Fixed vs flexible schedules – what works for you?

When a group of elementary school librarians gather, the conversation will inevitably turn to a discussion of fixed vs flexible schedules. A quick glance at the AISL and LM_NET archives show similar levels of discussion. Is there a right answer, or is it simply a case of finding what works best for you in your setting? Of course, in many cases, the librarian is the last person who has any say in how their schedule is set up, as the type of schedule used is often imposed by the school administration.

Although little formal research has been done in this area, one recent article states that where possible, flexible scheduling works best; in particular, Gavigan et al (2010) suggest that where scheduling is flexible, circulation statistics are generally higher. This interesting article is worth a read, but it is obvious that more research is needed in this area.

I have a flexible schedule; at the beginning of the school year, I have a completely blank timetable. I chat with each elementary classroom teacher over the summer to book a time for their once-a-cycle library period (we have a 9 day cycle). During this time I have with each class we focus on sharing stories, booktalks, library user skills and book exchange. This works well for us; I get to see each of my six elementary classes on a regular basis. If a teacher wants to come to the library to do a research project, they book in with me separately. This has great advantages; for example, just before the Christmas break I saw our grade four class every day for two weeks, to help them complete a research project on the provinces and territories of Canada.

I am forced to use a flexible schedule because I teach students in grades 1-12, and this is the only way we can handle bookings from all the classes we need to work with. It does work well for us, however, as pre-booked and prioritized junior school time is invaluable. We very quickly get booked up with upper school classes wanting to use the library for research periods, and do sometimes have to turn away classes. Unfortunately, flexible scheduling is also hugely dependent on your collaborative relationship with faculty, and their willingness to embrace the library program. We have had years where we see very little of one grade or subject’s students because the teacher is not willing to make time for it, or doesn’t see the value of bringing their class for instruction or dedicated library research time. In this case, fixed scheduling would at least mean that the class was guaranteed some library time. It’s a frustrating situation to try and navigate…

So, what works for you? Any suggestions for making the elementary library schedule work most efficiently for both you and your students? And if you’re considering a change to the way classes are scheduled with you for the next school year, good luck!

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One Response to Fixed vs flexible schedules – what works for you?

  1. Our staffing was cut so that I ma now the sole librarian for grades 1-12. This year the lower school classes are fixed. next year they may be flexible. I know flexible will be easier for scheduling my time – and probably allow more time for grades 6-12 instruction, but I am worried about making this change for scheduling rather than pedagogical reasons. I do believe that it makes sense to teach lower school research skills as part of a classroom research unit, rather than weekly as part of a “library curriculum” and flex seems to promote that. But I agree it may not work if teachers don’t buy in. Any advice is appreciated.

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