Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dealing With Tragedy

After a tragedy like the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, it can be hard to for educators to know the best way to guide students through this sad time.  While some students need to talk through their emotions, others feel over-saturated and need a break from the heavy discussion, and some turn to books. 

Parents may be asking you for resources to share with their children and teens may be looking for books to help them work through their own feelings, and what librarian doesn't come prepared to deal with any situation without a handful of recommendations?

Mediabistro's GalleyCat has a short list of books to share with children linked with their WorldCat records and the Child Witness to Violence organization has a lengthy bibliography for younger children.  Other titles dealing with school shootings that are more appropriate for upper school students include Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes, Francine Prose's After, or Jennifer Brown's Hate List.

A particularly useful resource from the National Association of School Psychologists  (NASP) gives tips about how to help children cope with tragedy.  If you have found any other helpful resources, feel free to add them in the comments.  

Monday, December 10, 2012

Best Books of 2012!

It is that exciting time of year again, the release of lists touting the best books of the year.  If you are like me, you get a little excited each time a new list pops up and rush off to make sure your collection contains a large number of these books.  Next, you feverishly add books to your personal reading list and start to wonder why it is you never have enough time to read all the books you want.  Have I left you salivating long enough?  On to the lists!

Publisher's Weekly puts out a ton of lists including the year's best picture books, children's fiction, and children's nonfiction. Head over to Kirkus for the best books for children and teens.  Hornbook has put together a short list of their fanfare for 2012. In addition to their list of notable books, The New York Times has also published a list of notable children's books.  The New York Public Library has produced their annual list of children's books for reading and sharing.  NPR also has a slew of lists including "backseat" reads for 9-14 year-olds and graphic novels that have flown under the radar this year.  In addition to their best books listSchool Library Journal has put out a list of the top graphic novels from 2012.

Looking at these lists and wondering when you will have the time to go through each one?  Check out Early Word's compilation spreadsheet that combines the best of the best for you.  If I left out a favorite list of yours (inevitably I will forget the most obvious), add it in the comments!

Now, time to get reading...

Monday, December 3, 2012

Hack Your Notebook!

This week our post features, and is co-written, by Karyn Silverman of LREI.

We tend to think in binaries: analog or digital, make or buy. Professionally, there is a tendency to rely on outsourced solutions to save time/energy/sanity. But sometimes, a small paradigm shift is just what's needed to make pearls out of the sand in our shells. Applying a maker/hacker mindset to every day problem solving is the heart of that shift. You don't need to choose between high-tech and low-tech. Create your own middle ground: it solves the problem -- and it's fun!

You probably do your book orders online. Maybe you keep your list of books to order in a Word document or Excel spreadsheet, or maybe you are still analog and want a better system. What happens when you want your order list and your vendor interface side-by-side? Tab between windows? Clunky. Print out your order list? Waste of paper. Try to decipher scrawled pages upon pages of written lists? Aggravating.

Karyn Silverman, High School Librarian and Educational Technology Department Chair at LREI - Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School (perhaps you’ve heard of her -- Mock Printz, anyone?), was pining away for a solution for her book ordering conundrum: needing a physical list in front of her while she had her book order open on her computer screen.

Karyn's book list solution; all
the information is there, but there
is a lack of systems thinking.
What you may not know about Karyn is that she has a small obsession with the infinitely hack-able Circa notebook system, which is pretty much the analog tool for a digital world. (Earlier this year, we helped spearhead a DIY planner initiative with the Learning Specialist at LREI using this notebook system in an effort to convert all of our students.) But her current notebook just wasn’t right for the job.

So we put our heads together, and considered the problem. We browsed the Circa refill options (and also checked the fully compatible Arc options from Staples), but nothing was right, because basically what we were looking for was an analog version of a digital tool – a simple spreadsheet with specific columns. Finally, she said, “[Expletive deleted], let’s just MAKE it!”

Following the age-old advice of Newsies, I said, “Okay, let’s do it.”

So we did!

Interested in making your own hack, combining the best virtues of analog and digital systems? Here’s how we did ours, laid out step-by-step with some annotations on our process. 

A note to the less maker-minded out there: making your own templates doesn’t take an advanced degree in design or a lot of technical skill. All you need is a word processor (we like Microsoft Word), paper, a printer, and a willingness to experiment with formatting options.

