A Day in the Life of a Teacher Librarian #2
Meet a Teacher Librarian. For the sake of this post, we will call her Jane. She works in a school library in Melbourne that serves students from Year 7 to 10. As well as working as a teacher librarian, she also works as a regular classroom teacher. She describes herself as cheerful, enthusiastic, and creative.
What do you love best about your job?
Everything! Giving pleasure to readers, getting reluctant readers reading, taking kids to writers festivals, arranging events in the library for the whole school.
What would you do if you had more time?
Arrange writers festivals (this would also require more money, but with an annual budget of $3500, it's not possible.)
What do you spend most of your time doing?
Everything. As the sole Teacher Librarian at our school with only one to two days a week of support...everything. Cataloguing and processing books, working out reading levels for literacy class books, shelving, working with classes, teaching research skills, running book club, advising the English faculty (I teach English, but they respect my librarian knowledge and ask my opinion), displays, taking students on reading-related excursions, arranging the (very) occasional author visit, Book Week activities, Premier’s Reading Challenge, YABBA voting, tech stuff ... and more.
What tasks are the next biggest spenders of your time?
What do you fill in the rest of the time with?
What rest of the time?
What are some things that you only do occasionally?
Author visits. With my low budget I can’t afford them, but I have had some freebies, such as when I won an author visit via YABBA and when I’ve done a book launch via my own publishers.
What is the coolest project you have worked on or the coolest thing about your work/day?
I think the Premier’s Reading Challenge is pretty cool. It’s not difficult to arrange and it encourages kids to read as much as possible. Plus, you can follow it up with a party where you award the glossy certificates. And one year I really threw myself into Book Week displays when the theme was “Champions Read” and I used my Year 8 students (who were also members of my book club) to pose in their sports gear with books, for the library display.
What’s the best thing that has happened to you in your role?
A student I had encouraged to enter a student writing competition, Write Across Victoria, won the Year 9 prize. Another student won a writing workshop with a favourite author. The Principal was thrilled with the Year 9 girl’s win, and bragged about it to other regional Principals.
What made you want to be a teacher librarian?
I started as a classroom teacher. Then I studied librarianship. The books got me to apply, I don’t care what anyone says about their reasons, it’s the books, or why not just teach, but in the end it was about making a difference to kids. Teaching is great for that, but the library teacher has a bit more time to do it and can help fellow teachers as well.
What is one thing you would really like someone to know about your job?
It’s not just about checking books in and out! And it’s not ONLY about books, but without books it has far less meaning.
Jane also gave us a play-by-play of a typical day in her role as Teacher Librarian.
8.15 am - arrive. If there is no meeting to attend, allow students in. Otherwise...
8.30 - short staff briefing.
8.45 - If no classes, hand out class sets, then check and answer email. Otherwise, one period teaching Year 7 or 8 English or history. Period 2, literacy class, which all students do and all teachers except the principal teach.
10.30 - Recess, but get mobbed by students wanting a book or to print out homework. In order to get to the staffroom for a quick cuppa and catch up, I promise to print out for the latter. If the former, I ask if there is a specific book they want and promise to have it for them at lunchtime. It’s important to spend time with my colleagues, even if only a short time.
10.50 - back to the library or classroom for a double period.
Period 3 in library: Year 7 or 10 class comes in to do history research science research. Teach some Internet research skills on the interactive whiteboard in the little room that used to be for reading periods (those were before my time. Literacy classes replaced them). If no research skills class, I help them find books they need on the shelves. Sometimes I prepare a box of books from those used that period, and useful printouts from the Internet.
Period 4 in library, shelving and tidying, including the books kids used but didn’t borrow, or put together a box from those books that were used.
12.35: Lunchtime. Again, mobbed by library users on my way for 25 minutes of lunch with colleagues. I get 20 minutes at best! Often only 15.
1.00 pm - Time to open the library. No help today. The library tech is at another campus. I hand out games, help choose books, talk to some book club members about a forthcoming excursion and Premier’s Reading Challenge students about logging in (they have forgotten passwords). I take some students into the workroom to help choose new books from a bookseller display. A young Muslim student arrives with her prayer mat and is allowed into the workroom to pray before departing with a cheery thank you. Take orders for my next shopping expedition. Encourage votes for YABBA Awards. Help older students applying online for jobs or practising for their learner permits.
1.25 - desperately checking out the last of the books so the students aren’t late for class, and so I’m not late for class!
Period 5 - Year 8 English. I hope and pray anyone who uses the library while I’m out will leave the information so I can register it, as the tech isn’t there and I’m not allowed to close.
Period 6: Whatever tasks are left. If there are some new books, cataloguing, which I find relaxing.
After school: if no staff meeting, which happens twice a week, I am usually there till at least 4.30, sometimes later. Kids who do homework need help. (I have to call a Year 7 student's history teacher at 4.30 to reassure him that yes, six Egyptian gods are fine, and he's fine to go home! I’m not the only one still at work, fortunately. A Year 10 student has a history poster to finish. His English is not the best, so I help). If no students are doing homework I prepare for the next day, both classes and library.
Otherwise I finish shelving and processing and sometimes arrange an event, whether excursion, author visit or Book Week activities.
4.30 - 4.45 - go home!
Once a week I give up my lunch break to have a book club meeting before the library lunchtime opening. We are planning for Banned Books Week, when the students will be videoed reading from their favourite books on the ALA banned books list, to be made into a DVD for them and the library. We don’t have all their favourites so I add them to my shopping list.
We are discussing the Melbourne Writers Festival and which author we want to see. It’s cheaper than an author visit and I will pay out of my own pocket for those who can’t afford even the small ticket price.
Some of the members are writing stories and publishing on line. They read them out to their friends.
It’s a wonderful job!
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