Monday, August 5, 2013

Missing my Miray: 10 ways I'm adjusting my library duties after the loss of my aide

Miray and me at TLA 2013
If you know me or read my blog regularly, you've probably heard me mention that my beloved library aide, Miray, will not be returning to school with me in two weeks. Her position, and all the library aide positions in our district, was cut in June. She's been with me for six out of the last eight school years, and in that time, she has become one of my best friends. My students and faculty members absolutely ADORE her, and the absence of her bubbly, loving, funny personality will be palpable in our library and our school. She is the life-blood of the library and as essential to the success of our library program as I am.

So I return to school next week with a heavy heart. But the students will still come, and library life must continue. I am trying to make this transition as seamless as possible for our staff, who had nothing to do with her job cut, and who need me to keep the the changes in my programming as minimal as possible.

I know I am not alone in this journey without an aide, so I thought I would post some of my potential changes and hopefully start a discussion about things we can do to keep our successful programs intact. I am really trying to stay positive and keep myself sane. I love, love, love my job, and I am terrified it is going to morph into me being behind the circ desk all day. I won't last the year if that happens, so I have to come up with solutions that I can live with and maybe even have a little fun with:

  1. Roller skates: We have a very long library--it's the equivalent of about four regular classrooms long and maybe two classrooms wide if you count my office area. On busy days, I'll be zipping around the library in my hot pink Sketchers roller skates. And no, I'm NOT kidding. I've been practicing this summer at the local roller rink. The kids love it, and I get to squeeze in some fun exercise! 
  2. Fanny pack: I can't take credit for this idea, but I LOVE it! I plan to keep money and a small notebook in the fanny pack. When a student needs to buy a posterboard or pay a fine, I can take the money, make change, and jot it down on the notebook, right where I stand.
  3. Phase out colorful posterboard: I sell lots of pretty posterboard colors in the library, but selling lots of different colors means waiting for students to pick a color. I understand the posterboard color is an important decision, but I am frequently left standing there, waiting for my buyers to decide. Sometimes, they decide on a color, then upon seeing the color, decide they want a different color, prompting me to return to the back room to exchange it (posterboard rack is in library workroom). Sometimes, they even leave with their posterboard only to bring it back 10 minutes later to switch for a different color. Enough already! In the interest of time, I'll just phase out the colors this year and just reorder the white.
  4. Train the teachers: In order for me to teach lessons and booktalk with students, someone has to be behind the circulation desk. I have student aides, but I don't want them behind the desk by themselves all day long. Things happen sometimes, and there needs to be an adult behind the desk with them most of the time. Even if the teacher only answers the phone, checks passes, and is generally there to help if needed, that would be a huge help. If they want to learn to checkout books (and I think many will), that's even better.
  5. Laminating: Would you believe that the library is responsible for laminating all the materials in our school? It's not just my school, either--the majority of our district's librarians do all their school's laminating. It's EXTREMELY time-consuming. Up till now, my Miray did all that. This year, I plan to allow teachers to laminate their own materials (whether my district supports that or not), and I will be there to troubleshoot. If teachers don't want to laminate their own materials, they will have to wait for me to get to it, which will probably not be anytime soon.
  6. Poster-making: Yep, I'm responsible for all poster-making (we have a Canon ImagePro color poster printer) for our school. It's not as time-consuming as laminating, but it's still a lot of work that takes me away from my library duties. I plan to make posters only one day each week during a certain time period that I block out in my schedule. Anything not completed during that time will be done after school as I am able or will have to wait until the next week. Teachers and admin will have to plan ahead with their poster requests. I am going to promote training my staff to create their own posters as well, which will cut out the middle man (that's me!). I think lots of our staff will take advantage of that training, thus lightening my weekly load and hopefully phasing-out my role as school poster-maker altogether.
  7. Restroom breaks: Yes, I will be needing some of those! I plan to just run when I need to go. I'm not going to lock the doors or kick anyone out. I'm just going to slip in and out quietly, hopefully unnoticed. If I am worried about particular students causing a problem in the few minutes I am gone, I'll call the office to see if someone can spot me for a few.
  8. Shelving books: Um, I'm still not sure how I will get this done. My student aides already do it, but some are better at it than others. Also, there are WAY more books to shelve than my students have time for in one class period. I will have plenty of shelving to do, despite my student helpers. I also thought about starting a "lunch shelvers" program where students can sign up to help shelve during their lunch (after they finish eating).
  9. Lunch breaks: I'm not sure how my campus plans to handle this, but I am entitled to a daily 30-minute duty-free lunch. I will be taking that, even if it means locking the library doors and kicking out anyone not with their teacher. I am hoping my principal has a better plan that does not force me to close the library. My principal is pretty supportive of the library and understands how busy it is in there, so I'm sure she has something up her sleeve.
  10. No fall book fair: At least not this year. I still have one scheduled for the spring, so I hope to have my bearings by then.

If you have lost your library aide, either recently or long ago, what tips do you have for me and others? What do you do to keep from being behind the circ desk all day long? How do you keep from shelving books until midnight? 

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  1. This September will start my fourth year in the library. Library aides were cut... Four years ago. I worked as the Computer Teacher in the building before hand so I knew everything the aide did and just couldn't imagine her not bring there until, well, I started without her.

    I've done many of your solutions above. The roller skates is one I'd love to attempt but I fear broken bones. As an Elementary Media Specilaisr i have lessons to teach much of the day so sadly my library is closed more than it should be and there is a sign at the door letting the students know if it's open or closed.

