by Sheila Bell
From learning the importance of communicating our library events as well as my duties and responsibilities, to realizing how students, given various library-related roles, can be paramount in the library’s success, the lessons learned over the course of my first three years as a teacher librarian has been incredibly impactful. The “aha” moments I have experienced as a neophyte librarian have been too numerous to list, however, I have my top 3 nuggets that I would share with any new or aspiring school librarian.
You will make mistakes. Learn from them!
I had received so many compliments and positive peer feedback in my first couple of months as the new teacher librarian that, as a result, bolstered my confidence. I then saw an opportunity to schedule a virtual field trip for our 8th-grade Georgia History students. The teachers were so excited and eagerly brought their students to the media center. After seeing the nodding heads, the cell phones being used, and the rising student restlessness throughout the presentation, it was obvious to all that this event was an utter failure. I was so deflated. Initially, I felt that I would never attempt any event like this again. But after some introspection, I resolved not to shy away from this type of activity and identified changes that I could make to provide a more engaging experience for the students.
Develop collegial partnerships and use them to your advantage
Because I was a teacher at the same school where I later became the librarian, I had somewhat of an advantage in building relationships with my colleagues. However, I quickly learned that the relationships needed went beyond the casual teacher’s lounge chatter. I needed faculty buy-in and support to forge effective collegial partnerships that would benefit my media center program and our students. These partnerships allowed me to make requests such as asking the technology teacher to facilitate a Lukewarm Library Yoga event before final exams or recruiting the IB coordinator to assist me with our inaugural participation in the African Library Project book drive. There have been so many instances where I have seen the fruits of my partnership-building labor that has enhanced our media center.
The more heads, the better
Being the only person in my building that does what I do can feel quite lonely at times, but I have learned that being able to link up in some capacity with other librarians has been integral in my development in this career. It is through connecting that I have learned an indelible amount of information about the profession, resources, and ideas to better my library. One amazing tool that is easily accessible is Twitter. The librarian community on Twitter serves as a great professional learning network. “Librarian Twitter” is everything! I also found great benefits in attending conferences such as GaETC, and GLMA’s Summer Institute. Trying to attend every conference can be quite pricey, so attend what you can, look out for conference grants, and search for free virtual workshops. Lastly, ask your school in advance if there is money to attend a professional conference or two.