Let’s Get Together Thursday – Building a Balanced Program


It’s a new year–time to reflect on the past year and plan for improvement! Taking this opportunity to see how your program fits in the culture of your campus is a very valuable exercise. Where do you fall in meeting the needs of your students, staff, and community? In December, I wrote about finding the sweet spot in being responsive and proactive to build a collaborative culture around our library programs. The more I think about this notion, the more I think it’s possibly the thing that sets a successful, relevant program apart from others.

Imagine the librarian who shows up each fall for a new year, unlocks the door, turns on the lights, and waits for patrons to show up needing library services. Students and teachers come to the library for books and materials, to use computers and other media equipment, all of which the librarian has purchased and assists them in using. The librarian prides him/herself on being service oriented and providing good customer service to the campus community.

Now imagine a library program that is structured to include heavily scheduled classes, where the librarian teaches a prescribed curriculum and plans a variety of specific literacy activities such as book fairs and reading incentives. The librarian prides him/herself on being a planner, and creating programs that students and teachers need in order to be successful.

Finally, imagine a vibrant library program that is the center of the campus’ academic and social life.

Where does this fit between the first two images? I’d like to suggest that there is a spectrum of approaches to librarianship. Somewhere between being a proactive person and being a reactive person is a balanced approach. Which way do you lean? What qualities define 2014 in your library? Consider some of the pro’s and con’s for each:

Pro’s for reactive style:

  • Meets the needs of the patrons at point of need.
  • Schedule flexible and adaptable.
  • Less planning, control over work.

Con’s for reactive style:

  • Easily replaced by non-certified staff.
  • Potential to be seen as irrelevant or lazy.
  • Perception of lack of vision.

Pro’s for proactive style:

  • Appearance of being busy.
  • Visibility of programming.
  • Structured schedule of activities/classes.

Con’s for proactive style:

  • Too rigid, inflexible.
  • Vision not aligned with the campus’ needs.
  • Difficulty collaborating with others.

Somewhere between the two styles lives that balance we should all strive to achieve. I know good librarians who lean toward the edge of each of these extremes, but those that are truly great offer both observant, responsive service, and also are out there developing and implementing the innovative programs that our communities need but would never have thought to ask for.

Let’s build those collaborative cultures, lead proactively, respond to the needs of our campuses, and be the librarians that our schools cannot live without in 2015.

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.

Categories: Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration

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