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I'm not an expert on this--indeed my postings are often criticized and 
even flamed--but based on what I learned from library school and 
respected contributors on this listserv, I would like to offer my 
comprehension of the Fixed/Flex Scheduling issue.  It's not a just 
matter of where we are, but also how far we've come.

It seems to me that fixed scheduling was originally (and often still is) 
a system of non-negotiable library visits with lessons from a specific, 
fixed, scope & sequence Library curriculum based on what kids needed to 
know about the library & its books--that is, it was a separate 
curriculum just as English, Math, Social Studies, Science and Fine Arts 
were seen as separate curriculums.  There was no coordination of Library 
skills with what was happening in any of the classrooms, but that seemed 
OK, since none of the classroom activities were coordinated either, even 
in elementary schools.  (Frankly, I'd have been real pleased to have had 
this kind of library education back in the 50s & 60s--I had none.)  

Eventually everyone, including librarians, realized that a more 
coordinated and integrated approach to education was necessary. For 30 
years educators have been struggling to improve what students are doing 
in classrooms, including coordination and integration of curriculum at 
all levels wherever possible.  For example, Social Studies classes now 
study literature and art and music of cultures and time periods (and I 
don't understand why Fine Arts classes don't do more to coordinate with 
this).  Along the way we've increased the use of technology and 
authentic project-oriented assessment (who else remembers when no one 
knew what a rubric was?)  

Educational advancements increased use of the library, highlighting 
inadequacies in student information literacy skills and the need for an 
improved library program that could address these skills at point of 
need.  Thus Information Power emerged, quite awhile ago actually, to 
promote the integration of library skills into the curriculum and a 
flexible approach to library use so that the teaching of these skills 
could happen when that point in the curriculum was reached.  And for 
that to happen, librarians and teachers had to collaborate on how and 
when to teach.

So, gone is a library scope & sequence that stands alone, taught by a 
librarian in isolation from other subjects, when a particular class is 
dropped off by a certain teacher according to a prescribed time schedule 
for each day of each week.  Now we need to be involved with curriculum 
writing so we can integrate library skills and write appropriate 
lessons, now we need time to plan with teachers about which 
classroom--theirs or ours or even the computer lab's--will be used and 
who will teach what, now we need the ability to schedule classes into 
the library when we need them to be there, for a few days in a row if 
necessary.  And that is flex scheduling.

The key word in flex scheduling is the word schedule.  It means WE, the 
librarians, have the flexibility to schedule library use, that WE have 
control of who uses the library and when, rather than being forced to 
accept specific classes one period a day, one day per week.  It means we 
can decide when a class needs to be in the library and it also means 
that yes, kids who are working on projects we've had a part in teaching 
CAN come to the library at any time even if they're NOT scheduled.

While fixed scheduling denies us power over our schedule, flex 
scheduling is also being used to take away our decision-making power by 
telling us we can't have any schedule at all, that we need to provide 
unlimited access for anyone, anytime they want to wander in, to do 
anything they want.  On the contrary, flex scheduling also means we CAN 
say no to casual drop-ins because we DO have a class scheduled in the 
library and we need to be totally attentive to their needs, and this is 
especially true if we don't have an aide to assist and keep order.  And 
it also means we CAN schedule the same class for the same time on the 
same day every other week all year long, because we have decided that IS 
what our students need.

Hmmm, what our students need.  Information Power stresses integrating 
library skills with what is being taught in the classroom, and being on 
a flex schedule promotes that; however, being on a fixed schedule 
doesn't excuse us from it.  A fixed schedule can provide more regular 
opportunities to present new library skills and reinforce what we're 
teaching (flex schedulers envy us that), so it means knowing our 
school's curriculum very well and developing a wide repertoire of 
activities to keep students engaged and moving forward.  As teachers 
work with us, they can begin to see the benefits of having a flexible 
library schedule and can be our best allies as we try to convince our 
principal to move in that direction.

Fixed schedules actually demand that we become as flexible as possible 
when integrating library skills into our lessons and planning with 
teachers.  Flexible schedules actually demand that we become even more 
regular about approaching teachers for planning and about scheduling 
classes into the library for curriculum requirements.  Either way, we 
are forced to become a better professional. 

Barbara Paciotti, SLMIS
Barbara Bush MS, Irving TX

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