Sunday, July 12, 2015

So You Are a New School Librarian... Now What?

I remember taking my first school library job in the summer of 2008. When I arrived at the school in July to begin working, I quickly realized I had no idea where to start!

Even after doing this job for 7 years, I still have to remind myself what needs to be accomplished in the summer before everyone gets back on campus. I hope this will help you see some of the steps you need to think about as you prepare for a successful school year from the library media center.

Most of the July "to-do" list is really all the items that I renew or order during the summer months. The first things I always think of are the periodicals, journals, and newspaper subscriptions we take. I make a list of those, and I usually call or email the local and state newspapers to check pricing (if I haven't received a renewal notice in the mail). Most districts require that you fill out a Purchase Order request before you can make purchases for your library. When you talk to your building administration, be sure to find out their procedures for making purchases. Some districts have digital forms while others use paper forms. They will most likely cover this in your new employee orientation. If you are transitioning from the classroom, you have probably never filled out a Purchase Order request; so don't sweat it. Administrators or your school secretary will help you with this transition.You will be making lots of purchases from the school library, so you will be a pro very quickly! If you have a specific budget, put that amount in an Excel spreadsheet; and be sure to keep up with your expenditures over the year.

For periodical renewals, I have always used a jobber or a subscription service. Hopefully, you can use the same service the previous librarian used. If they didn't, I strongly recommend using a jobber like EBSCO for magazine subscriptions! They will handle all the titles, and you pay one price! When magazine renewal cards come in the mail, you can ignore them since the jobber takes care of it all!

This is also a good time to find out if there are any subscription databases or online encyclopedias that the previous librarian purchased. For instance, we subscribe annually to Britannica School and two of the Gale databases. I put reminders in my summer "to-do" folder to renew these important resources.

We are provided a whole host of online databases and tools through the Arkansas State Library. Your state will probably have a similar program that provides access to several online databases (like ProQuest or EBSCO) and encyclopedias (like World Book or Britannica School). July is a great time to find out if there is anything you need to do to keep any state provided access. Also, July is a great time for making flyers, digital documents, links, and tutorials for your selection of database resources.

Find and connect with other local librarians that are active in your state school library organizations. These will be the most informed individuals that can help you get started. Most of the time, these motivated folks will take you "under their wing" and mentor you! In addition, become a member of your state school library organizations. In Arkansas we have the Arkansas Association of School Librarians, Arkansas Association of Instructional Media, and the Arkansas Library Association. You will have similar organizations in your state, and they will be full of helpful individuals. We have a very helpful and active listserv in the Arkansas Association of Instructional Media. Everyone on the listserv is anxious to help their colleagues when questions arise. Your state will probably have a similar resource. I strongly recommend this since you will have lots of questions throughout the year. Also, be sure to catch any summer school library conferences to learn the latest trends and to network with others!

Remember to order supplies. You will need book tape, label protectors, labels for bar codes you will print, laminating film (if that is your responsibility), bookmarks (have students help you pick these if possible), promotional posters, etc. I have always used Demco and Quill for most library supplies.

If you have questions about new books, I like Goodreads and Titlewave for trending titles and reviews. We also subscribe to Junior Library Guild. This subscription service will send you trending titles each month if you don't always have time to make your own selections. Next, you will want to get to know your collection, I always choose to start with the fiction section since the first student customers will have an interest in that area! Read everything you can! I still look at non-fiction as time permits. Most familiarization with non-fiction has always happened on the job for me, as I help students with specific topics using the OPAC. You will learn the collection over time.

You will want to familiarize yourself with the library automation system. Figure out how to add new books and print bar codes. Also, knowing how to check out and check in materials will be key. Have another librarian in your district show you these procedures. In addition, learn how to run a collection analysis. Your automation software may do this, or you can export your MARC records and submit them to Titlewise. Titlewise collection analysis reports will allow you to see the average age of your collection, your total number of records, and summaries of Dewey numbers/ categories. I run one of these reports annually.

Look at your district library procedures, selection policy, and challenge policy to get familiar with how things work. July is good time to think about any changes you want to make in library procedures and expectations. Make welcoming signs and promotional materials. Begin planning a big event for your open house night. In the past we have popped popcorn and had student musicians perform! Students loved it!

Schedule a meeting with your student council, and ask them how you can best serve the student body. Ask them their opinions about programming and new books.You will be surprised what that first impression might do for you and the library program.

I've found that the school secretaries typically know which teachers use the library the most. Find out who those teachers are, and meet with them. Consider having coffee and/ or snacks in the library when they visit. Make them feel welcome! Get them to talk about themselves and how they have used the library in the past. I recommend doing this for any regular library users just to break the ice before school starts so you can begin forming partnerships. Just listening to them talk will be a great investment!

Plan a first of the year theme and decorate (we try to do this monthly). We have had a super hero theme, a rock & roll theme (with inflatable guitars), a city theme, and many others through the years. Students and teachers love it!

I thought this article would be very brief, but it has turned out to be quite lengthy. As a recap, remember to:

  • Renew subscriptions when you begin work
  • Find out your budget and keep up with spending
  • Connect with other motivated librarians
  • Join state library organizations 
  • Order supplies
  • Order new books
  • Learn the collection (this never ends)
  • Learn your automation system
  • Perform a collection analysis
  • Read your district policies
  • Meet the student leadership
  • Meet teachers that use the library
  • Plan an open house event
  • Plan themes throughout the year

I also strongly recommend becoming active on Twitter. I like following these hashtags for library and technology information: #tlchat, #txlchat, #iowatl, #edtech, #edtechchat. Look below for my article on using Twitter and becoming a connected educator!

I hope this article has helped you make a plan for your first year as you start in the summer. You will be successful! Good luck on your new adventure! Librarianship has been a very rewarding job for me and countless others! Welcome to the best career in public school.... and anywhere!

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