New in the Library: Transitioning to the School Library

January 2012 marks the one year anniversary of when I started my first position as a teacher librarian. In celebration and in way of thanks for all the help I’ve been given in that year, I am hosting a series of posts this month for new teacher librarians.

Today’s post is by Amy B. of Classic Six Books. Amy works in an elementary school library in Virginia and has helped me plan Passport Nonfiction. You can follow Amy on twitter at classicsixbooks.

My first year as a school librarian was not my first as a librarian.

After returning to school to obtain my Master’s in Library Science, I was fortunate enough to spend a year at the National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health as a NLM Fellow. This year-long program prepared me for my next seven years as a hospital librarian: first as a hospital’s only librarian and then as part of a team of librarians at a larger hospital system. While I found the work fascinating and felt that I was part of the patient care team, a different type of librarianship was calling to me. After several more classes, a couple of nail-biting interviews, and some helpful librarian mentors, I finally landed my current “dream job” as an elementary school librarian.

I distinctly remember coming to the school for the first time after accepting the job, looking around at the spacious facilities, the shelves of books, and the light-filled reading area (yes, we are very, very lucky) and thinking, “Oh my gosh. I am in charge of this all. What have I done?!” And the students weren’t even there yet! Fortunately, that moment of panic was fleeting but it is one moment that I have learned from since starting my librarian position four years ago: moments are fleeting, for better or for worse. Enjoy them or learn from them; however they come to you.

My first year, the management of the library came easily to me: after all I had handled everything from cataloguing to the budget, soup to nuts, in my role as a solo hospital librarian. What was challenging was the lesson planning which I felt slightly overwhelmed by (and by the way, my PLN was not there to assist me as it is today). Fortunately, my sage library assistant brought me back to reality by telling me, “If the lesson takes twice as long to create as it does to teach, something’s not right.” Now in my fourth year, I realize she had a point. Some lessons are well worth planning out in a detailed fashion, but these days my lessons are more organic and involve the students investigating and doing more of the “work”. I am just the facilitator and I find my students are now more engaged.

My second challenge as a first year librarian was not taking things too personally. I spent a lot of time worrying about reaching everyone, feeling rebuffed by those who did not care to collaborate with me, and gauging the temperature of all of the staff. My advice to other first year librarians to to “Take it slow and try, try, again.” It works both ways. Some of my lessons fell completely flat that first year: boring to me, boring to the students. But those teachers were willing to let me have another go at it: both that year and in the years since. Every year I manage to work with someone new and there is the satisfaction in forming a single new relationship and cultivating it for the future.

Never give up. Moments are fleeting, as was my first year, as I look back on it now, four years later.

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3 thoughts on “New in the Library: Transitioning to the School Library

  1. I was fortunate enough to been part of the team that hired Amy and I would like to say that we are very fortunate to have her in our school division. Amy is delightful, warm, witty, and has an infectious smile. Her staff knew early on that they had the best! I look forward to reading her blogs and her newsletters as they always have just the right balance of curriculum, reading, technology, and provide opportunities for the entire school community to be a part of her school’s library program.

    Charlie Makela,
    Amy’s supervisro

  2. Miss Anderson

    Brilliant! You are spot on about the time involved in lesson planning. The kids should be doing the work, not me. The best lessons don’t involve elaborate bells and whistles, but instead involve investigation and thinking.

    And, of course, education is a field of “borrowing” lessons and ideas from coworkers and your PLN. Amy, I’m glad you found a strong PLN. Sarah, I hope you have, as well!

  3. Great advice, moments are fleeting and everyone deserves a do-over! 🙂

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