About Barbara Paciotti

Retired IB Middle School Librarian and at-risk alternative High School Science Teacher, still helping teachers and students be successful.

Looking Back @ Bulletin Boards & the School Library

Looking Back @ Bulletin Boards & the School Library - Bulletin boards can be a school library's primary means of advocacy and PR, yet we can make them purposeful without spending a lot of time or money! Read how... #NoSweatLibrary #schoollibrary #bulletinboardsWhen I began my School Librarian position, I didn’t have any bulletin boards and I didn’t care—I didn’t see the point in “cutesy” bulletin boards. Rather, I focused on decor for the rather bare 2-year-old library, installing purposeful posters and informational signage. One day I realized that folks had to decide to enter the library and browse to see what it offered, but if I had bulletin boards I could entice students and teachers to make full use of everything the library and I had to offer.

Bulletin boards are my primary way to promote my School Library to students, faculty, administration, and visitors! It doesn’t cost much because I don’t use prepackaged theme pieces; instead I create my own signage with slide presentation software that allows for a variety of text and graphics on 11″ x 8.5″ signs. I print them in color and laminate so they can be reused from year to year.

For any bulletin board, what we display and how often we update depends on how many boards we have and where they are located. By designating certain bulletin boards for certain purposes, and carefully planning for long-term display, we can minimize the time needed to create and maintain them, yet still have them convey valuable and relevant information.

In-Library Bulletin Board

Looking Back @ Bulletin Boards & the School Library - Bulletin boards can be a school library's primary means of advocacy and PR, yet we can make them purposeful without spending a lot of time or money! Read how... #NoSweatLibrary #schoollibrary #bulletinboardsThe first bulletin board I installed was a 3′x4′ one inside the library, on a wall next to the circulation desk. I put up a calendar for planning class visits, but after using my district online calendar to create a new library calendar that could be viewed by anyone in the building, I turned the bulletin board into a place to display the “nuts & bolts” of my Library Program so our operation is completely transparent to visitors. This board is all business, but that’s its purpose, and the infrequent updates are quite easy to do. Signs and items on the bulletin board include:

  • Library Program Mission Statement – This sign typically stays the same for 2-3 years, and reflects my current Strategic Plan.
  • My Professional Information Literacy Theme – I create a new Info-Lit theme when I rewrite my Strategic Plan. It’s my personal goal for focusing Library Lessons to integrate with classroom subject content and new technology.
  • Library Activity Report – This is an infographic I create at the end of each 9-week grading period. I submit one copy to the principal and mount one on the bulletin board.
  • Monthly Library Schedule – I simply print this out from online calendar the first day of each month. Anyone can see who’s scheduled for library use, and I can pencil in notes when planning with teachers.
  • Public Library News & Events – Our school area includes 2 different city libraries and their Youth Librarians provide me with info and flyers, especially for the start of the school year and before each school break.

Grade Level Bulletin Boards for Subject Content

Looking Back @ Bulletin Boards & the School Library - Bulletin boards can be a school library's primary means of advocacy and PR, yet we can make them purposeful without spending a lot of time or money! Read how... #NoSweatLibrary #schoollibrary #bulletinboardsOur school library is in the center of the building, surrounded by four hallways, and I added a 4′x4′ bulletin board in each of the three hallways that border our 6th, 7th, and 8th grade wings. I wanted to set them up at the start of the school year and not take them down till the end of the school year, yet coordinate them with subject area classroom activities and promote reading and using the library. Each bulletin board includes:

  • A grade-level Information Literacy Theme sign that reflects my lesson focus for that grade at the top left corner.
  • A grade-level English/Language Arts Unit Theme sign in the center. This sign changes for each 9-week grading period.
  • A grade-level Social Studies Theme sign in the bottom right corner to promote their Special collections: “Read Around the World” for 6g, “Read Your Way through Texas History” for 7g, and “Read America” for 8g. I keep bookmark pockets filled with reading log bookmarks for this reading promotion program.
  • I add smaller signs for other subject area classes that visit the library during the grading period, like infographics of online services for research projects. These change each grading period, too.
  • Students can create a book review on a 3″x5″ index card and staple it on the board. It’s a great way to involve students and to update bulletin boards without a lot of extra work.

Teachers really appreciate that I coordinate these bulletin boards with their subject content, and students constantly see them as they move between their classes.

