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Attached is the requested HIT about my private school library plight. Thank
you for your advice and support- makes for a brighter Monday and rest of the


--Kim Thatcher

The Knox School




okay take a deep breath. Love the word Director in your title. Now start
expecting to be treated like one.  Your library is just a room full of books
not a library. Evaluate the collection and put together a long

range- 5 year plan. What kind of circ system do you need? How much square
footage. Put together a budget inclucing an aid. Write out your information
literacy curriculum and identify the teachers in the school that you will
work with to implement.  Put in a request to go to New Orleans for ALA not
only for professional development, to gather infpo to improve library
services through vendor relations and peer support. 

Time to put those energetic student bodies to work. Turn off the computers.
Put together a community service schedule together. Those kids should be
helping. I have 4th grade and up working for me. Opening mail. Filing
catalogs. cleaning.  Sorting damaged books.Stamping and boxing discards.
Elevate your leg and point your cane. I unfortunately find myself in a
non-walking body on occaision so I can sympathise. 

Kids bring books to me and I sort into mail crates labeled with the next

action- reshelve, discard, repair. Get extra money to work through tthe
summer and see if there are any library school interns who can come in a
couple hours a weeks. Lunch.- "yes I am eating lunch, I will be with you as
soon as I swallow." E-mail your plan to the headmaster and request an
appointment for discussion. perhaps a parent committee would be helpful.


First of all, schedule a lunch period and GO! Go to the teacher's lounge to
eat. This is also a good way to connect with the other teachers. Find out
what they are teaching in the classroom. I schedule a prep time and a lunch
time. Teachers have lunch and prep and so should I! 

Second, schedule parent volunteers to help in the library. In September send
out a letter asking for parent volunteers to help in the library. Make a
weekly schedule (see attachment) with a morning and an afternoon time slot.

Two to three parents take each time slot. I have about 25 volunteers
scheduled to come in and help each week. The parents love to help and I love
having the help. 

Have a volunteer tea at the end of the year to thank the parents. Soon all
the teachers will want parent volunteers. 

Good luck!

Keep ranting, Kim.  I too am in a private school upper school library. 

We do appear on the web page, but the internal web system, CranNet, is
impossible to work with.  They keep assuring us that WhippleHill is creating
a new portal that will take us out of the closet, but they've been promising
us that for two years.  In the meantime, the students are directed to a web
page one of our librarians designed that has been placed on an external


We have two Upper School libraries on this campus with two librarians and
two assistants.  Hopefully, our librarians appreciate us--not always seen
but occasionally heard from.  We have a dwindling budget because they have
other priorities.  We have parent volunteers who help out every week.

 Noise, MySpace, games, etc. are not allowed on the Library computers. 

If they persist after a warning, they are asked to leave.  And, we don't
tolerate noise.  This is the only quiet place they can come to where they
can study.

 My suggestions:


1.  If necessary, close the Library at lunch time.  You deserve to eat in
peace.  If the administrtion can't handle that, then tell them you need a
teacher to oversee the Library while you go to lunch.


2.  Unpack your books.  If you move, you move.  Deal with that later. 

Check with your Mothers' Council to get volunteers to help you.  Ask for
volunteers from the students, although we aren't really allowed to do that
because they have to study.  Are there other librarians in your private
school?  Ask for their assistance.  


3.  Tell the administrators that you would like to see the plans for the new
Library and why.  Be very clear.


4.  Don't tolerate students who don't behave properly in the Library. 

You need to set the standards.  Students who find ways to get into the
Library when you have gone to lunch should be sent to the Dean for
discipline (need his/her cooperation, of course).  


5.  You absolutely shouldn't be doing that much while you are on crutches!
Tell the administration that if they want the work done while you are on
crutches, you need a temporary paid assistant.  (Maybe by proving the need,
you can get a permanent full or part time person.)  I broke my foot carrying
an overhead downstairs three years ago, and they wouldn't even let me in the
building until I was off of crutches.


 Hi Kim,

My library is sort of a ditto to yours only they cut my hours to three 7
hour days a week and I have no aids. And, I even have to donate time I used
to get paid for for doing book fairs and open houses!  Luckily we are a
small school but I do have 4 half hour classes on one day in a 2.5 hour time
period.  It is really tough in many, many ways.  Little support, NO web page
acknowledgement, yada, yada, yada....  But, I found that the reward is the
kids and teachers.  I love helping them in any way possible.  My attitude is
I am there to serve and I do it in whatever circumstances they put me
through.  Its like they are my extended family and sometimes you just have
to make due with what you have.  I have been known to whine and complain
some but I usually come back to how much I love what I do and that I think I
make a difference in kids lives (and teachers really do appreciate all I do
for them).  

I understand what you're going through.  I hope this helps.  Whenever I am
overwhelmed, I take a deep breath and dive in!

Good Luck!


Oh yes... this is my first year in a private school too.  I had and am still
having some of those issues.  To top it off, I am also the 2nd youngest
staff member and was confused for one of the students the first couple weeks
of school.  It was hard to establish authority.


