Friday, August 7, 2015

Starting a New Library (as a New Librarian)

I’m a brand new school librarian starting a library in a brand new school. “Dream job” is what many librarians say that I have (and I agree!), but the beginning of this process has definitely been an overwhelming one.  If anything, my motto during this time has been:

New Librarian + New School Library = BE FLEXIBLE

Here are a few guidelines I’ve tried to keep to:

1. Let go of the need to plan, control & know how everything will work.

              We had our first day of school yesterday and construction on our building, including the library, isn’t even finished. My principal has been so busy with the logistics of opening a new school that we haven’t had a chance to meet about what my role will look like this year. Most of our library books are here and shelved, but we still have many yet to come in. I don’t even have my login information for my computer and email yet! Starting a new library means I get to decide all the library procedures that are usually already set in place in existing libraries. Being a new librarian means I’m not exactly sure HOW I want to run the library!

I love a good plan and I like to be “in the know” for everything going on around me, but I quickly learned that I had to let that go for now until things around the school settle down. And that’s OK!

2. Focus on what you CAN do.

              Now that I’ve bummed everyone out about all the things that can’t be decided right now, I’ve realized that there ARE things that can be done right now.

First, get to know my collection. My fabulous books are (mostly) in and on the shelves! I’ve had to do some shifting and realized this was a great opportunity to actually see what we have in our collection.  There is really no better way to know your collection that to just start reading the shelves.

Second, I’ve focused on building relationships with my teachers. I haven’t been able to do a lot of prep work in the library, but teachers have been busy decorating their rooms and no one really says no to an extra helping hand.  This has been a great time to get to know teachers personally, and I think having that base relationship will pay off as we work together professionally this year.

3. Plan LOOSELY.

              There are a lot of “maybes” and “let’s see how this works” when trying to plan for library procedures and scheduling with teachers for the year. Even though I don’t have a definite idea of what things will look like, I sat down with each grade level for about 30 minutes to give them an overview of my roles as the librarian and how they can use me and the library (on a flex schedule) this year. Being a new school and librarian means there was a lot of open-endedness & vagueness to what I shared with teachers (we will figure out what works best for everyone as we go along), but gave them a chance to ask questions and get ideas rolling for the year.

4. Get a little help from my friends.

              I am so lucky to be in a school district that has a fabulous library program and even better librarians! Being new and creating everything from scratch for my library means I have a lot of little decisions to make…meaning I ask other people a TON of questions about what has worked for them. Fellow MNPS librarians have been so helpful to hash out ideas with me, open their libraries for me to observe & even re-shelve books that are out of order. Ultimately, decisions that will be made for the library will be up to me, but it sure does help having input and feedback from those more experienced!

So, if you ever find yourself having the wonderful opportunity to open a new school library (seriously, dream job!), remember to “be flexible”!

L. Hartley
MNPS Librarian

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