District/county office of education supervising librarians positions have been drastically cut over the last few years. So it’s not surprising that there have been a flurry of posts about combining the district librarian position with a site teacher librarian position. The two positions may have some similarities, but both are demanding and require very different skill sets and certainly a different lens.
It has been years since I looked at a job description for a district library supervisor. I immediately accessed the AASL website and found an updated version of the 1994 Position Statement on the School Library Supervisor. The last sentence describes the position perfectly: “The responsibilities of a supervisor encompass many areas but can be classified as those of leader, administrator, communicator, and teacher.”
Then I looked at my old job description and was amazed that the duties did not begin to describe the real nitty-gritty jobs that supervising librarians do throughout the year. What does the requirement “administer and implement a district library program” really mean? Sounds simple enough until you remember that we are talking about a TK-12 library program. Implementing a single site library program requires collaborating with that site’s teachers, staff, and administrators. In the case of a supervising librarian it requires collaborating with multiple site staffs and district administrators to convince them to support the district library program.
As administrators, supervising librarians provide a variety of managed library services. In my case these services run the gamut from daily site supervision, monthly staff training, creating collection weeding maps and district-approved ordering lists. Services include district reports for textbook and Chromebook and teacher laptop circulation statistics and current inventories. It includes liaising with the SIS and network specialists to ensure the Aeries patron downloads to Destiny are current. It includes providing basic Destiny tech support and the time to escalate an e-mail to Follett to deal with a serious issue. It includes managing the county’s OverDrive Consortium and curating open educational resources for district use. More often than not part of everyday is spent listening to complaints while trying to make decisions that will resolve administration and staff concerns.
Next on the job description was “provide equitable access to information resources including print and digital for college-to-career students.” (while not forgetting 21st-century skills). That’s a vague description that has changed and increased over the years. Since new textbook adoptions have a strong digital component, district management of supplemental digital resources is critical. With limited staffing, my office regularly updates the district library webpage and site library landing pages. These pages provide access to our digital resources including the shared One Card Program. Of course this requires working with the district’s technology department, the district webmaster, and the county library. Last but not least, the annually shrinking site and library services funding requires careful and sometimes creative budgeting for all information resource purchases.
Before I began this post, I called my old friend Janet Wile, the supervising district librarian for Central Unified (Fresno, CA) and a Lilead Fellow. We both agree that one of the more important aspects of this position is the ability to create and maintain relationships with the community and to implement collaborative partnerships that promote literacy and shared resources. District supervising librarians are the voice that promotes and supports site libraries and staffs. We look at school libraries through a district lens that allows us to implement library programs to provide equitable access for all our students while encouraging lifelong literacy. All of this requires dedication, patience, understanding, resourcefulness, and maybe a little bit of cunning.
Author: Kate MacMillan
18 years as Coordinator of Library Services for Napa Valley USD and Napa Valley School Library Consortium; 2010-current CDE Recommended Literature Committee member; 8 years as an outside library consultant for Follett Library Resources; 6 years as a Napa County Library Commissioner; Current member of California Dept of Education’s Literature Committee; Napa TV Public Access board member; ALA, AASL, CLA (Californiia Library Association), CSLA (California School Library Association) and CUE (Computer Using Educators). Conference presentations include: United We Stand; School and Public Libraries Working Together (CLA 2016, CSLA 2017), It’s Not Your Mother’s Library 2012 and 2013 (CUE); Enhancing Online Resources through Library Partnerships (CUE 2010); Implementing School Library Consortium (CSLA 2008); Athletes as Readers and Leaders (2008 Association of American Publishers & CSLA Project). Contributor to School Libraries: What’s Now, What’s Next, What’s Yet to Come!