Thursday, April 24, 2014

Symptom: I don't think anyone at my school realizes how hard I work. Even worse, I don't think they care.

Being a school library media specialist is the best job I've ever had BUT it can be tiring, exhausting, and lonely. If you’re at a K-5 school like me, you have to know and understand six different sets of standards, balance the world of literacy and technology lessons, book recommendations,  eBooks, print books, databases, news shows, volunteers, budgets, weeding, collection development….the list goes on and on. Oh, and don’t forget that every teacher, student and parent knows who you are. No secret hiding in the back of your classroom with the lights out! You can’t even close the doors to your classroom, because it’s a classroom for the entire school and it is open all the time.

The job of a school library media specialist is little overwhelming to say the least; and at times a bit disheartening.  So how do you cope with this?

Prescription 1: Hold onto the little things.
Prescription 2: Advertise what you do.

This is such an important topic it needs two prescriptions. I’ll tackle the prescription 1 first: “Hold onto the little things.” What does that mean?

It means every little note a child writes for you or picture they draw for you or loomer bracelet they give you, you keep and appreciate. Ditto for the notes from your teachers, administrators and parents. Take time to print out the emails from these people. Plaster your office walls with the notes and drawings from students or keep them in a special folder to save.  You need to take a moment every now and then and remember that you are doing a great job and you are appreciated. Simple idea right? It’s effective too!

I've been able to add to my collection this month - more than I ever imagined. I've been showered with letters, cards, paper plates with ribbon and stickers, drawings, poems, and even a large mural in the hallway - all of this from my students in appreciation for what I do, what my media assistant does and even our volunteers.  I did know that my students liked me as the librarian, but until I read their own words and looked at their drawings, I didn't fully realize just how much of an impact I’d had on their lives. It was enough to make a girl cry, and to be honest, I did cry. Of course, I realize that if the teachers didn't appreciate the things we do in the media center, the students wouldn't have been given time to create these expressions of gratitude. It's nice to feel appreciated, isn't it?  You can view a slide show of some of the letters and notes on my other website at

Now, on to prescription 2: “Advertise what you do,” means you need to add a little more work to your schedule. I know, I hear you moaning and I will admit that even I moan too. However, you have to understand that the only people who really understand your job are other school library media specialists. Seriously, no one else truly understands the amount of blood, sweat, and tears that go into creating and maintaining a great school media center.  As much as I love my teacher friends, and I was an elementary classroom teacher myself, even they don’t understand. Classroom teachers have tons of extra work, I know, and they have parents and testing and other things to manage. But a school library media specialist has that and more – it’s like we’re running our very own small business on top of a full time teaching job, on top of a full time technology job.

The point is, if you don’t tell everyone what it is that you do, they don’t know. So, how do you tell them? There are lots of different ways….
  • Monthly/yearly reports 
  • Newsletters 
  • Photos
  • Videos
You can see some examples of these on my website at :

If you want even more advocacy ideas, checkout my Advocacy/Library Marketing board on Pinterest: 

Be an advocate for yourself and for everyone in this profession. If you’re uncomfortable tooting your own horn think about this: Advocating for school library media specialists and media centers isn’t really about you – it’s about the children – children who will hopefully grow up to be avid readers; effective users and producers of information; confident adults who know how to successfully manage their lives in an ever changing world. That’s what this is really all about. Now, are you uncomfortable advocating for the benefit of children? I didn’t think so. 

P.S. There's an article from School Library Journal about Georgia Teacher Librarians - good tips that go along with my post above. Read it at

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