Let’s Get Together Thursday – Librarians Reflect: How Did My Collaboration Go This Year?

The end of the year rush is over.  Inventories are completed, reports are filed, testing is finished, grades are posted and the kids have gone home for the summer.  It’s time to take a moment now that the year has finished to reflect on what went right and what could be improved in your collaboration efforts.  So I am sitting down thinking about what occurred this past year for me.

My teachers made more use of the online library calendar and Google doc that I created for online collaboration.  It’s not as personal as a face-to-face meeting but in a busy high school it enables us to communicate quickly and plan easily.

Besides my English teachers who love to collaborate, I was able to plan and work with several different teachers who I had not worked with before.  The Spanish language teachers, health teachers and the oceanography teacher all started new units this year and requested my input.  Working with the new ESL teacher and her students on a number of small projects was especially worthwhile, too.  We even applied for a grant together.

I purchased Libguides this year and we used the program to create a guide for each of these new  collaborative units that we referred the students to when working with them in the library.  The resources we curated for them to use were accessible online throughout the unit.  I am happy with how this program worked out for our students and teachers.

What I need to improve on is collaborating with my social studies and science teachers.  I need to find a way to support their curriculum with mine in a meaningful way that will get them out of their classrooms and into the library.  Something that will provide the students with opportunities to make use of library resources, do some inquiry research and integrate technology into their studies.

Our PLN is reading Doug Johnson’s The Indispensable Librarian this summer.  In his chapter on “Managing Others and Collaboration” he lists five suggestions to consider before you reach out to collaborate.

  1. Recognize what keeps teachers awake at night. The purpose of collaboration should be to help others meet their instructional goals.
  2. Cultivate, use, and value your vital areas of expertise. All members of the collaborative effort should be bringing something unique to the table when working together and form a symbiotic relationship.
  3. Look for win/win situations. Good collaborations result in both the teacher and librarian meeting mutually agreed upon, but individual goals.
  4. Be likeable. The personality and interpersonal skills of the librarian are critical for successful collaboration. People don’t work with people who are difficult or unpleasant.
  5. Build slowly, but meaningfully. ….The expectation that the librarian will immediately become an accepted, valued collaborator on every classroom project or activity is unrealistic. But this does not mean this should not be the librarian’s goal and that steps should not be taken toward achieving it.

In his book, he goes into more detail on each of these suggestions and I feel that getting a better understanding of them will help me reach my goal of connecting and collaborating with more teachers at my school.  So as you reflect on your collaborations, big and small, keep in mind Doug Johnson’s suggestions to find out your teachers’ goals, how you can contribute to those goals and realize that building a collaborative atmosphere takes time.


Author: Joann Absi

I am the media coordinator at Eugene Ashley High School in Wilmington, NC. I have had positions at elementary, middle and high school libraries during my career. I am a past president of NCSLMA. Currently I am serving as the Communications Chair for NCSLMA and a member of AASL/ALSC/YALSA School/Public Library Cooperation.

Categories: Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration

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3 replies

  1. My collaborations improved this year. I was able to do two major project-based learning units with my fifth graders that I had only been able to do once before, several years ago. My collaboration was with two new fifth grade teachers who were eager for any kind of help they could get.

    The first unit involved role playing a future where our town had a lot more people and not enough energy to go around. Each group was to research one of nine energy sources and determine its feasibility for our area. This unit was mostly planned by me, but co-assessed with the classroom teacher.

    The second project was a very opening ended individual project about the Civil War. Students could choose any topic. Most students did well, although a few reverted to poor research habits that were in direct contrast to the work they had done for the other fifth grade teacher. The difference, I think, is that I did not have as much time to coteach with the second teacher. Hence, she was unaware what had been expected of the students earlier and a few got away with sloppy practice before they were called on it.

    My biggest success was with the second grade, which is taught be four very strong teachers. Using our PebbleGo database, our second graders worked in teams to find information, paraphrase and cite their sources. We conducted several very short projects this past year and are already planning for the year ahead.

  2. Joann, would you be willing to share the Google doc that you created for online collaboration?

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