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Management in School Libraries
"You are a capable administrator of a multifaceted program, and your stakeholders need to know that! Your stakeholders are your students, your faculty and staff, and your community—they all can interact to benefit your school library program.
Yates, S. D. (2011)
Every school librarian needs to understand that his or her job can be expendable from a school administrator's perspective. Even though most libraries are built at the center of most schools, many administrators look at a library as prime real estate. This is not to say all administrators are bad but many will want to know how your job is important to the school. The school librarian has to think like an administrator when it comes to the finances of the library but also think like a teacher when it comes to instruction. Every school librarian needs to understand how to maintain a proper budget, and to develop a solid strategic plan, which includes a current collection and professional development opportunities.
"Seven and a half cents doesn't buy a hell of a lot!"-
The Pajama Game
There is no denying that school budgets will continue to downsize their annual budget when they are not receiving funds from the state or federal level. When a school district issues the annual budget to each school, the school principal usually gets the department budgets from each department head, which includes the librarian. The principal will dictate the budget for the school year. Let's assume that your budget has not changed, but there are a lot of changes that need to occur. The library needs new fiction novels, new chairs for the computer lab, new monitors, etc. Johns (2011) gives some tips to maintain a working library while being fiscally conservative.
While working with vendors, look for discounts or deals on purchasing. If you have a working relationship with a specific vendor, there are ways to maintain a working relationship and get discounts in the process for loyalty. Some vendors will offer discounts on purchasing quotas "buy $350 worth of titles and receive $150 in free titles" (26). Another tip for any librarian is bartering with other departments. When one department might have a plethora of funds, the library could go in on a regularly used database with another department (i.e. English or social studies). This can defer costs from the budget while being an asset for another department. Donations and advocating for funds from the community are also suggested to obtain funds at a minimal cost in work. However, Johns suggests that donations should be considered diligently when placed into the collection. "Always ask yourself whether the resource is worth more than the barcode and book pocket". Another way to get a lot of titles for a little price would be joining a consortium. Also, looking at applying for grants would be guaranteed money for the library that won't have to go to any other department. Apply to any small grants to get a few CDs or titles, but look at applying to the large grants that could help out the long-term growth of the library (27-28).
Even though these are just a few tips on how to save money for the library, the librarian needs to be aware of what goes into the budget. Some of these ideas will be mentioned in maintaining the collection and the strategic plan, but the school librarian has to be an advocate for growth in the library. Always fight for better chairs, books, technology, and supplies. The library should always be the center for accessible information and content.
"Do I really look like a guy with a plan?"-
The Dark Knight
Any school librarian/media specialist may walk into a library and just be laid back about the rules. If that's the case, the library may fail based on the lack of structure and stability to make executive decisions. It may sound extreme but every library needs a plan for yearly goals and long term goals. A strategic-long term plan should be a viable option for any school library and its librarian because it focuses on where the library is going in the future. Another reason for a strategic plan is to "help maintain current levels of library service, obtain funding for additional resources and secure support from library stakeholders" (Wong, 22). This gives the librarian a foundation on what can be achieved in the future and what needs to be implemented to make the library successful for student learning.
In a strategic plan for the school library, there is a lot of data that needs to be assessed to understand the value of the program. According to Wong, "a school librarian should utilize evidence-based practices to make informed decisions" (22). What makes this statement intriguing is focusing on the data to show how it can improve student learning from the current programs at the library, which can also save the library money on future programs. However, this is not the only way to obtain data to evaluate the school library and construct a solid plan. Here are some points that Wong illustrates to achieve this feat:
Get a committee that consists of library stakeholders, PTA members, teachers, and other members of the community.
Some librarians may like to work alone, but having members of the community can be beneficial to keeping the library afloat and successful. These are people who want to help, so utilize them for collaborative efforts.
Evaluate the community.
The school library may be a part of a larger community but it is good to know the demographics and any special needs to be met.
Have a mission statement parallel to the school's vision.
The mission statement should reflect what the school curriculum is trying to accomplish.
Establish the current status of the library.
You want to discuss the positives and the negatives of the library. By pointing this out in your plan, you can assess what needs to improve the library or what is currently working.
Go through the library and rate what is needed based on a structured rubric.
Creating short term and long-term goals.
Have an idea of what you want to accomplish in the current year and also create a plan that stretches to five years. What can the library do for the school now and what can it do in the near future?
