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Hello, I'm New Here!: Support & Advice for New Librarians

By Sarah Sansbury

Being new can be daunting when you are starting your first year as a librarian or moving to a new library (especially if you are moving districts!). However, know that you are not alone. There is a great support system with GLMA. If you haven’t already become a member, please join us! Besides securing a supportive PLN (like GLMA), there are some other great ways to help guide your first year at your school:

  1. Do your research. Learn about your school and district. What's the school's mission statement? Vision statement? School improvement goals? District strategic goals? What are the demographics at your school? What are your school’s immediate needs? Use this information to prioritize and guide your planning. 

  2. Relationships, relationships, relationships… Do not forget that we are here to serve people. The materials and resources we maintain are for people. The programming we develop is for people. If you are able, before the school year gets started and everyone is busy, meet with the principal. Ask about what the school needs and how the library can support these needs. Also, share your ideas, passion, and vision for the library. Make yourself known to the principal and that the library is an ally and supporter of the school's goals. This investment will go a long way. Likewise, participate in school social events, eat in the teacher’s lounge (if you are able), greet people by their name, and ask them about their kids, pets, grandkids, plants, etc. When people are seen and valued, community flourishes and collaboration thrives.

  3. You do NOT have to do it all. Create a three-year plan. What should you do the first year? Remember your research. Your students’ and school community’s needs should guide your planning. When you learn of new ideas that you want to incorporate, update the plan. Sometimes, you can implement an idea that school year; other times, it may need to be a down-the-road activity. There are so many wonderful and good programming that you can incorporate; however, you cannot do it all. If you try to do it all, you will eventually drop the ball (or multiple balls), and overcommitting your time and energy will, in the long term, lead to burnout.

  4. Be a proactive collaborator. Get to know the standards of the grade levels at your school--particularly science and social studies. Having ideas ahead of time about how you can plug in will help with future collaborations. Then, put yourself out there and offer ways to work with teachers. If they say no, don’t take it personally and keep trying. Many times it takes one teacher and the rest of the grade level will follow. I also found that new teachers are more willing to collaborate because they aren't entrenched in always doing things a certain way and they are more open to new ideas and collaborations. Plus, your collaboration may be just what overwhelmed new teachers need to help them survive (and thrive during) their first year.

  5. Advocate and inform. Be aware that teachers and administration may not know all that a librarian can do. They may not fully understand that we are instructional partners and school leaders. Remember this when teachers say no to collaborations. And make sure what you do is shared with the community. For example, promote what you are doing on social media and tag the school or principal. 

  6. Have fun. At the end of the day, be kind to yourself. You will make mistakes. Others will make mistakes. Stress is resistance to reality. Control what you can; let go of the rest. And, if you need a colleague to help you gain perspective or be a sympathetic listener, reach out to one of your fellow GLMA members because you do not have to do this alone. You got this!

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