Monthly Thematic Bulletin Board

The 4th bulletin board is located in the hallway with 2 student bathrooms and is visible to nearly everyone on their way to the cafeteria. I share this 4′x4′ board with others so we can have a new theme for each month of the school year yet I don’t have to do it every month.

Heritage displays

September is decorated by our Spanish teachers and student Spanish Club for Hispanic Heritage Month, February is decorated by our Black History Month Committee (which includes students), and May‘s Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month is decorated by our ELL teacher and her students (we have a large Asian population in our school). All these groups use wonderful accessories to dress up and draw attention to the board and share classroom activities. I support that by displaying books inside the library that coordinate with each heritage, such as related biographies and authors.

November is Native American Heritage Month, and I use the board for an Indigenous Peoples Around the World display to bring awareness of this issue and support our IB program. I create the display by continent and post signs with historical insights or quotations, along with pictures of book covers of our indigenous collection, including books by and about Native Americans.

Topical displays

The March board is handled by the Fine Arts Department to feature Music in Schools Month and Youth in Art month. The April board is handled by the Math and Science teachers for Math Awareness Month and Earth Month, which includes highlights from our student Recycling Club. October is National Bullying Prevention Month and National Red Ribbon Week. Our school counselors—and student office aides—take on the bulletin board since they sponsor Red Ribbon Week and bullying also falls under their purview.

December is a short month with our winter break, so I post coming activities at our public libraries to encourage students to visit the library and continue reading during the break.

Looking Back @ Bulletin Boards & the School Library - Bulletin boards can be a school library's primary means of advocacy and PR, yet we can make them purposeful without spending a lot of time or money! Read how... #NoSweatLibrary #schoollibrary #bulletinboardsJanuary is for our Internet Safety Month, during which all district librarians present lessons to our entire school. National Internet Safety Month is actually in June, but since we aren’t in school, our district has chosen January for these important lessons with the theme Be Safe in Cyberspace and Become a Digital Citizen. In addition to the board, student-created posters from my Library Lessons are displayed around the hallways.

The monthly thematic bulletin board is also popular with teachers, especially those who otherwise don’t have a bulletin board on which to display their subject content classroom activities. Because students contribute to these displays, they are more meaningful to all students.

Get More!

Join my mailing list if you want more information about these bulletin boards! You can download my Purposeful Bulletin Boards ebook, which includes 15 Info-Lit and ELA signs. You’ll receive email notice of each new blog post covering all aspects of library lessons and management, and choose other free downloads from my e-List Library resources.

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Join my mailing list to get immediate notice of fresh content: engaging lesson ideas, NoSweat school library management, and ways to inspire students to read. You will also gain exclusive access to my e-List Library of free resources.

Looking Back @ Helpful Informational Handouts

Looking Back @ Helpful Informational Handouts - School Librarians can save a lot of time if we anticipate common questions from students, teachers, administrators, or parents, and prepare helpful informational handouts that are customized for each type of patron. Here are some suggestions & a few FREE downloads. #NoSweatLibrary #schoollibrary #readingpromotion #teachercollaboration #parentcommunication Students, teachers, administrators, and parents often have similar questions about our School Library Program. Such common questions include the hours we’re open, materials available for checkout and length of their checkout periods, how to access specialized online resources, general policies & procedures for visiting or using the library facility, and how the School Librarian can help patrons with skills and activities.

We can save a lot of time if we anticipate these questions and prepare helpful informational handouts that are customized for each type of patron. For our handouts to be truly useful we need to provide a broad overview as succinctly as possible. The key is careful organization of just the information each patron needs, provided in an easy-to-navigate format.

Following are images and explanations of the different handouts I use in my middle school library. You may wonder why I have so many items with redundant information, but each print document serves a particular purpose for a patron at their time of need…an essential goal of any school library. (Click to enlarge images; some handouts link to a free download of the document.)

