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I read through this hit very quickly - so please forgive me if my ideas
are already included here, and I overlooked them.

We all have a vision of what our library should be like, and it is very
hard to do things that we worry will compromise that vision.  I say this
- because I think the scenario I will describe to you would be very hard
on most of us.  But it has worked for 2 of my colleagues.  

They used many of the ideas in this hit.  But - most importantly - they
followed the teacher contract.  Please make sure you know your contract
and that you don't make a martyr of yourself trying to do the work of
two people.  There lies insanity.

In our district, the contract provides for one 40-minute period per day
planning time and a half hour duty free lunch period.  They made sure
they took both of those every day.  How can a librarian with no clerk
take a lunch period and a planning period?  Easy (and hard at the same
time).  They turned out the lights, locked the door and went to lunch
(or into their offices for planning).

Teachers and students were not happy to find the door locked - but the
teachers did understand that everyone needs a lunch period.  The
planning period was a bit more problematic.  My friends made sure that
they did not take the period the same time every day.  They spread it
out as much as possible so as not to impact the same group every day. 
It was HARD for them to do.  But they knew that otherwise they would end
up staying way beyond the end of the day to get their work done and no
one would notice or care if they did so.  Between the time that the
library was closed, and parent volunteers complaining  that there was
not way either they or the librarian could possibly keep up with the
work load, people DID notice.  My friends learned how to say "no"
politely but firmly.  They were not snarky about it - but pointed out to
teachers that with no aide, some services simply had to be cut.  When it
came to AV - replacing bulbs, repairing equipment, taping tv shows etc.,
- there was just no time, and non-functioning equipment simply piled up.

The result?  In both cases, the clerk was reinstated the next year.

Closing the library is a hard thing for us to do.  It flies against our
vision of service.  But exhausting ourselves trying to be 2 people is
not the answer.  If the same services are provided by one person - why
would any administrator hire a second person?  

Did my friends' techniques hurt students?  In the short-term, probably
yes.  In the long-term, it was in the best interest of all the students.


“Education is not about filling a pail, it’s about lighting a fire."  ~
William Butler Yeats

Jacquie Henry, MLS
Ruben A. Cirillo High School (GHS)
Gananda Central School District
3195 Wiedrick Road
P.O. Box 609
Macedon, NY  14502
315-986-3521 x 3144
Library Page:
Blog - Library Links For Teachers:
Blog - WanderingsL
>>> Sara Strobin <sarasrlt@COMCAST.NET> 07/20/09 10:52 AM >>>

Thank you to everyone who took time out to offer ideas on how to
a library and teach without a clerk/assistant/aide!  Below are some
ideas and some humble reminders about our profession.  I removed names
the responses, as some folks requested such.  If any other ideas occur
you as you read this, I'd still appreciate hearing from you.  A
happy summer to all.


Sara Strobin

Library Media Specialist

Brookdale Elementary

Tacoma, WA


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I just finished my first year. I have no help in my library so here are
things I did to help survive:

I taught the kids 1st grade and up how to shelve the mostpracticed 2 or 3 wks 
before starting it. They shelved the Junie B jones
Magic Tree House, Seuss, Skippy Jon Jones, plus several non-fiction I
pulled to a special area because of their popularity--sports, drawing,
and I
Spy. This covered almost half my shelving. I checked in books as they
entered the library, telling them to either shelve it themselves (and
before sitting down or what shelf to place it on the "return bookcase".
had 4 shelves on that bookcase--one for Es, Fs, 000-599, and 600-999. 

Sometimes when my shelving was backed up, I'd limit the kids to choosing
books from the ones that needed to be shelved. I tried to not do this
often, but it did help. 

I hate not having help. I'm one of the few in my county that doesn't
have parent volunteers to help. 

My biggest backup now is processing new books. I'm WAY behind with that.

Good luck and hope you get lots of good advice. 


Are you near a college that might teach library science?  This might be
great way to give those wanting to go into librarianship a chance to
you out and get some great experience.  Something to think about.


Best thing I did: I got white dish wash bins at Target, (I say those
Target, because they are big and not flimsy) I then went and got 4 inch
off alphabet stickers. When the classes come in with their E books, I
them (as young as Kindergarteners) to put the book in the A bin (etc)
I discharge the books. The bins are on top of the shelves for the E
books. I
had a circulation of 14,200 books last year, with no clerk and no

It is crazy, and my principal told me n my review she would like to see
books shelved in a more timely manner. I just smiled when she said would
like to add anything to the review, and wrote down the circ numbers,
the note that because we added AR the circulation was up 900 from the


As for following overdues, no can do without a clerk. Start working now
tell you principal that you will need a sub to come in for at least two
for the inventory, impossible to do with no help!


