A new year is underway–new pencils, new students, and new staff members for most of us. Whether you’re new at your campus, or you’re one of the veterans helping mentor new teachers, don’t forget the importance of a first impression. Somewhere in library school we all learned the importance of a warm and welcoming environment. However, it’s not about throw pillows, posters, and plants. The facility itself can be pristine or cluttered, chic or cutesy, but the place called library isn’t nearly as important as the librarian staffing it.
Are YOU warm and welcoming? Are you available to those dropping in? Does your signage reflect a spirit of helpfulness rather than a list of don’ts? Are you creating a people centered environment? How do you handle teacher requests? Is it a complicated system that deters those who may need you most from asking for assistance or from scheduling classes?
If we want to build a collaborative environment, our attitude in greeting people who pop in is far more important that how attractive our “Welcome Back” displays are. Our teachers will pick up a great deal from our non-verbal communications–having the door open, making eye contact and greeting them when they come in, having materials/supplies they can borrow available when they are working in our libraries. These are all ways that we set the tone for how open we are to working with them that they aren’t just an annoyance distracting us from the clerical or administrative tasks we never seem to have enough time to do.
Being a librarian is more than liking books and research, technology and literature. It’s about liking and serving people, too. Our teachers are just as much our patrons as our students. If we want to have a busy library filled with students learning, we’ve got to have the teachers happy to be there as well.
I have winced many times at some of my own colleagues bragging about telling teachers off and sending them away because they didn’t follow the librarian’s rules. To that I say it’s very difficult to recover a relationship once you’ve gone there. Remember how it felt to be that teacher that just needed a kind word today–and not a lecture about how it’s really not that hard to fill out an online request. Even those teachers who have no kind words for others can be killed with kindness. These are our customers, like it or not. If we expect teachers to bring their students to the library, we must begin by being customer centered with them.
Meaningful collaboration is a proven means of increasing student achievement, but it doesn’t just happen. We’ll look at other keys to collaboration the next several Thursdays. Next week we’ll talk about being “Collaboration Worthy!”
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.