Helpful Handouts for Students

  • Library Bookmarks – A school librarian can never have too many free bookmarks as useful handouts for students. By creating my own templates and purchasing a wide range of bright-colored cardstock, I can quickly provide hundreds of these that are more purposeful and less costly than those available from vendors. I customize 2-sided bookmarks for library information, for Dewey and Fiction Subjects, for reading promotion of special collections and read-alikes, as overdue book reminders, and even as lesson supports. I keep these displayed on the circulation counter for students to take as they need them.
    Fiction Subject Bookmark (2-sided)

    Snip of several colorful topical bookmarks side-by-side

    Read-alike bookmarks

    Overdue Bookmarks

    For overdue books

    NoSweat Library 5-bookmark template image Download my FREE
    5-bookmark template as PPT file
  • Sample Library Info Bookmark & BrochureLibrary Info Brochure – Don’t waste time during upper-grades library orientations giving information returning students have heard before. I offer a Student Library Brochure to those who need the reminder. Such a document is also useful for students who transfer in during the school year, so I give a handful of these to Student Services to include in their new student packets.
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  • Join my mailing list to gain access to my e-List Library that includes this Book Shelving Handbook for students. #NoSweatLibrary #shelvingbooksBookSlinger Handbook – Middle school students love volunteering to shelve books…don’t ask me why. Rather than use an inordinate amount of time explaining shelving, I have a pictorial handbook that explains library organization and shelving guidelines. I can hand one to a student, and when they hand it back I ask if they still have questions; they rarely do, so my handbook must work.
    Join my mailing list to access the free downloadable BookSlinger Shelving Handbook for your library!

Helpful Handouts for Teachers

  • New Teacher FAQs sheetNew Teacher Lib FAQs – The first time my principal invited me to talk to new teachers I realized what I had to say would be quickly forgotten among all the other “stuff” they’d get, so instead I created a handout with a colorful infographic about School Library Services on one side and a Classroom Inventory Guide on the other (new teachers like to know what ‘standard’ furniture & equipment they should have in their classroom).
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    I place these on the tables before new teachers arrive for their meeting (in the library, of course), and most teachers begin reading it immediately. When my turn comes, I merely introduce myself and let them know I’ll be around to answer any additional questions they have. Often some return to the library later—with the handout—to talk, so my strategy works…and I have an opportunity to discuss collaborative lessons specific to that teacher.
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  • My Teacher Quik-Flip Guide for Library & Technology ServicesTeacher Quik-Flip Guide – Information about the library, the school, and technology. After initial setup it’s easy to update, which I do every other year. Sometimes I use different colors for each sheet, sometimes I use a bright neon color for all of them…whatever makes it jump out and say “Use Me.” Distributed at the start of school, my teachers tape or staple it to the wall beside their desk or computer for whenever they need this information.
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    Teacher Quik-Flip Guide with visible TabsThe 4 sheets of letter-size paper, printed on both sides, offer a huge amount of informational space; folded at various sizes, collated and stapled together, they make an easy-to-navigate 8-tabbed booklet:

    • About the Library – map; checkout period for students, teachers; # computers.
    • Library Lessons – orientations; info-lit skills; tech integration.
    • Library/Librarian Services & Instructional Resources – collections; A/V/D equipment, collaboration.
    • Library Website & Online Resources – picture showing site with top-level resources.
    • Cable Channel Lineup – provider list + internal channels for media feeds.
    • Copyright Law & Fair Use Guidelines – media use chart; website evaluation.
    • Tek Tips – district services with logins & PWs; building’s networked printers.
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  • Image of Library Substitute sheetLibrary Substitute Sheet – We could usually get a sub trained for the library, but it’s important to have a quick reference sheet to give a library substitute a brief overview of our particular library. My 2-sided handout—printed on bright-colored paper—has a small map and topical sections for computer logins, checkout info, and opening & closing procedures.

Helpful Handouts for Administrators

  • Principal Info BookletPrincipal Info Booklet – I’ve had 3 different principals during my years as a school librarian. When a new principal arrives, I give them a folder of documents explaining the library budget funds I’m responsible for, the library and school services I provide—Instruction and Curriculum, Communication, Materials Management, and Special Projects—and end with a page of personal information I want a principal to know. My new principals have found it very beneficial.
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  • Internet Laws in a Nutshell – This document explains how FERPA, COPPA, and CIPA apply to students using technology. Various admin personnel may not have been given this information before…or perhaps they have but just not in a “nutshell.” Admins also appreciate having this distributed to teachers at staff development during the days just before school begins.
    You can download this document from my FREE Librarian Resources page.

