Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Middle School Librarianship

Ever wondered what it is like to be a middle school librarian? Thanks to
Alma Ramos-McDermott working at Pollard Middle School in Needham, MA who is giving us an inside view to what it is like!

A day in the life of a Middle School librarian

I am a first year middle school librarian for over 1100 students in grades 6-8. My day is supposed to officially start at 7:25 am, but I am usually in the library by 6:45 a.m. Sometimes, I am greeted at the library door, or 5-10 minutes after I arrive, by a teacher or two looking for that “last minute” DVD or book that they absolutely need and forgot to get yesterday. They may also come to get the keys to the laptop cart they are using in their classroom or to find out if the daily newspaper has been delivered. Between the time I get there and the time the library “officially” opens to students, I may see 1-3 teachers.

In library school, we learned that teachers depend on us, but we weren’t told that it may be earlier in the day than we expected. However, as a former classroom teacher for 21 years and, since I’m there early to beat traffic, it feels good to help get their day organized. During that early morning time, I also work on book orders and check through my e-mails. Today, several teachers contacted me to schedule time for their classes in the library. I e-mailed them to arrange a time to meet with them and, at that time, we’ll discuss their lesson and how I can help their students learn important research and information literacy skills that go with their lesson. Also, since it’s the beginning of the month, I am looking for books on the online catalog that match themes related to the month that I can display in the library’s three display cases. I walk in and out of the shelves getting the books that I need to display.

At 7:25, the school doors open. Since the library faces the front door, many students stream into the library. Some need to return a book, others want to renew, some want to borrow, some need to use the computer, and the rest are there for the two 8th grade and one 6th grade class that use the library for Advisory classes, which takes the place of Homeroom. While all this activity takes place, I am busy checking out books and/or helping students to find what they need on the shelves or via the online catalog. When there’s a lull, I am in the stacks putting together a cart of books for a teacher who needs it in their classroom. Today, the cart is beginning to get filled with poetry books for a 6th grade class. On other days, the carts have held books on Biographies, Mysteries, Ancient Greece, Chemistry, Planets, Picture Books for a Theatre project and other topics.

Soon after 8:00 a.m. the bell rings for the end of Advisory, and I straighten up the tables/chairs, pick up papers, and/or log students out of the computers if they forgot. Today, my classes are in a teacher’s classroom, as a follow-up to a lesson that was done in the library last week. We school librarians need to be flexible, since teachers may change their mind at the last minute and decide they need to reschedule the planned lesson, or change locations. Today, the times for me to come were changed, as the teacher forgot that first period is a reading block.

Throughout the day, I take groups of students to the library to look for books that they need for their research. As students worked on their research project using laptops, I walked around the classroom reinforcing what I’d taught for those who needed extra help. There was a short 45 minute break between two of my four classes, so I used that time to finish the cart of books for the month’s theme, and finish decorating the library cases. I also returned several telephone messages and e-mails, and helped several students who came in seeking books.

Lunch is 22 minutes, but I spend 15 of those minutes looking up information to answer a teacher’s e-mail. I settle down for a quick bite, and then I’m off to my next set of classes. I rush out of the classroom at 2:08 to get to the library on time to set up for the afterschool center which begins at 2:10. Before I’m finished setting up, several students have already come in to use the library since the dismissal bell has rung. I wind up with 45 students. Some days I have 60, others 20. Each day varies.

I am supposed to stay until 2:40 pm, when a paid teacher comes in until 3:30 pm. Instead of leaving, I wind up continuing to help a student with a project on the computer. As I get ready to leave, someone else pleads for help with a Spanish assignment. Since I speak Spanish, and I feel badly for her, I help, and finally wind up leaving at 3:10 pm for my hour ride home.

Today, my day began at 6:45 and ended at 3:10 pm, and it’s been non-stop action all day. Library school taught me to be a librarian, but I’ve learned more each day than a textbook or professor could have ever shown me. My advice to you is: if you’re in library school studying to become a school librarian, take time to volunteer in a school library so you can get “on the job” training, and learn to “think on your feet.” Every day is different, and I learn something new every day. So will you.

I enjoy the variety of my job, and love helping teachers and students learn research skills and recommend books to read.