New School Librarian Handbook
a guide to success
While this handbook is created for new school librarians by the Georgia Library Media Association, it is open to any and all school librarians.
Evaluating Your Space, People, and Procedures
Before you plan, make, create, or do anything:
- How did the previous librarian setup checkout? Is it self checkout or do you do it?
- Do you have a paraprofessional to help? If so, do you have a space at the circulation desk for both?
- Do you have clear signage for your students to know where book return is and where book checkout is?
Meet with your principal
Have an honest conversation with your principal about expectations and goals for the library program (and you). I start each school year with this:
- What does success look like to you for the library? For me?
- In what ways can I and the library support your goals this year?
- Are you expected to do lunch duty or other responsibilities?
- Are you expected to run a book club or is there one already established?
- Are you expected to be in charge of morning announcements?
- What is the library budget? If there isn't one, what is the reasoning?
Get to know the staff:
- Put people first and everything else second
- Build rapport with staff members (especially your bookkeeper and custodians - I bring them treats throughout the year like coffee and donuts to express my gratitude)
- Consider hosting a "meet the new librarian" event with donuts in the morning or over coffee virtually
- Stay visible to staff and students most of the day (don't be reclusive in an office)
- In the words of Aaron Burr, talk less and smile more - get to know your staff and the culture of the school as it will help you gauge how to make changes if necessary and how to prepare for collaborations/clubs/etc.
Check out these resources for setting your own goals:
To help alleviate this pressure, the Georgia Library Media Association has prepared a crosswalk document between the SLEI, Future Ready Librarians Framework™, and the ISTE Standards for Educators.
Advocate for Your Role
Try a simple library services menu or a top 10 list for visiting the school library. See examples below:
Collaborate with Instructional Partnerships!
- Offering a school library newsletter highlighting opportunities for collaboration and giving shout outs to past collaborations is a great way to get teachers excited about working with you.
- Another way to do this is tagging the teachers in social media posts when you work together (and go extra by tagging your principal so they can see the collaborations taking place)!
- Sharing these stories create ripples in your learning community. Eventually, even the more reluctant teachers will warm up as you continue to approach the school with an open heart and sharing stories of collaborations.
Build a Professional Learning Network
Even though our jobs are amazing, it can also be isolating. Most school librarians are the sole person in the role within the school and can sometimes be the only one between several schools or the whole district. To keep from burning out, as well as to connect on ideas, projects, and cross-school collaborations, I strongly encourage you to build a professional learning network (PLN). These people will be those you can lean on because they understand your job, being the only one in the building, can offer valuable feedback, and celebrate the amazingness that is YOU!
How do you find your PLN?
- Reach out to your state level organization! In Georgia, we have a strong school librarian PLN that continues to grow in order to support school librarians across the state. We have Region Chairs that are ready to help and mentor. See the table below to find out your Region Chair. You can also reach out to the President-Elect, who is there for all member support! Find out more here.
- Use social media to find like-minded individuals such as the Future Ready Librarians Facebook Page or Future Ready Secondary Librarians Facebook Page and Twitter hashtags like #GaLibChat, #futurereadylibs, #istelibs, #tlchat. We're even on Instagram (#librarianfollowloop, #librariansofinstagram, #schoolmediaspecialists, #mediaspecialistsofinstagram)!
- Reach out to your district personnel to see if they have a mentor program in your district.
- Remember, it never hurts to ask or to reach out to someone. Some of the best mentors I have had are people I have reached out to because I took a leap to connect with them through social media.
You don't have to be perfect. Or try all the things.
With that being said, many of us are excited to try all the things. Each year, I try to become an expert at three things - a strategy, a tech tool, something...It's helped me focus and allowed me grace to not feel like I have to be perfect and try everything I see online. Focus on your goals, your school's goals, and try to find just three things you feel comfortable achieving and mastering this school year.
Martha Bongiorno, Ed.S.
Martha Bongiorno is a school library activist, national speaker and presenter, and creator of possibilities. With experience in rural and urban communities and in all grade level bands, she is currently serving as a school librarian in Metro Atlanta. Martha supports students and educators by pushing boundaries of traditional education to empower learners as thinkers and creators to make positive change in their communities. With her unique perspective from the heart of the school, she explores how the tapestry of learning is interwoven with literacy, technology, creativity, and student voice. Martha participates in the larger educational community as President of Georgia Library Media Association, serving on various library and EdTech committees, and serving as an ISTE Ambassador, Adobe Creative Educator, Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and Master Trainer, and a Flipgrid Student Voice Ambassador since 2016.