(A sense of humor and a partner in crime help, too.)

Some of the supplies used for this project.
Supplies and equipment you will need:
  • Computer with word processing (we used a Mac Air with Microsoft Word 2011)
  • Binding system (we used Levenger's Circa Discs and a Staples ARC hole punch; you could also use: binder clips, brass fasteners, or loose-leaf rings.)
  • Paper
  • Printer
  • Heavier stock craft paper and laminating machine or thin plastic suitable for a notebook cover
  • Scissors & Ruler
The process:
1. Sketch out a rough template on blank paper. Once your ideas are semi-formed, open your word processing program and start creating your template.

(The remainder of our template instructions will include Word-specific commands; adapt as needed if you prefer Pages or another program; we don't recommend Google Docs for this level of design.)

2. Go to File > Page Setup and set up your page orientation. We used landscape, because that enabled us to create a spreadsheet layout.

3. In the menu, go to Format > Document to set your margins. Before changing any of the numbers, click on Mirror Margins. This sets inside margins (closest to the notebook spine) to be a bit larger than the outside margins (closest to the edge of the notebook). This is critical if you want to use every possible bit of the page and still have room for a binding.

(Karyn and I actually decided on margins last, but in hindsight, this is best done before inserting a table to the page.) You can see our margins in the screenshot below:

4. Click on Tables in the toolbar ribbon:

5. Click on New and use the cursor to choose your table size. We eventually ended up with 8 columns and 21 rows, but we started out with a 8 by 8 table, because you can always adjust columns and rows later.

We determined that we needed the following columns: Title, Author, Pub date, Have (with sub-categories for received and purchased; because of Karyn's blog, a lot of books come to us through channels other than traditional book ordering), Ordered (with sub-categories for our two primary vendors to enable easier tracking of ordered books), and Notes (with the idea that curricular connections, review sources, or specific student or faculty names might be part of the data we wanted to collect and remember). 

You may decide that you need your template laid out entirely differently, and that’s the point: making your own template means that you control how your information is organized. It’s the maker mindset!

6. Title your columns across the top row; shorter titles allow narrower columns.

7. Adjust the column sizing by hovering your mouse over any column line until it becomes a line with two arrows, then click and drag the line to the desired width or height. In order to achieve sub-categories for the columns Have and Ordered, you can use the split and merge options in Table Layout. The functions work as advertised; split will split a single column or row, and merge will merge multiple columns or rows.

8. Add flair to your template by adjusting the palette. Add shading to your headers by clicking on Tables, and use the shading options under "Table Styles." Right click anywhere on your table, and choose "Table Properties" to change the style of the gridlines; we decided gray shading and the lightest possible gridlines was aesthetically pleasing and practical.

9. You can extend the left and right sides of the table off the page so that the lines extend as far as your printer will allow. 

After A LOT of resizing, moving, font changes, and margin adjustment (and some wasted test pages), we ended up with this:

After a final test print of an inside and outside page, we printed the template double-sided onto higher quality paper and voilà. But wait! You’ll still want to bind it. And if you also like a bit of zest in your office supplies, you’ll want to make a binding that has a bit of style. 

10. Cut beautiful paper slightly larger than 8 ½ x 11 paper. Laminate two pieces. These will be your front and back covers.

11. With the binding tool of your choice – ours was of course the specialty hole punch for Circa binding --  punch the appropriate edge of your covers and printed pages.

One of the initial challenges we faced was the desire for a notebook bound by the short edge. Short edge, top-bound notebooks exist (primarily legal pads), but we wanted a side-bound notebook laid out in landscape, something neither of us has ever seen commercially other than in photo albums.
 Making our own binding allowed the notebook to be exactly what we wanted.

The finished product. Isn't the cover paper adorable?
12. Assemble covers and paper, in our case, onto Circa rings.

13. Start using your new notebook!

This whole project took slightly over one hour (Karyn spent a large portion of that time carefully sifting through and then cutting cover paper; if you are less picky, the project time is dictated only by your table building skills, and those are pretty easy to acquire with a bit of trial and error).

During the creating process, a lot of our students came to investigate what we were doing, and were inspired to rethink their own organizational tools.

 Fresh pages, waiting to be filled in!
We hacked, we made, we taught. Win!

