Could you switch from public to school librarian?

Posted by in Education, Library Brand, Literacy, TeacherLibrarian

I received this request today–contact from my blog. I probably should have titled it something else, like:

  • Shhh, I’m a Quiet Librarian
  • Quiet Jobs for Quiet Librarians
  • Unquiet vs Quiet Library Jobs

By martins.nunomiguel

Please read the request:

Hello, I have a MLS and my background is in public libraries. However I am considering changing to school libraries. I don’t feel like I’ve really found the best library fit for me-has not been easy. What are the things you enjoy about being a school librarian? What are the things that you don’t like as well? I was especially thinking of private schools since I believe the people would be more respectful. My personality-I’m very much an introvert and looking for someplace quiet/peaceful. I’ve considered getting into cataloging or acquisitions. This might be better for me. I found working with the public can sometimes be difficult. I’ve had experience as a children’s librarian and also reference. If you don’t mind my asking do you have suggestions on things I can do to help me to understand where would be a better fit for me?

By Kamil Porembiński

Now the request kind of took me off guard, and I was processing during a busy lunch!  After reflecting I’m not sure I answered all the questions asked, but did try to paint a picture of what it’s like working in my job as a high school librarian. Hee’s what I said.

In a school library,  you have to be willing to set perimeters (rules, expectations, etc.) and then consistently use them. You have to do this with students and teachers too. Otherwise they will walk all over you.

You have to promote your program, and come up with innovative and interesting ways to get students and teachers using the library. The library is a learning hub as well as a place to explore interests through a variety of mediums (books, papers, magazines, and yes, even computers and Internet )  Meanwhile you’re also teaching with and for classes. You teach a wide variety of topics, but work to include information literacy ( location and access of information, utilization of information, plagiarism, web evaluation, and much more.) You do a lot of curriculum related tasks, lesson planning, and even project design, helping teachers breath life into projects, increase rigor, and make the learning more authentic for students. There is quite a bit of project based learning going on in the school library realm. You need to teach them things their classrooms won’t teach, such as how to write the perfect essay. You must be patient with them as not everyone learns at the same speed and the same manner. You need to expose students to sites like Aim High Writing, which can be quite useful to them in the coming years and show them, how they can not only use this to get their work corrected, but how using such tools can also help improve the vocabulary.
You also have to push yourself to know about the new technologies, and try to find a way to implement them in a school setting, harnessing them for learning, which where today’s students are at. It’s about staying relevant to the students of today.  So you not only have to be up to sped on current and evolving technologies, but also the pedagogical  practice of teaching.
Another part of the job is promoting reading advocacy, and that is what most laypeople think–all we do is get kids reading. It’s an important part of our job, but most definitely not all there is to do. Along with reading advocacy comes the task of creating, managing, and maintaining an up to date, relevant collection. This is probably the hardest and most guilt ridden part of the job, as many schools have severely reduced or in many cases eliminated funding for library collections. Often this is a direct result of those decision makers seeing the Internet as an adequate replacement, when in fact this is far from the truth.  You must continuously provide newer resources, and evaluate those offered, ensuring they are still current, meet the needs of the curriculum, and are diverse in content. There is a very big difference in quantity vs quality in a collection.
There are also basic expectations that vary from school to school that most faculty and staff must take on. Consider morning duty, afternoon, duty, and yes even lunch duty. I have a “”homeroom” of students I am responsible for as well, though at my school we only meet every six weeks or so. All are asked to take leadership of or assist with the sponsorship of clubs and organizations (and this is in addition to the library responsibilities and does not include additional pay.)
In my teaching context, and yes the school library position is in the teaching context, I eat right here in the library daily, as I cannot close the library during lunch. We manage with the help of an assistant, but often our lunch is interrupted for service to patrons (students or teachers.) I could close the door and go to a lounge to eat, but I choose to offer uninterrupted service, which is why my lunches are often discarded half eaten, or ignored until very late in the afternoon. I just value the offered service of my program more than my need for a lunch break.
I love what I do and enjoy all of the challenges a school library position brings. The good I can say is that no two days are alike.  But that can sometimes be a bad thing. As far as whether a school position is a good fit for you, I dare not say. I’m skeptical that an introvert can do it well, but it’s hard to judge. You have to be strong for your program and market your skills. You have to let the decision makers know what your strong points are and really bring them to the table for the sake of learning, not only in the library but also for the school as a whole.
Sorry if I could not be of more help. I hope I’ve shed some practical light on this role as you contemplate a position. I am going to post this on my blog anonymously, and see if any of my readers can offer insights.
After rereading this, I realize I have only scratched the surface of what I do. I failed to include any reference to staff development and teaching/leading teachers as well as students. Nor did I include that working at other levels is vastly different. I left out the importance of connections and PLNs. I failed to mention personalized learning through these avenues as well. Quiet? I have yet to see it be quiet in the library—unless we are closed for testing, which I might add has also become an inherited responsibility as a direct result of working in a school setting.
So I now ask my readers to respond to some of the other questions I failed to answer. Thoughts??

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Weekly Photo Challenge #18 – Sexism.