Helpful Handouts for Parents

Our first PTA meeting, which is our Open House/Meet the Teacher night, is an opportunity to introduce myself to parents, and my principals have always allowed me time to give a brief presentation. I also make available 3 different parent brochures as listed below. A stack of these brochures is also given to Student Services for parents of new students enrolling in our school, and to our front entry Welcome Desk, to be available for parents at any time.

  • Parent Lib Info BrochureParent Library Brochure – This brochure reiterates some of the information given at the presentation about how the library and I are here to help their young ones achieve greater success in their classes.
  • Parent Tek-Tips – I’m fortunate that our school district offers so much online access and so many online services to our parents and surrounding community. This brochure covers the main resources parents may need help using: private student email service, course outlines, student information service with access to grades, online library resources, online curriculum services, and online training for common tech tools.
  • Volunteer Guide – This booklet encourages parent volunteers to help their child by helping the librarian with various in-house and online library tasks; included is a shelving guide similar to my student one.

Helpful Handouts for Other Librarians

Yes, I even have specialized handouts for other librarians who ask me about how I do—or have done—something. These are available on my FREE Librarian Resources Page, by joining my mailing list to gain access to the e-List Library, or from No Sweat Library Lessons, my TeachersPayTeachers store.

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Join my mailing list to get immediate notice of fresh content: engaging lesson ideas, NoSweat school library management, and ways to inspire students to read. You will also gain exclusive access to my e-List Library of free resources.

Looking @ the Different Faces Of School Librarians

Looking @ the Different Faces Of School Librarians - A School Librarian may seem to have it easy, but we are the busiest teacher in the school! Elementary, middle, and high school librarians have quite different experiences, but we also share common tasks and a love for the best job in the world! #NoSweatLibrary #schoollibrary #librarylife #elementary #middleschool #highschoolAt first glance, we may seem to have an easy job, but a School Librarian is actually the busiest teacher in the school! Yes, teacher, indeed. School librarians are grade level or subject educators with the same education, training, and certifications as any other teacher, and must have specified years of experience before they can pursue additional education to earn a Masters degree in Library Science, then pass a test to become a K-12 school librarian. Why? Because we believe that as a School Librarian we can impact a greater number of students than teaching in a single classroom. We are often the only staff member who works with every student and every staff member in the school.

For librarians, the day begins with getting the largest classroom in the building ready for students. Depending on library use and custodial support, we may have housekeeping duties, but 2 tasks are a given: turning on (and perhaps logging in to) the library computers and shelving books returned the day before. Once students arrive, elementary, middle school, and high school librarians spend their days very differently.

Elementary Librarians Denise, May, and Dan

Elementary Librarians typically have a fixed schedule of classes.Denise (Nebraska), May (NYC), and Dan (Maryland) are elementary librarians, Pre-K/Kindergarten through grade 5. They are on a fixed schedule, that is, they are part of the rotation with music, art, and physical education that gives classroom teachers a planning period each day of the week. This is common for elementary librarians, so Denise, May, and Dan have 6 classes throughout the day during which they teach their own library lessons.

Denise has book check out, silent reading, then a fiction or non fiction read-aloud, followed by computer time with an activity that relates to the read-aloud. She also teaches a multi-literacy project with each grade level.

May has a 7-week unit on Appropriate Online Behaviors with all grade levels beginning in October, and then does a variety of other library lessons. She also is assigned to pre-k classrooms during their naptime 2 days a week.

Dan has taught on flexible, semi-fixed, and fixed schedules, lately with a fixed schedule teaching 28 classes a week. Like Denise and May, he has to come up with a ton of lesson plans!

In addition to their regularly scheduled classes, many elementary librarians, like Denise, have a before school reader’s club, or, like Dan, squeezes in an after school book club between school duty 3 days a week.

Dan offers us a great overview of the pros and cons of scheduling dynamics:

PROS CONS
Fixed schedule Equity. Everyone in all grades gets a media lesson on the same schedule with the lessons I want to do. No time, especially with intermediate grades (3-5), for student-driven inquiry projects. Lack of time for library administrative tasks.
Flexible schedule Plenty of time for student-driven inquiry lessons. Time for administrative tasks. Difficulty of coordinating library lessons and visits with teachers.
Classroom teachers make or break flex scheduling format: if they are supportive, it works great; if not, for whatever reason, it’s not equitable for their students.
Semi-flex schedule Pre-K/K-2 get fixed schedule lessons weekly or biweekly, and intermediate grades (3-5) can have student-driven inquiry with teacher collaboration. This is my preferred format because everyone wins; everyone gets something they want and need. None that I’m aware of!

