While you might leave library school versed in everything from read/write web applications to AACR2 description, it’s what they don’t teach you in library school that can make or break your school media program.

The professional leave process, lesson planning, supervision duties, professional development responsibilities, and even dress code can be radically local, so even veteran librarians will have to learn some different processes when they change buildings or districts.

Laura Houk, who left Dekalb County to become librarian at Madison County High School this fall, said her challenges included figuring out how the circulation system works and the local purchasing process. “You don’t know if you’ll have supplies, money, or what your collection will look like,” said Houk. Acknowledging that you can’t change everything at once, Houk advises incoming school librarians to be “flexible and do the best you can with what you have,” something particularly important for school librarians in a state where school library materials budgets have been eliminated the past two years.

A learning curve exists for school librarians leaving the classroom as well. Ashley Markham moved from ‘ teaching second graders to become the media specialist at a new school, Buckhorn Middle, in the same district this fall. While many system-wide policies are the same, changing age groups has brought some surprises. Markham said fewer more middle-school teachers seemed to bring their classes to the library than at the elementary level. Her advice to beginning school librarians hoping to infuse information literacy skills into the curriculum is to “meet with the teachers and discuss the units you’ll focus on, to make sure you’ll have what you need.” Markham will be combining collections from two existing schools, but will also have a budget to establish her program and make sure that the resources are there for those research units.

For faculty and student icebreakers and other ideas, check out Kathy Schrock’s Back-To-School Resources, and the collective intelligence of LM_NET provides some great fodder for librarians going back-to-school, be it the first or the thirtieth time.

What is YOUR back-to-school advice?

One Thought on “30 Days of Back to School: What You Need to Know

  1. I didn’t discover the faculty sign-out sheet until well into the spring semester. No joke. If you’re assigned a mentor, your district might try to pair you up with another librarian even if you’re not in the same building, so see if you can get a building mentor as well–they’ll be invaluable for in-school info as you get your feet under you.

    And I can’t stress this one enough: introduce yourself early and often to your secretaries, security guards, nurses, counselors, etc. Aside from being great people to know in general, they can also make your life a lot easier–and they have a different perspective on your new students from the ones classroom teachers will offer.

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