Let me say first, that I feel your pain! I have a similar aide
who helps me out so much, and it sounds like your and my role (the whole
21st century info literacy/tech skill teaching role in addition to doing
traditional librarian things) are the same.  Are you also the school's
troubleshooter?    First of all: do you have any parent volunteers?  If
make a flyer, talk about the need for some at open house, and tell the
students themselves to ask their parents to come in for 1 hour 1 day a
If you do have parent volunteers, they should do all your shelving and
check the kids books out.  Speaking of which, what are your checkout
I raised mine by a book  when I began my position to K/1 - 1 (same),
4/5-3  but this number greatly affects how many books there are coming
to shelve!  Perhaps you could reduce your limits?  Or not allow students
with an overdue to check out ANY books til it comes back, is replaced,
paid for.  (My students sign an agreement promising to care for/return
or pay.)  Do you have student volunteers?  I have 5th graders come in
school to help little kids look for and check out books, sharpen
run errands, make announcements, clean tables, etc.  They are also able
shelve the everybody fiction books but that's about it.  Twice a year I
treat those who worked to parties and give them goodies in June.  I have
tech team of 4th and 5th graders who, after I teach them the basics,
the classroom computers and the computer lab each Wednesday for one
while I eat lunch.  Every few weeks I show them some new tech skill
(photobooth, podcasting, ichat) or give them the digital camera to take
photos of their classmates who are at recess and they can do that
I also have a photography club for 5th graders since I am responsible
fothem to be sure there's at least one good one of each child and some to
represent field trips, etc.  I "finesse" the slideshow.  These are the
I "delegate".  But, I have to say, I work a lot of OT (my choice) but my
is my hobby, as well as a means of escaping worry!  Hope something here
clicks with you!  You'll be fine!! 


We use parent volunteers to get the books back on the shelves, for
and checking in orders that we then process.  Our set up is similar with
teachers having their planning time while the students have library for
minutes.  We are a large school so we have two librarians with 12
coming each day.
Our planning time is used to get teacher collections together, process
materials, ordering, etc.  We have all our books returned first thing in
morning in a book crate from each class that is coming to library that
We check them in and in about two hours our volunteers have the books
I send home at the beginning of each school year a sign up volunteer
with each student.  They indicate what day they want to work and the
time of
day.  We have found it best to have them all work mornings.  We are a
teaching library so trying to do lesson plans and preparing materials
the lessons and provide a service to our staff provides for long days. 
automation system, Destiny saves us alot of time.
Our library is open from the first period on the first day to the last
period on the last day.  We have managed to get an extend contract with
days before school starts and five days after the school year ends which
helps some.
You will need to provide training for your volunteers so they are really
good helpers.  We have mother volunteers who return even after their
children have gone on to middle school.  Fortunately three years ago, we
an aide for three days each week.  We share the aide with the K - 1

When I was in a school and threatened with this situation (as opposed to
being presented with it, as you have been) I made a  list of all the
I did wearing the hats of curriculum leader, information services
and information specialist - the three categories for the teacher
suggested by the Australian School Library Association.  My library
did the same for her duties - you would have to do this for your
assistant - and then these were circulated to the staff with the
that now there will be one instead of two, which services are they
to no longer have because of this.  It was in table format and the staff
to rate each duty on a 5 > 1 scale so we could get an accurate account


Not only does this give you a prioritised working brief of duties which
can use to defend against any complaints or claims of inefficiency, it
gives staff an eye-opener to the range of things you do but they don't
In my case, we were successful in maintaining the position because of
cries of outrage, but in yours, you may well get your library assistant
or some other suitable arrangement made.


I hope you get some good ideas, but don't be afraid to leave jobs
You are not going to be able to complete things in the same way with
help, and people need to know that.

I'm so sorry for you but I fear that many of us will face the same
as time goes on.  When I don't have sufficient paid assistants, I have
my students (4th and 5th graders) to check books in and out.  I select
library assistants as a reward for behavior and performance in class.

Encourage parent helpers for shelving.  I've had mixed results with

Some parents are great, and reliable.  Others sign up but don't show up,
are clueless when it comes to understanding call numbers.  Those
can help with stamping new books, covering or pulling books, dusting,
organizing on a cart to aide you in shelving later.  If you have some
more responsi  One thing that you might try is explaining to your principal that you
can't possibly do all of the things that your clerk had been doing and
40 minute classes.  Suggest that classes be cut to 25 or 30 minutes. 
will help you with getting things done but more importantly, since this
release time for teachers, it will get them in your corner as support
rehiring the clerk.  Release time is so valuable for classroom teachers
they will yell loud and long if it is cut.  

Good luck.