So what are you hacking, modding, or otherwise recreating? How does the maker mindset inspire or help you on a day-to-day basis?

Friday, November 30, 2012

2013 HVLA Scholarship

After looking over our budget for the past few years, the board has decided to give back to its members by offering an annual scholarship to be used towards professional development. HVLA is all about creating opportunities for our members to grow as librarians, be it through our meetings, listservs, or events and this will be yet another way for us to not only gain new experiences, but to share those with our colleagues.

There will be two awards given, each for $1000. One will be awarded to a student enrolled in an accredited library school graduate program and one will be awarded to a school librarian, both of which will be used towards professional development. The deadline for submission is Friday, January 11 and the recipients will be announced on Monday, February 4. Once awarded, you will have until December 31, 2013 to spend it and you will report back on your experiences through a post on the HVLA blog. If you are interested or know anyone who might be interested, please fill out one of the forms below.

2013 HVLA Librarian Scholarship

2013 HVLA Student Sholarship

The following members make up this year's Scholarship and Grant Committee:

Kerry Roeder, Professional Children's School
Susan Levine, Browning School
Kathy Hartzler, Brooklyn Friends School
Elaine Kaufmann, Village Community School

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to myself or any of the committee members.

Kerry Roeder

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Someday We'll Have a Mock Printz

This time last year, HVLA was pleased to nominate Someday My Printz Will Come for the Best New Blog Edublog Award. Now we are excited to announce that we are teaming up with the Someday bloggers—and HVLA members—Karyn Silverman (Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School) and Sarah Couri (Grace Church School) for a wonderful new event. Read on for the details from Karyn:

Are you waiting for a Printz? Or maybe you have your eye on one special would-be Printz?

Do you have a short list of 2012 YA titles you feel passionate about? Want to sit in a room with like-minded folks who may disagree dramatically when it comes to the specifics?

Well, it’s your lucky day! As many of you may know, Sarah Couri and I write the Someday My Printz Will Come blog over at School Library Journal, where we analyze Printz contenders and try to predict the winners. This year, we are adding a digital mock Printz to the blog, and also (this is the good part!) planning a live and in-person "HVLA members and friends" mock Printz.

The date for this event, open to all HVLA members and associates (so bring your colleagues, friends, neighbors, etc., as long as they read YA!), is January 13; the time and place are still TBD, but we are looking at a gathering (with food) followed by intense discussion.

However, we can’t discuss everything published this year, so we need to narrow the options down.

Over at Someday, we’ve had Pyrite Printz (that’s our catchy Mock Printz name. Pyrite = fake gold, which is, you know, fake, or mock. Get it? I think I just killed the joke) nominations open for a few weeks. We’re going to use the Someday platform to collect HVLA member nominations—head over to the blog and read the nominations thus far. If your top pick isn’t yet on the list, go ahead and write up a comment to nominate it.

Oh! But first, you may want to take a minute to refresh yourself about the actual Printz purpose, policies, and procedures.

Once the Pyrite nominations close, we’ll have an HVLA vote to determine the slate of titles we’ll be discussing on the 13th. In order to give everyone ample time to read the full shortlist (we’re thinking 7-10 titles), we have a tight turnaround on getting nominations in.

(Drat Thanksgiving and all that family time that distracted me from posting this last week!)

So think fast, because we’ll be closing the nomination list at Someday at midnight on Wednesday. We’ll get the list out to HVLA members to be voted down by Friday*, with the goal of finalizing the HVLA shortlist by Monday—and leaving us all just shy of 6 weeks to get caught up on our reading, marshal our arguments, and bribe our friends so ensure we land our Printz!

Need your memory jogged as to what the top titles have been this year? Sarah and I have a list of likely contenders here, but any 2012 book is fair game!

*This will not be the same as the general poll for the blog readers, so for those who are HVLA members AND regular Someday readers (you know who you are and you know we love you!), you’ll have two chances to try to get your books on the shortlists, and two different mock events to join.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sandy and my Information Drought

It's been four weeks since Sandy hit our area, and by now, we've all heard countless Sandy stories. At the time though, some of us found access to information scarce or difficult because of the power outages and intermittent cell phone service. My week without power began with the troubling feeling like something important might be announced—school closings, mass transit updates, power restoration plans—and I might miss it. Whenever I found cell phone service, I turned to twitter (specifically The New York Times Metro Desk) to hear from the outside world. 

