School Libraries

Tracking the year

Tuesday, Karen left a comment on my post about the Big Picture:

Hi Laura, I have been exploring different TL blogs as I start on this journey in my career. I have taught in many guises and never really needed to explain what I need to exist in a school, and am now beginning to understand how, as a TL, I may need to justify my existence in a school. Your post resonated with me this need to be self aware of what I am doing each day, and even get into the habit of writing something ‘journal-like’ each day to help me remember some of the big and small aspects of each day, especially some off the fun and funny moments I am sure to encounter. I’m curious if you have found a simple method of tracking what you do in preparation for your annual report?

Rather than have it all get lost in the comments section, I thought I’d respond here… and the answer is “simple depends on your POV”. For me, it’s a lot of spreadsheets and email folders, but that’s “simple”. YMMV, particularly if the idea of a spreadsheet sends you quivvering into a corner.

So, what do my spreadsheets track?

  • The ROI (return on investment) for our databases: are we getting our money’s worth? or is there another database that might have better/more relevant resources? Obviously, if you’re have little to no budget, you may be limited to those databases that your state provides (you should also check out the local public library’s databases: your tax dollars at work!). But if not, if you pay for the database, you should check your usage statistics monthly and then divide the price by the number of uses.
  • Library usage using GTimeReport to download all my Google calendar events into a spreadsheet for sorting. Now, this does entail thinking really carefully about how you’re entering those events! For example, we use the department, course and teacher (eg, SCI Physics Doe or HIS Middle East Smith) for upper school classes, and then color code to indicate if it’s a class we actually taught (green) or were used as a resource (yellow), or if they just came into the library (red). Clubs, etc. using the space are indicated as CLUB. Etcetera. That way, after GTime does it’s magic, sorting is easy peasy. And then you can draw conclusions about who came in or which teachers/departments you should be targeting.
  • All ILS’ should be able to export reports about how many books you bought and in which categories, as well as what the most popular books were. It may take merging several reports to figure out which were the most popular books by grade or division, but sometimes that’s great for teachers to know. Tracking borrowing by grade or class might also be useful, depending on your school.

Showing changes in things year over year is always a great idea, particularly if you want to show how much of an affect you’ve had on the program. If every year there’s more usage / teaching, or more circulation or database usage, etc. sharing that information with your administration is a powerful way to justify what you do, how the budget is being spent, and how the community is benefiting from your being the librarian.

Of course you can easily track your own professional development and participation. It’s just as easy to keep those kudos emails or survey comment, with really demonstrates how your help and work are being perceived by the students and teachers (remember, any squeaky wheels complaining will be heard and this is your opportunity to show the opposite… as well as a soft sell to teachers who haven’t been interested in working with a librarian).

The big question we’ve been asking ourselves is Infographic or Narrative. And we’ve decided to do both, alternating years. In an infographic year, it’s just the numbers, ma’am. And in a narrative year, we reach back to a now ten-year-old departmental review and show what progress we’re making on the goals.

If anyone has other ideas or comments, I’d love to hear them! And good luck tracking this closer-to-normal school year’s activities!!

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