What is a Librariansaurus? A library profession that is becoming extinct. This is what is happening to some of the school library jobs in my district. We recently adopted site-based budgeting which allows principals to make staffing decisions for each school. The certified library positions especially in our elementary schools are slowly disappearing. You might be asking yourself…why the librarian? Well, they have to cut somewhere and if librarians are not providing good library service or not making the staff aware of their awesomeness then their importance may not be evident.
I am a library services director for a school district with 80+ schools. I started this job last July and my first mission was to figure out why eight of our schools did not hire a certified librarian. They chose to replace that position with a paraprofessional. I heard just about every story of why they did not want a librarian but that was not a help to me. I made it my quest to find out why a principal would want a certified librarian. I called one of the elementary principals who had a librarian that to me is like a Disney Princess. I thought for sure she would tell me that the reason she loved her librarian was because she could find the perfect book for every child. I was wrong because she said she valued the librarian because of the AR data she provided for data reviews. OK, so this gave me an indication a principal might not have an idea of ALL the things a librarian does. I called my former principal and asked why she valued me as a librarian. She said you put on one really great book fair. WHAT! I then realized that our librarians (including myself) are not showing their value. They are quietly keeping those libraries running but not displaying to the staff why they are critical to the school.
I had my first evaluation meeting with the assistant superintendent and he gave me one main charge. This would be to reinstate the good reputation of a school librarian in our district. I thought long and hard and then realized that we need to connect to our stakeholders. How do we do that? How do we tell our story?
I wanted to focus on four groups: students, teachers, administrator and community. What do we communicate to them? I spent many hours this year sending emails to administrators about the amazing library cultures that our librarians are creating in their schools. I knew I could not do it alone. We have to change the work ethic and we need librarians to be advocates for themselves and their jobs. This is staffing time for most school districts and I feel as though we are playing chess and being as strategic as we can to win the game. Anyone can check out books so how is a librarian different than a paraprofessional?
These are some of my success stories:
- This librarian has always done school voting for our state award winning books. The principal never acknowledged this until the librarian created a bulletin board of data from the school election. Sharing data in a new way brought recognition to her programming.
- A librarian attending the code.org class and used one of the lessons for her evaluation. The principal was so impressed with the relevancy of content that she praised the librarian. Attending a code.org class gave her the tools to be successful and her principal was excited to see coding content brought into their library.
- A librarian told me she did not need to be an advocate for her work because it spoke for itself. She received a few negative comments from the administration then realized she had to show her value of her amazing lessons because the administrators do not always walk in at the perfect time.
This is a link to a presentation on connecting school libraries to stakeholders which shares some of the examples from my school district. http://tinyurl.com/libconnections15 . What are some of your success stories from your libraries? Please post and share below.
There are so many designated weeks or days for different groups or loves. You have national ice cream day, teacher appreciation week and even a national boss’s day. This week is a week to celebrate your librarians and libraries. It is National Library Week. Try not to spend just this week appreciated your librarian but be an advocate for them with your school administration. We do not want our school librarians to go extinct! Shannon Mersand made a great comment in her blog https://engage.intel.com/community/teachersengage/blog/2014/04/05/cut-to-the-core-tech-solutions-for-common-core?sr=stream post which made a plea to join forces with your school librarian. Take her up on that challenge and see how beneficial this collaboration can be to your school and classroom.
I hope you decide to join me on my journey of being a library services director since I will use the Engaging Libraries blog as a home for my thoughts. I have some amazing librarians and I plan share many of their stories with you. There are so many blogs written by individual librarians and their educational voyage but these posts will spotlight a district and a professional path of many. I look forward to sharing with you and I know we can start some supportive conversations.