Once the storm passed and the days without power stretched on, I’ll admit that there was something peaceful about being "off-the-grid," even though being without heat was not as pleasant. My husband and I played board games, we read by candlelight, and went to sleep when the sun went down. Friends with power invited us over for hot meals and showers, and we relied on them for information and news. In hindsight, the experience was a good reminder that access to information is a precious commodity, and it is important to be thoughtful about how and when we need to be plugged in. Turning off our devices every so often, stopping the constant stream of information, can remind us to thoughtfully seek out only the information that is most important to us, of the best quality, and from the most reliable sources. 

With this in mind, HVLA is hoping to use the interwebs for post-Sandy school library relief. We encourage all HVLA members to fill out this quick survey, so we can match schools in need with those offering resources. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

HVLA Fall Meeting REMINDER: November 28

Our Sandy-postponed fall meeting is coming soon! Details below:

HVLA in partnership with the New York City School Librarians Association and the McNally Jackson Bookstore.

We will gather at the McNally Jackson Bookstore at 4:30 pm for a brief HVLA business meeting. The McNally Jackson event will begin immediately following our meeting. This is an opportunity to share ideas over food and drinks, preview fall and winter titles, and meet-and-greet authors and illustrators.

McNally Jackson Bookstore
52 Prince Street
New York, NY 10012
(between Lafayette and Mulberry)

Wednesday, November 28 @ 4:30 pm

We look forward to seeing you there!

Monday, November 19, 2012

December Book Club

Thursday, December 6, 5:30pm

Elisabeth Irwin High School -- In the library!
40 Charlton Street
(between 6th Ave & Varick)

What We're Reading:
The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater
The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Solo Act Wrap-Up: 30 Second Insights

The Solo Act:  Wrapping Up with “30-Second Insights” from leaders in School Librarianship...

Dear HVLA Members,

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on solo librarianship in school libraries. It was very interesting for me to research the literature and blogging out there on the subject and I certainly hope my sharing it with you left you with some worthwhile information and food for thought.

Just last week I had the opportunity to travel to LA to receive training for librarians in IB (International Baccalaureate) schools since my school is an IB candidate. The expressed importance of networking and professional development experiences throughout the literature I shared with you reverberated through my thoughts...This training experience was the first face time I’ve had with librarians in several months, and it was truly refreshing. For several days we shared resources, best practices and our experiences. Not only did it afford me the chance to establish some professional connections I will nurture and have for some time to come, but it granted me a feeling of solidarity that is missing in my daily life at school.

It is difficult to get time out of school--or time away from the responsibilities we have to our loved ones--to attend conferencing and tricky, for many of us, to gain access to the funding necessary to do so. It must be prioritized, though, even if it means setting a goal to attend just one of these events per year. These experiences pay dividends down the line that can sometimes turn out to be invaluable.  In the meantime, your local library associations can provide the missing face-time between professional development conferences.

In the spirit of solo librarianship I now leave you with a link to AASL’s “30-Second Insights” from leaders in our national professional community of school librarians who were posed the question:

What is one traditional activity school librarians should stop doing in order to increase time for strategic activities?

I think you’ll find their answers interesting and informative for your daily practice.



Laura Bishop, Membership Coordinator (2011-2013)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Solo Act: Part 2

Thoughts on being a "solo librarian"...

A couple of weeks back I put out a call to solo librarians to offer some of their thoughts and experiences. Several of you graciously offered your time and candidly answered a short series of questions that I posed. Here, in Part I of this blog post, are the responses! In the interest of providing for confidentiality, some name and place references have been omitted and replaced with and ellipsis notation [...]. In Part II, I will reflect on the essential thing that us solos—and all school library media specialists—must do in order to maximize our time and efforts: establishing mentorships and networking with our professional learning communities.

A very special thanks goes out to the solo librarians who have participated in this blog project. Your schools are tremendously lucky to have such passionate and dedicated school library media specialists!

Part I: HVLA Members on being Solo Librarians…

Q1: What analogy would you say describes the job you do every day?

A1: Running a never ending marathon.

A1:  Is "busier than a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest" an analogy?  No?  Well then, just let me add this to my to-do list over here...

