Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

Don’t let me be misunderstood

Posted by lpearle on 2 March 2015

In my last post, I said that I was a failure – except, not really.  My programs are strong and by any standards other than those insisted on by the leaders in my profession a great success.  Which is why I’m no sure that the national association supposed to speak to and for me actually does… but that’s another post.

What upsets me is the rabid insistence (and it is rabid: there’s no discussion, no middle ground, just this way and no other) that the effective library program is one that promotes deep inquiry and co-teaching by technology/instructional leaders in the school, and if other wander in or want to schedule time, well… maybe you’ll give them some crumbs, while reminding them that you really only work in co-teaching situations.  That working on a fixed schedule is somehow akin to living in a dictatorship against which you should rebel, rather than trying to work  to still provide a great program. And that the only “real” school librarian is the one who is “certified” (I much prefer “credentialed”, but perhaps that’s because I don’t have state certification – and many librarians I know who do have it run bad programs).

It’s like the “I’m a librarian, I don’t do clerical work” crap I hear at times.  But I digress.

Here’s an example (one of many) that lets me know that my program is not only aspirational, but effective, and possibly great:

Several years ago, I was working with middle school classes on a fixed schedule.  This was less than ideal, as we met twice in a seven day cycle, and sometimes there were long – and I do mean long – gaps between classes.  Even better, this was only half of the class for one semester; I saw the other half earlier in the year.  It made for awkward integration into their research project, as I could go over things in class with only half of them.  Anyway, we worked on how to do research (I prefer FLIP-IT to Big 6, but whatever works for your students is best, right?), evaluating sites and so forth.  Then, towards the end, inspiration hit.

One of my nieces was on the trip to Mexico that brought back Mexican/swine/H1N1 flu to the US, and was actually quarantined (another digression: is it really quarantine if you’re attending baseball games ? and by “baseball game” I mean the NY Mets, in Shea Stadium?).  Then a school nearby said it was closing for two weeks as a sort of self-quarantine.  My mother got worried about me, about how I would do since I have some autoimmune issues.  The next day I walked in to class and said, here’s the project: we’re going to research this flu and the end product will either be me telling my mother than I’m a (then) 45-year-old woman who can make her own decisions OR she’ll write a note to the Head of School excusing me from work because of the flu.  The students loved it!  Rather than a project they had to do because the teacher wanted them to, when they really didn’t care about the topic, here was something they were concerned about and heard about at home.

Two years later, when these students were in Upper School, I was leaving and a candidate came in to teach a sample class.  He asked about how one started to do research and one boy – you know, that boy, the one sitting in the back and never quite paying attention – raised his hands.  He remembered the acronym, remembered the steps but didn’t quite have the wording right.  So, here was a class totally separated from the curriculum, on a fixed schedule, not really doing “deep inquiry” and two years later that boy remembered what he’d learned to do.

That’s not the first, nor the last, time something similar has happened. Could working with this group on a flexible schedule, with deep integration into their class, have had that effect? I don’t know.  I suspect the answer is “no” because no matter how deep and rich the project is, if it doesn’t capture the student’s interest, they just won’t care.  And in a K-12 institution, very little comes from a student’s deep interest in a topic, and far too much from the teacher’s need to have a research project or the curricular requirements.

We, as a profession, need to celebrate these little victories while aspiring to more our programs further.  We need to stop making people working in the trenches, in conditions that are not ideal (multiple buildings, unfair student:librarian ratios, fixed schedules, no budgets, etc.) feel shamed about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.  If the library is used – as is one I know of – as a study hall and the librarians supervise “credit recovery” let’s not shame them for fighting for more.  Perhaps they already are.  Perhaps they know that if they do, they’ll have even bigger problems in their school.  Perhaps they have already gotten as much concession as they can and are happy to have survived that fight.

Shame on the shamers.  It’s one thing to say (implicitly or explicitly), “here’s to what you should aspire” and quite another to say, “shame on you for not doing a better job”.  We need to reach out, to provide tips and tricks and support.  It’s shaming when we say there’s only one way to be effective, it’s shaming when we say that if you don’t follow a prescriptive set of standards, you’re not being a good school librarian.  We need to be less rabid and more open-minded to the different ways programs are effective, to encourage aspirational dreams and confer greatness on more of our peers because they’re doing good work, just maybe not the “effective” work AASL envisions.

