and a recipient of a 2021 MSLA Service Award.
I was so honored to receive the Service award this year. Since the announcement, I have been reflecting on the idea of “service” and how it can make a difference in our lives and for those we "serve’'.
So, what is “service”? The Oxford Library definitions include “the action of helping or doing work for someone... supplying a public need… performing routine maintenance…” I thought of the summer I waitressed at Howard Johnson’s, learning first-hand about the food service profession. I remembered my grandparents service station where everyone came for gas, car repairs, a cold soda, and gossip. We consider people in the military and armed forces as serving our country, those who assist in churches as altar servers, store assistance as customer service, attention to the needs of people as social service. There’s also a really cool Twilight Zone episode entitled “To Serve Man” (spoiler alert: it’s a cookbook!).
In any case, that’s NOT what we consider “Service” in MSLA… at least, not for my experience.
“Serving others” in MSLA is more ‘being the inspiration’ or ‘sharing your knowledge’. What are you doing now that might help a colleague with their program or their library set-up? Is there anyone who has experienced the situation you are having right now: decisions about books? Staff? Lessons? Admin concerns? Many school librarians are ‘singletons’ in their schools or districts, and service is the way to make connections and feel invested in our profession.
When I joined MSLA (as a library aide, back in the late 90s!!), it became my lifeline for questions and help. Then, as my programs developed, I noticed that I would share an idea or lesson and it was well-received, even acknowledged! From there, I started writing short pieces for the Forum, thoughts about connecting with staff members or engaging volunteers. (The added benefit of PDPs wasn’t even on my radar!)
My writing led me to take on the role of co-Editor of the Forum - a huge step for me, as it was a statewide print format back in those days. Yet, the reward of the hard work included connecting with colleagues and ‘serving’ their needs, as well.
You are already doing so much of this “service”: providing the books and resources for your students and staff, connecting with volunteers (when possible), collaborating with public libraries for groups and programs, and always looking for ways to integrate your library into your school. THIS is that service you don’t even notice… recommending a great read, assisting students in research, brainstorming methods to work around all our COVID restrictions.
What else is possible? Sharing your knowledge at a conference or workshop! Yes, it can be intimidating at first, and you’re probably saying things like “well, it’s not THAT good” or “I’m SURE others are doing the same thing”, but… it IS good and not EVERYONE knows about it! My first conference program was about our Book Groups with the public library, and I presented at MSLA. Then I went with another program to NELA...MLS... RILA!
Guess what happened? People responded, gave good feedback, and shared their experiences, too. (Oh, yes, I also kept forgetting to bring my dongle for my Mac, so people had to scramble to help me… and then there was the time I checked my Powerpoint presentation so much that I deleted it…) It’s not always perfect, but - in reality - it’s YOU who holds the details about your program, not the computer.
One of my bravest times of serving the school library world was being a representative at the Annual MTA meeting, and making a statement in an Open Forum about the continued critical need for school librarians. (This was about 15 years ago -- it’s still true!)
After all of this, I am serving again on the MSLA Board, this time as a Co-Area Director. It’s been a great experience, and we have looked at the many ways we can "serve" you better: area meetings with MLS people, Gale folks, authors, bookstores, sharing about Tech Tools, and now - virtual fun with other areas, all to keep you informed, connected, supported and...entertained!
I have been '‘serving" as a School Librarian now for nearly 25 years (even more if you count all those volunteer Library Mom years from kindergarten). There’s nothing special about me - I am in awe of the remarkable work so many of you are doing. Share it out! Join a committee or volunteer for a Board role. Helping each other is a rewarding experience for everyone. We need YOU!
Thank you again for the recognition, but mostly, thank YOU for your service!