I am an elementary school media specialist (librarian) and a new mom. My daughters (born 12/27/2010 and 6/27/2013) are teaching me all kinds of new things every day. One thing they have taught me is that sometimes, there just isn't room for much else besides learning. If you're not sleeping, eating, talking, blogging, or whatever, it might just be because you're TOO BUSY LEARNING!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Advice for Media Specialists

I don't know how many media specialists (or school librarians) actually read my blog, but since school is starting soon, I thought I'd do a quick post on advice for beginning media specialists. I started in my media center a mere two years ago. I was blessed to have no precedent to uphold, since my school had been without a media specialist the previous year before I came, and I have had a very successful two years. But certainly, there are things I wish I had known when I started, or learned quickly after I started.

If you are just starting out in a media center, here are some things (in chronological order) that I would suggest you do:
  • Know your purpose and your mission as a media specialist, and let that be the measure for all that you do.
  • Make friends with the office staff, including secretator (not a typo), treasurer, and SIMS operator. You will need their help, and it will be sooner rather than later.
  • Make friends with your custodian.
  • Make friends with your administration.
  • Make friends with your school-level and district-level technology coordinators.
  • Do something to make the physical space your own. (Move furniture; add decorations; just do something to make it different than it was before you arrived.)
  • If possible, take the summer before starting in your position to assess the collection and move it around on the shelves if necessary.
  • If you are lucky enough to have an assistant, train her or him immediately, well, and thoroughly. Do not assume anything.
  • Find a buddy who is a media specialist in your district, preferably close by. Media specialists can have a very lonely job since there is usually only one per building, and it's hard to learn the specifics with no other media specialist to help you.
  • Start with a clean slate for patrons (both students and teachers), especially if the media program was previously a little fishy, as it was in my case. You don't want to fight a battle that someone else started because you really don't know who was right in the situation.
  • Make sure you have policies and procedures in place for students on the very first day that they come to the media center. They will not automatically know how to act. You will have to teach them explicitly, no matter the grade level, which means you will have to know and explain exactly what you want.
  • If you teach classes regularly, make seating charts. Kids like and need to know exactly what to do, and it will help you learn their names quickly.
  • As soon as possible, begin analyzing your collection, weeding regularly, and coming up with a long-term collection development plan focusing on different parts of the collection every year for five years. (I'll cover this more later and give some of my favorite techniques.)
  • Present a budget to your principal or Leadership Team as soon as possible. Try to gain access to data concerning how much was spent in previous years, average county or state spending for media centers, etc.
  • Be friendly and inviting to everyone on staff. Although a media specialist can sometimes be lonely, you also have the advantage of being politically neutral in most cases, which can be of great benefit and definitely where you want to be in order to help everyone and get their cooperation in return.
  • Go to all of the district-level media specialist meetings, even the optional ones. Network, network, network. Who knows when you'll need something that someone else is giving away?
  • In the same way, go to conferences (and join professional organizations). You do have time, and it is worth the effort. Get re-charged, meet some authors, network, and bring back fabulous ideas.
  • Get on your Leadership Team as soon as possible. You are the representative for the media department, and you need to be a school leader in order to be effective.
  • Don't stress. It's your first year, and you can't do it all. Just keep track of all your great ideas, and look forward to implementing them in years to come.
Any other ideas from those in the field? Personally, I am looking forward to a fantastic new school year! I'm no longer the new kid, so now I can start really having some fun.

1 comment:

Kimberly said...

Thanks for this excellent post! I think a lot of your advice is good for teachers, too, especially about making friends with all of the non-certified staff. I am always as courteous as can be to the secretaries, bookkeeper, custodial staff, and... I don't know her title, but she pretty much runs the school's administrative functions... And it has really paid off.