Cloning vs. swimming: a librarian’s thoughts…
The Fall issue of Texas Library Journal included an article, “At the Frontlines: Making Library magic” (pp.-87) In response to Gloria Meraz’ email request to complete this sentence, “Libraries are exciting places because…, Karen had responded that they are exciting because … libraries entice our brains to learn more, expanding our possibilities!” I asked several of the school folks if they would write a blog post for TASLTalks. Here is the first one – thank you, Karen. Editor Dorcas Hand
By Karen Kreuger, Hamilton ISD District Librarian
When I accepted my current position as a rural district librarian which has one librarian managing three campus libraries within the district, I took the job knowing full well that the technology to clone myself did not exist. I had served as the librarian for two large elementary schools for several years in the previous district that I worked in. The number of students in those two large elementary schools had been close to three times as many students as I would serve in this smaller pre-K through 12th grade district, so I thought that I surely could handle the challenge of three campus libraries. I was prepared for this position in many ways, but I have also wished many times in my 15 years of service to this rural district that the cloning technology was available to help me do all that needs to be done to serve the wide array of library patrons in this district.
Being knowledgeable about authors across the wide expanse of early childhood through young adult literature and doing efficient and thoughtful ordering for pre-K through 12th grade readers is a full-time job all its own. I found myself streamlining the ordering process throughout the first few years in this position to allow for more time away from a computer screen and greater time interacting with the patrons, both students and teachers. Email and texting became my best and dearest friends. Teachers can email or text questions day or night and I can provide feedback for them from wherever I am. I got a text last week at eight o-clock in the evening letting me know that one of our online databases was not responding. The teachers I work with know that I want that feedback from them as soon as possible so that I can begin to troubleshoot and find a solution before many more patrons are inconvenienced by the problem. These teachers may not be my clones, but they are my team, and we work together to maximize our assets.
One thing I had not realized when I came on board in this district was how difficult it is to train and have libraries work optimally when the librarian never gets to be in the same location with the library assistants. I haven’t mentioned that staffing for three campus libraries has mostly been one librarian and two full-time library assistants. During one reduction in force a few years back, our district took our library staffing down to one librarian and one library assistant for a period of four years. I fought unsuccessfully against the reduction in staff, and I was sickened to see our secondary campuses dark much of the day during those years of reduction to our library staff. Again, I knew cloning was the answer, but still not an available option. In both staffing situations, I had to try to jump this training hurdle in other ways. I began booking my own library substitutes so that we could have trained substitute teachers in our positions while the library staff met to learn. Staff training still sometimes takes place over the phone, and sometimes an email has to be the method for transferring important information and updates to library staff.
In truth, since cloning may never be a real alternative for librarians, I have taken on the philosophy of a wise character named Dory, from the movie Finding Nemo, whose motto is, “Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming!” I swim upstream many days in my position. I know that by providing the best ordering possible for each campus that I am providing each student that constant opportunity to find great literature and materials to stimulate their brain and motivate them to learn and do more with their lives. I may not be on all campuses to book talk every day, but when I am there, I do. I book talk anywhere, in fact. I have talked up books and libraries at the courthouse, grocery stores, pharmacies, or any other place that anyone wants to broach the subject. I use internet sites like Goodreads and our school book blog to book talk online. Swimming upstream is always better than not swimming at all. A student’s ability to read, comprehend and analyze is like fins are to fish. A fish won’t last long in the pond or the sea without the necessary equipment. As most of us know, Nemo’s fins weren’t perfect, but he did have fins and he learned how to make the most out of what he had. A student’s reading ability is the fundamental component of success in their life’s swim. Life is a journey, a swim, if you will, that is much easier traversed if you have a well-developed love of reading. Until cloning becomes the “norm,” I will continue to swim swiftly and positively along a path that leads others to the knowledge and information skills needed to survive and thrive in our world. I encourage librarians everywhere to just keep swimming…