So much of being a school librarian is collaborating. As a school librarian, you collaborate with other school libraries, administration, and teachers. Since the school library is the heart of every school, it is vital to build relationships with everyone on the campus to make collaboration more successful. Collaboration is such an incredible resource because educators have a variety of backgrounds and experiences that help create a better learning experience for learners. I always strive to create lasting connections with other educators on my campus through relationship building. These relationships have followed me throughout my career and have allowed me to always have a resource when I need it. I find when you have these relationships, teachers are more eager to work with you and advocate for the school library. These are a few of the ways that I create lasting connections with educators on my campus.
Meet them where they are
Often teachers do not want to leave their classrooms because they find them safer and would rather just be in their space. You can offer to come to their classroom for a lesson. One thing that I love doing is a mobile school library or pop-up library. Once a month I host a mobile school library where I go to all the English classes for checkout. I bring around a cart of books and check them out to learners. Doing this allows me to talk to teachers who might not usually be in the school library and get even more books in learners’ hands! I always take a peek into the classrooms to see what the teachers are teaching. By doing this I can see what they are teaching and offer a variety of resources on the topic or offer to create a lesson to co-teach together. For the pop-up library, I set up a cart of books in the cafeteria or another high-traffic area of the school to check out books. Doing this allows me to see more teachers that might not necessarily be English teachers and make connections with them. This leads to positive collaboration throughout the school.
I love celebrating teachers, all educators work incredibly hard at their job and I feel like everyone should be celebrated. Each month I pick a teacher of the month for the school library. I have learners in the school library vote for who should be the teacher of the month. When I announce who wins, I give them a little certificate and buy them their favorite soda and snack. This allows teachers to have some recognition and see the impact and importance of the school library. I also love to highlight teachers on Twitter or in my school library newsletter for the great things they do in their classrooms, even if it is not school library or reading-related. Having even a little recognition will brighten the teacher’s day and build a relationship.
Food and Gifts
Everyone loves food and little gifts! I always start the year off with a nacho bar “Nacho Average Library” where I provide chips, salsa, queso, and my husband always cooks some sort of meat for teachers to make nachos. At this event, I provide a variety of resources that the school library provides, different lessons I offer and have done, and just talk to them. Food is a huge motivator for everyone, I know that I will do anything for a free meal so food is always a great way to get people in the school library to see what you have to offer. About midway through the year, I offer “Come Get The Tea” where I provide a variety of hot and iced teas for teachers, and once again, when they come I provide them with all the resources the school library has to offer and just talk to them. In April for library appreciation month, I host “Crumb To The Library You Love” where I provide different cookies for teachers. At this event, I show them the different data on how many learners have come to the library, all the lessons that have been held so far this year, and the other impacts the school library has had. I also give out small gifts throughout the year. For Winter, I make bookmarks with teachers’ faces on them and for Valentine’s Day I make dish towels with the phrase “You are one in a Melon”. I also always try to make a welcoming gift for new teachers to be sure they feel welcomed.
Relationships are the backbone of creating connections. Each year I have at least two to three staff book clubs. This is such a fun activity because it allows me to connect with the teachers through books. I pick a YA book and purchase a copy of the book for each teacher who participates. We pick a day a month later to meet at a local restaurant to talk about the book. This is a great way to build relationships and get to know teachers off campus. Through this particular activity, I feel like I make the most impact with relationship building with teachers. It will also surprise you with who the readers are on your campus!
Author: Jessica Fitzpatrick
Jessica Fitzpatrick is a high school librarian in Houston and is in her tenth year of education. She holds a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Houston and a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of North Texas. She is a 2022 Library Journal Mover & Shaker, 2022 TLA MVP, an AASL Inspire Special Event Grant recipient, 2022 YALSA’s MAE Award for Best Literature Program for Teens, the 2022 TLA Branding Award Winner for Reading Program, the 2020 TLA Branding Award Winner for Community Engagement, YALS article contributor, and on the TAYSHAS Reading Committee. She enjoys running, reading, and spending time with her two daughters and husband. You can follow her on Instagram at @librarian_fitz and on Twitter at @librarianfitz .