This Is How We Help Future School Librarians

Several years ago when my co-librarian switched from working in a law library to working in a public school library, her internship was something like our school district saying, ”We’re desperate. You’re hired.”

A few years after that it was my turn; I was required to clock a few hundred hours in a primary school, a secondary school, collaborate on green and white papers, and record myself awkwardly teaching for the first time. Fortunately, I really love what I do, so fulfilling my state’s licensing requirements to be a school librarian was a beneficial, but very different experience from my co-librarian.

Fast forward another few years, and my co-librarian and I have gotten to host one high school intern and one grad student intern. Both were very different experiences with different stakes, but we did manage to learn a few things about ourselves as mentors/teachers, as well as some ways we can improve how we teach our future colleagues.

  • We don’t mean to be lazy, but if left unchecked, we will let you check-in and shelf books all day every day. To avoid this, I started setting reminders on my computer to invite our intern to join us in whatever task we were doing. Seemingly mundane tasks like making deposits may not feel like imparting school librarian wisdom, but savvy school librarians know to stay on the good side of the school book keeper.
  • Every school is unique, but I think it can be helpful to get your intern out of the library and into the front office, the cafeteria, or the copy room. Understanding how all the different parts of a school operate and getting to know the staff can be beneficial to any library program. Having some working knowledge of this dynamic can be useful to interns once they become new librarians.
  • I’m always telling everyone how lucky we are to have a supportive administration. We utilize this support by asking one of our admins if s/he would mind taking some time to speak with an intern. In our district, administrators are required to complete school librarian evaluations. Speaking with an admin enables the intern to ask questions and get answers with real-world applications.
  • Our idea of school librarianship may not look like other school librarians. We’ll probably always be tweaking our philosophy, but we’d like to convey the importance of having an idea, a focus, or a vision for what kind of library you hope to create.
  • We asked our most recent former intern if she had any advice or words of wisdom for other interns. Her reply: I learned just as much through informal means like conversations with the librarians or observations as I did with formal instruction, so I would tell other interns to be sure to soak everything in.

I’m hoping to have another intern sooner than later. Selfishly, I want to practice being a better intern host, but also because I’ve come to see this process as a form of advocacy and a chance to support future colleagues and learning networks. Turns out we really enjoyed our intern experiences, and we hope to host other interns in the near future.

Does anyone do anything special for interns like have a welcome folder or an agenda with scheduled events or activities, or do you think it’s better to go with the flow and look for teachable moments?

Author: Mica Johnson

I’m a school librarian at Farragut Middle. I like the lib to be loud, messy, and full of student activity. I love tech stuff as much as I love books, and I’m part of an awesome rotating maker space.

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Professional Development

Tags: , , , ,

2 replies

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Mica.

    Some universities have specific requirements for graduate students’ practicum/internship experiences. At Texas Woman’s University, practicum students were required to establish specific goals and objectives in collaboration with their practicum site supervisor (practicing school librarian) and TWU faculty supervisor. Students kept a journal of their experiences as well. Field supervisors observed each grad student three times at various stages of their practicum to chart their growth as instructors. The final observation required a lesson plan and teaching students.

    Some site supervisors’ feedback indicated that they learned a great deal from their practicum students/interns. From my perspective, the opportunity for reciprocal mentorship between site supervisors and interns is what makes taking on and engaging in internships so valuable for the individuals involved as well as for our profession.

  2. I highly suggest having any student teacher-librarians/interns spend some time in a classroom of another teacher. During my own student teaching, I was able to spend one period each day with one of the school’s social studies teachers. As librarians, we don’t always teach every day and we usually don’t teach the same group of students everyday. Having that experience with a content teacher taught me so much about behavior management and improved my ability to collaborate and work with teachers because I had a view into their world as an intern.

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