I’m a librarian. Use me!

Narsarsuaq Airport, Greenland. Terminal, Nanoq...

Narsarsuaq Airport, Greenland. Terminal, Nanoq Duty Free shop. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today sent my principal an email telling him I am underutilized.

I have seven assigned teaching periods a week, slightly more than 1 per school day. Our day is eight periods long. I have open access two lunch periods every day. The rest of the time I am allegedly doing “library administration.” As far as I can tell after two years of doing the job, library administration takes about 10-20 minutes a day which I spend re-shelving books. When I still have money to spend, I might take another 30 minutes a day reading book reviews to select my purchases.

That still leaves me four more periods a day plus my contract-mandated duty-free lunch period (which I hardly ever take – I read trade magazines and answer work emails while I eat).

I reminded him that I did a lot of different things before becoming a teacher and I carry a diverse set of skills he could take advantage of and gave him suggestions on how I might be more useful to him and the school.

I could write grants. I write and win a couple or three for the library each year. My record is seven applied for, six won. When an assistant principal needed an essay for a grant proposal she was submitting that day, I wrote what she called a great one in twenty minutes. I could write more.

I could plan and do PD. We used to get a lot of PD on differentiating lessons but none of it was differentiated. When I pointed that out to my principal he said there wasn’t enough time to plan differentiating it. I managed to hold my tongue and not point out that teachers, too, are under time pressure, what with all the paperwork they have to do. I could plan differentiated PD – more differentiated than he might imagine (unconference model; Educon conversation model, EdCamp model, etc.). I could create PD on Project-Based Learning, on interdisciplinary unit design, on becoming a connected educator, and more.

I could create, or facilitate students creating a webpage for the school. Right now we have the dull, cookie-cutter NYCDOE school webpage and it doesn’t give a clue about who we are, what we do, how we do it, or any of the great things happening in our school. I’m currently working with three sixth grade classes to develop a website for our library – right now they’re deciding what will be on the site and the more artistic students are investigating other school and library sites to get design ideas (and a list of things not to do!).

I could produce an online school magazine.

I could, I could, I could.

I’ll let you know how he responds.

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22 Responses to I’m a librarian. Use me!

  1. [...] A city school librarian says he is underused, but it doesn’t have to be that way. (Ed on the Plate) [...]

  2. I think an online school magazine is a great idea, a very good way to engage with the students, esp if they have involvement in its creation and maintenance. Even perhaps a digital archive/library of school materials to teach them about digital preservation.

  3. frostbittenkitten says:

    You’re brave. In an environment when Librarians have to justify their positions and worth, you are admitting you are underutilized. What’s to stop him from cutting your hours since you have admitted you have plenty of free time on your hands? I do love all of your ideas. However, I would have presented the problem of your extra time and needing more to do a little differently. Good luck!!

    • Deven Black says:

      I was not brave at all. I know my principal very well and he has made it very clear that he wants the school to have a well-run, useful library with a certified librarian (and not just because it is required by a never-enforced state law). He was VERY supportive of my efforts over the past to years to automate the library, extensively weed (over 3,500 volumes disposed of), and to get my MLS (he arranged my schedule so that I’d have two days a week to do my external internships. I wrote my email to him as I did because I know he’ll respond positively to it. As I said, I’ll post about it when he does.

  4. Jean says:

    Hi Deven! I think you should choose one of your great ideas, get the green light and then run with it! I remember the great job you did writing that essay with only an hour to complete it! Thanks for acknowledging that not all administrators are out to get teachers – or librarians, for that matter!

  5. Deven, I am sharing a workshop I put together for a Google Summit in Colorado and would like you to feel free to use any of the resources for web design using Google Sites: https://sites.google.com/site/kidsnetsoftsitetips/

  6. [...] Deven Black caught the attention of many in the library community a few weeks ago with an unusual blog post in which he lamented being underutilized by his school. New to the profession yet emboldened by a [...]

  7. Ann says:

    Devin,
    Congratulations on having a principal that recognizes how important it is to have a school library and a fulltime librarian managing the library and working with your faculty and staff. It is great that he values the role of a professional librarian in a school environment.

