Collaborate & Listen
With schools everywhere adopting virtual and hybrid learning, the empty library may cause outsiders to assume that our school libraries are non-essential. However, we are much more than just a physical building. One of our superpowers is collaboration, and a physical building is not needed to do this. Research has shown time and again how a school library program can bolster a school’s overall student achievement when librarian and teacher collaborate as partners. Here are a few ways to kickstart that collaboration.
Early successes: Quick wins
Creating a menu of library services can help teachers visualize what a successful partnership can look like. Teachers especially must be able to see immediate benefits of partnership (even though benefits are immediate and long-term). For this reason, library service menus need to be directly based on what can be beneficial for teachers and examples of services apply directly to standards that the teachers are accountable for in their curriculum. Remember that it is scary for many to try new things, and teachers are feeling overwhelmed at the idea of adding “one more thing.” From the beginning, we need to show how collaborating can ease teachers’ loads and cause student learning to blossom to greater levels.
Attend grade level and content level meetings. Get to know your teachers and their curriculum. Show them that you are a team player. Attend their weekly virtual (or in-person) meetings. Afterwards, email the department head thanking them for the opportunity to be a part of the team and include specific ways you could help their department (resources you can provide or services like a virtual drop-in the virtual classroom to show students how to access resources, etc.)
Join Leadership Teams. Help make the library programs be integrated with the school’s culture and mission. Do this by being a part of what shapes your school’s ethos. For example, if your school is a STEM school, perhaps include in the weekly school newsletter a weekly spotlight on a STEM book and a simple Makerspace activity that can be completed at home with everyday materials.
Be proactive: Change perceptions. The first step is changing perceptions on what the role of a school librarian is and what an effective library program has to offer its school community. Admin and teachers need to see us as partners and how a partnership can benefit student learning. Be proactive and reach out first. It is a delicate balance between offering help and pestering. This is why attending meetings and being a fly on the wall is important. Develop those relationships. Let’s get collaborating!