Moving On: Take or Leave School Library Lessons?

What does a School Librarian do with library lessons when leaving a School Library? How do we decide? We must consider our teachers, consider the incoming librarian, and consider ourselves. | No Sweat LibraryAt some point in the career of any School Librarian, this question presents itself:  When leaving our current school library position, what do we do with our Library Lessons?

Some administrators expect all lessons to remain at the school, and librarians may balk at being ordered to leave their own work products. Some worry that leaving their lessons will minimize their value when used by the next librarian, or that there’s a legal or ethical concern about using their same lessons at their next school, or that it precludes them from presenting or publishing the lessons.

The question is one that calls upon, what the Library Director who inspired me said, “making a wise professional decision.” Thus, our professional conclusion must be to minimize the transitional impact on our current teachers and students. What does this mean?

CONSIDER OUR TEACHERS

I remember my first year as a new school librarian. The previous librarian had opened the new middle school and left after 2 years, but she had already done several collaborative lessons with teachers. Imagine my apprehension when a teacher came to me: “B_ and I did a unit on _____ and I want to do the same unit again this year.” The teacher didn’t know exactly what B_ had done for the lesson, but thank goodness I had her lesson files:

  • I was able to find the lesson so the teacher didn’t need to spend inordinate amounts of her planning time to get me up to speed.
  • I had a starting point for myself rather than scrambling to create something new and trying to determine what resources I had in the library that suited the lesson.

As the year progressed and I worked my way through the previous librarian’s lessons, I jotted down ideas for making them my own, but by not having to recreate already existing lessons, I had the time and enthusiasm to develop my own new lessons with teachers who hadn’t worked with B_. Thanks to her, my first year was a success with faculty.

When a School Librarian moves to a new position elsewhere, do we leave our library lessons for the incoming librarian? If we consider our teachers and the time we spent collaborating with them, we'll have our answer. | No Sweat LibraryConsider an alternative: I am a classroom teacher who has spent considerable time planning with the librarian. I’d be pretty upset if the new librarian had no information about those lessons. Even if she could create something new, I’d resent all the valuable time I’d spent planning with the previous librarian—possibly over several years. If all my hard work was down the drain and we had to redo it, I might not bother to plan lessons with any librarian, let alone each new one that arrived at my school.

With that in mind, lessons generated through collaborative planning with teachers would best remain on the campus to maintain the continuity a teacher expects after putting time and energy into planning the lesson. One might even reason that any creations for the library during regular contract hours ought to remain on the campus, including signage, bulletin board decorations, and information documents. I suspect that’s the reasoning an administrator has when insisting lessons be left on the campus. This doesn’t preclude us from copying files and taking them with us, since we shouldn’t have to start from scratch at our new library, either!

CONSIDER THE INCOMING SCHOOL LIBRARIAN

We don’t normally expect to be moving on to another position, but in case we do, we want to prepare the incoming School Librarian with information about the existing school library program. When I began, the previous librarian left good lesson plans, but nothing else, so I knew it would be important to document the policies and procedures I developed.

Initially I began a library handbook for teachers, but as I updated it each year, it kept shrinking, until it became a concise “flipbook” outlining what our library program offers to teachers. What I retained and used became a detailed handbook which kept growing larger and more comprehensive.

My School Librarian Handbook is designed as an Annotated Table of Contents, organized according to:

  • School Librarian Duties – Budget, Collection, Facility, and Lessons
  • Librarian Administrative Tools (such as planning, reports, handouts)
  • Non-Library Services I perform (for school, district & state)
  • Appendices with extended examples & suggestions

This 32-page expandable Annotated Table of Contents is the perfect way to document everything you do in your School Library, and is a necessary guide to an incoming School Librarian, should you move on to a new position. | No Sweat LibraryBecause it’s a digital text document, it expands as I add explanations for the philosophy, organization, policies, and procedures of the school library, and instructions for various library activities. The Table of Contents is hyperlinked to the related section pages, making it easy to navigate the growing document.

Eventually I printed the document and organized it into a three-inch-thick, 3-ring notebook binder as a customized guide to everything anyone needed to know about our school library program. It sat impressively on the shelf above my desk, and all my principals noticed and asked about it—offering a great opportunity for some advocacy!

My expandable School Librarian Handbook template is available in my TPT store.

CONSIDER OURSELVES

Leaving our ‘School Library Home’ is a difficult decision for any librarian, and we don’t want emotional disagreements over our library lessons. It’s never too early to contemplate what to leave and what to take when moving on.

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All professional creations that are made on personal time, are our intellectual property. We needn’t share these freely, and we can take the files with us and use them however we choose. That’s something to keep in mind each time we create a new library lesson or management tool: Should I work on this at home or at school? Will I want to take this or leave it when moving on?

When I left my library position, I put all library files on the school’s internal network drive for the next school librarian. I also left any hard copies in the office, circulation desk, and file cabinet. When I visited the new librarian, who’d moved up from a feeder elementary, she was thrilled that she had access to all I’d done during my 13+ years there.

I did copy everything to a USB drive to take with me, and I can compare these school documents with my home computer files to determine whether to freely share with other librarians on listservs and social media. I’ve been careful to use copyright & royalty free images so my materials can be made available to other librarians and teachers through various online services:

  • This Looking Backward Blog shares ideas and activities through topical blog posts and the FREE Resources link.
  • My free videos are hosted on YouTube and Vimeo and I often mention these on social media.
  • My No Sweat Library on Pinterest is organized specifically for School Librarians, with topical boards filled with resources from me and from other school librarians.
  • My Library Lesson and Library Management products are available for a small cost through “No Sweat Library,” my TeachersPayTeachers store. I provide updated lesson plans—aligned with CCSS, NGSS, C3SS, and National School Library Standards, new slide presentations with PDF Notes, updated student worksheets for lesson activities, and secured multimedia files pertinent to the lesson.

Take advantage of what I have to offer, and feel free to comment or ask questions below!

The No Sweat Library goal for other School Librarians is to minimize the time spent on administrative tasks and to maximize the value of their lessons.

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