    My one true saving grace is a parent committee of volunteers. I have a head volunteer along with 2 assistants who gather volunteers, create a schedule around mine, and organize training with me. They run the circulation (though I'm reconsidering this) and shelve the books and so much more. The heads deal with most of the issues leaving me to worry about lessons and library administration. (Sorry for the long response)

    1. Hi, Arielle! Didn't you know that I love long responses? We librarians are wordy gals!

      I had a great committee of parent volunteers at my previous elementary school (where I did not have an aide). They were amazing women (and one man!) who helped ensure I was the best librarian I could be. The school I am currently in is not the upscale area I was in previously (complete with loads of at-home moms), nor is it an elementary school, so I don't know how the volunteering thing will go. I am certainly willing to try it, but I worry that it would eat up my time just to manage that. I like the idea of a lead volunteer.

  2. I've been without an aide since the 2007-2008 school year. It's a tough situation to be in and I know how you feel. I used to have a large photocopier in the library workroom. Teachers were responsible for doing their own copying, but every now & again someone would send a student asking if I could make 25 or 30 copies. I didn't mind every now and then, but some teachers started to take advantage. So I got the copier moved out of the library as soon as possible. I try to shelve twice a day-early in the morning and after lunch. If I don't get to it, the books can sit on the cart for another day. My library space is large too. I like your roller skates idea! I did get a cordless phone, that I carry with me when I'm not at the circ desk. I leave markers, colored pencils, tape and glue on one side of the desk. Students can borrow them as needed without asking me for them. I have taught some teachers how to do check out/check in so they can do it if I'm booktalking or teaching a lesson with their classes. Good luck!

    1. Love the cordless phone idea! I think I may even have one here at home (somewhere) that I could use at school, so no money spent! Great idea!

      Yes, the roller skates are great fun if you are confident enough in your skating skills. I took roller skating lessons as a kid and spent lots and lots of time at the skating rink, and it's like riding a bike--you never really forget how to do it. I may be older now, but my balance is still good!

  3. I as an assistant in the library and now that I have secured enough credits I was hired this year lateral entry as the media coordinator in my elementary school library. Now with budget cuts I will not have an assistant. I have a fixed schedule complete with 7 classes a day with 5 minutes in between each class. I have 1 hour and 10 minutes to each lunch, use the restroom, and do a million other tasks. I do not have a large parent force as well. I can handle everything else but shelving. I wish Mary Poppins and her magic existed. :-)

    1. @Anonymous 8:25--I feel ya! I was an elementary librarian for five years. Four of those years were in a school on a flex schedule with tons of parent support/volunteers. I loved my job there and would have stayed forever if the drive were not so far from home. The fifth/last year I was in elementary, I moved districts (to my home district, which is where I still work) and went on a fixed schedule with a FT aide. I lasted exactly one year there--moved up to MS the first chance I got. Fixed scheduling just did not allow me to do all the great programming I was able to do at my previous school (and now can do at my current school), even with a FT aide.

  4. I have been in my middle school library for 16 years, and I have spent the last two without an aide. I have parent volunteers do most of my shelving, but I have been fortunate enough to have teachers cover my lunch and plan times, and they have shelved and checked out, too. Of course, if a class needs booktalks or a research lesson during my plan time, well, no plan time that day.

    Honestly, the hardest thing for me was learning to say "no" or "not right now" to some requests, even with my principal ready to back me up. As librarians, we are "programmed" to serve others, and it is against our nature to admit we can't do it all all of the time. It looks like you are thinking very creatively about how to get everything done on your own, or with a little help from your friends. However, there may come a time when you just can't avoid cutting or reducing programs or services. When that time comes, remember your goals for your program and that you must do what will benefit students the most. Those should be your guiding principles.

    This year, I find myself having to change even more--I was told in March that I will teach 4 periods of reading intervention and have only 2 periods in the library and that no one else will be there to provide service when I am not. The same is true at the other three middle schools in my district. It was earth-shattering news, and I took many opportunities to advocate for our program and warn of the perils of a mostly closed school library--even going all the way up to the superintendent. At the end of the school year, I was told that now I may only have to teach 2 intervention groups, but even at this late date, that is still up in the air. I have had to do a lot of soul-searching about what are the most important things I and the library provide for our school--and about how to work toward those things if my time is severely limited--and about how to empower teachers to work towards the goals without me at times. I still don't have all the answers (not even close), and this year will be quite an experience in compromise and innovation for all of us. I don't know if even the most important goals will be able to be accomplished. All I can do is what I can do and work to convince district administration that libraries are critical to student success so that services may someday be restored.

    1. @ipushbooks (love that name!)--Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I really hope you don't end up with the intervention groups. I don't know what an "intervention group" is, but it doesn't sound like something that will help improve your library program. Isn't it sad that we have to constantly prove our own worth to district administrators who make all the decisions but rarely even step foot into the library?

      My two biggest goals in this transition period are that my circulation stats continue to increase and that I can continue booktalking the same as I always have. If I can do just those two things and still keep the library running smoothly, I will feel successful.

  5. Without an aide for last 10 years. Gave up laminating right away, and rely on parent volunteers for shelving. It's doable, but you can't do everything you did with an aide, and to try to do so will only make the administration feel that an aide was unnecessary. Cut back as much as you need, ALWAYS take lunch, and hang in there. A lack of aide is why I do more readers' advisory and less research. Can't do it all. Last year, they stuck me with study hall, so I demanded planning. Library was closed 1/3 of day. This year, no study hall for me! Hang tough!

    1. Oy, vey. I had a study hall (we call it "advisory") last year, too, as did my aide. We weren't even in the library for it, so the library was closed during that time. Thankfully, I'll be back in the library (and OPEN) during our "advisory" time this year.

      The laminating has to go. There is seriously just no way I can do all that, too.


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