Fighting the Good Fight: I See You, School Librarians!

In case you haven’t noticed, school librarians are going through a lot right now in the United States. It seems like something new every day is under attack: our impact on student learning, our budget for providing print and electronic resources to our school communities, and our ability to not only support our students, but also our ability to protect them when they need us the most.

This blog post is to remind you that you are doing great things. Being a school librarian is really challenging right now and it’s not just you who might be struggling. You are making a difference, whether you are matching books with students, promoting your library to administrators and other stakeholders, being outspoken about the rights of your students, writing grants for books or other materials, or something else entirely. Even if all you are doing right now is trying to keep your head above water, someone sees you and your effort. You are impacting learning and teaching in your school–even if you don’t see it!

Here are some ways to keep yourself grounded in who you are and what you do, especially when times aren’t so easy:

  • Remember your WHY. Why did you become a school librarian, and what are your core values that can help you prioritize your ever-lengthening to-do list? When time is short and your patience is shorter, having these ideas in mind will be really helpful. This KQ blog post I wrote on this topic might help you determine your why if you already haven’t done so.
  • Check in on your school librarian friends and colleagues. Many professional development events have been moved to the virtual environment, reduced capacity, or cancelled altogether, and we are all missing the librarian-to-librarian connection these days. It’s those interactions that sometimes sustain us and remind us that we’re not alone in feeling a certain way or dealing with the challenges of everyday librarian life. Even if it is a quick e-mail that says, “Hey, I’ve been thinking about you and miss chatting with you! Would love to catch up soon,” I’m sure the librarians you network with would love to have a quick check in or hear an encouraging word from you.
  • Consider a thankful list or encouragement file. Sometimes we can get bogged down in the stress and negative aspects of our job. Even if it’s just a Google Doc, keep a running list of good or positive things that happen each day. For example, last week some students found our joke books and I took a few minutes to listen to some of the jokes they thought were the funniest. It was the first time I had genuinely laughed all day and did wonders for me. I still keep the encouragement file I had when I was a teacher that contains thank-you notes and “warm fuzzies” from staff, students, and parents, and read through the file when I’m down or need to remember why I do what I do.

I truly hope you are having a wonderful school year with lots of positive moments with teachers and students. I hope you are being valued for who you are as a school librarian, and that you are feeling fulfilled in your work. If this isn’t the case for you, just know that many librarians aren’t feeling this way, either. This is a hard year for a lot of school librarians, and the best we can do to sustain ourselves is check in on each other, focus on priorities, and remember why we got into this career in the first place. I see you and value your work. What you are doing is making an impact in your school and community. You matter, and thank you for everything you do.

Author: Rachel Grover

Rachel Grover is a middle school librarian in Fairfax County, Virginia, and a member of the board of directors for the Virginia Association of School Librarians. She has published articles on ways to make school libraries accessible for Knowledge Quest and on genrefying the library collection for School Library Connection. She also has developed workshops for beginning librarians for School Library Connection. Rachel was an elementary school teacher for two years before beginning life as a middle-school English teacher in 2009. In 2014, she joined Libraryland, finding a dream job she didn’t even know was her dream! When she is not working, she loves reading, tinkering with technology, traveling, taking photographs, and sleeping in. Her passions include genrefication, makerspaces, technology, collaboration with teachers across the curriculum, and making school libraries equitable and accessible for all learners.

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