I thought that I would have all sorts of wonderful insights into our “Library Re-imagining Project Using Design Thinking” by now … but we are still slogging along … the project, begun before the start of the last school year … is still a work in process. So I thought that I would just kvetch about the usual …
I wonder how many librarians ask other school departments for assistance but are told that everyone else is busy (the implication being that librarians have free time)? I asked for library signage. Our middle/upper school library also houses IT and the Learning Resource Center but they’re not very visible. Everyone comes to our circulation desk and expects the librarians to know where the IT techs or Learning Resource tutors are (and even whether they’re in their offices or not). I asked Innovation and Design to make us a sign directing people to IT or LRC. Design students have a 3-D printer and make signs for Reception and Admissions. However, they told me to ask Communications. I asked Communications. They said to ask Operations or to design a sign and have one made. I don’t know about you but if I knew how to make a sign that hangs down from our ceiling, I would have made one.
One of our IT techs was out and about in the library the other day when I was in the back office (it’s a glass room, visible to all in the library). He came in to tell me that a student needed help. So I came out to assist the student. What did he need help with? IT issues with his laptop!
Librarians, in my experience, try to accommodate students and faculty whenever we possibly can. We are loathe to say that we can’t help because we’re wonderful people, of course, but also because we worry about staff cutbacks or loss of library space (one of our study rooms is now a counseling office). Other departments don’t feel that pressure. We had a recent meeting with our head of school. He questioned our faculty status due to the fact that we don’t grade students (never mind the fact that classroom teachers all have free periods and time off for grading while we are supervising their little darlins’). He didn’t understand why faculty status is vital to us but persuading classroom teachers to use us for research skills is hard enough … if we lose that designation, would they use us even less?
Then I started looking at the library and librarians from other points of view. We need to be better, I think, at selling ourselves – showing our value. For some reason there is this persistent (mis)perception that librarians sit around all day reading (which sounds heavenly but I don’t even have time to read professional journals – I take them home to read). We spend a lot of time supervising and assisting students with their laptops. We place book orders, get those books in the catalog and on the shelves, weed outdated books, provide all sorts of resources both print and online, help with citations, etc. but … so many of those activities are done behind the scenes. So I’m trying to do more displays … sending emails to teachers and students when new books come in. I recently set up a Book Nook at the upper school … to “remind” everyone of the library every time they are in the US office.
And I wholeheartedly agree with those on the listserv who said that we should have our own library website (maybe we can persuade Communications to allow us to take ownership of the library page of our school’s website). We also plan on showcasing our resources at the next Professional Development day as many teachers don’t know of our online resources, including eBooks and online periodicals. We need to self-advocate. I’m sure there are many more ideas on how we can “prove our value.” I look forward to the day when no one says “I want to be a librarian so I can read all day.”