The Different Faces Of School Librarians

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! #NoSweatLibraryAt 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…

A Day In the Life of Elementary, Middle & High School Librarians - Anyone can see that a School Librarian is busy, working with students, collaborating with teachers, but there's a lot of "invisible" work, too. #NoSweatLibrary #schoollibrary #school librarianWhether 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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20 Essential Supplies To Have in the School Library

20 Essential Supplies To Have in the School Library - There are some things you just can't live without...and that's especially true in a school library. Here are the 20 essential supplies and tools I always have on hand for students, for teachers, and for myself. #NoSweatLibraryThere are some things you just can’t live without…and that’s especially true in a school library. When we talk about supplies and tools for librarians, we usually mean for processing or repairing or circulating books.

After 25 years in education, half of them in the library, I always keep these 20 essential supplies and tools on hand. Some are for me, for library management, but I make available certain materials specifically for students and teachers. If you haven’t discovered how useful these supplies and tools are, I know once you invest in them you’ll never regret it.

SUPPLIES FOR STUDENTS

We expect students to have their own school supplies, but often students don’t bring those to the library. In order to make sure students have writing implements to complete a library activity, I always have available:

  • golf pencils & small sharpenersGolf pencils – These are the 4½” ones with no eraser. A box of 144 costs about $10 at any office supply store. I usually get a couple boxes at the start of school to last the whole year. Since kids don’t really like them (no eraser & hard to sharpen) they rarely carry them out of the library.
  • Small pencil sharpeners – These are perfect to sharpen golf pencils. I got a couple dozen for well under $1 apiece at the start of school one year in order to have one for each table plus a few extra. (I do need a few replacements each year because they break or “walk away”.) Students use them for their own pencils, too, and it’s a lot quieter than electric or hand crank sharpeners.
  • small plastic basket from TargetSmall plastic baskets – These 4”x5” baskets are so useful. I place one on each table, one between each pair of OPAC computers, and one at the circulation desk, so I have about 2 dozen. Each one holds a few golf pencils and a sharpener, along with several copies of my IT IS FOR ME checklist. They stack inside each other, so I can easily gather them up and store them on a shelf when they aren’t needed. I got mine at Target in the dollar aisle, but I’ve also seen 5″x5″ ones in cool colors at the dollar stores.
  • Tiny sticky notes – The 1½”x2” ones are the perfect size to write down a call number, so I always have a pad in each of the baskets by the OPAC computers.

We also do more elaborate activities for Library Lessons, so I keep these student supplies stored in a closet, and set them out when needed:

  • Color pencils – When we have a graphic organizer for a library activity, being able to use colors makes these simple worksheets into a fun experience for students. I get these very cheaply through my school district warehouse, and have one set of assorted colors per table. I’ve also seen golf-pencil-size ones in a dozen assorted colors for a buck and a half at the office supply store.
  • Color markers – A great dollar store item, around a dollar for a set of 6-8, depending on the tip type. My middle schoolers prefer the skinny ones with pointed tips, but I also keep a supply of chisel-tip ones for poster projects. I discovered some of the cheap ones don’t bleed through paper as much as more expensive permanent markers, so a double benefit.
  • Small scissors – I set out 4 per table so each student has a pair. I get the cheap utility ones through our warehouse, and because they’re ugly, the kids never take them out of the library. You can also find them for around 60¢ apiece at office supply stores, and they’re even cheaper in bulk.
  • small metal buckets for holding scissors and color pencils & markersSmall metal buckets – I use the 4” tall decorative ones on each table for scissors, color pencils, and markers. By having 2 per table—one for color pencils and one for markers—I can put scissors, if needed, into whichever one we’re using that day. I find these for about $1 at various places, especially at the start of school or just before the holidays.
  • Glue sticks – For our cut-and-paste activities, tape just doesn’t work well, so I invest in 3 or 4 dozen glue sticks at the start of each school year. I put a couple in each table basket when we need them, and they’re so much cleaner than glue in a bottle. They last all year if kept in gallon sized zip-lock baggies when not being used.
  • library clipboardClipboards – Another really cheap warehouse item, I have a storage bin full of these in the back room. I use them for my 7g orientation scavenger hunt, as well as other walk-around activities, to make it easier for students to write on worksheets. With a barcode on the bin cover, I can also loan them out to teachers.

