08 August 2013

One Big Thing

At the beginning of last year, my library was visited by one of the district big-wigs, a man named Matt Corimer, who, it turns out, is not only brilliant, but kind, funny and awesome to work with.  When he visited a year ago, we had a discussion about transitions and how difficult it can be to take over a library that has been run by someone else for years.
Earlier this summer, I talked a little about weeding and how difficult (and entertaining) it can be.  Taking over a library can also be difficult - there are processes and practices in place that may or may not fit who you are as a librarian.  In my conversation with Matt last September, I started to get a little riled up and overwhelmed at all the things I needed to change and do and fix.  Matt - being the calm dude he is - simply said "My best piece of advice for you is just choose one big thing."  He went on to explain that there's only so much we can do in any give time period, and if we try to do everything, we'll sink.  So he suggested choosing one big thing each year.  The idea resonated with me, so I decided to try it.

Last year my OBT (yep, I just went there) was implementing weekly lessons when classes came in to the library.  As much as I love my job, I miss actually teaching.  So I decided to combine my love of teaching with our school's (and really most school's) very real need of teaching kids the how of finding.  How to find books, information, resources, facts, etc.  The results were fantastic.  For one, I was able to get my "fix" of teaching. While I didn't limit my teaching to these mini-lessons (I always made myself available to teach more   in-depth, curriculum centered lessons, usually in the afternoons), through this system, I was able to stretch myself professionally by trying different lessons, and I now have a rough skeleton of a "library curriculum" that outlines which skills to teach at each level, and those skills spiral throughout the grades.  Secondly, the teacher's loved it.  And I mean, they loooooved it.  I heard several times that the lessons made library time more enjoyable for them and their students, and they felt that their students were actually utilizing more of the library independently (can you hear my heart singing? That's one of the best compliments a librarian can get). Speaking of which, I really think the kids got quite a bit out of it.  Yes, there were classes and grades that moaned and groaned about it - mostly because I'd taken away their precious "computer searching" time.  But for the most part, the kids were engaged in the lessons - especially if I was doing book talks.  I am amazing at book talks.  And that is the fourth benefit I saw from my weekly lessons: I got to do regular book talks.  I love doing book talks! My library is full of amazing books, but it's impossible to assume that students will know which books to read, so giving quick book talks is always a great way to encourage them to try something new, or to show them a book they didn't know existed in the library.

As of today, we're in a new school year, which means I need a new OBT. I've decided that this year, my focus will be on technology and building a staff and group of students who are independent technology users. Last year we had nine computer carts that I was expected to manage. NINE.  That's 135 computers.  It was an impossible task.  Carts would go missing, classes would keep them longer than they'd sign up for them, not to mention the everyday maintenance.  Last year, I brought the issue to the technology committee and they came up with the idea of breaking the carts up and distributing them throughout the classrooms.  The PTA agreed to purchase newer computers, which gave us the numbers to be able to put three laptops in each classroom, and have 60 computers that can be on carts and used as class sets.
There are always challenges when you change a system.  I know it will be a difficult adjustment for many some of the staff because now they will be responsible for the three laptops in their classrooms.  But that's where my OBT becomes an OBT.  I hope to provide them with the access to the necessary resources to be self-solvers and solution finders.  I will, obviously, support them in any way that I can, but I can imagine that there is going to be some push-back as I encourage them to be independent.  And it truly is my goal to lead them to being independent users of technology, and for those who view themselves as "non techies", or un-techno-savvy, it is my hope that by the end of the year, they will believe that they are smarter than the computers in their classrooms.  If I can instill confidence in them, I will have done my job.

Wish me luck!

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