The following blog post is an homage to Dear Sucky Administrator, written by Tony Sinasis on his blog, Leading Motivated Learners, which you can find here. This is the librarians’ version. Thank you Tony for the inspiration.
I am sorry for the choice of words, but you know who you are and you are pretty sucky at your work as an educator and specifically as an information leader.
You are the librarian who gives the rest of us a bad name. You are the librarian who perpetuates the "mean librarian" feeling that permeates many a school community. You are the librarian who creates a "Fortress Library" and sends the message to students and teachers that you are not interested in collaborating, sharing or being transparent about your practices. You are the librarian who spends more time in the back office fixing books, cataloging, and doing "important" work instead of being in classrooms and interacting with students and staff. You are the librarian who does not value relationships with the people around you and is only focused on shhhhhshing people, saying no, and protecting your precious books. You are the librarian who doesn't foster a sense of trust in your school. Basically, you are sucky at your job because you have lost the focus on what matters most in education - KIDS!
Fortunately, it is not too late to turn yourself around and go from sucky to at least halfway decent. Here are some things to avoid in your attempt to exit "sucky-ville"...
1) The work of educating children is not about you... it is about creating a space where the educators are empowered to do what is in the best interest of EVERY child! It is about creating a space where students feel welcome and inspired to learn.
2) Do not take yourself so seriously - it is not all about you! Yes, take your work seriously and be passionate about what you do for kids but remember to smile and laugh - especially at yourself!
3) Get out of the library and talk to everyone around you! Talk to the secretaries, the nurses, the custodians, the teachers, the teacher aides, the bus drivers, the families and most importantly, the KIDS!
4) Stop isolating yourself and being so guarded and start sharing and being more transparent in your practices! If you are doing what is in the best interest of KIDS, then you can be open about it and stand behind your actions. Being transparent should come easily. Remember, being a successful librarian is about relational trust and building social capital!
5) Stress the learning and not just the organizing or teaching! Is effective information dissemination and instruction (building-wide and within classrooms) critical? Yes! But, you need to be focused on the learning... the learning of your KIDS... the learning of your staff... the learning of the school community... and your own learning!
6) You are not a "fixed" entity and you have not reached the pinnacle! You still have a lot to learn and do... no matter how long you’ve been a librarian...you still have a lot to try and many things to fail at within your work. You still have to enhance your craft... you still have to get better. And remember that you are a work in progress! And, if you have a chance, become a connected educator - it will change your world!
7) Stop implementing zero tolerance policies and rules based on one incident or what could go wrong! I’ll repeat that: STOP IMPLEMENTING ZERO TOLERANCE POLICIES AND RULES BASED ON ONE INCIDENT OR WHAT COULD GO WRONG! Every situation, child and incident is different so treat it that way. Treat mistakes as an opportunity to learn and grow and get better. For example, when a staff member or child or even you spills a drink, don't ban food. Instead, use it as an opportunity to teach a lesson about responsibility and developing a positive relationship with your students.
8) Stop putting up road blocks for your staff when they want to try and implement new things that might fail, especially when it comes to technology or how your library space is used! Be the remover of road blocks... not the creator of them! Trust your staff and their expertise and get out of their way... unless they need your support or perspective and then offer it in a non-judgmental way!
9) Stop using Department Meetings as an opportunity to complain about how awful your administration, teachers, or students are. And especially don’t be judgemental about how other librarians choose to run their libraries. I’ll say that again: STOP BEING JUDGEMENTAL OF OTHER LIBRARIANS! When you gather with other librarians, make it worth their time because it is precious! These are the only other people who understand what you do. Inspire each other. Help each other. Build each other up.
10) Remember, your work as a librarian is not about you! Your work as an effective librarian is about advocating for the needs of those around you and always doing what is in the best interest of the child! Be the voice for those without one.
11) And lastly... model the behavior of what you expect of those around... model what you would want for your own children if they were in your school!
So, I am sorry to call you out sucky librarian, but there are way too many of you out there in the world of education! The time has come to change and get better because the current landscape of public education is not a positive one and we need leaders who will fight for what is right for our many educational communities.
Please understand that I know I have many shortcomings myself and plenty of things I am sucky at too but I will continue to work on those because I try hard each day to avoid becoming a sucky librarian!