I had the best time tonight. I had dinner with an old friend, a new friend, and an old acquaintance who really should be a friend.
We gossiped. We talked about books. We talked about the fact that we were talking about books.
I noticed something at dinner. I was sitting with a teacher and two tech integration guys. And me- a library media specialist. There was this unspoken (and mumbled a couple of times) thing in the air about librarians. I think they felt comfortable about it because I’m an unconventional librarian- I have surround sound, for god’s sake. But, in the grand scheme, nothing has changed. The perception- the stereotype- is still there. And I can’t go it alone.
We all need to work together to change it. Otherwise, those of us forging the newer path look like we are just “jerks” bent on making the rest of you look bad. That isn’t the goal. We want to push our profession forward. In order to do that, we all have to be in this together. So I thought I would share a few things I’ve heard by the “water cooler” and you can go from there…
1. Tech Integration. It isn’t just the tech integration guy’s job. As a matter of fact, I get a little salty when my guy crosses the tech line into my territory. I would have to say that 50% of the tech integration stuff is OUR job. They can keep the google integration, grade book programs, blogging, smart boards (barf), and teacher websites. If we aren’t pushing databases, ebooks, audiobooks, literacy apps, etc., then how will we stay relevant? And if your tech guy starts teaching Boolean searching, you have my permission to go medieval. I almost did.
2. Environment. This isn’t your momma’s library. I have gotten so many positive remarks since I started piping music into my library. I play mostly Vitamin String Quartet (modern music, classical style) – my music policy is NO VOICES. I’m a musician, so I realize that if there is too much going on, I will pay too much attention to the music. However, I have noticed that my own productivity has gone up because of the music, so I know that the kids’ has too. And Thrift Shop done classically is a trip. I also bought couches and bean bags a few years ago. It’s a mess. The bean bags are all over the place- my assistant and I happily clean them up every morning. You have no idea how nice it is to see kids lounging with a laptop, concentrating. It’s magical. Ditch the stodgy view of what the library should look like. The kids need a safe, comfortable, serene place to work. Like I said- the compliments come in every day. From teachers AND kids.
3. The books. I just received a compliment about books today. I am a middle school librarian, and the books in my library aren’t available in the other middle school libraries. Parents are asking friends and relatives to check books out of my library for their kids (against policy, but I let it slide). Put your beliefs aside. Put your prejudices aside. Put your preconceived notions aside. Put your fears aside. Some of your students are gay. Some of your students have eating disorders. Some of your students are victims of abuse. Carry books for everyone!!! Only restrict THE MOST edgy books- the 5% most edgy books- in your library. Don’t make everything good available ONLY for the oldest students. They might not be the ones who need them!!! You have a varied population, and you need to cater to everyone! It’s in our code of ethics. Don’t be afraid of the .01% of parents who might be offended. If they show up, tell them, “I have 1000 students and I need to have something that speaks to everyone. If your child checked something out that you find questionable, please tell your child to return it and talk to me about a book that would be great for them.” Done. Was that so hard?
4. Back to Tech. We need to get more tech savvy, people. I just acquired 14 iPads for my library, and I plan to use the hell out of them. I have plans. Buy some books- iPads in Library is a good one. Troll the internet- Twitter and Pinterest are my favorite resources for Ed tech tips. Find an ebook supplier (I use Follett) and then go into classrooms and market the hell out of it. Don’t buy another goddamn encyclopedia. Find a Web 2.0 tool that relates to info literacy, research, reading, or whatever, and master it. Then, offer to teach it to kids. When I started, I had three false starts… Nooks, Kindle Fires, and a third party ebook client…. FAILS. Don’t let the fails set you back. If you have questions, ask me. Don’t do that librarian thing – well, I tried and it didn’t work, so I’m not trying again. Technology is horrible. It doesn’t work in my district. NOPE. You are wrong. Technology doesn’t always work anywhere. Oh well. Move on. Make it work.
5. Push IN. I surprised the hell out of one of my administrators the other day. She walked through the library and saw me teaching… Then she did a surprise visit to a teacher and found me teaching…. And then she dropped into another classroom and (you guessed it) saw me teaching. She didn’t realize that I do as much push in as I do, and that’s a good thing. When you surprise them like that… Priceless. Is every day like that? Of course not. I got really lucky that day 🙂 but it isn’t rare, either. I constantly badger teachers to let me come in and teach something, anything. Come on- we are the best people the school has to teach research skills, for instance. Do you have any idea how many lessons you can prep on research? Especially with Common Core???
Bottom line? MARKETING. You need to run your library like a business. Be a retail manager. What is going to bring in revenue?
Tough love. 🙂