Conversations with librarians

Part of my job for my 6-month home assignment is to meet with librarians, tour their libraries, and discuss with them their struggles, joys, frustration, advice they may have, things that wish that they could do differently, the role that digital media is playing in their libraries, among other things.

I have felt so incredibly welcomed by the librarians that I have met while I’ve been out here in Washington.  I’ve met with Christian school, public school, and public libraries.  They are elementary librarians, middle school librarians, teen librarians, combination librarians (Grades 7-12).  They are in schools that have significant budgets and no budgets at all.  And they have all been so gracious in answering my questions.

As I leave Washington, I wanted to reflect on some of what I have learned and discussed with these amazing women (have yet to meet with a male librarian…which I find a bit discouraging…boys need to see men reading and promoting books).

1.  They are all passionate about what they do.  It is thrilling to watch how their eyes light up when they talk about the love that they have for their jobs.

2. Each of the school librarians deals with the struggle of providing quality pieces of literature to their student population.  They are all asking the questions – what is appropriate?  What’s the line when it comes to content, language, situational appropriateness?

3. Teaching students how to use the library well is something that they are all wrestling with.  One school does an orientation with all of their incoming Grade 7 students (youngest grade in that school) and then they do another orientation with their incoming Grade 9 students.

4. All of the libraries are hooked into the public library system.  Some still have their own online databases that they purchase but many are hooked into the ones that the public library system offers.

5. The physical space of every library that I’ve been in has wide-open space.  While the shelving units on the wall are floor-to-(almost) ceiling, none of the center shelving is above chest level.  There’s almost nothing blocking the librarian’s ability to see every corner of the room.

6. All agreed that the phrase “unquiet library” was probably the most accurate description of what they are and how things work in the middle school and high school setting.  Thank you, Buffy Hamilton, for coining the phrase.

7. I saw a variety of circulation systems.  Most are using a Follett product.  Some will be moving on to Follett Destiny when Follett no longer supports their older products.  One school was in the process of moving from Concourse to Koha.  I liked the open-source idea of Koha.  It appeared to be very user-friendly and I loved it’s visual appeal to the “digital natives” who use it – pictures of the books, ability to search at home.

8. All have a policy and process in place when the situation arises that a parent or staff member or student takes issue with a book in the collection.  All of the librarians were pretty firm on making sure that you have this policy in place before you ever open the doors of your library.  Some have to have the educational board read the book in question; others have committees that read the book and make a recommendation to keep or discard.

9. All see digital media as changing the game.  Not sure what that’s going to look like in the future but it’s going to be a game-changer.

10. They passed on a wealth of resources: print-outs of books that they’ve added to their collection in the last year, Booklist, LM-Net listserv, the Indie Next List, reading lists by grade level.

I really appreciate the time that each of these librarians has spent with me.  Most have given me an hour or more of their time.  And I’m fully aware that as a general rule, they are THE librarian with a limited amount of time to spend with a school-librarian-in-training.  So my sincere thanks, Jean, Pat, Aubrie, Liz, Sue, and Anita!


About msbecs

An incomplete but alphabetical list: Believer. Daughter. Friend. Learner. Librarian. Sister. TCK. Teacher. YA Literature Devotee.

Posted on 11.05.2010, in High School, Library Visits, Middle School. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Koha originated in NZ, it must be good!

    Are e-book readers going to change school libraries any time soon? It seems like the role of book storage/lending could be increasingly irrelevant, while the role of suggestion, search and reading/communal space etc. could become even more important (which IMHO has been the best bit about good libraries for a long time).

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