I have written about the stories we tell ourselves that hold us back from being the leaders we need to be, but there is one other that too many librarians believe. They see themselves as isolated. As the only librarian in the building, there is no one who understands what they do and what their challenges are.
As with the other stories, there is a surface truth but it is far from the whole story. What’s more, believing it turns you into a complainer. Even if you don’t express your thoughts to your colleagues, you unwittingly communicate your attitude and it sends them a negative message.
Yes, you are likely the only librarian in your school. Perhaps you have multiple schools for which you are responsible. Possibly you are the only librarian in your district. But you are alone only if you choose to be.
There are others who are “alone” in their jobs. The school nurse is one. At the elementary level, the art, music, and physical education teachers have no else doing their job. Then there is the computer teacher—and the principal. Have you ever considered reaching out to them and seeing if you can collaborate on a unit?
Years ago, I worked in an elementary school where the “specials” selected a theme and each of us worked with all the grades, bringing our area of specialization to having students explore the topic in great depth. One of the projects was on marine life. While I had classes research different aspects of the subject, the art teacher had them making murals and paintings of underwater life, the music teacher taught sea chanties and other sea songs, and our very creative physical education teacher devised a series of game and activities dealing with the underwater realm.
We had fun planning together. It was a great opportunity to find out more about my colleagues as people as well as their individual knowledge and discover how it could all be brought together. The complete project culminated in an evening presentation that utilized the halls and gym. The walls were covered with student art and along the way, students performed and shared their new-found knowledge of marine life. In the gym, there were exhibitions of the activities they had learned. Parents were enchanted and the students loved it. I met a number of them later when I was transferred to the high school and invariably mentioned the “special projects” they had been involved in over the year. I am sure they remembered these far more clearly than any class assignment they had.
You don’t have to do something on this scale although perhaps you can build toward it. Choose one of these teachers whom you think would most probably want to take on this type of project. See if the nurse has a health-related project he or she would like to do. It could include decorating the nurse’s office.
The same is true with the computer teacher. What specific applications is he or she is teaching students. Can you come up with a real-life project where students would have to use those applications to present or track their findings?
And then there is the principal. Granted it’s harder, but administrators in small schools are likely to be the “only” one doing the job, and it’s a tough one. Could you help? You both see the big picture, knowing all the students and teachers and the curriculum. Perhaps you can offer to do any research he or she needs. If you read Educational Leadership, the journal of ASCD (the high school should have a subscription or check your periodical databases), you can keep current with the trends in education. Then share any information you get on those topics.
But what about how you do your job? Nobody in your building gets that. But your librarian colleagues do. Social media has made it simple to connect to them. There are a host of school library-related Facebook groups from LM_NET to Future Ready Librarians, to my own School Librarian’s Workshop.
Your state association is likely to have a Facebook group as well as a listserv. Be part of it. Ask for help when you need it. Your state association’s conference is another important way to connect with colleagues. And if you venture out further there is the AASL biennial conference and ALA Annual. If you haven’t reached out before you will be amazed by how willing librarians, including the leaders, are to help others in the profession.
If you feel lonely in your job, it’s because you aren’t making use of all the potential connections. What are you doing to connect and show you are part of your educational and library communities?