Are you a new school librarian? Welcome to the best job on the planet! I will be entering my seventh year as a school librarian this year and I know from experience that while it is an extremely rewarding job, beginning the process can be quite daunting. Here are my top tips for getting started:
Have a Plan
What do you envision for your school library and for yourself professionally as a school librarian? Take a moment to create a list of goals you would like to accomplish in the next five years. No idea is too big or too small. Write each idea on a page in a notebook and list resources to help you accomplish these goals, as well as ideas for funding and tips from blogs and social media posts to help you get started. Review your goals, rank them in order of importance, and tackle them one by one. This notebook should be a working document, so it’s okay to add items each year and cross a few things off. I did this my very first year. Not only did it help me to focus on my goals, but after five years, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment in seeing everything I was able to achieve.
Build Your Professional Learning Network (PLN)
Your biggest supporters are going to be the school librarians in your PLN. Joining your state and national organizations is a great way to meet other librarians from across the state and nation. Not only do these organizations offer support and resources, but they also often provide grant opportunities. After your first year, consider volunteering for a committee or two. The friendships I have made through committee work with AASL have been invaluable. Sometimes, it can be tough to fund membership fees. Consider asking your administration to fund your memberships for your first year. It never hurts to ask. Also be sure to utilize Twitter to build your PLN. Every single day I am in awe of the resources shared by school librarians on Twitter. Comment on other librarians’ posts and make those connections!
Get to Know Your Collection
Before you make big changes to your shelves, get to know your library’s collection. Spend time looking over your titles to discover what you have and what you are missing. Analyze your collection by uploading to a site like Titlewave or Mackin to identify deficits and consider a diversity audit. School librarian Kelsey Bogan offers some great advice about diversity audits on her blog. Survey your students on what books they’d like to see added to your collection, weed books that haven’t been checked out since the turn of the century, and create a wishlist of titles you’d like to add. After getting to know my library’s collection, and surveying my students, I decided to genrefy our library. It was a terrific decision for our library, but consider holding off on a big change like that until after your first year.
Building a Website and Social Media Presence
The best way to share the great things you are doing in your school library is through a website and social media. Websites are great ways to post announcements, tutorials, resources, and other important information for your students, teachers, and families. Start small and keep in mind that you don’t have to build an award-winning website overnight. There are many free website-building platforms out there that are easy to use such as Wix, Weebly, and my favorite, Google Sites. Check out my free webinar comparing these website platforms if you need more information. Consider creating social media pages to share your school library with parents and the community. Social media is a free way to showcase the great things you are doing in your library and shows the community that a modern school library involves more than just books. Need ideas for posts? Check out our library’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages.
If you’d like more advice for new school librarians, check out this webinar hosted by the Louisiana Association of School Librarians. Kim “Lovie” Howell, Matthew King, and I discussed our top advice for beginning your new adventure. Most importantly, take a deep breath and take it one step at a time. Remember the old adage that “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” You’ve got this!
Author: Amanda Jones
Amanda is the 2021 School Library Journal Co-Librarian of the Year, a 2021 Library Journal Mover and Shaker, the 2020 Louisiana School Librarian of the Year, and a 21 year educator from Watson, LA. She’s a teacher-librarian and certified reading specialist at a 5-6 grade middle school. She is Vice President of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians and is the 2019 AASL Social Media Superstar Program Pioneer. Amanda is an active member of several committees for AASL and is on the Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice Awards Committee. Visit her library website at lomlibrary.org and/or find out more about her at http://librarianjones.com/.