LIBR 233 Semester Reflections on School Libraries and Challenges


LIBR 233 due Nov. 28.- Dec. 4

Reflect on the semester readings, discussions, assignments, etc. Has your vision changed? What are you looking forward to implementing in your school library program? What worries you about the profession? (Jobs, isolation). What are the challenges?

Vision:

I have had different visions for what a school library would be like, depending on the age group of the children, and based on a number of examples of school libraries I have seen, both on line and visited in person.

The elementary school library I volunteered at was really orderly and rarely seemed to have students in it. Students seemed to only come down with their class once a week to choose one book for kindergarteners or two for other classes. During the week, on a set day, the teachers would collect back their books and two students would bring the collection basket back to the library. Except for the controlled chaos of 4 RIF days per year, where lots of parent volunteers set it up, administer it, and clean it up, the library seemed like a quiet permanent fiefdom.  That librarian also told me that she is supposed to teach the students how to use the electronic catalog, but that because there was only one computer, she alerted the middle school libraries that the kids did not know how to use the catalog. Sometimes parents of prospective parents would visit the library and ask us when the students came. That library was located in the basement of the school with no other classes around it. So normally there is no traffic by the library. The only noise comes from the kids running around on the floor in the classroom above. That is a really nice library, with a nice collection, but seems a little sterile. One trick I did like is that she gives the kids plastic “book marks” so that if they take a book off the shelf to look at it, they stick the book mark into that spot so that they can put the book back into the correct position.

Implementations:

I would like my library to have a livelier feel to it without descending into chaos. At one of the Middle Schools I taught at, the librarian had lunch time chamber music concerts by the students and other students and staff could bring in bag lunches.  An elementary school library at my child’s school held chess club there in the afternoons and used the library in the evening for parent committee meetings.

I would like to be able to help teachers and administration to implement programs. For example, last year my daughter’s school had a contest on projects about strong women. That would be a great kind of project to help students find resources about.

I would also like to teach students how to use resources to make animoto presentations or other kinds of video presentations. I used to love teaching my students how to make and present power point presentations so this would be an extension.

Worries – jobs, isolation

The primary worry is whether I can actually get a job in a school library in the area. I have been looking at lists for internships. Because of my kids sharing time between parents’ houses, I can’t move out of the area until at least the youngest goes off to college. That will be 2018. In the meantime, I plan to finish the degree in 2012 and to stay in federal work until at least 2014 (which allows me to be vested in the retirement program and health program). Since I am older, I am very conscious about job security and retirement plans. Since library media specialists work at a school and have a teaching credential, are we considered certificated or classified? Would this continue putting retirement money into my CALSTRS retirement plan and could I carry over all my sick days from my old teaching jobs?

Most of the school librarians I have known are respected, but are not part of the faculty or part of the administration, so I can see where some librarians would feel isolated. At one several schools I have worked at, we held our faculty meetings in the library, mostly because there are sufficient tables and chairs for teachers to work at for collaboration.

To avoid isolation and to keep getting new ideas for development, I should join some of the Library Associations and go to some of the conferences to expand my network. I tend to be kind of shy so it is hard to both spend the money to go to a conference and scary to think about going alone. On the other hand, I have gone on two librarian field trips to the Hoover Library and the Jewish library in San Francisco. Both times there were about 20 librarians there and they were all really nice and full of information.

Challenges – money, teacher and admin. Buy in.

I see one of the biggest challenges as money. Perhaps that is because money is a big challenge in my life. I have worked on the grant writing committee for the Berkeley Unified School District. On one side there was a lot of enthusiasm among the parents to find and write grants. However, the teachers and counselors were so busy with their day to day classes that it was difficult to get them to look farther down the road about obtaining funding for new programs.

I haven’t seen many librarians take a proactive stance. They seem more to be trying to preserve what is in their library against the marauding masses, rather than being proactive on developing their vision of the library and its syntheses with the students, parents, faculty and community. It is like when you move into a new house. When you first move in, you have all sorts of ideas about how the house could be repaired and upgraded. Once the rest of life intervenes, you never get around to making the changes.

I have only known one librarian, the head librarian of the Oakland school district, who has been able to mobilize a small army of volunteers to actually start up a number of libraries that had been mothballed for a few years. I would say she was very proactive within the profession.

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About KLevenson

I am Teacher Librarian at Piedmont High School in the San Francisco East Bay. I am a part time reference Librarian I for the San Francisco Public Library. I have a Masters in Library and Information Sciences from San Jose State and a Teacher Librarian credential in addition to my teaching credential in Science. My first MA was from Harvard in Archaeology. My students teach me something new every time I am with them!
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