A1: One thing at a time. Though this may sound cliché, there are so many tasks that my job entails; I make sure to focus on one thing at time so that I may do it efficiently.

A1: Oh gosh. I don't know. I feel like I'm always running around and juggling a million things at once (which I find exciting), but I don't know what to compare it to...

A1: Hmm, I don’t think I have time to create an analogy--the printer is broken and there’s a project due next period and our Proquest logins aren’t working…. Just kidding, but that’s how I feel day-to-day. I just came into this library in September so I don’t know if I can form an analogy yet.

A1: Fire Chief - every day I am presented with a large set of new tasks I must tackle with regards to planning workshop classes, collaborating with teachers, going over book lists, conversations with publishers, subbing, teaching, advising clubs, arranging displays, etc.  Also, as a media specialist I am constantly on the IT end of faculty and student difficulties with computers. Since accessibility is a key component to any successful school library, I make myself very available to both faculty and students - in doing so however, I feel like I am constantly putting out fires or explaining how to do so!

Q2: To what extent (or how) does your vision for your school library inform/affect your daily practice?

A2: One of my visions for the school library includes giving every student the chance to pick out a book that they love based on the genres they prefer. I make sure that I interact with every single student at our school, to develop a relationship with them and learn what they like and dislike in terms of books. This also helps me to better develop our collection.

A2: My vision for the direction I want to take our library in certainly does influence the library's day to day rituals. In order to get books into the library, I must work on hosting bake sales, book sales, and find other creative tactics. Our catalog is a mess and I have been working on solving the mysteries (700 books marked as lost currently) although some are here but have duplicate or faulty barcodes.  I work to find parent volunteers and teenage community helpers to work on shelving, cataloging, and other basic chores. I try to schedule authors. All of these things take a lot of time and leaving curriculum on the wayside.

A2: My vision IS my daily practice.  Maybe I'm setting my sights low, but I think the way I catalog, the way I order, the way I shelve is all part and parcel of my vision.  Most especially I think my vision is reflected in the way I interact with my teachers and students.
In your opinion, what qualities must a person possess in order to be successful at your job?

A2:  As a solo librarian, I feel like my vision for the library is constantly informing my practice, which is great because I can make whatever changes or try new things without having to ask anyone else.

A2: Since I just came here I think I am afforded a fair amount of say-so in implementing my vision. There wasn’t a strong librarian here for the past year so although the students needed some gentle reminders about how they should behave in the library, so starting from scratch means I was able to see my vision realized. Obviously there is the day to day issues--paper running out, unnecessary chatter, etc., but because I am a solo librarian it is my vision alone. I don’t need to shoehorn what I want into anyone else’s ideas or adhere to previously held beliefs/designs. Therefore what I do every day is part of my vision, because I’m creating it from scratch in the now.

A2: I know what a great library looks like and I know how a great library functions.  The quality and quantity of resources is always something on my mind, as is functionality and accessibility. As a librarian, I do my best to make sure I am informed of school curricula for every grade with regards to the collection, as well as personal knowledge on relevant subjects so that I can be used as a ready reference resource. 

Q: In your opinion, what qualities must a person possess in order to be successful at your job?

A3: Organized, flexible, patient, self-motivated, creative, willing to let students work the desk, and focus on the big picture.

A3: Independence, determination, a mule-like stubbornness, a flair for the dramatic and a slightly neurotic need to do it all.

A3: Flexibility, initiative, patience.

A3: In order to be successful as a school librarian at [...High School], one must have the ability to interact with teens and speak to them in a way that they can relate to. Since I am a solo librarian, my job requires that I be a leader and am able to maintain the library independently.

A3: I would probably feel this way in any other school environment, but seeing as I am a young, petite female in a school of 900+ teenage boys, I feel like I had no choice but to be an authoritative (though not authoritarian) personality from day one. I knew that I wouldn’t necessarily have someone else introducing me as a person to be listened to/respected and so I made a stand early on. I am also pretty adept at switching from several roles throughout the day--I may be doing collection development, then scurrying away to help a student with a computer issue, then heading back and remembering that I have to meet with a teacher about their needs all in a matter of minutes. If I wasn’t comfortable with being flexible in this way I would probably have a hard time. I think that a person with a bit more tech savvy might be even better than I am--I do find myself sending students down to the tech department more often than a person who might have had a tech coordinator with her might have to. However I just graduated from school in 2011, so I think my embrace of tech as well as strong foundation in the fundamentals has me uniquely suited for being a solo librarian, as I can be several people in one.

