Change is hard. This is true, but in education change is inevitable. And during the summer is when lots of these changes take place. Educators may find themselves in one position in the spring and in a whole new grade level, content area, or school in the fall! Or, you may be in the same place and you find that administrators get shuffled around and you have to get to know someone completely brand new. These changes may be welcomed and completely voluntary, or you may find that these changes are entirely out of your control. Either way, it’s best to focus on the positive and keep moving forward. Here are some tips of how you can embrace the inevitable changes and yield positive results.
Moving to a new school means that chances are you are following behind another librarian. Teachers in that school will have expectations of the school librarian’s role based upon their previous experience. If the person before you was a mover and shaker, you may have some big shoes to fill. On the other hand, if the person before you was not particularly outgoing, chances are just about anything you do will make you look like a rock star. Either way, here are some suggestions about how you can connect early with a brand new staff:
- Introduce yourself early. Send an “about me” email to let the staff know who you are and what you are about. Provide your contact information and your office hours. Let them know that you are there to support them.
- Needs assessment: Data is always helpful. Create a survey (either digital or on paper) to assess the needs of the teachers in the school. What resources do they need to best support instruction? What expectations do they have of the school library program? What has worked in the past? What would they like to see done differently?
- Just a note: Write a personal, handwritten note to each teacher, sending warm thoughts for a prosperous school year and letting them know you are there to help. Leave them in their mailboxes at school.
- Goody bags: Freebies are always fun. Bookmarks, pencils, brochures promoting digital resources. Vendors and your local public library may have some things to share. Provide teachers with a printed copy of your schedule to post in their room. Chocolate is always good, too.
Administrators’ opinion of school library programs will be based upon their previous experiences. Chances are they haven’t worked with a great number of school librarians, and their idea of the effectiveness of school libraries can vary greatly. You may find that they will come in completely supportive of your program, which would be great. On the other hand, you may find a new admin has a low opinion of school libraries. In this case, you will have your work cut out for you. Either way, here are some suggestions that can help you advocate for your program with a new administrator:
- Reach out to your admin before the new school year and ask for an hour of his/her time. It would be best to meet before teachers return and things get hectic.
- Share an annual report of the previous year. Highlight collection statistics, circulations, and share successful collaborations or other celebrations.
- Ask what his/her vision is of an effective school library program.
- Ask what you can do to support his/her initiatives.
- Share your goals for the year and discuss ways you can work together.
- Stay positive and let your administrator know that you will be a staff member he/she can count on.
Welcoming new teachers:
You may find you have new teachers that are fresh out of college, or you may have others that are veterans but are new to your school. Either way, reach out to the new teachers in your building and find an opportunity to meet them face to face.
- Stop by their classrooms and introduce yourself personally. Ask them a little about themselves. Let them know that you are available to help support their instruction.
- Invite new teachers (and others) to the school library for a brief orientation. Provide some donuts and coffee or other edible treats. If all new teachers can’t come at the same time, schedule some one-on-one visits.
Just like fingerprints, no two school districts are alike. Chances are your new school district will differ in how they address staffing, funding, and other policies and procedures and it will take a while to get used to it. Although you will likely see differences, refrain from sharing comparisons to your old district unless it’s particularly helpful. Nobody wants to constantly hear how your old district did everything better. Each district will have its own culture and it will be important for you to keep looking forward and work on assimilating. Here are a few suggestions (assuming there is more than one school in your district):
- Seek out your counterparts. Find out if and when other school librarians meet for PLCs and other meetings and be there.
- Is there a district person that supervises school library programs you may contact? If so, introduce yourself if they are not part of the hiring process. Make sure they know who you are.
- Make friends. You are all school librarians so you have that in common. Having others you can call with questions will help you navigate the social norms of the new district and allow you to acclimate more quickly.
Do you have other ideas or comments about embracing change? Is so, comment below.
Author: Sedley Abercrombie
Sedley Abercrombie is the district digital learning and library media programs specialist for Davidson County Schools in North Carolina, an NCSLMA executive board member, and an adjunct instructor at East Carolina University.