Library Leaders

Libraries Grow Leaders

leadership

The role of the teacher librarian is one of leadership – curriculum design, development and implementation; professional learning; collection development and a host of other areas within our learning communities.

At the same time we have the opportunity to assist our students in developing their own leadership skills through a formal library assistants program so not only are they confident, competent independent users of the library but they can then apply the leadership traits and people skills they develop to a wide range of real-world situations they encounter elsewhere.  As the library is often used as a safe haven by students who prefer their own company, the program can also offer opportunities for them to interact with others in a safe, structured environment so they also develop those social skills they will need as they venture into the world.

As school libraries at large seem to be targeted for reduction in ‘hours’ of staff, it becomes even more desirable to have our students contribute in meaningful ways. Many schools already have in place leadership or community service programs and so the implementation of a student library assistant program is extremely beneficial for all. Recruiting enthusiastic students and building on their repertoire of skills, knowledge and confidence can be a life-saver for many teacher-librarians. Additionally, such a structured program provides students with a sequential development that will become an extremely useful ‘real life’ testimonial for future work.

While many schools have library monitors who come in to undertake some of the more menial tasks, a more formal program can become part of any community service requirement as well as enabling students to feel ownership of the library and that they are making a contribution to the learning environment of the school. Having a structured program that

  • embraces all aspects of the work done in the library
  • has a formal recruitment process
  • enables the development of the individual in the course of their duties
  • recognises and rewards the contributions made by participants

demonstrates that the school acknowledges the importance of the position and its place in the sphere of one of the most integral sectors of the school. It offers a diverse and inclusive opportunity for students to contribute and demonstrate leadership that is not based on academic ability or sporting prowess and enables students to

  • support the mission, vision and goals of the library 
  • promote the role and services of the facility within the school’s immediate and broader community 
  • contribute to the corporate life of the school 
  • develop their own knowledge, skills and personal qualities 
  • assist their peers in a practical context 
  • support the library staff by undertaking basic administration duties 
  • demonstrate leadership through being a role model for other students 
  • undertake a position which demands commitment, reliability, co-operation, responsibility and trust 
  • participate in a community service program and develop a work ethic based on commitment, responsibility and co-operation 
  • initiate ideas and develop these into operating projects 
  • understand how a modern information services unit operates and consider teacher-librarianship as a possible career 

It also allows the development of the common leadership traits of

  • vision
  • focus
  • confidence
  • commitment
  • integrity
  • passion
  • patience
  • initiative
  • self-confidence
  • self-reliance
  • decisiveness
  • collaboration
  • persistence
  • accountability
  • flexibility

S.T.A.R.S (for primary students) and Library Ninjas (for secondary students) have been developed as examples of formal library assistants programs.  

stars_hdr_smgif ninjas

 

Both programs operate on a similar structure of five strands and three levels of development so students can develop a broad range of understandings and skills and work their way through a hierarchy of tasks that match their level of development.

The strands and the tasks within them are closely aligned to the vision, mission statement and goals of the library which are articulated in the documentation so that the program has a strong foundation and purpose and students can see how their contributions are helping to achieve these. 

The three pillars of each program are 

Recruitment

A formal recruitment and application process gives status to the role as well as raising the profile of the library and its importance to the whole school community.  It should mirror the sorts of things students will be required to do in the outside workforce but be appropriate t the level and age of the eligible students.  It should

  • be open to all those interested within particular year levels including junior students because they often have fewer commitments 
  • promoted widely through assemblies, posters, social media and so forth
  • includes information about the role itself and the level of commitment expected
  • have a formal application process based on stated selection criteria so students see there is a fair and transparent process
  • enable students to state previous relevant experience, personal interests and special aptitudes that they can bring to the table
  • require teacher reference and parental consent (for younger students)
  • be undertaken in Term 4 for a start in term 1 the following year but flexible so new students are not excluded 
  • have a formal letter of acknowledgement for both successful and unsuccessful applicants (including encouragement to apply again.)

Retention

Like most things, initial enthusiasm can outweigh commitment and so retention can become an issue, particularly as the pressure of other requirements of school life builds.  To increase the chances of students staying committed to the program it should

  • cover a variety of tasks that are relevant to the student and the library and provide opportunities for particular talents to be demonstrated
  • include mundane and creative tasks, popular and not-so popular
  • enable the development of skills to besequential and achievable
  • have a roster system so that everybody has a turn at everything but which is flexible to accommodate specific needs
  • offer clear instructions of what is expected for each particular task including step-by-step where necessary
  • define the extent of their authority within the library including procedures for dealing with tricky clients
  • demonstrate trust in students’ integrity through the provision of passwords, access to restricted areas such as the library workroom and so forth
  • encourage and enable more experienced assistants to support those who are not as experienced
  • invite initiative and innovation so students have both input and ownership of the program and the library
  • offer positive reinforcement and regular recognition of contribution and achievements

Recognition

Given this is a voluntary position undertaken in the student’s own time, recognition of their contribution should be explicit and regular.  This can be done through

  • provision of training booklet (online or print) that enables each student to track and map their progress
  • regular self, peer and TL assessment of contributions so that progress does not stagnate
  • personal journals with evidence of contributions and achievements that serve as a forerunner to creating a portfolio or CV for an employer
  • distinctive badges, caps, t-shirts or lanyards (designed each year by participating students) that make their position easily identifiable by staff and students
  • certificates of service and celebrations of their achievement
  • respect for the position by executive and teaching teams
  • involvement in the selection of new resources and disbursement of the library budget
  • leadership of, assistance with and participation in library promotions
  • leadership of, assistance with and participation in special literary-based events within the school and beyond
  • acknowledgement of contributions through special functions exclusive to participants
  • opportunities to meet with visiting authors, illustrtors and other dignitaries
  • special borrowing privileges
  • Roll of Honour including names and photos so other students know who they cn go to for assistance
  • completion of school community service requirements
  • where appropriate, the teacher librarian may provide a reference based on attitude, attendance and service for future employers

Having a vibrant library assistants program that requires commitment and recognises and rewards the contribution of its participants can and should be a cornerstone of the library’s services. Your library leaders are more than monitors!

Print Friendly