In May, I did a blog “Role-ing Through Your Day” in which I highlighted the many roles we have both in and outside the library. Towards the end of the blog, I mentioned our role as Program Administrator. As I was covering so many of our jobs I didn’t spend much time on it, but it is worth paying it some attention.
In Empowering Learners AASL identifies the four roles we have as school librarians: teacher, information specialist, instructional partner, and program administrator. The first three are our more visible roles, but all too often no one knows what we do or are even aware of our role as program administrator. And when it’s the principal who doesn’t know you are doing it, it is a contributing factor in not understanding the full scope of what we do.
In the blog, I said of this fourth role that it “is far more than the basic management of the library program. It comes to the heart of us as leaders. It demands that we have vision and are willing to be a risk-taker in moving our program constantly forward so it’s not mired in the past. We incorporate the other three roles we have in order to create a program that is viewed as vital and indispensable to students, teachers, administrators, parents, and even the community.”
Here is what AASL says being a Program Administrator entails.
“As program administrator, the SLMS, ensures that all members of the learning community have access to resources that meet a variety of needs and interests. The implementation of a successful SLMP requires the collaborative development of the program mission, strategic plan, and policies, as well as the effective management of the staff, the program budget, and the physical and virtual spaces. To augment information resources available to the learning community, the SLMS works actively to form partnerships with stakeholders and sister organizations at local and global levels. The SLMS also addresses broader educational issues with other educators in the building, at the district level, and at the professional association level.”
It is an exhausting description of your responsibilities. And that’s on top of the other three. There is no way you can do more than the bare minimum of these without becoming a leader. My graduate students find this role intimidating and keep pointing to the small budgets as a barrier to making much of this happen. And while budget issues are a problem, we cannot hide behind them to avoid doing a vital part of our job.
Let’s look at it sentence by sentence. The first does speak to a strong collection that represents diversity and curricular needs. Not having sufficient funds to order new books can be a serious challenge to carrying this out. But do you have interlibrary loan through your state or consortium? Are you making effective use of it? Have you made students and teachers (and your administrators) aware of it?
The second sentence deals with developing a cohesive program based on a Mission (hopefully a Vision as well) and a strategic plan. That keeps everything you do on track. If you don’t know how to create a strategic plan, look for a session on it at your state conference or check online for samples. If you can’t work collaboratively on developing the vision and plan (and you can possibly do it with other librarians in your district), try having some teachers and an administrator critique what you develop. Most of you don’t have staff to manage, although if you do have volunteers they are included in this. High school librarians are accustomed to creating and expending their budgets and most elementary librarians are making do with what they have.
As to the physical and virtual space, you do need to look at your library with fresh eyes. Is it getting tired? How often are displays changed? How much student work is present? Can the furniture be arranged better? Are your tables easily moveable? If not, consider putting on casters. The virtual space is your website and other online presence. How often do you update content on your website? Is it time to give it a new look? What do you have for parents on your site?
The last two sentences move you outside your building. If you haven’t done so already, develop a collaborative partnership with the public library and reach out to any college in your area to work together. What businesses in your district would be interested in working with the library? You may get funding this way as well.
And always, keep up with the trends and concerns in education in addition to libraries. This makes you a resource for your administrators and teachers. It also ensures you are ready for whatever the next “thing” is.
This is you as a leader. Make the most of it. And let your administrator know as part of your quarterly and annual reports.
How are rising to the challenge of this fourth role? Where can you use some help?