 

Posted in Musings, Professional organizations | Leave a Comment »

Aspirational Librarianship

Posted by lpearle on 27 February 2015

In the September/October issue of Knowledge Quest, Buffy and Kristin coauthored an article that suggested that there was a widening gap between the standards and expectations AASL promotes and the reality many of us face in our schools (even those of us in well-funded independent schools not tied into e-rate funding/filtering, with 1:1 iPad programs and not required to undergo state testing).  As I read it, my head nodded as I recognized challenges that I and others have experienced.

Let’s look at the first question they pose, “What does it mean to be great?”  By AASL’s standards, the programs I’ve worked with are failures.  Collaboration and co-teaching with every teacher hasn’t taken place.  Even worse, I don’t insist that teachers work with me on every project!  Of course I’m open – but if they can’t, or if a project gets cancelled (for example, due to too many snow days) or truncated, I do the best I can and move on.  Those projects may not be as deep and inquiry rich as they’re supposed to be.  Sometimes students graduate without having done any deep research at all.  And then there are the non-integrated information/research skills classes, ones that may tie in with an ongoing project but are fix-scheduled and year-long, so the content doesn’t always have a curricular match. I take on non-library related work (like overseeing the online bookstore set-up, or proctoring lunch in the cafeteria while leaving the library unattended).  Leadership in tech?  That might step on our computer science teachers and tech integrators toes, let alone the Director of IT’s position on where the school is going.

Do I feel like a failure? No.  I aspire to what AASL considers “excellence”, keeping that as a potential goal while looking at the reality of the situation on the ground.  Only one or two projects that go further than a 3-5 page paper with bibliography?  Great.  Bring it.  I can work with that and aspire to building a stronger connection with others in that department or in the school that lead to deeper inquiry.  Need me to take on a fixed scheduled class?  Ok.  Let’s see what I can do to bring skills into the class even if there’s nothing curricular to work with, like evaluating information about current events or finding credible resources on topics of personal interest.  I can aspire to moving to a flexible schedule, or to integrating (slowly) with what the classroom teachers are doing.

Then I read Judy Moreillon’s response to the article. I think she missed the point.  My reading of the article wasn’t, “let’s get rid of the standards and the expectations and the high bar, instead let’s focus on how to help librarians in schools do the best possible job with their situation.” She’s dead right about the fact that for some, meeting with every class, every student for deep inquiry-based projects is simply impossible due to the student/librarian ratio (at my school, it’s 160:1; at my cousin’s selective high school, it’s 450:1; and at another NYC highly selective high school, it’s 1506:1).  But this paragraph made me cringe:

Working with these educators and students should be a priority for school librarians who will continue to serve other students on an as needed basis and work with teachers who engage in cooperative planning and schedule the library in open times that are not being used for in-depth learning. (If the library is large enough, multiple classes can use the library space at one time, but only those teachers who have planned with the librarian and scheduled the librarian’s time as well will have the benefit of her/his expertise.)

Really?  Maybe in a public school where the union can protect you but at my school?  If I told teachers that they could come in, but I was only going to work with the ones who have collaborated with me beforehand on the project creation?  I’d be looking for a new job, not to mention having an incredibly empty library space as the teachers stayed away in droves.  Last year we had one week where we had 10-13 classes in every day (there are only 7 periods in a day) and we worked with every one of them as the teacher needed – none of them did the level of collaboration that I aspire to, but hey, maybe next year.  Let me build the relationship, slowly showing them how I can add value to their projects and becoming a partner with them.  I’d rather be overwhelmed with students asking me questions despite a lack of integration into the class than sitting there at the information desk listening to the crickets.

I could go on, but you get the point.

Here’s the thing about aspirational librarianship: we know where the goal posts are, and we hope to some day get there.  But for now, in the real world in which we work, we need help and guidance on how to do our jobs better without alienating teachers and without insisting that if we’re not adhering to what AASL says we should be doing/being we’re just not being valued or doing a good job.  To my mind, it feels like the equivalent of being the old-fashioned shh’er: my way and only my way in my library.   Thank you Buffy and Kristin for raising the question.

So, what answers do you have?  To what do you aspire?