Taking care of, and setting out, these student supplies is an excellent task for student aides or to have a student work off the cost of a lost book. One day the baskets & buckets of supplies were out on tables when we had a faculty meeting, and my principal liked having them available for teachers, so she asked me to put them out for future meetings, too…and she’d cover the replenishment cost!

TOOLS FOR TEACHERS

In addition to those clipboards, there are a few other items teachers don’t need in their classrooms, but when they want them, I’m their one-stop-shop:

  • Sidewalk chalk – I find big buckets of assorted colors for a couple bucks at different stores, so I always keep 2 or 3 of them on hand. Invariably in late spring a teacher wants to take students outdoors for an unplanned drawing activity, so they come to the library knowing that their handy-dandy librarian will have the chalk they need!
  • Mirror – You know those hand-held mirrors with normal view on one side and close-up view on the other? Well, I’ve got one and it’s borrowed…all…the…time.
  • Long-reach & heavy-duty bulk staplersSpecialty Staplers – I have 2 different ones: a long-reach stapler for stapling in the center of a sheet of letter or legal paper, the other a heavy-duty stapler for stapling up to 50 sheets of paper. I use the long-reach one quite a bit for the various library information booklets I create for teachers, aides, and volunteers. The biggest user of the heavy-duty one is the counselors!
  • small-size glue gunElectric glue gun & glue – I can’t tell you how often during my first couple years I was asked if I had one, so finally I purchased 2 small ones. I discovered they’re also a great way to make quick binding repairs for books with loose covers!
  • Extension cords – A school librarian can never have enough extension cords. I keep various lengths, from 2-pronged 6′ lightweight ones to 100′ 3-pronged heavy duty ones. Image of Power CordsI also found it advantageous to keep a few surge protectors handy, especially ones with very long cords. And I barcoded every one of these for teacher checkout, because when I didn’t, I never got them back! Velcro ties in different lengths are very handy to keep each cord neatly wrapped.
    And here’s a video on the proper over-under way to wind up those long cords and cables we have in the library:

TOOLS FOR THE SCHOOL LIBRARIAN

The items listed here are not typically included during a library set-up, but once I acquired them, I realized how valuable they are:

  • Desk bell – This sits on my computer presentation cart for use during lessons. I do a lot of discussion activities, desk belland this is the best way to regain students’ attention—high-pitched enough to be heard over voices, but not too loud. I give it 3 quick taps then wait, and within a few seconds students stop talking and turn back to me. It’s even distinctive enough to gain their attention when in the aisles browsing for books!
  • Paper cutter – This stays on a shelf behind my circulation desk because I use it so often for cutting apart sheets of overdues, my IT IS FOR ME checklist, cardstock bookmarks, and for trimming signage or paring down protective book covers.
  • reacher assistive toolReacher assistive tool – I’m average height, but I have trouble reaching DVDs and kits on shelves above a bank of computers along one wall, as well as things on top shelves in my back room. Once I got this gadget, I was amazed at how often I used it!
  • Engraving tool – When the school decided to purchase class sets of calculators for math classrooms and enough individual ones image of electric engraving toolto check out to algebra students, they wanted me to keep track of them. I knew paper barcodes wouldn’t last long, so I invested in this tool and etched a barcode on the back side of every one. It works on headphone headpieces, too…in fact, I kinda went nuts etching so many things!
  • Tool box – I love tools. I’d rather visit a hardware store than a dress shop. I even keep a tiny (1¾”) bubble level on my key ring! I bought no-name-brand tools on sale, so I didn’t shell out much for these valuable items. Over the years I’ve fixed everything from audiocassette tapes to audio/video carts to tables and desks, but you know who uses my tool box the most? The custodians!
    Essential School Librarians Must Have Essential Tools - These aren't educational tools; these are actual carpentry tools. It's amazing how often we need to use the items in a normal every-day tool box. From my experiences, here's what we need to have to be the essential go-to person in our school! #NoSweatLibraryMy library tool box holds:

    • set of screwdrivers- very small for digital equipment to huge for adjusting metal shelves
    • small pairs of regular and needle-nosed pliers
    • fold-up set of hex wrenches
    • tiny hammer and larger lightweight one
    • cutest little hacksaw for PVC pipe or lightweight metal
    • cloth tape measure and metal locking one
    • box cutter and razor-blade knife.

This completes my list of the 20 essentials that made my life so much easier as a School Librarian. It made students and teachers very happy, too…and isn’t that what “wise professional decisions” are for?

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