Jan 7, 2009

First Year Librarian

I have LOVED my first semester as a librarian--it is my dream job, and besides actually getting out of bed, I love going to work each day. Here is what I have learned in the first semester of being a librarian:

*You get over your bias towards certain books/series really fast. I mean, within two weeks I was already planning to order more of Daisy Meadows fairy books even though I could gag on them. These are the books second and third grade girls read. I want them to read more and come to the library more, so I ordered more of them. And when I weeded the paperback collection the old librarian left I got rid of all The Babysitters Club books. Guess what books one fifth grade girl wanted to read more than anything? Luckily, I hadn't thrown them out so I gave her a big stack of them and the teacher took the rest to her room.

*Speaking of weeding, other librarians get kind of pissy when you weed a book (or video) that one of their teachers uses every year. I am not going to call around with every books or video I weed and check to see if someone else uses it, I am just not going to waste time on that. If one of your teachers uses a certain book every year, order it for your own school. Other than that, the spirit of sharing books and other media within our district is alive and well.

*There are way more readers in my school than I thought there were. I was fortunate enough to teach in the school I am now a librarian in (kindergarten for eight years--shudder), and I LOVE getting to know the older kids. Most of them read, a lot, even boys. And some of the kids who are readers are kids I would never have thought would be readers. Being the librarian has also allowed me to get to know the students in such a different (more positive) light. For example, there is one girl student in this school who I had as a kindergartener--I had gotten her mid-year because she had gotten kicked out of Montessori. (I mean, come on, how bad do you have to be to get kicked out of Montesorri?) She holds the distinction of being the only kindergartener to tell me to "F*** off!" I had to carry her kicking and screaming down to the office at least twice a week--I am not even stating that lightly. Fast forward five years and she is the voracious reader. She is in my library three times a day (she likes to come down during recess), helps me out with little tasks and gets the most excited about new books. I never thought I would like this child--but we have found common ground in books.

*I hate Accelerated Reader. The third, fourth and fifth grade teachers have bought into it totally and completely. And I do see that there is some value. As a mom of a reluctant reading fifth grade boy I wish his shcool had the program. They grade his reading by time, he has to read a certain amount of minutes each month. He can make one book last a whole month--real quality there. If he had to get a certain amount of ACR points each quarter I guarantee he would read much faster because he would want an A. But, as a librarian, nothing pisses me off more than when I match a book up with a kid only to be told by the kid or the teacher that the level is too high or low or that they can't read it because we do not have the test for it yet. One third grade teacher has told his students for an A they need to get five points a week. Well, Magic Treehouse tests (which are a good level for most of them) are worth one point. So to get an A they have to read five books a week. That is a really fast pace for most of these third graders. I also hate the fact that I spend $300+ on ACR tests each year--money I would much rather spend on books, but if I want the kids to read the books I have, I have to buy the tests for them!

*It tooks about two weeks to totally learn the collection. Granted it is a small school library, but I can find books for kids in my sleep. Or tell them if one is checked out or not. I am amazed at how quickly I learned what books I had and found gaps for books I need to order. Also, even though I want students to learn to find books by the call numbers, I find myself doing it for them way too much of the time!

*Also, it is very easy to make space and it pays to change displays. When exploring the shelves this fall I decided that to make more space I would pull out certain series and authors and put them in their own baskets. I love that I did this because I have more space on shelves for displays and new books and kids can paw through the baskets for books they haven't read.

*Some kids listen to your suggestions, most do not, even when they ask for help. Again, this has a lot to do with the ACR issue because of a book's level or the amount of points the test it worth.

*Books are also a statement. I have so many kids check out huge books or popular books when their classmates are here, then come back later the same day, turn in the huge book and check out a much smaller book that they can actually read. There is an embarrassment to reading Junie B. Jones when you are a fourth grader!

*Most kids and teachers do not use the internet (or some basic computer programs) effectively. At one point I was having fifth graders come down to use the thesarus. I realize that they need to know how to look things up in reference books, but when I showed them how Word has built in dictionaries and thesaruses, they were so much quicker at getting their work done. When people tell me that libraries are going by the wayside because of the internet I respond that such a thing will only happen if people and kids actually learn to use computers and the internet for more than social networking!

*Music makes the library a more relaxing and inviting place. The students love it when I play music during check out time. The principal also likes coming in when I am playing music.

*Kids of all ages still love to be read to, even if they act like they don't. They also all love to get free stuff, especially bookmarks.

*Teachers are much more flexible than I was led to believe. Most of them are very willing to change times or shorten classes if need be. I also can tell which teachers are way more effective at classroom management than others by the way their classes act during their time at library. This makes me cringe because I was not great at classroom management so I am sure most of my classes did not act well during their library time.

*Lastly, librarians are very much a needed element of a school. We have so much to share with teachers and students. Everyone in the school comes into my library in a given week and the majority of them want something from me. It would leave a huge hole in our elementary school without a librarian to turn to for entertainment and knowledge. I love being the person they turn and love being able to help out. I love having what they need and if I don't finding what they need. I have truly found my niche and everyday I love coming to work. How many other people can say that?!


  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I TOTALLY agree with your frustration about AR. I did a massive research project on this system when I was in grad school and developed a conclusion. This conclusion was based on teacher,student, and peer interviews as well combing thorugh a lot of academic research. AR is not an effective tool to increase reading achievement.

    I am glad that you are a member of our profession! Keep up the good work and your enthusiasm!

  2. Love our blog! I'm just finishing my LIBS degree and I'm trying to get ideas on how to start my first year on the job. I love your user-friendly, practical ideas and your honesty and candor. Thanks!