 

Posted in Musings, Professional organizations, School Libraries | 8 Comments »

The care and feeding of librarians

Posted by lpearle on 23 February 2015

Last week I was sitting in a faculty meeting, getting ready to leave to proctor evening study hall, when suddenly a group of students came running into the building exclaiming, “There’s a gas leak in the library!”  Needless to say, my feet were running as I phoned our security office.  The sirens were blaring, lights flashing and of course we were not allowed into the building to see what, in fact, was happening.  So I went home, study hall cancelled for the night.  Soon after I got a text asking me to return, to help save the materials in the Archives (housed in the library).

What I found when I got there was a broken pipe flooding the ground floor, creating a sodden carpet and destroying several outer boxes of archives materials.  Thanks to the quick thinking and work of our maintenance people and a few faculty members, we were able to get everything off the floor and rebox most of the items.

However, before all that, when we didn’t know what was happening, I had a few flashback moments to 2007, and the Hackley School fire. Could I really do another complete reconstruction?  Could I really do a partial one?

And I realized that despite the presentations I’ve given on disaster recovery, I wasn’t paying attention to one of the most important pieces of advice I gave others: take care of yourself.  In the midst of the crisis moment and during the recovery/repair phase, self-care is critical.  Not just when lightning strikes (or a pipe bursts), but when ever there is a huge change in your professional circumstances. Most – many? all? – of us want to be seen as professional, as having the proverbial stiff upper lip and just getting on with the job, no matter what’s going on outside.  And that’s all well and good, because being that oasis of calm, of dispassionate information, of normalcy can be invaluable to your community.  When September 11th was ongoing, I was lucky enough to have outside sources of information who let me know what, exactly, was happening (one was a major in the Canadian Army, getting realtime accurate information, the other was outside NYC and able to get through when local information sources were failing).  It helped the school know what not to believe.  And that’s the same attitude I took post-fire, to not show panic or despair, but to get on with it.

That was at work.  But at home I took care to do things that comforted me.  And slowly, given the pressures of work and new jobs and moving and life, I’ve gotten away from that.

This is important because I suspect I’m not alone.  The “always on” nature of life now, barely imaginable in 2007, doesn’t lend itself to down time away from whatever the situation is.  We’re pressured to do more with our time, to be more available professionally and personally, and not to seek things that might take us away from that to a place where we can find peace and time to do serious self-care.

At the upcoming NEAISL conference, and at this summer’s ALA and other conferences, meetings, leadership summits, etc. I hope we pay more attention to this.  Yes, it’s important to learn about new tools and to share tips and techniques, but it’s critical to learn to take the time for ourselves.

Posted in Musings, School Libraries | Leave a Comment »

Ever changing landscape

Posted by lpearle on 24 November 2014

I’m a list maker.  I like checking off that To Do list, getting organized and Getting Things Done.

Being a school librarian is not the best profession for anyone who likes that!

My Big To Do List for this school year has changed, morphed, been ignored and resorted over the past few months… and even after 18 years in schools I’m still not totally ok with that. I keep thinking that we should be further along with the weeding project.  The Varsity Reading Team should be meeting.  Updating the library blog and twitter feed needs to be more frequent. Our Resource Guides aren’t exactly where I want them.  Etc. Etc.

So why aren’t we there? Because of the constant interruptions: helping students find books to read for pleasure… working with them on how to cite a source… ordering new books for the collection… chatting with the student needing an adult ear to listen and shoulder to cry on… And, sadly, neither I nor my Partner-in-Crime are good at being in two places at once.

We’re hosting this year’s New England Association of Independent School Librarians conference, and change is our metatheme.  The programmatic changes when your school goes 1:1 with laptops or tables, or decides to go more (or totally) digital, or the research focus moves more online and in class than before.  The personal changes when you move from being a team member to a solo librarian (or the reverse), or become a department chair, or are asked to move from your division of comfort (K-4, or 9-12) to another division, or are suddenly losing staff and being asked to take on more.  The organizational changes when the school’s Head or other administration changes, or the school drops AP exams, or joins the IB program.  And thoughts about retirement and/or career change.

Those are conversations we need to have, and have needed to have for years.  Decades maybe.  I can’t wait to share stories with my peers, and to feel a little less alone with these questions and fears and issues.

