A recent listserv thread addressed the importance of school librarians having a place at department chair meetings (thanks for starting this important conversation, Aly!). This got me thinking about my role outside of the library not only in terms of academia but in student life. Seeing kids outside of the library (in non-library-related situations) goes a long way towards developing relationships that enhance our effectiveness inside the library.
None of this is rocket science, but I thought it might be helpful to the newer librarians out there to note what has worked for me.
Go to chapel / assembly / community gathering
While all of our faculty are encouraged to attend morning chapel services, the pace of life at my school often means that a 30-minute student-free block is precious time quickly filled up with class prep, meetings, administrivia, etc. As an assistant housemaster of one of our girls’ day houses, I attend 2 of 4 chapel services each week – to greet the girls in my house, to hear the day’s message, to be part of community announcements. It allows for context, understanding how the kids are starting any particular day. Further to this; consider getting involved in house/residential life – it can enhance your school experience immeasurably.
Chaperone a dance or school outing
Seeing kids in a purely social context allows you to see them out of their classroom persona and get a fuller picture of them as people. Volunteer to chaperone a dance; if you’re in a boarding environment, sign up to accompany a group of kids on the “sushi bus” or on a shopping trip into the city on a weekend.
Attend games / plays / concerts / etc
15 years of watching cricket and rugby have not helped me understand either very well, but the kids don’t care – they’re just excited when we show up. Seeing a big play being made, a role well tackled, an impressive performance all make for a great future conversation starter.
Sign up for beginning of year / end of year outings
I’m not going to lie – spending a day with 100 Grade 9s is pretty exhausting, but the investment of time and energy pays off big time. Learning their names, seeing them interact with their peers, sharing a laugh all helps to forge a connection that can last until they graduate.
Volunteer to coach or lead an arts/service group
I was pretty upfront in my job interview; I have no athletic skills to offer my school, but many of you do, so go for it; I just ‘got to know’ Laurie Sears in the May 12th blog post, and she coaches tennis (#soawesome). Those like me can help with the musical, improv or community service. A library colleague and I signed up for Thursday Arts programming; in the past, we’ve offered bookbinding, jewelry-making and we’re currently doing build-a-buddy (sewing stuffed animals). Last term, I had a Gr 12 boy in this group who rarely darkened the library’s doorstep; we now talk regularly in the hallway, and he’s even stopped by to say ‘hi’. My colleague also runs a service activity in the library, working with a group of students to make pet treats (dog biscuits, catnip mice) for a local animal shelter.
Keep up with school social media
We can’t all be at every school event, so watch the Twitter and Instagram feeds, keep up the newsletters, read the blogs – and then mention something you saw to the kid in question and see their face light up (with joy or embarrassment – either way it’s worth it).
Knowing kids (and as many of their names as I can remember), is such a bonus for me when interacting with them in the library. Introducing a database, helping with book selection, guiding through citation, and dealing with noise or technical issues is much easier when I have a prior connection with the student,
How do you engage with student life at your school?