When to Hold On, When to Let Go


When we no longer have the what is needed for them, when is it time to let go of programs in our school library that we have grown from a seed? When is it worth the fight with our administrations for money, access to resources, and support? Right now I’m struggling to find that answer.  I’m constantly pushing myself forward as a school librarian, trying to get creative with new ideas each year. When I came back this fall, barrier upon barrier had been set up in my way and I’m asking myself how hard do I hold on, and when do I need to let go?

The Hold

When I returned to school this year I was informed my budget would be drastically reduced.  I no longer had access to a P-Card to purchase materials for Calming Craft bags each month, makerspace supplies, and Amazon books that come in a quickly. Due to the combination of budget cuts and no way to purchases the materials I need now,  I will have to cut out any of the programming or student challenges I have built up over the years.  I want to hold onto the SEL programs I had in place for students because they were successful. They gave students an outlet, a calm moment, and relaxation mindset. 

The Let Go

Advocacy and speaking up for what students need can be challenging. Finding your voice and keeping your own emotions in check while doing it can prove difficult at times.  I started my rebuttal to these budget cuts with my assistant principal. I made sure to outline what had changed and the negative effects that the ripples would cause.  My next step was to go to my district level contact.  The common message was “we don’t want these programs to die, but we can’t really help you right now.  Let’s wait and see”.   

That was hard for me to accept in a lot of ways. My administration and district want us to have exceptional programming for students, but are not supporting  the resources the school library needs for what has already been successful.  If I would have known this was coming I could have applied for grants last year to sustain these programs.  My worry is that if I let them go I’m not only losing something I cared about creating, but more importantly the students will lose them.  For the month of September I bought the Calming Craft bag supplies out of my own personal money, but I can’t afford  to do this all year long. 

In the coming months I plan to apply for any and all district or school grants that I can.  If any readers have ideas about grants they have applied for that are early in the year that would be greatly appreciated. If I have to take a pause on programing for now, my goal will be to secure funding for at least one program for next school year.

The Big Question

The big question on my mind at the moment is simply, when do you let go of ideas or programs you’ve loved? When do you hold on and fight harder? I welcome any comments or ideas readers may have about how to go about deciding this.  I know many of us have struggled with budget cuts. I want to work through this in a positive way, even when feeling at times defeated.  When you love and care about your job, your school library, and your learners it is difficult to separate the business of schools from the emotions I have. Going forward in the future months,  I am planning to compile a spreadsheet of grants and timelines to help me organize what funds my school might qualify for.  I will also continue to advocate for students needs to my district and school administration with specific requests and impacts. I will get more creative with supplies that I already have or free materials I can find.  Despite more limited resources, this school library will always be a space for all.




Author: Elizabeth Libberton

Elizabeth Libberton is the library media specialist at St. Charles East High School in St. Charles Illinois. She currently writes book reviews for School Library Journal. She is a member of the ALA Awards Selection Committee. Also, she is a member of the steering committee for the AISLE Lincoln Book Award.

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership

Tags: , ,

2 replies

  1. I’m so sorry to hear about your situation. If your school has an Education Foundation, that would be a great place to seek extra funding for specific projects. Donors Choose could also be a place to post a list of needed supplies for community members to purchase for you. Best of luck to you!

  2. What a difficult situation to find yourself in. I immediately connected to your struggle and main theme of this post on not knowing what to fight for. I am just beginning my TL journey, and I appreciate you sharing your thought process and next steps. I acknowledge that this is a hurdle I will undoubtedly face in my career. The fact that this budget cut was not made known to you at an earlier time is both confusing and frustrating to me. When you’re repeatedly told admin wants to support you but cannot at this time, it makes me wonder how true that is. At the same time, I wonder how much influence admin really has on the budget, but maybe all they can do is be an advocate. Something that you said that stood out to me was prioritizing your SEL program. You were able to acknowledge at least ONE thing you wanted to maintain, with the core reason being how much the students benefited from it. To me this is a great starting point, where you are choosing to let go of some aspects (for now) but are choosing to fight for arguably the most meaningful part of your program. It is becoming more clear to me how often educators use their own personal funds for school. This used to bother me a lot. Now I realize that sometimes the passion of teaching takes over and it feels like what is necessary at the time. My question is that perhaps there are members or organizations in your community that would be willing to donate to your library programs? I wish you the best of luck on this journey, your students are extremely lucky to have you as an advocate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.