By Lissa Davies
Ahhh, developing an effective library program in .2 time. Sounds like an administrator’s dream, doesn’t it? (Ooops, better do a disclaimer: “The views here are my views only and not related to my administrator, my district, my family, my friends or my dog.”)
Gentle Readers, Let’s start with my history (I’m sure you are all dying to know...). I began my library career three years ago. Before I turned into Super Librarian (really!), I was an elementary Learning Strategies teacher. Our .6 part-time teacher librarian was retiring (and she really was a Super TL!) and I was asked by my administrator if I would like the position. I leaped at the chance. After all, I loved inquiry learning, and reading, and reading, and books, and kids. What more was needed? There was a small, teensy-weensy catch. I would be .5 and in order to make it a full-time position, I would be teaching a new grade: Kindergarten. (You should all be hearing the duh-duh-duh- DUHN! sound of doom in your heads by now!)
Come September, Gentle Readers, I was supremely lost and bewildered. Fortunately I had my retired Super TL (aka Maureen) and our district’s Fearless Library Consultant (aka Betty-Lou) to support me in my hours of need. Soon I had a plan to work with all classes on inquiry projects, did booktalks and bookfairs, managed the technology in the school and our live broadcast morning news, was on the Best of the Best committee to review books, and was registered in the Teacher Librarian Distance Learning (aka TLDL) program at the University of Alberta, taking one course per term and one in the summer. I still felt lost, but I was too busy to think about it. Much.
The next year, our enrollment dropped, and so, perforce, did our budget. I was retained as TL at .23, with .5 Kindergarten and .17 grade 1/2 (another new assignment). That year, I worked with two classes on inquiry learning projects, did booktalks and bookfairs, managed our live broadcast morning news, took TLDL classes, and (now that the TLDL program has taught me so much about what at teacher-librarian COULD be) I dreamt about the things I ‘should’ be doing.
This year, anther drop in the budget, so I am now .2 TL and .8 grade 5/6. While my courses in the TLDL program were expanding my ideas of libraries and librarians, my TL time in reality was shrinking. However, this is the reality for many of our elementary schools...as a matter of fact, it is better than the reality of most. Few schools have a TL, and some schools don’t even have a library tech. While we all know the value that a great library program brings to student achievement (Keith Curry Lance, 2001), others require convincing. Ross Todd (yes, those of you who have taken courses with me know that Ross Todd is my library idol, and I don’t apologize for that. Much.) talks about the need for us to use evidence-based practices to track and show the value of our libraries, still many people feel that when push comes to shove, administrators will choose to have a teacher who has a class of students sitting in front of them rather than a teacher librarian.
So, let’s consider our options in .2 time. What does a strong library program contain? What should a strong TL be doing in her/his school? Harada and Zmuda (2008) have a few suggestions about what TLs should be (Gentle Readers, you may disagree with me, but you can’t disagree with Harada and Zmuda, can you?):
Leaders in providing PD to schools
Experts in curriculum development and resources
Experts in instruction and collaboration with teachers
Joyce Valenza (I call her ‘She Who Does Not Sleep. Ever.) goes even farther. She says we should be:
a leader in using technology for teaching and learning
a leader in inquiry teaching and learning
a leader in reading and developing readers
a leader in understanding and teaching information fluency
a leader in developing your collection
So what CAN we do in .2?
Given my time this year, the needs of the students in my school, and our district focus on literacy, I decided that I needed to have one focus. I chose developing readers and focusing on booktalks and the collection. Yet what about technology? What about inquiry learning? What about....? Was it the right decision? Am I now in danger of turning into....
An old-fashioned GOL? (Grumpy Old Librarian)
I certainly hope not! Students are engaged and excited during booktalks, which I do for each grade group twice a month. (I should mention that I am on a flexible schedule, so I do not provide preps). When I am not in front of kids, I am organizing and weeding the collection, helping teachers with technology, or book suggestions, or pulling books for units, adding websites to our Diigo account, preparing booktalks and grants, and answering emails like crazy. Often I think I live in the Twilight Zone, as time seems to morph and shorten when I am in the library.
So, Gentle Readers, this is my story. This is what I have chosen to do in my .2. What are YOU doing in your library? Share your stories in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let us know!
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