School Libraries

Change my mind

Here we are, starting 2022 in much the same way as we started 2021. And in another month it’ll have been two years since we started to worry about COVID and thinking about how it would affect our students and program. Then came “crisis teaching”… and endless Zoom meetings planning for the upcoming year. Now that we’re in the second year and there’s the Omicron surge and a growing sense (for me, at least) that the “new normal” will actually be continually thinking about and planning for yet another surge of another variant or another virus. So, how do we manage the rest of this academic year (Research Season approaches!)? How do we plan for the rest of the calendar year?

Of course, those I admire most are also thinking about the same things! It’s both embarrassing and comforting, the idea that nothing I’m thinking is new and that so many peers are in the same both. For example,

Unlike Meredith’s library, we’re not large enough that we can really consider how to reconsider staffing, and our hours are set by the Upper School Principal and the Dean of Students. I’ve asked the administration to consider limiting the number of students allowed in at any given time (we frequently go over the number of seats we have, which is great… or would be if not for COVID). And I’m happy that we no longer have to think about quarantining returned materials because it would mean limiting how many each student can borrow. On the other hand, we’ve created a craft/relaxation space and that might have to be closed until the current surge lessens.

One thousand times yes. We finished our Great Weed, and I keep thinking about all the projects from two years ago that are being pushed back (and back and back). I need time to sit down, quietly, and think about what is really important and what we should just drop. Accepting that my staff and I are in the middle of year three, that our current plans are never going to work the way we want because of this pandemic, and that our health (mental and physical) is far more important than anything else.

Ok, we’re halfway through our year, not starting one. And we have finished the big large-scale initiative, the Great Weed. There are a few things I feel really need to get done (including a revamp of how we teach/present the research process) but the rest? That’s what I need to reconsider. What are the programmatic and personal implications if we don’t actually accomplish anything new? Would it be so horrible if we simply maintained, or even went slower than usual?

I think that Sara sums it up best. We, as a profession, are so used to juggling what we’re doing (if you can’t easily switch focus and task, you probably won’t be a good school librarian because I’ve never had a day where I haven’t had to stop one thing and do another multiple times). The question is, how do we handle what we’re juggling? She quotes at length from this Twitter thread, starting with this important idea:

Sara writes that “what I find most useful about this analogy is that it is built on the assumption that YOU WILL DROP BALLS. We all will. And thinking about it this way has made it easier for me to identify which of the tasks on my list are plastic, and which are glass. And knowing that the status of a ball may change from day-to-day.” My problem? I’m still stuck in the “OMG YOU DROPPED A BALL YOU HORRIBLE PERSON YOU” mindset. So my goal for the year (no resolutions, just goals!) is to change that mindset, to recognize that if I drop a plastic ball it really won’t matter much or hurt things. I’m not a failure. My program is not a failed program.

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