In recent discussions with friends, we have bemoaned the misunderstanding of what librarians do in a school. Defending one’s job is a tiring and lonesome battle, and in the midst of budget woes all around, downright fearful. In my network of friends, the discussion has been at times heated but plentiful.
So what can we do? Well constant belly-aching sure does not help. Condemning actions of others (or lack there of) doesn’t help either. Let’s provide some useful ideas for RIGHT NOW. These are actionable items for school librarians to implement now.
Be a Part of New Teacher Orientation:
Despite the many job cuts we’ve seen affecting our own area (geographically and professionally) your school is probably in the process of hiring new teachers. These teachers will be entering your school new, if not new to the profession then new to your school. They will need assistance in many areas. Many schools have a mentor program in place to make this transition easier for new teachers, but this is a prime opportunity for librarians to make an impression to reflect what our program has to offer the teacher and the students. So get over to your principal and get on board with the new teacher orientation. Ask to be a part of it. Offer to conduct a part of it. Have materials and resources available to give to these teachers who we all know will be overwhelmed on the first workday and the first day of school. The planning for this meeting is probably happening now. So it is ripe for your offerings of help.
Provide Staff Development for Induction Teachers:
Most school systems have a set of first year teachers that are fresh out of college and woefully inexperienced. School systems have in place programs to make these teachers more successful and to retain them after their first year (since there are studies that show retention of these educators is risky in their first few years in the profession.) Think “fight or flight.” Some give a year or so, and then decide to look at another profession. No, education is not easy, and it is definitely a calling. In my area these are known as “Induction” teachers. Induction teachers are given a mentor and some very targeted staff development. As a school librarian, try to get on the list of presenters for staff development of induction teachers. This is another captive audience, and in this setting you can do great things to advocate for what the library program (and school librarian) can offer teachers, in their first year of teaching or even twentieth.
By targeting these two groups, you will make significant impressions about the importance of the library program and exactly what the school librarian does for the education program as a whole–the big picture! And who knows, you may actually change the perception of your program for other members of your educational community, such as building administrators or district level personnel, you know…the powers that be.