I think about my high school librarian, who ran a program relatively similar to the one my parents would have had.  She was at the school for over 30 years and saw a hugely shifting landscape (where did that wonderful room of LPs go? what about the microfilm/fiche room?).  In my time things have moved from databases on CD-ROMs to “in the cloud”, for example, and movies are not on VHS (or laserdisc) but streamed.  Keeping up with those changes is exhausting!  What makes the perfect program?  How has that perfect program changed since what it was last year?  or last month?

I’m grateful that I now have a week to think about those things, to reassess the To Do List and to regain my footing on the ever-changing landscape I call “my” library.

Posted in Conferences, Musings, School Libraries | Leave a Comment »

Student Choice

Posted by lpearle on 15 September 2014

In independent schools we talk about students and education, about how our mission (overall, not just the specific school mission) is all student-centered.  We also talk about being college preparatory, trying to ensure our students will succeed (not just succeed, but excel) in their next academic experience.

So when I see schools issue technology mandates (iPad, laptop, whatever) I wonder about how student-centered that is.  For some students – heck, for me! – reading on a device is not the best choice.  I do my best, deepest reading in print, not to mention being able to find my notes easier, get back to an interesting passage quicker and flip between charts/maps/lists and text with more fluidity.  When taking notes, it’s always better for me to scrawl paper/pen and then to type them up – the meaning really sinks in that way (and let’s not forget my Cornell notes obsession). Why should either be different for students?

But this isn’t just about a mandate, it’s about choice. When we tell students that a school is going 1:1 (laptops or tablets) are we allowing them to choose the technology tool that works best for them, or are we saying “we expect you to bring [vendor/specifications]”?  And in our role as a college preparatory institution, have we surveyed the places our students will go next to see what they will be expected to use there?  My hope is that we would do that before making any decisions, using College X’s entry-level curriculum, research expectations and technology tools as a baseline goal for all of our graduates.  My fear is that few schools do that.

And then there’s the curriculum itself.  Over the years I’ve spoken with many, many students about their current classes, their current class choices and their goals for the future.  All too frequently I see art students told to take fewer art electives and to take an AP math or science course instead (colleges apparently love – LOVE! – those AP credits).  The push for STEM credits and students is denuding schools of humanities and arts electives, forcing students who would truly excel as a historian or creative writer into AP Biology or something.

Back in the dark ages (aka late 1970s) when I was in high school, the curriculum was, to put it politely, eclectic.  The requirements were 1 year of science, 3 years of math and foreign language, and something like 2 arts credits. History and English were combined into one department, Humanities, and I forget what the credit requirements there were.  No AP classes, although students who wanted to take the exams could. As a result, I haven’t taken a lab science since 9th grade, and only grudgingly took calculus in college (NOTE: if you have to take a placement test and test into calculus without having taken pre-calc, do not accept that placement!). Instead of Chemistry, I took Philosophy.  Instead of Biology, I took Acting.  Etc..  When I got to college I was more than prepared not only for the rigors of the college experience (mixing living away from home with studying and hanging out with friends) but also for the freedom of choice allowed in choosing my courses.

Does telling students that they have to take AP this and that, fewer electives (limiting them to perhaps a senior year) and pursue a relatively rigid path help?  I would argue not (as would the constructivist school). Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that we need a good underlying understanding of things and serious basic skills in math, science, grammar, etc..  But once we’re in high school, why force a school of round pegs into square holes?  Another friend of mine, currently Head of Modern Languages at a school, in charge not only of running the department but also approving and researching foreign travel (student trips to China, Spain and France) and managing the departmental budget, stopped his math and science courses earlier than I did.  Neither of us has suffered appreciably.

So here’s what I’m pondering: if our schools truly believe in being student-centered environments preparing those in our care for their next academic experience, why are we so afraid of student choice?

Posted in Musings, Pedagogy, Student stuff | Leave a Comment »

What if?

Posted by lpearle on 8 September 2014

Three things came together this past week and got me thinking about the “always on” culture.  The first was a blog post about a distraction-free iPhone, the second an announcement at school’s first Morning Meeting in which the girls were reminded that while texting/checking the phone discretely in the dining hall was ok, actually taking/making a call was rude and unacceptable.  The final piece was at my Quaker Meeting, where one of the members said that she had never really seen a smartphone in action and didn’t know that there was a phone “app” so that you could make calls; she also mentioned that her home internet connection was out and had been for a week and she didn’t mind it, while her husband (writing three books) couldn’t do his work so wasn’t happy.

