Midsummer Thoughts on Passion in School Libraries

by Dorcas Hand, Editor TASL Talks

It may be summer, which generally means school librarians are not at school – but few of us stop thinking about how to make our library program stronger for the next year, how to better include teachers and campus leadership in the excitement. So, I’ll continue to post a bit through the summer.

My friend and school library leader Sara Kelly Johns posted a link to the Librarian in Black blog by Sarah Houghton who is the Director for the San Rafael Public Library (California). Sarah wrote this post to reflect on her experiences at the ALA Annual conference in Orlando June 23-28, where I was also in attendance. She has indeed put her finger on the pulse of librarians of all types: passionate about their work even in the face of difficult circumstances. Of course, we are talking about those librarians who took themselves to Orlando last week, those who are involved in their librarianship beyond just a job. However, I’m pretty sure that passion bleeds over to more of the librarian community that we all realize and I’d like to further celebrate that passion here, in midsummer, to remind everyone who reads TASLTalks how important that passion is to improving school (and all) libraries.

Sarah admits that she attended in part to see if [she] could recapture the excitement and belief in libraries that got [her] into this profession in the first place. [She’s] had a hard few years professionally. [She] was looking for this conference to make [her] believe again–in what [she does] every day and in what [she’s] dedicated [her] life to. Spoiler alert: It worked.”
My first suggestion for those readers who are feeling tired: find ways to attend conferences, locally or further afield. Put yourself with others who feel strongly that school libraries matter and let the group speak work its magic on your fatigue. Take that group energy home; feed it with continued reading or chats with fellow librarians; use it to try new ideas to enthuse your students and faculty. It’s like smiling even when you feel grumpy – it begins to turn your mood.
You can all read the post for yourselves – the link is there. I want to jump to the last two points:
Lesson 9: Our stories are more powerful than our statistics.
You can count your books, your program attendance, and your web visits. Or you can tell stories, you can impact lives, and share those stories with the people making budgetary and political decisions about your library. Everything I heard at this conference supports the latter.
Yes, stories are powerful – and memorable. I will add to her point: stories supported by statistics are the most powerful Tell the story about the kids who finally began to read – then mention the circ statistics that you can tie to their improvement in some academic area or literacy score.
Lesson 10: Helping people still brings me more joy than anything else.
This last point may seem self-evident, but going into this conference it wasn’t–at least not to me. The moments at this conference that made me smile, that energized and excited me, all had to do with either observing someone helping someone else or me helping someone. I am so jazzed by seeing a positive impact from the exchange of knowledge, a helping hand, a simple tip, or a shared experience.
I’m pretty sure this is how most of us ended up as librarians. We are experts at connecting our patrons – students, teachers, administrators – with the information or pleasure reading they need. And we gain satisfaction from doing that well, every day. Don’t let the challenges get you too down. Remember that you are making a difference, one student at a time. And it does matter.
So, thank you for indulging my July pep talk. Be passionate about your day job - it makes it more fun! And check out past and future posts on this blog, on Sarah’s and on others for further ideas and inspiration to help you keep moving ahead to improve school libraries.

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