My first week as a school librarian, I answered hundred of questions, navigated the lab reservation calendar, and hunted for the light switches and paperclips. When the first day of school arrived, I had no displays ready and a homeroom I didn’t know I had until they walked into the library and sat down. That day, I literally ran from the building at 4:00 and had no intention of returning.
Before leaving my office, I sent an email and the response saved me from myself. My mentor reminded me what I was experiencing would pass. I would find my way, and I had not made the biggest mistake of my life. I was not the first person to run from the building with no intention of returning. Those words have stayed with me throughout my career as a school librarian, In fact, I have repeated those words to new librarians as they struggled through their first weeks and months.
New school librarians face some massive challenges. As new teachers, they are learning the district policies, schedule, and faces. They are also expected to hit the ground running when the teachers report and to have answers to impossible questions. Mentors are the safety net for school librarians either new to the profession or new to a district. They assist in navigating the light switches and paper clips, as well as the bigger questions about curriculum, management, and professionalism. Mentors reach across a table and tell us we are letting too many people take our energy, and they remind us we are really good at what we do.
As a new school librarian, how do you begin to find a mentor, when you are barely getting through the day? Look to those who have inspired you through classes, conferences, and social media. Librarians are always willing to share and to support each other. Your experiences, frustrations, and concerns are those shared by school librarians across the state and nation.
One of things we learned from the NSLA survey last fall, was the need for a better mentoring network. Knowing full well many library professionals are singletons in their building and district, the need for a mentor network is critical. The school librarian experience is different from the classroom teacher experience. It is something we are working to bring to our membership in the future. Visit with us at NLA/NSLA this October if you are interested in mentoring another library professional or if you would like to connect with a mentor on your adventure as a school librarian.
Cynthia Stogdill, NSLA President-elect
This blog is a joint effort by members of the NSLA Executive Board. We hope to provide relevant information, tips and tools to help you in your journey.