them back.
2) How do you introduce yourself to your faculty? Whether you are new to your building or you have new teachers or administrators, this is something to consider. There are teacher survival kits you can find with a quick Pinterest search. How about including a flyer–digital, print, or both, with passwords and login information to your staff. Let them know how you schedule classes, how to request materials, etc. Be aware that your first interactions with teachers set the tone for future collaborations. Be respectful of their time and show them that you are a worthy collaborator who is concise, to the point, and makes their job easier, rather than taking away from their valuable planning or instructional time.
3) How do you greet parents? Is there a meet the teacher night? If so, stand at the door of the library, or prop open the doors, and give away bookmarks, brochures with homework help, passwords, etc. Do you need to sign up volunteers? Have lists ready of needs–one time needs, weekly needs. If you’re in a school with non-English speaking parents, have things translated to let them know if English is needed. Is there a parent organization? If so, ask to place a blurb on their website or newsletter with volunteer needs and homework help tips.
4) How’s your online presence? If you spend time developing well- curated information for all the various stakeholder groups, you are demonstrating the fact that although online resources are the future, librarians are needed to keep them organized and manageable. If you haven’t taken time to study good web design and how to stay away from flashy, busy sites–this is an important use of your time. With templates readily available, it’s not hard to make a clean, easy to navigate site for your patrons. What about social media? How can you leverage this to deliver information to parents where they already are instead of making them find you?
While recreating your library culture is harder once you’ve been somewhere for a while, it’s never to late to make a good start!
Author: Jennifer Laboon
Jennifer LaBoon is the Coordinator of Library Technology in Fort Worth ISD. She serves on the AASL Blog Committee, on the Executive Board of the Texas Library Association, volunteers with a local children’s musical theater group, and is an avid TCU fan.