The Changing Role of the Elementary School Librarian

A Librarian without a Library

Recently, I’ve attended many meetings about the possibility of starting school in September with only digital learning. As an elementary librarian, my heart breaks when I think of my library sitting empty, the books and materials alone and unused. What will my role be if I do not have a library to go to each day?

Through Change Comes Growth

No matter what the next school year looks like, my role as an elementary school librarian will be different. But different isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

One of my biggest challenges for the past five years at my school has been getting teachers to see me as a true collaborative partner in educating their students. My fixed schedule has been a hurdle to collaboration.

The Possibility of a Fixed/Flexible Schedule

To deal with the increase of our 4th-5th grade student population next year, my principal approached me about going to a fixed/flexible schedule. We decided that K-3 would keep a fixed schedule and 4th and 5th grades would go to a flexible schedule. I knew that losing library as part of the teacher planning period rotation was going to be difficult to sell to my teachers.

Shortly after this decision was made, schools shut down, causing all plans for next year to be placed on hold.

Reinventing Myself

With distance learning, I will be freed from the constraints of a traditional fixed schedule. I can reinvent myself as a co-teacher and collaborator with the staff.

First, I must let my admin team know how I can support our staff. Next, I can attend online planning meetings, gather resources, create digital learning lessons, attend digital classrooms, and provide in-services on various resources for staff.

Hopefully, the way I conduct myself during this time will allow my coworkers to see me in a different light. As a result, they may be more receptive to a flexible schedule once schools reopen full time.

Moving Forward

Once schools fully open, we do not necessarily have to go back to old traditions and schedules. This is a time to think outside the box and come up with new ways of doing things. If we step up now, we can ensure that we are seen as an invaluable resource to teachers, students, and our school.


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.

Categories: Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration

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1 reply

  1. You nailed step one, which is freeing our thinking from restraints. As I have noted in my discussions of this, we need to be thinking about the unthinkable. For example, why would the “books and materials [sit] alone and unused” in the library? Why not proactively move books into a distributed library model? Books could be broken up into “branches” where each branch library is a classroom perhaps. I am all for us co-opting a hashtag and working to #EmptyTheShelves.

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