At first I was a little surprised: how has anyone missed seeing the face of a smartphone at this point in time?  They’re ubiquitous.  And one week without home internet? Yikes!

Then, on my drive home, I started thinking about it and realizing how calming.  How nice to not have websites to check, an RSS feed piling up, many many e-mails waiting for a response.

At one of my former schools the Head has declared weekends to be e-mail free.  Obviously if there’s an emergency, that’s one thing.  But no one, from the Head on down, is expected to check – much less answer – e-mail over the weekend or during a school break (for teachers; year-round employees don’t have to during their vacation time).  At another school, there has been a stream of complaints from faculty about administration checking e-mail continuously during meetings and events (sometimes the complaints lead to a lessening of the problem, but it soon is back to previous levels).  Faculty there who do not check their e-mails over the weekend (or even at night, when they’re at home) are frequently reminded that they need to do so and respond in a timely fashion.

My current school is a boarding school, and we function in loco parentis so completely turning off overnight or on weekends is not going to happen. But what if we did limit that to emergencies only?  What if we go back to The Good Old Days, like when I was at boarding school, when communication was mostly by letter or postcard, and only occasional calls to/from home?  Often we send off an e-mail in the heat of the moment, while having to reflect on “is this an emergency?” might be a better tack to take.  Students would voluntarily put their phones in their backpacks and not check them until the school day is over.  Parents would know and respect those limits, teaching students some measure of independence from their parents.

One school I know is starting to look at those communications and considering how to best work with/educate both parents and students so that the appropriate separation happens.

What if we all did that?

Posted in Life Related, Musings, Student stuff, Techno Geekiness | 2 Comments »

A love/hate relationship

Posted by lpearle on 18 August 2014

Over the past 30 years I’ve had several “careers” (in the theatre, in finance, as an office manager or a project manager, and finally as an executive recruiter before starting the librarian gig) and worked in many different environments, from small 2-person offices to multi-branch companies.  Every job I’ve had has been filled with things I’ve loved – beyond the paycheck and other benefits – and things I’ve hated.  I’ve never had a job that’s been pure love, and sadly, I don’t expect to ever have one.

It’s one of the things I think we need to teach our students: that yes, absolutely, follow your passion.  Do what makes you go to bed at night feeling fulfilled and at peace.  But – and this is important – no job is going to be 100% of that.  There will always be “lesser” days, and lesser tasks.

What I do now, for example, is a pretty good 80-20 mix.  Sadly, the past few days have been more of that 20 because I hate filing.  I hate shelving.  I hate processing books.  I hate them hate them hate them.  There.  I said it. But they’re all so very necessary if we’re to be ready for the opening of school (and by that I’m including tomorrow’s New Faculty Orientation meetings, taking place right in my library!).  Even when I’ve had an assistant, shelving and filing have been things I’ve had to do.  Oh: keeping track of statistics, like the number of questions we get asked daily or how used the databases are.  Not as bad as filing, and miles better than shelving, but not a favorite.  Yet, like a good doobie I’ve spent time this summer updating our spreadsheets in preparation for the new year.  The stuff I love – working with students and colleagues, doing Reader’s Advisory, collaborating on projects and research – has been paused as everyone scatters for the summer.

Our academic dean is a big proponent of “flow” and working with faculty help them achieve it in their practice.  In theory, that’s great.  But in reality? I’m sure that grading papers/tests is an “unflow” moment for most of my colleagues.  Necessary, but not why they got into teaching.  Dealing with parents is probably another “unflow” moment.  I could go on, but you get the point.  And then there’s the question of the outside world interfering with the work world, for whatever reasons.  That can turn any day that should be filled with “flow” into a day you’d rather not have.

A personal goal for me for this year is to create more concentrated time for the “unflow” work, getting it done promptly rather than putting it off and getting angsty about it.  Maybe, if I’m lucky, I can get that 80-20 to 85-15.  What about you?

Posted in Musings, Work Stuff | 1 Comment »

Why do this?

