January is the middle of my working year, but with all the buzz of intentions and resolutions, it’s a good opportunity to pause, reflect, and examine. Reflection is an important practice in education. It’s an integral part of the process of inquiry and growth. Thinking back on the school year thus far and deciding what has been working and what needs to change is always prudent. Thoughtful reflection is what separates the good educators from the great ones. Over winter break, I spent time reflecting on 2022 in all areas of my life, but especially the library.
I’m still new to this library lifestyle, still trying to figure things out. My instincts are still teacher instincts: quick reactions, fast decisions, and implementing plans quickly. The school library has a different pace, though. Changes are bigger and take more time. The sense of urgency is different. I need to slow down to set intentions and clearly define my goals. I need to gird my resolve and write down my reflections.
Here are my librarian resolutions for 2023.
For me specifically, I don’t have any grand picture in my head of how I want displays to look or hard and fast rules around them. This gives students the opportunity to create something that probably wouldn’t even occur to me. I can give students the theme for the display and let them run wild making it look awesome. Any time I can get student ownership in the library, I want to. Displays are a great outlet for this. If students create a display they are proud of, chances that this display will end up on their social media are high. It will also draw more students into the library to see their friend’s display, which will give me more opportunities to build relationships with students I wouldn’t normally see.
Since I work in a school library, it’s not often very quiet here. This is a good thing! Noise means students are learning and engaged in activities. However, we do have students that come to the library for solace. Maybe they want a quiet place to focus when their classrooms are too loud. We get students who struggle with anxiety that need a safe place to calm down, and sometimes it can even be written into their IEPs (Individual Education Plan) to come to the library when they need to regulate their emotions or deescalate from being overstimulated.
There are a few seating areas that accommodate this, but they aren’t distinguished in any way from our other seating. I want to offer maximum coziness! Soft chairs or bean bags are the first items that come to mind, but even moving furniture I already have so it’s clustered together in a quieter corner of the library would be an improvement. Provide a basket or tub with manipulatives like stress balls, coloring pages with colored pencils, 3D type puzzles, or snap and click fidget toys. These would give anxious teens a tactile way to calm themselves and work through their anxiety.
Of course, these designated areas could be for reading as well. Reading in the library! Novel, I know. I’d love to add lamps for good reading light and ambiance. The soft seating would encourage students to settle in and get comfortable. Allowing students space and time to read is the key to actually getting teens to read. I want the library to be a place where this can happen even if we are housing other activities simultaneously.
Designated Reading Time
Giving teens a time and place to read increases the likelihood that they will read exponentially. I want to have a designated time to read weekly and market it to students. This will help create an entire school culture of literacy. A great way to kick this off would be with silent reading parties. Encourage students to bring blankets for ultimate coziness. We could provide tea or hot chocolate as an added incentive for the first event or monthly. Offering this kind of activity wouldn’t cost us anything and encourages reading habits that will create life-long readers.
Create More Reading Communities
My library already hosts a monthly book club, but I want more. Student-run book clubs give teens more ownership in the library. I want a club for manga, a banned book club, a true crime book club — any and all reading communities that the students want. I want to give them as much reading autonomy as possible. More than this, I’d love to start a book club for faculty and staff. I want to find a way to get more parents and community members involved in order to make a strong connection between a student’s home and school worlds. This could include offering discussion boards for readers through our library course page, so they can connect with each other before meetings.
Student Advisory Board
I want to make a committee of students to serve on a library advisory board. The students on this board will help brainstorm library program ideas, displays, and fun events. They would weigh in on new library policies, providing the student perspective. Again, this is another way to encourage student ownership in the library and create opportunities for student voices to contribute. I’m sure that this group of students will come up with ideas that are relevant, timely, and ideas that would never have occurred to me. Students will apply through a Google form, and we will select candidates based on those applications. Library advisory board members will have an excellent extracurricular to add to their college applications or job resumes.
This is a huge goal, and one I’ve been working on for months now. Resolutions and goals can be to continue working on them, right? I want to genrefy our fiction section. As y’all know, the library is organized differently than a bookstore. In the fiction section, all genres are shelved together alphabetically by author’s last name. This makes it super easy to find a book when you know exactly what title or author you want to read. But the number of kids who come in the library and ask, “Where’s the mysteries?” is many.
It’s a huge amount of work on the front end because we have to make a spreadsheet with every fiction title in their selected genres. We need to be able to find books when we want them, because this genre change won’t be reflected in our electronic library system. Then I’ll color code each book to correspond with colors assigned to genres. THEN I have to physically move the books to their genre sections so that browsing is much easier for students. It’s a lot of work that is going to be worth it to get more books in front of teens’ faces.
Just a few small goals I’m working on. This list is long, but so is my career in the library (hopefully). When I switched from being a classroom teacher to being a high school librarian, I had to change my mindset about timelines. In the classroom, I was the goddess of my space and could change things quickly with almost immediate results. The library is a long game that takes months and years to change rather than minutes and days. It’s going to be so worth it for my future students, and I’m excited to jump into the new year with clear goals in mind.