5-6 Librarian Melissa

Melissa (Missouri) is the School Librarian in a 5-6 grade building on a semi-fixed/flex schedule. She sees ELA classes regularly, and other subjects are flexibly scheduled as needed. Melissa has set up her ELA library visits so teachers conference with half the students while she does a small instruction lesson with the other half. Then they switch students. That way the conferences and the instruction are both more effective.

Melissa designs library lessons based on what teachers want her to focus on, in addition to her own library research skills lessons, such as citations and source types. She also plans whole school Project Based Learning lessons for half days and a STEAM parent night. Her school is semi-hi tech, with Chromebook carts in the teachers’ rooms, and Melissa has a Makerspace in the library that’s used during RTI time with students who don’t need math and reading help.

High School Librarians Susan and Julie

High School Librarians typically have a flexible schedule.Susan (Tennessee) is currently a high school librarian, but also has 12 years experience in elementary libraries. Her experience was similar to Denise, May and Dan—fixed schedule, no planning time, no aide, and serving after-school duty—plus she hosted book fairs, wrote grants, promoted reading programs with the public library, and served on committees.

Now, as a high school librarian for over 1100 students and 65 teachers, Susan has a flexible schedule which allows everyone to visit the library at their time of need. She must coordinate library use with testing and events, but she also has a conference room that is used for small group meetings for social workers, recruiters, and professional development.

Susan begins the year with a QR code scavenger hunt orientation, then teaches classes about Internet safety, website evaluation, and creating newsletters. She works throughout the day with individual students who need help with papers and projects. Susan promotes as many literacy-related programs as possible: National Library Card Sign-Up Month, Teen Read Week, Banned Book Week, National Library Month, Read Across America, Read for the Record, Drop Everything and Read.

Susan hosts a teacher library orientation session to get teachers on board with library use, and collaborates with teachers by attending department meetings. She is her school’s onsite technical coordinator, maintaining the library webpage, where she includes scholarship information for students and surveys for students & teachers to submit requests of books to order for the library.

Susan serves on the school improvement plan committee, writes grants, is a book reviewer for the School Library Journal, is involved with her state’s professional library organization, and connects with other librarians through online networks and listservs.

Julie (Tennessee) serves in a 9-12 A-B block schedule high school. She begins her day with a 10-minute homeroom group of students, then has a flexible morning schedule. In the middle of the day, Julie has a 45-minute RTI class, with whom she does a novel study and a unit on digital literacy & reading the news. Then the flex schedule continues until the last period, when Julie covers a 9th grade ELA class.

After her orientation scavenger hunt at the start of school, Julie schedules anybody that wants to use the library and is open to whatever teachers want to do, like ELA teachers who bring classes in for about 30 minutes to get a book and read. Julie also works with various teachers to develop research projects. A typical research project takes about two weeks, every other day, during that teacher’s regular class schedule.

Julie’s library also offers a makerspace with knitting, friendship bracelets, board games, Little Bits, coloring and drawing, and origami. It serves as a reward, but Julie walks a fine line with teachers about students participating in unscheduled activities.

While having a flexible schedule may seem ideal, Julie also has to work around testing and special events that use the library, such as guest speakers or parent meetings. In her library, flexibility includes the physical facility: the furniture can be rearranged for different uses and the technology is laptop carts, so when students come in to do research, they can get a laptop and a few books and pick a cozy spot to work.

Julie has a book club after school once a month, with snacks based on the book. She also has an ever-growing group of readers at lunchtime who sit in the library and read, where it’s quiet, including some seemingly unlikely participants:

A few weeks ago, it was School Library Media Day and I posted some pictures of library activities that day. A couple of guys had snuck in here and were reading SLAM and ESPN magazines, and I caught them reading and put it on Instagram and Twitter. These two guys are in trouble a lot, but somehow in the photo they looked like fine young scholars, and they liked that. Now they come every day, sit by the window, geek out about basketball, and stay out of trouble. And they have brought friends.