A philosophy that has become popular with the contemporary AASL Standards are the Just-In-Time Librarian philosophy. Yates (2012) believes this not only makes the librarian an effective administrator but also provides instruction for students and faculty members. Working with this philosophy forces the librarian to be proactive in maintaining a vision statement for the library that reflects the mission of the school. What makes this pedagogy appealing is that it keeps up with the current standards for the school curriculum. The collection can reflect what students are learning as well (43).
In addition to planning for the expected everyday challenges of leading a school library or media center, the school librarian is responsible for putting in place a framework to address more extraordinary circumstances. In an article written in the aftermath of their personal experience of Hurricane Andrew, Champion and Master stress the need for thorough and up-to-date disaster planning in every school library. They provide a concrete list of steps every librarian can take in advance to ease recovery in the face of a potential disaster, such as “[e]stablish[ing] a policy on salvage procedures for… damaged materials” and “[i]dentify[ing] a team and a coordinator for every library recovery task” (149). In addition, they point out that “the nature of our work--information gathering, record keeping, public relations, public service, communications and organization” (147) means that school librarians have a natural and important role to play in the wider school community during both the immediate and long term recovery from a crisis situation.
This point highlights the broader issue of the school library as school library. As Evans, Ward and Rugaas put it, “[e]ducational information and library service is clearly part of a larger organization: the institution that it serves.”(48) School libraries differ from their public counterparts in this respect, and a school library manager’s outlook must differ accordingly. Taking advantage of opportunities to interact with students, parents and especially teachers outside of the walls of the library are important methods of building library prestige within the school community. As administrators but, at the same time, as members of a service-oriented profession, school library managers stand in a best-of-both-worlds role through which they can influence perceptions of the library and of their own role both by taking advantage of leadership opportunities, and by standing ready to lend a hand in the projects of others. As the Urban Library Council concludes, the first lesson for a successful library branch as a community partner is to “[g]et outside the doors,” (28) and the point stands for school librarians as well. The more thoroughly library professionals integrate themselves into the school community, the more successfully they can be as advocates for the library and its services.
But however effective a school librarian may be in spreading the library’s message to peers such as teachers or to library users like parents and students, ultimately the support that is likely to prove crucial in determining the library’s success will come from the school’s administrators, especially the principal or head of school. Gabarro and Kotter detail methods of “managing your boss” that can serve a school librarian in good stead when interacting with the leader of her educational institution. They emphasize how important it is to “clarify what [one’s] boss’s objectives [are]” (96), and to tailor methods of communication to best suit that boss’s preferred style of absorbing information. In cases where a manager and their immediate superior are prone to come into conflict, Gabarro and Kotter suggest that the manager’s best recourse is to examine her own instinctive reactions and take steps to determine how resulting behaviors could be altered to produce more favorable outcomes. These and similar strategies can help school library managers to develop a strong working relationship with their principal or head of school that benefits both the library and the school as a whole.
Managing a school library is not an easy task. In most school libraries, there is only one librarian and an assistant to help with circulation duties or other remedial tasks. However, there are some who do everything by themselves. That being said, it is an important job if not the most important job when the emphasis is learning. The librarian is an asset to any school and that must be stressed to teachers, administrators, and the community.
Demonstrating the Value of the Library
As school budgets are cut, library media centers frequently struggle to justify their place in the school. The 65% solution is legislation that has been enacted in several states, which directs 65% of the states’ educational budget into direct classroom resources. Because school libraries are classified as “non-instructional support personnel” they are even more at risk with this policy. With school libraries often at risk as budgets are cut, school libraries must produce evidence of their instructional role, and its impact on student achievement (Harada, 2006).
In order to produce compelling evidence of the essential role that school libraries have on student learning, libraries need to shift their approach to evaluation. Traditional library evaluation includes input and output measures, such as new acquisitions and circulation numbers. An outcomes-based approach focuses on assessment of student performance. With an outcomes-based evaluation, the library demonstrate to its stakeholders how it directly supports learning objectives, and that student learning is positively impacted by the library (Harada, 2006).
