Dear First-Year Elementary Librarians,
Congratulations on your new job. I want to give you some advice to ease you into your first year.
Being a Librarian Is about Service
Always remember that being a librarian is about service. Students and teachers come first. Displays are great, new books attract readers, but if students and teachers don’t feel welcome, they won’t come back. When you’re in the middle of trying to complete an administrative task, and a student or teacher comes into your library, immediately stop what you’re doing and give them your full attention. I have a coffee station set up in my back room for staff. On days I make coffee, I send staff an email. It’s a great way to get teachers to come into the library when they normally wouldn’t. This is the perfect opportunity to have quick, collaborative discussions.
If you transitioned from the classroom to the library, remember that the library serves the entire school. Which leads to my next piece of advice: think globally. Your life will be much easier when you remember that your library program reaches the entire school. When coming up with great plans for your library, keep the master schedule, the staff, and the administration in mind. Look at the school calendar and make sure no other events are going on when scheduling activities.
Promote your Program
Remember to promote your program. Most people have no idea what you do in the library. Join the Leadership Team at your school. As the librarian, your program directly affects the literacy of the entire school. Schedule a yearly meeting with your administration to discuss your program and the funding you need. The library budget will be the first thing cut if your principal doesn’t know what your program is about and how important it is to the entire school. Look at your school board budget proposal. How much money is allocated per child for the library? Show that number to your principal AND office manager if it is lower than what is stated. These conversations may be uncomfortable for you to have at first, but it is invaluable in the long run.
It’s time to discuss something more frightening than a budget proposal…teaching Kindergarten. Kindergarten teachers deserve the VIP Room in Heaven, the one with all the chocolate and wine. Kindergarten babies in the library during the first two months of school can be described with two words: HERDING CATS! Forty-five minutes in a library with twenty five Kindergarten children in reality is like forty-five HOURS!
Keep things hopping by adding movement and singing to your K library time. I start with a story in one part of my library, then we move to the other end of the library for another story. I have learned to add finger plays and songs to my lessons. I cannot sing well. OK, I cannot sing at all! That doesn’t stop me. My assistant probably winces every time I massacre a song like a dying bull frog, but my little K’s love it. If singing isn’t an option, try Go Noodle. Freeze dance is another Kindergarten favorite. By October, the Kindergarten teachers will have worked their magic so Kindergarten library time will become less like a mini zombie apocalypse and more like a real library.
Remember the Magic
When you feel as if you are being pulled in a hundred different directions, bring it back to the children. You are a librarian because someone in your life took the time to show you what the magic of reading was all about. You can now be that person in a child’s life. The person who can match them to a perfect book. The person who will help create a life-long reader. The person who makes reading magical. Enjoy your first year in the library.
Colleen R. Lee
Author: Colleen R. Lee
Colleen R. Lee is a former middle school English teacher and Elementary Teacher. She is currently the Elementary Librarian at Greenfield Elementary School in Chesterfield County, VA. Follow her on Twitter @MrsLeesLibrary.