Things they don’t teach you in Library School- Part One

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Ok, everyone, this is the post that I’ve been thinking about ever since I started working as a librarian. Now, my story to becoming a librarian is not typical as I started as a public librarian and then moved into a school librarian position. And while there are many public librarians who are vocal about what library school does and doesn’t prepare you for, I’m going to focus on the school side of it. And I really want it to be helpful and positive. Really, there’s enough negativity in the world. So. Here. We. Go.

1. How to handle it, graciously, when teachers are frustrated or angry

This is the biggest hurdle for anyone in public service, but I’m going to share with you a model that was given to me by one of my former managers at a Big Box Bookstore. I was a manager, a lowly underpaid manager, and I loved my job, but it was challenging learning how to manage people. Really, it’s not easy asking someone to go and clean a toilet or to finish their work early because we didn’t have the hours for them to finish out their shift. And worst of all, giving constructive criticism or telling someone that something they did was wrong. Our business management section was full of books that tried to address this problem, but my managing habits changed for the better the day I was given one card- How to give constructive criticism. It had five steps and it changed how I talked to everyone. Angry customers, check. Employees who wanted more hours, check. And yes, it works for teachers.

Here’s the card in a nutshell that saved my managing career.

Giving constructive feedback:

Convey your positive intent

Describe what you have noticed

Ask the other person to respond

Focus the discussion on solution

 

With teachers I change the model up.

Listen.

Convey your positive intent (Explain if you can help or if you need to bring someone else into the conversation )

Listen and remain positive.

Listen some more.

If the teacher wants a solution you should restate the solution so that everyone understands the next step.

It’s easy to try to fix everything, and at times you may need to help out…but sometimes a teacher just might want someone to listen. Listening and being positive is something that is essential to your success as a leader on your campus. People will remember how you helped, or how you listened, or how you smiled while they talked. And they will come back. We want repeat customers in the library. You want repeat customers in your library.

 

2. How to build a positive relationship with your principal

Your principal is your boss. Plain and simple. And just like when you tried to wow your boss in college so you could get first pick of shifts at Starbucks(yup, that happened), you want to wow your principal. From day one. You know that video from TEDtalks by Amy Cuddy “Your body language shapes who you are” or “Fake it till you make it”, this is your time to practice being awesome, even when you have no idea how you will accomplish it…yet. Volunteer for stuff and whatever you do, be nice to the secretary. Really, the principal’s “right-hand man” is important, so treat her with respect and she will take care of you.

Communicate early, communicate often. Make a point of reaching out to your principal on a near daily basis. I make a point to say good morning when I run down to check my mailbox, and I’ve figured out what her “I’m super-busy face” looks like before I even step in the door of her office. Be respectful of his/her time and always come with a solution to every problem you have. If I have a problem, I want to have thought about solutions beforehand, not just come knocking on his/her door with problem after problem. Be a solution-maker, not problem-taker.

Make your principal look good. School Board member coming for a tour? Do something amazing. Really. Drop everything and help them out. Tweet about the awesome things you do in the library and tag your school or principal in the post.

Be a Team Player. If someone needs help, help them, because you need to show that you are a team player. If your principal starts any statement with “I need a favor”, 99% of the time your answer should automatically be yes.

What do you think librarians fresh out of library school need to know about being a librarian? Tweet your answer to me @gidgetytaylor with the hashtag #libraryschool and I’ll list out all of your answers in Part Two. 

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