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Saturday, June 4, 2016

From Fraud to Advocate

by Whitney Jones, Library Media Specialist, Old Settler's Elementary, Lewisville ISD  Inaugural Little Maverick Graphic Novel Committee Member 
Texas Library Association Children’s Round Table Committee Member 
I am a fraud. Not how one should start a blog but might as well be honest from the start. I want to be an advocate but am a perpetual people pleaser. Saying no makes me feel sick. So when I was hired last year and was told that my library was in full fine arts rotation I said great!
Well, my principal was lucky to hire me before I finished with my master’s because I just wanted to be in the library. I even wrote a defense in one of my classes at Sam Houston State University FOR being in rotation because I was trying to convince myself that what I read in our standards was wrong. Did you catch the part where I confessed that I wanted to be an advocate for the library?
I tried to have a flex/mixed schedule by allowing groups and individuals to come and go as they pleased while I taught in rotation. I tried to collaborate with grade levels but found it hard to do so when I was teaching during their planning periods. I planned school wide events like Dot Day, Veteran’s Day, Dr. Seuss’s Birthday and Dia! I tried being everything I wanted to be while being in full rotation for grades K-5 but found that I am not living up to my hopes and dreams of why I decided I wanted to be a librarian.
Here is the big conflict, I am a people pleaser and my administration and fine arts team want me in full rotation but after two short years, I know full rotation is not best for my students or teachers. I have been a people pleaser my whole life so normally two short years of anything would not be enough to ruffle feathers.
Then the unthinkable happened. After having every program I wanted to attend planned out for TLA, I found myself changing my mind and sitting in on an advocacy class.  I sat there listening to funding problems and issues that others had and I felt like more of a fraud. How could I confess that I am in full rotation? Any time I do mention this, it solicits one of two responses either a hiss of disgust or a sigh of pity.  So I did not bring this up as my issue. Then I met Dorcas Hand in the advocacy session; I have read all of her blogs so you can imagine my excitement. I expressed my frustration that sometimes it feels like we have pockets of librarians going above and beyond and pockets holding on to our stereotypes of shushing keepers of the books.  Then she said the unimaginable, write a blog on it.
I knew that if I wanted to be an advocate for the library I had to start with myself. I have done a lot of things in my school despite being in full rotation but I felt that I proved I was going above and beyond what was expected of me. So I set up a meeting with my principal and asked to come out of rotation. I did not bring up my standards, or our district policy that said I was nowhere close to the number of students to be in rotation. I did not present any of that. Instead, I explained all that we had accomplished in the library and that I felt I had growing to do with collaborating with my teachers. I said that I could do more and make the library even better if I came out of rotation. I wish I could report that I am now full flex but instead I am out of rotation for kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades. Not a small victory given my school’s history with librarians in rotation.
Here is how I stopped being a fraud, I realized that I needed to set my tendency to people please aside because honestly it is not about me, it is about what is best for my students and our library. I will keep doing the programs and school wide celebrations, makerspace and coding in the library. I will still be reading with the children and celebrating reading programs like Bluebonnet books. If I don’t stand up for my students and our library, then no one will. 
Here is the big conflict for our profession as school librarians: no one really knows what we do. We all have joked about this at least once I am willing to wager but it is a problem. Maybe you are even reading this as a librarian in rotation thinking that you want out too so what have you done in your library? More importantly, what do your students do in your library and how is the library a true asset to your school? Can you show this? No more printed stats from your circulations - when was the last time that you decided you wanted to analyze data for fun? Do you have pictures of your kids in action and if so have you shared them on social media or printed them and hung them up in your halls? Are you doing programs that need to be recognized? There are things that you are doing to advocate for you library and there are things that are scary to address.  I hid behind rotation, I don’t know what you are hiding behind but take a look, take a breath, be brave and advocate.  

If you would like to continue this conversation, please find me on twitter @libraryjourney.

9 comments:

  1. Wonderful thoughts, Whitney, and compelling points. Thanks for sharing your journey!

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  2. I admire your focus on what's best for your library program. Congrats on the partial victory! As you move forward in the coming year, have faith...they will see your true value and contribution and finally do what's best for all!

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  3. Love this post. Excellent! Inspirational!

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  4. Whitney, my dear friend, you are a soothsayer! This is an awesome article!

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  5. I like your point that it is very important to show -via social media and within the school halls - all that we do that makes a difference. It is important for all educators, including Librarians. Great article!

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  6. All excellent points! Thanks for writing this!

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