Here are some things I've learned:

1.  I don't have an aide either.  I do have one student that comes one
period for 4 days of the week.  That's it.  I've learned that I have to
prioritize.  A wiser school librarian told me that tasks that "benefit the
most students" should be done first.  I will never be "all finished," and
I've just had to accept that.


2.  I've supported every one of my new ideas, plans, changes, etc. with
documentation and research.  Look for articles in journals or databases that
support your plan.  Type up a brief (1 page or less) proposal for your
administrators.  Highlight only the most important points.  I've attached
the rationale I gave to my administrators when I realized I needed to weed
over 50% of our collection.  


3.  If your administrators aren't exactly supportive- go to the parents.

My school gave me hardly any money and was less than enthusiastic about my
budget increase proposal (even though it was well researched and
supportive).  So I went to the Parents Club.  See if your school has a
similar organization.  I haven't heard back yet on how much money the
Parents Club is giving me, but I'm confident it's much more than the school.
Attached is the brochure I gave them during my presentation.

They were very impressed.  


4.  I've also dealt with the pressure to provide a quiet study space and
being a "babysitter."  I made a few enemies while dealing with this issue.
I got written responses from other school librarians who refused to babysit
or have study halls in their libraries. I showed them to my administrator.
I no longer accepted whole classes in the library unless their teacher was
there too.  I started kicking students out who could not keep their voice at
an appropriate level.  This has been the hardest and most difficult issue so
far.  I'm still struggling with it.  But ultimately, it has earned me more
respect from my fellow teachers.  Be firm in this issue, but polite.  I've
had to make a few compromises, but fought for the things I thought were most


5.  As for the website- you need to be on it!  There are tons of articles on
how important the library's website is.  Use them!  Present it to your
administrators and your parents.  The LM_Net archive is also full of
information.  If they won't agree to it- start your own.  Get someone to
design it for you or learn how to do it yourself.  There are tons of
low-cost and free web hosting options.  It may not be fancy, but include the
important things.  Publicize it in your library and with your students.
Don't focus on what you can't do- focus on what you can.


6.  Finally, I've learned to be careful about when to push issues and when
to let them be for awhile.  I still have many many things I want to change.
But I'm saving some for next year.  Be a constant presence in the
admistration's ear, but don't be a pest.  Same with teachers.  Show them how
you can make their workload light.  Don't tell them you can "help them."
Many don't want or think they don't need help.  But tell them you can make
their workload lighter by co-planning lessons, finding materials, etc.
Also, build relationships with other private school librarians in your area.




>  This is not just a rant (I have had others prior to this) but I am
perplexed. This is my first year in a private school library. It is just
that priorities seem to be so different.



The difference in priorities is just one of the differences between public
and private schools. Unfortunately, the differences aren't always apparent
to the general public.


> I was brought in with a goal to automate the catalog, weed thousands of
books sitting on boxes to make the library looklike one, and i keep meeting
resistance now- I need to be able to do library tasks, but they do not
understand that I need an aide at times. OK, not just the fact that I have a
cane and am recovering from a broken ankle right now, I still need help
shelving and weeding and all those library things that people do not think
we do. OK, this is turning into a rant. 


>  Maybe I have my goals set too high and we do not have the financial base
to have all that neighboring private school libraries have, but honestly- we
aren't even mentioned on the web page. It isn't considered a marketable tool
- ???




Public school people think that private schools are awash in money and
select only the top students from all the applicants. The truth is that
private schools have to scramble for every dollar, and usually have to take
any warm body that comes through the door.




>  The headmaster has plans to move this to another space, but he showed me
once, and then nothing. I feel out of the loop on major decisions that
impact the library. That impact what I purchase! I never make it to lunch, I
am treated like a babysitter sometimes - they want the library to be a quiet
serious place to study, but then I get romper room and myspace time when
they come in after lunch and before classes resume. I am trying to eat, but
then I have to keep refereeing the social time. Locking doors didn't help-
they find ways to get in like it is a challenge. 



I think you need to sit down with the headmaster and have a serious talk.
I'd suggest you call him up to the library, rather than you going down to
his office. That way he can see some of what you are talking about. Your
conversation ought to focus on no more than three areas, and at the end of
the meeting you should have a commitment from him to address your concerns.
Before you schedule the meeting you ought to have laid out exactly what the
problem is and what needs to be done.


I'd suggest that you deal with the two issues you mention above - a possible
move, and lunch. Explain to him that you need to be involved in the plans to
move the library. It doesn't matter whether he wanted to do it next month
and now can't (for whatever reason) or whether it won't happen for another
10 years - you need to be involved. Explain about purchasing decisions, etc.


The lunch issue is one that you may have to yield a bit on. During the 10
years I was at a private school I either ate lunch at my desk (library was
open) or went home (library was closed, and yes, I lived close enough). We
didn't have computers in those days, so that wasn't an issue. You probably
ought to draw up some rules about what is and is not acceptable use of the
library, get him to sign off on them, and then put them in next year's
handbook. "Ask" him to let the rest of the faculty know what the rules are
and that they are expected to help enforce them.


You are learning something that I wish all teachers could learn - the grass
isn't always greener on the other side of the fence!



If there is some way to go back and revisit with your admin what you were
hired to do, you could outline what you will need in terms of time, help and
money to accomplish it.