Posted by lpearle on 14 August 2014

Sadly, I succumbed to the Lure of Summer Vacation (June? well, I’ve had a stressful year so I deserve some time off… July? 31 days to get things done in, right?… OMG it’s AUGUST!!  how can I possibly get everything done??).  So as I’ve scrambled to Get Things Done I’ve also had time to think about why I do things both professionally and personally, and why I blog about some of it and review books publicly and submit items to school bulletins (my alma mater, my previous places of work, whatever) and post on Facebook or Twitter.  In other words, why have a public life?  Why not just do things for the sake of doing them?

Because, honestly, what does it matter? This blog doesn’t have huge readership or generate many comments or links.  I’m not going to be an L&J Mover or Shaker, and the time is long past for me to Emerge as a Leader. As I’ve pondered this, I’ve been remembering a guy I knew years ago, a coworker:

I spent a few months working for the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, mostly working on the close-out of the restoration of Ellis Island.  Because it was a joint venture between the Foundation and the National Park Service, there was a ton of paperwork and part of the close-out was to ensure that the paperwork got filed and archived in the right places (including at the architects/contractors).  So I got to know the mailroom guy rather well.  He was interesting… and I mean that euphemistically.  For one thing, he was a huge sports fan.  And by fan, I mean FAN.  On the walls of the mailroom he would post the ticket stubs (with final score) for all the games (or matches) he’d attended during the season, removing them when the next year rolled around.  His sports? Baseball… hockey… NCAA basketball… NBA basketball… there may have been one or two more, but I don’t remember exactly.  He’d drive to the games, and if they were far enough away – say, Baltimore or Chicago – he’d sleep in his car either before or after the game (sometimes both) and then drive home.

One day he told me about his ex-fiance.  I forget how they’d met, but after a while they took a vacation in Florida.  The day they’d arrived was a semifinal (I think) for that year’s NCAA basketball tournament and he wanted to stay in the hotel room and listen to the game (this was pre-March Madness and hundreds of channels on tv; when he told me this story, it was pre-my having cable in NYC!) and – he didn’t understand it, even at this remove – she didn’t and was a little (ok, a lot) cranky about his wanting to do so.  They broke up and years later his college basketball team defeated her college basketball team in the NCAA finals.  He was convinced that she hadn’t contacted him because she was embarrassed by the loss.  It came as a shock to him when I mentioned that it was far more likely that she wasn’t even aware of this crushing blow, given that she didn’t pay attention to the tournament when they were together and probably still didn’t

So, why the digression?

This story is a reminder to me that what’s important to me is probably completely off someone else’s radar.  I can’t blog… or create a wonderful program… or win a trivia quiz… because I want someone else to notice.  Malcolm Gladwell talks about destroying a great friendship, a college friend whose approval he wanted – one wonders if even now he doesn’t hope that what he’s done since then hasn’t impressed his former friend.  A YA author I know was so impressed/in awe of a high school classmate (with whom she, and the school, had lost all contact) that she wrote a book with a character based on, and similarly named, this friend in hopes she’d reach out. We all have those people (a former friend or classmate, a distant family member, a former teacher) who we want to impress, whose approval we desire because – for what ever reason – they didn’t think highly of us or notice us before. Or, even worse, someone who denigrated or bullied or shamed you because, well, who cares why “because” decades later.  It still rankles, right?  However,  the reality is, they’re probably not paying attention, they’re getting on with their life.  The bullies, haters, people we put on a pedestal – they’ve moved beyond middle and high school and are getting on with their lives, not checking Google (or the alumni bulletin/local paper) for our doings.

It’s a difficult lesson to learn, that we need to do things for us and us only not for those icons whose notice we crave.  This isn’t a speech I can easily give to my students, but it’s important for them to learn this now, as they’re starting out, rather than suffer a life of unfulfillment because that person doesn’t call, writer, text (or whatever form of communication we have in the future) to say, “You’re amazing!”  We have to believe it ourselves, and do things because of us, not them.

It’s taken me years, but I’m there.  And so when I blog, or update, it’s without regard for others approval, it’s a record for me – so I can see that I’m progressing and improving my practice.  And if others care, well, that’s nice, too.

