In answering these questions (while there is no typical day, though I do have daily responsibilities), what kept coming back to was that being a librarian is about more than just finding information and resources or a good book to read, it is about creating a culture that becomes the heartbeat of your school.
This is no small feat...so thank goodness that we are librarians and becoming a “Community Culture and Comfort Creator” is one of our many superpowers! Now in fairness, I didn’t coin this term. My Assistant Principal supplied it as she was describing what I have done in the past two years at the Silver Lake Regional High School Library and I have to say that it has become my favorite new term. Now going back to my colleague and that question of what did she need to know before making the leap, I told her that she will need to develop her superpower as a “Community Culture and Comfort Creator” and here is my advice on how to do so:
- Be Everywhere. I know this is tough (especially if you are on a fixed schedule), but involve the Library as much as you can and as many different ways that you can in all avenues of your school. Be proactive in asking to meet with department heads, teachers, and student groups. Let them know that you are here to support them and help to make their lives easier. Reach out to libraries in your district and towns. Working together goes a long way and it helps everyone shine brighter. Band together on everything from handing out food at a senior event, to coordinating a community Veteran’s Day celebration. No job is too big or too small - try to be involved as much as you can.
- Stay positive. My favorite quote is “No matter the weather, bring your own sunshine.” And it’s true - I know that not everyone is always feeling that they are the best versions of themselves, and if they are in my Library during this moment of their lives, it is so important to remember that my job is to help make their lives easier and that my focus is to help provide positivity that is real and compassionate with information or entertainment that meets them where their needs are.
- Be yourself and market it to your students and faculty. Students can spot inauthenticity in a heartbeat. Be you so that they know it is always okay for them to be themselves. I try to show my true self each chance I get, whether it is totally geeking out over building a bibliography, dressing like a giant pumpkin to welcome my Little Lakers (our preschoolers) in for a story-time, or sharing my excitement over a new title. I always try and share a bit of my passion in each conversation that I have.
- Meet folks where they are. I have a sign in my Library that says, “It’s okay to take a break.” Students have so much going on in their worlds, that I want the Library to meet the need that they have at that moment. So if I have a student who needs my space to catch a quick cat nap, please do so. If I have a group of students that would like to hang out and play pool (we have a mini pool table), and if they have the available time in their schedule, go for it! Lunch in the Library (pre-covid) absolutely! Building social / emotional relationships and providing a space for our students to do so is a huge part of being a “Community Culture and Comfort Creator.” If my students are not comfortable using the library for what they need socially and emotionally, then there is no way that they are going to feel comfortable approaching me to ask me for help in something that is frustrating them academically.
- CLEAN. I clean all the time and it shows. Cleaning, organizing and keeping things bright, colorful, and crisp is important. I also try to think of the space through my students eyes and always ask for their voice in making changes.
- Change constantly, but be consistent in your change. This applies especially well to displays. I am constantly changing them each month, pushing the displays/books out on social media and sharing them with students and staff. However, they also know where my displays tend to be (by the cafeteria, on my desk - or any flat surface in the Library, and on my digital display pages on the Library website).
- The Library is a great place to build great relationships with our students. Our space (physical, virtual, social-emotional) needs to be many things to many different people. I am a big proponent of saying yes until I have to say no. I think this makes a huge difference in creating a culture of availability and being a place that people know they can count on.
- Buy a good laminator and a Cricut machine. The investment is worth it in the long run and it will help you build engaging displays and create the atmosphere that you are looking for in your space.
- Let folks know that you are always on the lookout for items to use in your library. Decorations, games, books - get the word out and let them know that you are interested in donations.
- Dream big and dream out loud. Talk about the why before the what and remember that as author Jason Reyolds has said “Dreams don’t always have timelines, deadlines, or straight lines.”