Middle School Librarians Kim and Pamela

Middle School Librarians often have a semi-fixed/flex schedule.Kim (California) and Pamela (West Texas) are middle school librarians, serving grades 6-8. Middle school can be challenging in trying to accommodate both the structure and the freedom requested by the teachers.

Kim’s school is 90% ELL, with about 80% on free or reduced lunch. The library is the newest one in the district and has room for 2 classes, one in the seating area and one at computers, although she has had 3 classes at a time. Kim begins her morning before the first bell, when at least 100 students visit the library for reading, working on assignments, playing board games, using the computers, or just visiting friends. Fortunately, Kim has an assigned duty teacher during this time to help manage the group.

Kim has a fixed schedule for English Language Arts classes, who visit the library every three weeks for book checkout, with one grade level each week, so she has a “6th grade week,” a “7th grade week,” and an “8th grade week.” At the start of school these classes get a few structured lessons, then the rest of the year she offers booktalks, and about half the time the classes remain for SSR (structured silent reading).

The rest of Kim’s scheduling is flexible and revolves around collaborating with teachers whose students will be using the computers: researching, finding and vetting websites, and writing citations. Her school is becoming a Google Classroom school.

Kim has a Makerspace for students to use during lunch periods. Students have learned to sew on a button and do a few other stitches, make a green screen video, and lately they’re doing hat-making, thanks to a teacher who donated a huge stack of head-sized paper bags.

Pamela has a completely flex schedule in a huge middle school—1400 students! Pamela’s school library is very popular, especially the makerspace, with students coming in before school, during lunches, and after school.

Students come into the school with strong library skills from structured library lessons in elementary school, so Pamela’s lessons are mainly about using online subscription databases and other Internet lessons.

Pamela’s school is high tech with many computers, both desktop and laptop, and teachers come to her all the time about using technology in their classrooms. She’s the main technology support person in her school, for students and teachers, as well as the webmaster for the school and library websites.

As busy as she is, Pamela makes time to serve as a judge for the Cybils Young Adult Book Awards, and she’s well-known in professional circles for her book review blog & column for the local newspaper, and as a book reviewer for two professional journals. The time spent is well worth it: publishers send Pamela books to review (and keep), so she’s built her school’s print collection into the largest—and the best—young adult collection in the city!

There’s More To The Story…

School Librarians have a lot of "invisible" tasks!Whether fixed schedule or flex schedule—or something in between—school librarians spend plenty of time with students, either teaching library-related lessons or helping them find the perfect book to read. We also spend time collaborating with teachers to integrate library skills and technology into class projects, and have to juggle our schedule to accommodate the planning periods of the collaborating teachers.

But we also have many “invisible” administrative tasks to make sure the library meets the needs of the school. If you see us alone in the library—reading, talking on the phone, on the computer—realize that we aren’t taking a break, we are:

  • Developing curriculum maps of all subjects to determine what library materials are needed to best support classroom activities, and creating library lessons to make the best use of those library materials for the designated project.
  • Reading book reviews and meeting with vendors to prepare book lists according to professional guidelines, and creating purchase orders to procure books from the best-value vendors in order to maximize budget constraints.
  • Processing newly arrived books for student/teacher use, including printing and affixing barcodes, adding protective covers, inputting to the library automation system, and placing on shelves.
  • Researching and evaluating online materials by phoning or meeting with vendors to determine the highest quality that best match school needs.
  • Uploading software to computers or mastering online services, and creating lessons to show students (and teachers) their best use in the library and in the classroom.
  • Repairing damaged print materials, and troubleshooting technology and online resources.
  • Periodically inventorying library materials—print, digital, and equipment—and possibly classroom materials and textbooks.

These administrative tasks must be planned and completed between all the other activity in the library, and many librarians run their school libraries alone. For example, Dan has an adult aide only for a couple of hours in the morning, and none of the others have an aide; with no assistance in their libraries, Pamela, Julie, and Susan often have to squeeze eating lunch in between students checking out books!

The life of a School Librarian is challenging, demanding, and unrelenting. But ask any School Librarian who has been on-the-job for awhile, and we will tell you it’s not only a rewarding career, but it’s also the best place to be in the school!

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Join my mailing list to get immediate notice of fresh content: engaging lesson ideas, NoSweat school library management, and ways to inspire students to read. You will also gain exclusive access to my e-List Library of free resources.