Posted in Life Related, Musings | 2 Comments »

Dream Teams

Posted by lpearle on 7 August 2014

The other day I was having lunch with a librarian friend when she mentioned the name of her new Lower School Librarian (my friend is the Director of Libraries for a K-12 school) and how she now has a dream team.  Knowing the people she’s working with, I have to agree.  Another school I know also has amazing librarians in all three divisions, and consistently “grooms” interns who then go out and Do Great Things in other libraries.

Having worked in four libraries now, three as part of a team, I know how difficult it is to craft and sustain a Dream Team.  Sometimes you get one member who, for whatever reason, doesn’t buy in to the vision you (and, with luck, the school) have for the library.  Sometimes everyone is on board with the vision, but there are external issues, like transfers or parental leaves, or something similar, that break up the team.  And for some, as Wendy says, there are external reasons why people won’t apply for  jobs that could lead to a Dream Team situation.

At the moment, I’d say I’m in a Dream Partnership – since there’s only one other librarian, and no assistant, “team” seems an overreach.  What does that look like?  It’s when everyone has a similar vision, but there’s the ability to disagree, to tweak and to continually rethink that vision.  Working as a solo librarian for eight years, I know the danger of not having that other person’s feedback and input!  It’s also an excitement, an eagerness to get things going – a reluctance to just do the job, with minimal effort.  Reading or hearing about what’s going on elsewhere and having the ability to reflect on how that could work (or wouldn’t work) at “home” is critical (I’ve never understood people who go to other schools or conferences and can’t imagine changing anything they’re doing).

It’s also important – critical, really – to have administrative support.  Some schools don’t know what they really need, or want, in a library and if you have the support to make changes that will lead to a better student experience, great.  Some schools prefer to have that traditional library program, not embracing the idea of librarians as teachers and educational partners – if that’s your school, maybe that works for you and that’s great.  But if you’re interested in innovating and changing, you may need to look elsewhere (granted, that’s not always the easy route or the most available, due to economics or family).

In my case, I have both a partner who not only supports but suggests changes and an administration that is willing to let us make those changes.  Could things be better? Sure.  We could have an assistant.  We could already be where we think we should have been a few years ago and plotting moves far beyond that.  We could have an even larger budget (we are very well-funded, but it’s never enough, is it?).  But truly, it is a Dream Partnership and I’m eager to get started on Academic Year 2015 and see where we end up in June!

Posted in Musings, Work Stuff | Leave a Comment »

Would you rather…

Posted by lpearle on 16 July 2014

At sit down dinner, the teacher who sits at “my” table on Thursday uses this game to keep conversation flowing.  I’ve never done that, but I have been thinking about this question for a few years now:

Would you rather be liked, or respected (professionally)?

Here’s what triggered the thoughts: a few years ago I was at a gathering of work colleagues and suggested a resource to one of them.  She mentioned that I was doing a great job reaching out to the faculty and recommending resources, doing reader’s advisory, etc. and that while they (the faculty) all liked the previous librarian, she’d never done that.  I flippantly said that I’d rather be professionally respected than liked.

Over the years, that comment has stayed with me and I’ve pondered if, in fact, I’d rather.  In my many work experiences, I’ve worked for and with people I’ve liked and respected, but it’s been few and far between that I’ve done both.  That’s particularly true for administrators, in part because it’s difficult to be in that employee/administrator dynamic and actually develop enough of a relationship to like them on a personal level; having said that, there are a number of administrators I’ve worked with that I’ve liked professionally.  There are a few that I’ve become friends with, but the respect isn’t always twinned.  At this stage in my career, I’d guess that I do command a certain amount of respect, and there are a few that like me (really like me, not just professionally like me).  Do they do both?  Hard to say.  I’d rather have both, but if I can’t have that I’m still unsure which I’d rather…

I’ve also thought about which I’d rather with respect to students.  A number of my professional friends (and I) have followed librarians who have been institutions: they’ve been at their school for decades, sometimes working with literal generations of students (my high school librarian retired after 30+ years and had both my classmates and my classmates’ daughters under her care).  Are they truly beloved, a la Mr. Chips or William Hundert, or are they simply part of the institutional fabric?  And how do you follow that person successfully, particularly if you don’t know the answer? What relationship would you rather have with the students: one of respect, or one of friendship?  Can you have both?

At the end of my first year at Porter’s, this is what I’m reflecting on personally.  Professional reflections to follow….

Posted in Musings | Leave a Comment »

 
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