A3: Patience, diligence, dedication and enthusiasm are key components to being successful as a Library Media Specialist.  Patience with both students, faculty, administration, accounting and publishers is an invaluable virtue.  Diligence and dedication refer to the knowledge and maintenance of the collection both on the shelves, in the computer and in your own head! Enthusiasm is one of the most important aspects given the audience that we work with: children and young adults. We want to get them reading and keep them reading.  If they are feeling lost either personally or academically, we need to be a rock for them. They should never feel ill at ease for approaching the librarian for any matter because this is why we are here. It is important to be enthusiastic in the field and in practice to keep them comfortable and inspired while they are in school.

Q: In what ways do you feel your previous experience, training and schooling has informed your practice? Conversely, in what ways do you feel it was lacking?

A4: When I was working on my Masters, I was working at an affluent school for the gifted and felt that a lot of what we were talking about in classes did not apply to me. Alas, I have moved on to another job and now understand why differentiation was so important. My schooling taught me to promote the library (which is important!) and to collaborate with teachers (which supports the curriculum, makes meaningful connections and builds community.)

I was not adequately prepared to work with such a wide range of reading levels and am having trouble finding titles that the whole group is interested in and understands. Classroom management is a problem for me. I wish I had taken a storytelling class.

A4: School helped me understand collection development, cataloging and made me able to whip out enough jargon so as to confuse others when I need to.  My previous job (public) helped me understand and refine my passion for libraries, and helped me tolerate and navigate school bureaucracy.  My awesome style is all my own but my mad public relations skills were honestly honed doing lots of retail a long time ago (seriously, being a store manager was better experience than I ever gave it credit for).

A4: Since I’ve always worked and went to school at the same time, I have an ability to balance my duties well. Now that I’m done with school, I can focus on various work-related projects at once and get things completed.

A4: I've been working as a solo librarian for three years, but before that I was part of a terrific team of three other librarians. It was great to have support and be able to bounce curriculum ideas off of them and learn from one another. However, I also really enjoy being able to create curriculum and policies on my own. It can be overwhelming, but I really like challenges and being busy.

A4: As I mentioned just prior, the graduate education I had was a good preparation for solo librarianship. I completed the school library certification via Rutgers and while I felt that many of those classes focused more heavily on elementary and middle school students, the professors were realistic in assessing the state of education and taught the classes under the assumption that a librarian would be a solo. Therefore there was a focus on how to divide time and as I said above, how to be able to accomplish the goals of several in the body of one. On the other hand my past experience was in a library that was much more thoroughly staffed, so one of the things I miss is having a person with me to clarify or back up what I’m doing.

A4: My school (Queens College) gave me great ideas, tips, and reference instruction with regards to being a librarian for Children and Young Adults. They trained me to know what greatness is and what I should always be reaching for with regards to my collection and myself.  However one can read about students until they are blue in the face, but interacting with a mass amount of students one-on-one is a challenge I never had to face prior.  I don't think my school prepared me for the special needs aspect of students with regards to differentiated instruction.  Also, it tended to focus on classes and workshops for children not YA, and when I began my job I struggled as a librarian-teacher who teaches YA classes.

Q: What are the most important lessons you’ve learned, thus far, from your experience as a solo librarian?

A5: Let things go and do the best I can with what I have. Not everyone wants to collaborate and that is okay. Pick a few areas to focus on and do them well.

A5: As a solo librarian, I have learned that I must remain extremely organized. Since I am running the entire library, I have to remember many details, therefore making it imperative that I remember things such as each students first and last name, the policies and procedures, what books have been ordered or need to be ordered, etc.
A5: I hate cataloging.  I love kids.  I don't do well with authority but I love to make people happy, so it works out.  I really like working alone while being a part of the larger school community.

A5: I find that people/administrators don't always realize how much it takes to teach classes, manage an entire library, and support other teachers.

A5: I would say the most important lesson I’ve learned so far is to trust myself--that the combination of school/experience/personality I have has served me well and going with my gut (since I’m the only gut) will serve me well.

