Be the librarian your school needs and deserves…

…Not just the librarian your school wants (I need to stop watching The Dark Knight trilogy…)



I was thinking about the perception of librarians/ teacher librarians.

What do people think we do? What do we actually do?

This year, I was charged with:

  • Co-running the library
  • Starting an active wide reading program
  • Improving reading motivation
  • Fixing the library culture and making it a positive place to be.

Now although this is a lot of things to do, from the naive end of the comments I’ve overheard this year (mostly from teachers who rarely use the library and luckily get corrected by others pretty quickly), I apparently only:

  • Shelve books
  • Stand around watching kids at lunchtime

Teachers who have worked a little more closely with me know that I also:

  • Teacher 2 English classes (Year 10 Extension English and year 11 Authority English)
  • Run the Science Fiction/Fantasy club
  • Create Closed Reserves (I don’t subscribe to the “chuck everything that looks remotely relevant” method. I often organise books by reading level and, if the content is difficult to search for or access, I’ll annotate the books with Post-its so students and teachers know what books contain what assignment topics).
  • Take wide reading classes with every year 8 class every fortnight (and when I’m teaching, my super TA takes them), which involves book chats, helping kids browse and bibliography writing.
  • Get booked by classes doing research regularly. About 1/4 of the time it’s book related (how to use the contents or index; how to write bibliographies) but increasinly it’s how to use electronic databases (I worked with over a dozen teachers with over 16 classes in Term 2 for database introductions). I also get booked occassionally for other topics, like Speculative Fiction, because I love Spec Fic, the year 9s do a unit on it and I go in an do a PowerPoint on intro to sci-fi and fantasy, a Prezi presentation on dystopic fiction and then book chat/ loan out good examples of spec fic from our shelves.

Then of course, I know that I:

  • Create displays, and interactive activities. Update our electronic displays (autoplaying PowerPoints and the like)
  • Maintain our eLearn blackboard space and Oliver OPAC search pages
  • Am constantly reading YA fic (and if I can’t read but hope to get it, researching it on GoodReads)
  • Speaking of research, RESEARCH.
  • Email departments with with helpful links and new resources.
  • Answer emails. So so many emails.
  • Make purchases- books, electronics, stationery, etc. etc. I’m lucky in that I basically run the budget and get to choose how and where I spend our money.
  • Creating and emailing a weekly email. I should do a separate post on this sometime soon.
  • Co-run the weekly after school study session/ QCS prep for senior students.
  • Archive school documents such as year books and photos people throw my way

Things that I DON’T have to do because I have a Teacher Aide:

  • Update and catalogue the serials (magazines) as they come in
  • Cataloguing (I only help caralogue if the TA doesn’t know what Dewey # to use. She uses SCIS and Trove to mostly do it herself.
  • About 75% of the circulations, including lunchtime laptop circulation. I do circulations if I’m there or the TA is on her breaks, but she does most of it.
  • Book covering

Weird things I have found myself doing this year that I had no idea about:

  • Cleaning up glass when a plasma ball from the science display was knocked over.
  • Climbing on shelves in the back room
  • Moving furniture. Seriously. So much moving stuff this year. Divider walls as well.
  • Discouraging kids from making out in the back of the library. I know books are sexy, but really.
  • Cleaning up food and wrappers. We have great kids but HOT DAMN some of them love sneaking food into the library.
  • Managing library bookings even though we have an online system for people to book through and have repeatedly told people we don’t handle the bookings. Same goes for looking things up on the catalogue- people need YOU to do this, even if there’s a link on the school’s intrenet homepage (ok, whinge over).

Things that I feel help me excel at my job:

  • Working directly with classes for wide reading, including book chats, every fortnight. It’s not a one-off library lesson and it’s lovely to develop rapport with junior students and get to know more than the “usual” library crowd.
  • Actively encouraging other classes to “book me”. I understand from anecdotal feedback from colleagues that this isn’t the usual.
  • Attempting to be a reading motivation, reading comprehension, literacy and technology “expert”.
  • Constantly try to main “connectivity” with teachers and students through notices, newsletters emails, meetings and face to face time. This includes informing them about procedures, new items, services, fun stuff and ways I can assist them. My personal aim is to make the library the “heart” of the school- a hub where students can work, play, connect and engage (sounds totally wanky I know, I just really thinkg libraries are important!)
  • I don’t wait for teachers to remember to ask me- I know what units they’re doing and what resources they need (if I don’t, I ask or look). I try very hard to serve departments other than English and Social Science, which are the traditional and heaviest users of most high school libraries.
  • The fact that the above points are things that MY school needs me to do. It might not work for every school library. Cataloguing and the odd display won’t cut it at most places.

Finally, things that only a few people know I do (and now you do too):

  • Excel at un-jamming the printer (one of which is nick-named Bob Marley)
  • Watch Frozen with my friends, singing all the songs, while my after school study kids are doing their assignments (hey, they don’t actually need teacher support during this time, they just need me to make the 4pm cordial and biscuit delivery!)
  • Lie on the awesome library furniture (actually, most students have indeed seen me do this).
  • Sing when everyone else has gone home for the day (and one time when they hadn’t but I didn’t realise. hehehe).

I suppose the point of this series lists is to emphasise that being a teacher librarian is really different to what you see teacher librarians doing and that to do your job well, you need to figure out what your students and teachers need and give it to them.

Have I missed anything? What else do TLs do?


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