There has been a raging battle with school librarians over the fixed vs flexible issue for their schedule. It has mainly been a battle for the elementary school because the library time is often used as a relief from face to face time, and secondary schools have have had a different battle of just getting access to classes. The whole debate is a difficult one as each school is different and each school librarian has different talents.
Something that we tried this year in the secondary school is for each English class years 7 -11 to be scheduled into library time once a fortnight. In the first term, I used this time to upskill the students on the library resources and services through a quick 15 minute activity as they really had had no formal exposure to the library before this after elementary school. They then had time to browse and borrow books and read. The teacher would always accompany their classes.
For the first few months, I scheduled other appointments around this schedule so I would also be able to be with the classes to help with finding resources, talk to the teachers, and to promote the library services. After a few months the English teachers started asking me to integrate some of the things they are doing in class into these library sessions - Introduce George Orwell and Animal Farm, run a literature circle group, and help to collect supporting texts (Star Crossed Lovers to support Romeo & Juliet).
Although the scheduled time with the secondary classes has been quite low level stuff on my part I have realised it has led to a number of long term benefits :
- Building relationships with the students, I can see what they are reading, doing, and ask them about their lives. They are now more willing to approach me to be helped in any way they need to be helped
- Building relationships with the teachers. This has led to being invited to be part of the planning process, and to co teaching in the English department. It has also led to being invited into other curriculum areas as word gets around.
- Better collection development as I now know what the student interests are, and the context in which subjects are being taught.
- Students who know how to use the library more independently remotely, and better use of our services and resources.
- More use of the physical space during recess and lunch times and after school.
- More meaningful access to the students by the school librarian.
- Increased reading by the secondary students.
- More students wanting to be involved in the Library Service programme, which has led to more positive student initiatives happening in the library.
It has all resulted due to the increased exposure of the students and teachers to the library and teacher librarian.
As my schedule fills up, the flexible part of the scheduling comes into play. It is now 2nd term and the english teachers are aware that I may not be with their classes during their scheduled library visit as I will be working somewhere else at that time - in a planning meeting or teaching a class in the classroom. I will tell them in advance and they have the choice if they wish to bring the students in for their scheduled time or not. Most choose to still come along as the students demand it!
My point of this post is that even though regularly scheduled classes may not be the best use of the School Librarians time all the time, if it is negotiated beforehand and used with purpose, it can lead to much, much more.