Reflecting on the Summer and Preparing for a New School Year
It’s the time of year when we transition from summer schedules to back-to-school activities. As I plan my own new student orientation for the library, I am mindful of just how quickly the summer flew by. Last month I wrote about library advocacy during the summer as I prepared to travel to Boston, Massachusetts, for the annual Building Learning Communities Conference. Well, I promised a quick conference update, so here it is in a nutshell. My session began with a fire alarm and a building evacuation. After a false alarm announcement and a large dose of humor, the session did happen. I was proud to share about dynamic library programming with a diverse audience from across the United States and Australia. I love to collaborate with school librarians about just how special library programming can be. Don’t hesitate to connect with me via social media or email!
New Student Orientation at Your School
So, fast forward to the end of August. Summer vacation has come and gone, and hopefully you have recharged your batteries and are ready to begin another year providing library programming to America’s young people. For many of us, that first day of school is close at hand. For some, school is already back in session. Whatever the case may be for you, I encourage you to start the school year with a library orientation specifically for new students.
At my high school, freshmen come to campus prior to the first day of school to experience an immersion program geared to making them a part of the school community. It is a wonderful opportunity for them to meet teachers, fellow students, sign up for clubs, and attend a library orientation specifically designed for them. Capitalizing on this time allows me to meet each freshman and showcase what the the library has to offer.
There are so many benefits to starting the year with a purposeful library orientation. Rhoades and Hartsell (2008) noted, “New student orientations provide an ideal opportunity to be more innovative and proactive in creating first impressions of library resources and services” (p.1). While they refer to academic libraries and college orientation, their article certainly offers pertinent information for school libraries, no matter the grade level. As the new year begins, consider planning an engaging new student orientation, a welcome back event, or a special open house program to show your stakeholders just how special the school library is to the life of your school. Here are three key reasons why I plan a special freshman orientation each year:
Welcome New Students to the School
- The library is the hub of the school, so help new students see what a special place the library is in the life of your school.
- Showcase your library as a safe, welcoming place in the school.
- Help new students feel comfortable and let them know you are there to help.
Showcase Resources Available to Support Student Learning
- Highlight the academic services the library has to offer (i.e., databases/research resources, library website or blog, available print resources).
- Familiarize students with available technology resources (i.e., digital resources, video equipment, green screen/lighting, Chromebooks, iPads, and educational apps).
- Showcase reading resources in appealing displays for back-to-school independent reading
- Highlight any creative spaces you may have, such as a makerspace area or other collaborative spaces.
Highlight Library Programming
- Share a library calendar or schedule of upcoming events.
- Promote any book clubs or Battle of the Books team opportunities.
- Explore your school-wide research model (if you have one).
- Play a slideshow of students and teachers engaged in library programming.
I wish each of you a wonderful 2018-19 school year. As you begin another academic year, may it truly be one that positively impacts student learning. I would love to share ideas for creative new student orientations, so please reach out via social media and share. Through dynamic library programming, you certainly make a difference and help to create a culture of reading at your school!
Resources for your review:
Cahoy, E. S., & Bichel, R. M. (2004). A Luau in the Library? A New Model of Library Orientation. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 11(1), 49-60. doi:10.1300/J106v11n01_06
Rhoades Jr., J. G., & Hartsell, A. (2008). Marketing First Impressions: Academic Libraries Creating Partnerships and Connections at New Student Orientations. Library Philosophy & Practice, 1-11.
Vrabel, T. (2008). So You Think They’ll Roll Their Eyes: A New Look at Library Orientation. Library Media Connection, 26(7), 37.
Williams, C. (2016, September 20). A new look at orientation. [Blog post}. Retrieved from https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/new-look-orientation/
Author: Laura Long
Laura Long is the school library media specialist at Highland School of Technology in Gastonia, NC, a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and her Masters of Library Science from East Carolina University. She is a Gaston County Schools’ Delta Fellow, Pinnacle Technology Leader and member of the Pioneering Educators Team, as well as a National Board certified language arts teacher. Additionally, she is the President-elect of the North Carolina School Library Media Association. She loves collaborating and helping her students connect with others around the world, so feel free to contact her via email or social media.