    I do like your idea of having an online school magazine.
    Have a great year.
    Ann

  8. I have found that at three different school sites, and with 5 very different administrators, that there was one common theme as I approached school librarianship – JUST DO IT! Please, just get to work on one of your ideas. Everyone is so busy with a 100 other things that just like writing those grants, you need to step up to the plate on your own. Create a newsletter – make it aimed at professional development for your teachers. Offer curriculum ideas to teachers through mass emails, but better yet – corner them at the copy machine and ask, “what are you doing for your next few units?” Offer suggestions for weaving in bits of technology and information literacy. You will find that it only takes one great collaboration before word spreads and you will be too busy to write grants. Start a book club/literacy club with those students you’ve grown close to, and have that club fundraise so you are purchasing books again, and therefore reading reviews again. Put together professional development during lunch, ask the principal for pizza money and offer free lunch to those teachers who attend. You’ll get a few to start with and if you are good, and useful, and concise, you will build an audience and a purpose. But do not wait for anyone to come to you. :) But don’t offer to do “busy work” for the schools like maintaining webpages, instead look over your state’s information literacy standards, or use ISTES, and start collaborating. I’ve seen too many library programs close because library staff did jobs, like websites, that were easily taken over by classified staff. Think about what makes having a MLIS unique and approach it that way. If anything, start your students creating a blog of technology for the classroom, or reading book review blog. Work on your library website – is it interactive and regularly updated? I offer these suggestions with the best of intentions – and hope they are received in the same way. Good luck in creating a wonderful program. Most of us only dream of admin support!

  9. You can also increase the use of your library by monitoring and reporting on library use. I run patron library use reports approximately every two months to monitor which teachers are sending which students to the library. I have been able to break a pattern of “only good students” or “only students who want to read” go to the library. My principal puts her weight behind my messages about library use. I heard her tell one teacher “If your not sending them to the library, why are we teaching them to read?”
    This does make the library busy, less tidy (I re-shelve 200-300 books a day), and I do have to work matching books to readers who are not always my most enthusiastic patrons. But there is never a dull moment.

  10. Jean says:

    So, what did you do?

    • Deven Black says:

      I’ve reached out in a major way to the social studies department and they have started coming to me for resources — collaboration is next, after the state exams. I’m working on a website for the library and another for the school (harder than I thought it would be — so many decisions to make). Our school is also beginning the process of shifting from Windows machines to Macs and I’m creating materials to help teachers to make that transition, among a few other things.

  11. Jean says:

    That all sounds great:)
    I saw the library in the building I’m going to be in – very depressing:( If you come across any grants to fund libraries, please let me know!

    • Deven Black says:

      There are lots of grants to fund different aspects of school libraries, but reconstruction and renovation funds are hard to come by, particularly for middle schools, or so it seems. I will let you know about several grants via email. (For those reading along, Jean is a former assistant principal in my school who is now opening a new middle school as its principal).

  12. Jean says:

    Until July 1st, I am the “proposed new leader.” Thereafter, I will be Interim Acting until appointed through the c-30 process! Calling all passionate middle school teachers – especially if you are duly certified!

  13. Jean says:

    Dually certified, my bad:)

  14. spellingcitymayor says:

    Do you review edtech products for your school? Wouldn’t that be an obvious extension of your role, including associated PD.

  15. I agree with Jennifer B.: build collaborations with your fellow teachers. It’s great that you have so much support from your principal, but not everything has to come from him. Does your school have a faculty lunch space where teachers eat together? Join them and start building relationships. It’s way easier to start a collaboration with a friend than just a colleague — they’re more likely to understand what you have to offer and less likely to say “I don’t have time.”

    And good for you for putting together a library website! That’s crucial, to provide user-friendly information access online where students and teachers can get to it easily. I used WordPress to build a new site for our library a couple of years ago, and when it won an award from our state library association, we wrote a how-to article for the newsletter: http://maschoolibraries.org/content/view/1120/732/. There are lots of great ways to build a library site, of course. Take a look if you think this might be helpful. Good luck!

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