You might honestly say you didn't realize the actual state of the library
collection and program and, now that you've been there for year, for have a
better handle on the situation to BETTER SERVE THE STAFF AND STUDENTS!!!
(Try not to present this as an "I need"

but rather that the "students need").


Provide her/him with some current articles about how effective school
libraries are run.


I'm sorry your experience is not a good one. I came into a private school
that hadn't had a prof librarian and they were so excited to have someone.
Very supportive of the needs.


Make sure you are using available services from your local school library
system - probably through B.O.C.E.S. It serves all school libraries.


As far as the automation is concerned, that needs to be a priority!  With
everything going digital, not having the collection accessable online is
only hurting your student's ability to do proper research.  Do you have any
online databases?  They are also fabulous for research.


>I need to be able to do library tasks, but they do not understand that 

>I need an aide at times. I still need help shelving and weeding and all 

>those library things that people do not think we do.

Keep petitioning for an aide but, in the mean time, try to recruit library
volunteers from your parent population.  We have a huge volunteer staff and
we'd not be able to do what we need to do, without them and we even have 2
librarians and 2 full time aides to help us!  You do need help, even without
the cane, that's for sure.  Outline your typical day and all that you have
to do to keep the library running properly and submit it year after year
until they relent and give you some help.  Even part time help would be
better than none.



>  Maybe I have my goals set too high and we do not have the financial 

>base to have all that neighboring private school libraries have, but 

>honestly- we aren't even mentioned on the web page. It isn't considered 

>a marketable tool - ???

  One of the main reasons to be included on the web site is so that kids can
get access to the tools that the library has.  One way we've made our site
important (we were going for indispensable but Google makes this difficult)
is to create [ ]project
pages for classes.  They are one-stop shopping for the student's
informational needs.  They have to go to our site to access them.  As
important as our library page is, it's still not on the [ ]main school site.  You have to
go to the Quick Links menu to find the library.  We've been working to
change this butto no avail, as of yet.



>  The headmaster has plans to move this to another space, but he showed 

>me once, and then nothing. I feel out of the loop on major decisions 

>that impact the library. That impact what I purchase!

I'm sure you've heard the saying "the squeeky wheel gets the oil"?  Be
really squeeky and get lots of research together as to the importance of a
library to a school.  There are lots of reports and articles about how a
good library, staffed with professionals actually helps raise test scores,
which is something that administrators tend to pay attention to.  I've
attached a couple of things that I used to make a plea for the inclusion of
a library in our new middle school building.  I don't know if they helped or
not, but I've still got my fingers crossed!


>I never make it to lunch, I am treated like a babysitter sometimes - 

>they want the library to be a quiet serious place to study, but then I 

>get romper room and myspace time when they come in after lunch and 

>before classes resume. I am trying to eat, but then I have to keep 

>refereeing the social time.

>Locking doors didn't help- they find ways to get in like it is a 


 I don't have any advice for this stuff except that if you had an aide, you
wouldn't have to lock the doors and you'd be able to eat lunch in peace.  Is
there some sort of law stating that teachers should get a certain amount of
time to eat lunch with out being on duty?  There is here in Georgia and, if
you have a similar law, that might help your plight.  I think that all
school librarians are babysitters at some point during the day and
monitoring student's computer time is difficult.  You could approach your
tech folks and see about getting myspace and facebook blocked.  Many school
districts are doing so because of all the trouble those sites are causing
right now (predators online, student bullying, etc.).


I don't envy you being a one-woman show.  I was that, at one time, and it's
hard to find the support you need.  I've been in both private and public
school libraries and much prefer my private school experiences.
Unfortunately, you don't seem to be having as great an experience.  Good
luck and I hope things get better for you!!!



I hear you.

I know it will get better for you.

I came here 20 years ago, the first professional, full-time librarian.

The collection was pretty solid BUT old, hand-me-downs. The library was a
study space, a social place, a DETENTION place, and a makeup test place with
books thrown in. (I got rid of detentions my 2nd or 3rd year.

We still do makeup tests [argh! but I don't supervise them....honor



I have persevered....Now it's a REAL library. Many teachers STILL don't
understand, and some days it's still depressing!

I've helped the library community here come a long way, pushed just enough,
hardly EVER get more than ten minutes for lunch in the library.

The parents appreciate our library, the boys (all boys) do really well here.
I've finally sold them all on using databases. YES!

Our catalog is great - I've had computerization about ten yrs now. We're
about to upgrade to InfoCentre!!!!!


The more they see you do, offer, clean a few years they'll
appreciate you. Some great teachers and students MUST already appreciate
you. I know they do.

I used volunteers to help. Then got a paid (or through tuition

reduction) helper several hours per week in the beginning. Now I have a mom
fifteen hours per week. It's manageable not perfect, though.

I figure there are trade-offs. I'm older now and I can't see being a trail
blazer somewhere else. (was a public school teacher....) So I stay here. 


If the school is worth it, my advice is: stay there, keep
improving...realize small steps are an advancement. Love the
you care about everyone and the teachers' hard job, too.

It will be better each September; you'll see.

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