A Year in the Life of a Teacher Librarian – Getting Stared with the Year

It has been my goal for some time now to share what my role as a teacher librarian is comprised of in the day in, day out. I hope that it shares some light into what can sometimes be a mysterious and unknown role to those outside libraries. I hope it might inspire someone to enter the world of school libraries as I was once enticed. And I hope it encourages others in the school library world to share their experiences. Of course, my role and experiences are unique and would differ if I was in a different country, state, school, library setting or role, and the joy of library work is that no one day, library, role or experience is ever the same. I may post once a month about this, but far more likely I will put fingers to keyboard once a term. If you would like to read all of the posts in the series, you’ll find them here. 

So, how does the year start for a teacher librarian and the library team? This year that I am sharing with you started a little differently than most. Usually, the library team or teacher librarian return to school before the rest of the staff. This has differed across the schools I’ve been, with some starting back earlier than others. Of course, the work never really stopped throughout the summer holidays, but things got interesting quickly this year when in the last few weeks of the school holidays, the government announced a delay of the school year. My school responded equally quickly by deciding to not follow this and instead return to school at the normal time but in a remote learning format. And for us as a library team, that meant we needed to get to work.

Starting early

When the school decided to start with remote learning, it meant we as a library team needed to put in place some things before school resumed. Usually, at the start of the year you have a few student-free days to get the library system back up and running, do any roll-over tasks to make sure your library system has the year 8s in year 8 and not still in year 7. To put things back in place and to prepare resources for teachers. Then, when the students return, we can allocate textbooks and class novels and start library sessions.

However, when you start remotely and with online learning, students need textbooks and novels in hand but are not on site to collect them. Teachers need different resources and they need them now to prepare and plan their altered learning. For the library, this meant we needed to get done our routine start of year tasks quickly and then come up with a plan to get resources to the students and staff who needed them.

Getting the library system up and running

Our first task was getting the library system “rolled over”. For this, we complete the start of year procedure as outlined by our library system. This year, things were made complicated by a glitch. What should have been a 10 minute task turned into a two day task as the support team helped us to fix the glitch and then roll over the students into the correct year. I couldn’t have done it without our library system’s support team. It did delay things a little for us. Part of this set up is making sure the students are in the correct year levels, adding new staff and students, making sure the systems set up by our awesome IT team are turned on for the year, and setting loan and holiday calendar dates, so that when a book is loaned to a student, it is due back at the right time.

A change of priority

Our team would usually meet to do the library system start up and then go through setting important dates (like Book Week), planning displays and working through other things we’d like to get started on this year. But this year, due to remote learning, we had other priorities.

Paper bags on table

Resource collection

One of my library team members had the great idea of using the same booking system the uniform shop was using to open the library to parents and families. An email to leadership for support and we decided to use this system to run our textbook and class novel collection for the secondary school. It was a great way for students and parents to collect the resources they needed before school began. It meant the library team returning to work a week earlier, but it was great we did as it meant a lot of work to get the resources ready, set up the booking system, come up with a way to manage the bookings and prepare the resources, ensure we were meeting health restrictions and guidelines. Massive thanks to our incredible library team for making it happen.

Digital resources for classes and teachers

Due to the online start, we made the decision to move ahead with digital resources such as Story Box Library for our junior library and audiobooks for our secondary library. It meant a juggle of the library budget, but we prioritised these things which are so important at any time but a priority when trying to teach online. I was so pleased to be able to make these decisions.

Our other main task was making sure teachers had the resources they needed in class. For many, helping the students access physical resources, like their class novel, was important, but for others it meant creating LibPaths (digital resources pages on our library system) that included links to the films they were studying, articles, research and more. I think I created over 10 LibPaths that first week alone.

Moving forward with the term

As we resumed school face-to-face we had to start the year over again in some ways, with classes coming to collect any physical resources they hadn’t collected while learning online, starting library sessions and providing orientation sessions for our year 7 students. LibPath requests continued to flow in. It was also time for me to assess the budget I’d been allocated, look at where I had moved funds around to pay for our new digital resources and make the tough decisions on what resources or subscriptions not to renew to make sure we didn’t go over budget.

Want to read about what else we have been up to this year in our school library? You’ll find them here.