One approach to an outcomes-based measurement is developing evidence folders. In a pilot project called, “School Librarians Help Students Achieve: Here’s the Evidence!” library media specialists in Hawaii participated in a year-long professional development initiative to develop evidence folders. The process to create evidence folders required the library media specialists to map library instruction to student achievement goals, and demonstrate how learning is assessed. To create evidence folders, media specialists selected library instruction lessons and demonstrated how the lesson connects to the state’s standards or other learning goals that are targeted by their school. The process included identifying the concept or skill that is learned in the lesson, and clearly stating the student learning outcomes. Next, they described the performance task that would demonstrate the students’ learning. A variety of tools and strategies was used to analyze and report on the assessment data. Lastly, the evidence folder contained reflection by instructors on ways to improve instruction, and by students on ways to improve their own learning.
The Hawaii pilot project provides an example of a way for a school library to communicate its impact to stakeholders using assessment data. This strategic approach to an outcome-based measurement, produces quantitative data about the impact of library instruction on student achievement. Evidence folders serve not only as evidence, but are valuable tools for assessing student needs and achievements in a variety of ways: They contain performance assessments, which are contextualized assessments of learning; They contain a variety of measurement tools, including rubrics, spreadsheets and diagrams; They include teacher and student reflection which have the benefit of serving as assessment for learning.
Managing Personnel and Volunteers
Even though as school librarians we don’t always think about the people that we will have to manage, as many school librarians do not have much of a permanent staff. Some school librarians may have a paraprofessional or two helping in the day-to-day business of the library, but volunteers are often found in school libraries, whether they are parents, community members, or students. As the professional librarian, it is then our job to train, supervise, and evaluate the other people who work in the library to make sure that the library continues to run efficiently and effectively for the students, teachers, and administrators who use the school’s library.
There are a lot of things that professional librarians need to consider when managing staff members or volunteers of any sort. The most important thing to consider is that as the manager, the librarian needs to train any person who works in the library well. Training is especially important when you are working with volunteers, whether they are adults or students. “When volunteers learn to do a task well and contribute to the library through their service, they become positive ambassadors to the community. Time spent in explaining how to work in the library becomes a valuable investment” (Farmer, 2003, p. 33). In library school, librarians are taught the importance of advocating for the library, and if having volunteers who know how to work well and are intimately familiar with what resources the library has, those people are likely to help the librarian advocate for the library and market its resources. A good training program will help the librarian is efficiently and effectively training the new volunteers or workers and allow the library’s services to continue to run smoothly.
Supervision is also a very important thing to consider, especially when working with volunteers. Volunteers may have the responsibility to assist in tutoring students, but as the volunteers are not faculty, they should not be left alone with students, which could lead to liability issues if something should happen. But good supervision should also be in place so that the librarian knows that the volunteers and other workers are doing a good job. This part of supervising is really important, especially with students, as learning how to be responsible and do a good job is a great way to learn how to act and behave in the working world. Some schools even have specific programs for students that mimic real jobs and where there are real consequences for misbehaving, tardiness, and not performing the job they are assigned well. A good example of this kind of program is Kool Kids, Inc., which is in an elementary school in southeast Georgia (Futch, 2003, p.30-32).
Not all school librarians will have many paid staff members, so volunteers are a great way to get more help so that books get processed and shelved more quickly and students receive the assistance and availability from the librarian that they need.
Champion, Sandra & Master, Christine. (1993). When Disaster Strikes.
School Library Journal
Evans, G. Edward, Ward, Patricia Layzell & Rugaas, Bendik. (2000).
Management Basics for Information Professionals
. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.
Farmer, L. S. J. (2003). Know-how to help kids know now. In C. Andronik (Ed.),
School library management, fifth edition
(pp. 33-34). Worthington, OH: Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Futch, L. (2003). Need help? Try student workers. In C Andronik (Ed.),
School library management, fifth edition
(pp.30-32). Worthington, OH: Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Gabarro, John J. & Kotter, John P. (2005). Managing Your Boss.
Harvard Business Review
Harada, V. H. (2006). Building Evidence Folders for Learning through Library Media Centers. School Library Media Activities Monthly, 23(3), 25-30.
Johns, S. (2011). Your School Needs a Frugal Librarian!.
Library Media Connection
Kretzmann, Jody & Rans, Susan. (2005).
The Engaged Library: Chicago Stories of Community Building.
Evanston, IL: Urban Libraries Council. Retrieved from
Wong, T. (2012). STRATEGIC LONG-RANGE PLANNING.
Library Media Connection
Woolls, B. (2008). On the job: managing personnel.
The school library media manager, fourth edition
(pp. 109-124). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Yates, S. D. (2011). Just - In - Time Librarianship.
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