Winding Down or Gearing Up? Fall Months in a School Library

As a school librarian, I spend most of June (or the end of May, if we’re lucky) in panic mode–cramming as many classes as possible into my labs when teachers are looking for computers, squeezing every last drop out of my budget, trying to coordinate summer reading with the public library… and on and on. Some days it feels like I get absolutely nothing done; on others I’m crossing tasks off my to-do list left and right.

But when all is said and done, my library will be closed until the end of August. I might come in once or twice to do some summer work (and raid the shelves for my own summer reading), but I won’t see any of my students until school starts up again in the fall. It’s hard to believe that the slowest season for my library is one of the busiest for public libraries. So how are we spending our spring?

Collecting obligations.

I hate this phrasing, but “obligations” describes anything a student may have forgotten to return or pay for throughout the year–an activity fee here, a biology textbook there, class dues, library books–you name, we bill for it. At my school underclassmen get bills mailed home over the summer, but they’re not technically required to settle up until the end of their senior year, when we can withhold their cap and gown until they pay.

Planning summer reading.

I’m not actually in charge of summer reading at my school–the texts are selected by the English and Social Studies departments–but more and more of my suggestions are showing up on the list as each year goes by. As soon as I get titles from each department I pass them along to one of our public librarians, who has the unenviable task of getting boxes and boxes of classroom copies (when we have them) from our book rooms to go out on temporary loan from her branch.

Inventory and shelf-reading.

I know some libraries have cadres of volunteers or underlings to do their shelving, but I don’t have that luxury. If I don’t put it back on the shelf myself, it ain’t happening. I try to set aside a chunk of each day in the last couple of weeks to first shelf-read, then do inventory. Because I’m getting so many overdue books back at the end of the year, I also have to prioritize regular ol’ shelving if I don’t want my desk to turn into a book barricade.

All the other stuff I manage to fit into a regular day.

A librarian emailed our state association’s listserv this spring to ask how many of us actually do inventory each year, and how long it usually takes. At first I was incredulous–of course I do inventory!–but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that multi-tasking has become so ingrained into my daily routine (if you can call it that) that I didn’t even think about how I was adding inventory to my day, not doing it in place of something else. I’m still doing direct instruction with students, watching research project presentations, going to meetings, distributing the yearbook, weeding, looking for books that are supposed to be on the shelf… I’m certainly look forward to summer, but it’s a little hard to imagine eight weeks of not doing twelve things at once.

And then it’s fall!

We’re only in week two of the school year, but we really hit the ground running. I’m already teaching research lessons, placing book and supply orders, finding summer reading alternatives for ESL students, checking out independent reading titles left and right and updating my library scavenger hunt to be more tech-inclusive.

In September, I often find myself with very little downtime. Between a full school day and two after-school clubs, I find that my afternoons quickly stretch into evenings and I’ve barely had time to answer my email.

About mk Eagle

I'm the librarian at Holliston High School, a bit west of Boston. In my spare time I advise my school's yearbook and Gay Straight Alliance, write about food, and root for the Red Sox.
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