A5: Often librarians are looked at as secondary to teachers, and this is how things were for me when I began my job.  As a solo librarian I decided to do a lot of Librarian-Teacher outreach AND I publicized my accomplishments.  The more people see what it is you do, the better. You will be utilized more, gain widespread respect, and become an invaluable member of the faculty. The downside to this is that the library will often become secondary, but sometimes this is what is required in a school setting. Also, always make the effort to work with the students, they don’t always know to go to you for help so make sure they know you are a resource to them. Not only is it your job, but it’s good for the preservation of the industry in ensuring the positive outlook of libraries and librarians for future generations.

**Bonus/optional: If a library fairy godmother granted you with 3 wishes, what would you wish for?

A: An assistant, a budget that allowed me to order books more than one time a year, and smaller classes.

A: I’d only wish for an assistant, but wouldn’t we all

A: ONE: I would wish that I didn't have to advocate for the Library every fricking second and that everyone would understand exactly what I do all the time.  TWO:  I would wish for a shiny new facility with more (any) technology.  THREE:  BIGGER BUDGET!!!

A: 1.  An assistant  2.  An unlimited budget just to get the library collection up to scratch  3.  An extra hour or so in the day when I will not be disturbed so that I can just focus on the library and NOT the whole school.

Part II: Getting Connected and Staying Connected

Library Associations such as HVLA, ALA and AISL all provide membership in professional learning communities that offer support and resources for those practicing school librarianship. Active engagement within library associations diminishes feelings of professional isolation. A fellow HVLA member recently noted: 

HVLA was my lifeline.  Being able to share at meetings, especially when we had divisional breakouts on subjects of interest in between the tri-annuals; querying through the listserve; the larger meetings when they focused on round-tables or brought in an author or professor of interest – I never felt alone.

Another means to establishing a professional learning community could also be accomplished through organizing more regionally specific groups: within a district or borough, amongst alumni of particular MLS programs. Alternatively, focus-specific groups may also be set up: IB librarians, Charter School librarians or librarians working in special needs schools.

Addressing the growing trend of solo librarianship, Patti McCall, writing for the LIS jobs blog, suggests a number of tips to keep connected professionally: Joining a library association, pursuing professional development opportunities, keeping current with professional literature and, most notably, finding a mentor. I think this last piece of advice is particularly compelling. Being a self-described, “verbal processor”, I find it extremely helpful to have someone I can simply think out loud with or bounce ideas off of. Some of my best strategies and ideas have come about this way.  Besides getting valuable feedback on your ideas from an experienced colleague, this really helps as it is extremely helpful to gain affirmation for the decisions you make.

McCall rightly notes that some organizations will formally arrange mentorships, it is also something you can (and should) pursue on your own. Pursuing a mentor is something I wish I had done upon assuming my current position. Though it is not too late, it sure could have helped me during that overwhelming--and often tumultuous--first year as a solo.

Sadly, the reality is that systems for mentoring are not provided as often as they should in schools; this goes not just for librarians and support staff, but for teachers, as well. It seems the best way to establish successful mentor-mentee relationships would be for both MLS programs and library associations to provide their students and members with mentoring programs. While MLS programs will assign and require an advisor for their students, this is usually done arbitrarily and without a mentoring component.
Failing to create opportunities that would help provide support and cultivate professional growth is a disservice--not just to the solos among us--but to the newbies and recent MLS grads.  

It is a simple thing to offer as it requires no budget, and little in the way of legwork; we have members, constituencies at the ready. Moreover, it is an investment in the future of our profession. After all, the knock-on effect is inevitable and paying it forward would be the natural order of things considering the nature of librarians is to want to help others.

Naturally, formally constructed mentoring set-ups may not necessarily be as successful as those that grow organically from consistent dialogue and recurring contact with our colleagues via membership meetings, conferences and events. However, membership meetings--and conferences, in particular--can tend to be infrequent and the infusion of creative energy and camaraderie they offer is trampled by the grind of the every-day. At the least, we can offer mentoring “set-ups” for our members who are interested in either role.

I liken it to the blind date: things may not work out, but there is always the chance that they could...and how wonderful it is when they do!

By Laura Bishop, Membership Coordinator (2011-2013)