I know how important clerical help is to keeping a smooth running

Here are a few things that might help:

In the morning before classes start, 5th grade library helpers could
to the rooms that have library class that day.  They could collect and
check-in those books for you.  If time, they could sort them into
piles...easy, picture, chapter, nonfiction, etc.  and left on
tables/cart to
encourage students to check them out (before you have to shelve them!)  


Pull books for K-1  students and don't let them go to the shelves.  Have
table or shelf to display a picture book selection and a nonfiction
selection for them.  As they return their books, they can just be put
on display so someone else can check them out. 


Create some displays/tubs for series, historical fiction, graphic
army/war, princess books, etc.  so they are easy to put away...even
can put them away correctly.


I don't know how much time you have before classes begin each morning,
perhaps there would be enough time to quickly run a class overdue list
each teacher at the beginning of the day.

At the end of each class you could read out who needs to check out books
have the rest of the students sit at tables and read a magazine or play
checkers or dominoes.


Teachers may need to gather their own books or they could send down 2
students to do it for them.  Give teachers a short inservice on how to
your patron's catalog.


Parents or grandparents might be willing to volunteer to help shelve
I have had only one for about 1 1/2 hours each week but it does help
Perhaps you could find a reliable, discreet parent to run and deliver
overdue notices once a week.


Put up a smiley face on the door if/when you are available for open
checkouts.  Give teachers a list of "open checkout" times when they can
pairs of students.  This MIGHT help with some interuptions.


Close the library at lunchtime and go somewhere else to eat.  Don't stay
later than you are used to.  Go home and relax.


Good luck.


Forgive my typing; I'm recovering from shoulder surgery

Same thing happened to me last April.  i made a list of some of the
tasks and met with the principal/vp to go over them.  some items were
to others (not nearly enough) and principal, who keeps telling me not to
stress, said the only time teachers can ask me for help is the half hour
before classes start when I'm required to be in the bldg but not
They will have to learn to be prepared further in advance.  Because of
shoulder surgery I said I couldn't do all the shelving.  Suggestions
included senior citizens, parents, and high school interns.  If I have
have them, I'd pick only the parents I get to invite.  There are too
many I
don't want.  Principal doesn't seem to get it when I say some people
not be shelving books.

Question of whether or not volunteers have to be fingerprinted and who
for it

Obviously services have to be cut

It's truly a horrible feeling

I said (in writing) I'd have to cut classes short so I could do checkout

Problems with keeping an eye on the kids while I'm checking in/out

I feel your pain


I am lucky enough to be on flex access, with a somewhat set schedule of
class visits, I still can not get it all done. I have taught my teachers
run the circ system, my kids shelve their own books. I read the shelves
times a year for accuracy. Don't think clean shelves will happen ttalking/teaching 
points when a kid can't find the book they just
shelved, or
someone is looking for a book that is not where it belongs. You might
want to start a "friends of the library" club, or ask for parent


Being a librarian is like doing laundry, dishes, or eating an elephant.

Laundry and dishes are never done, and you eat an elephant one bite at a
time. Get used to things not getting accomplished and prioritizing your
to-do list.  Do what you need to accomplish, meet your deadlines, and
don't worry about the rest. BTW, rest may be a thing of the past! I work
long hours when needed, shut my door after school, and they think I am
I have stayed until the custodians kick me out, but no one knows I am
unless I walk into the hall and then there is a gasp, though I have been
school all week or month until after 5 or later, but they just don't see
nor do they understand the need.


I'm on vacation now, and when I was called by the summer school
principal to
come pass out equipment I told them where everything was, and to return
all when classes were over.


You'll survive.  I had no clerk at all last year and it wasn't nearly as
as I thought it would be. I also serve a "special" and I saw every class
twice every six days for 40 minutes.  Here are some things I did.  I'm
proud of all of them, but they allowed me to focus on teaching rather
clerical tasks. 


1) I really talked up the books that were being returned and encouraged
kids to look through my cart of books waiting to be shelved.  Usually
are the books everyone wants anyway.  


2) I minimized seasonal displays of books and displayed books as they
returned instead.  Much easier to stand a book up on a shelf for display
than to shelve it normally.  I displayed LOTS of books on tops of my
shelves and windowsills.


3) I did not send out overdues until June.  I did speak to students with
overdue books during the year, and that seemed to be enough.  I was
surprised by how few there actually were at the end of the year.  I
end up losing any more books than I've lost in years when overdues went
every two weeks.


4) I made library cards for the K-2 students with their name and
When they arrived at the library I would "trade" with them.  If they had
their book, they would get their card and could borrow a new book. I put
little sticker on their card when they checked out.  The stickers
them to keep bringing their books back to get new ones. This killed two
birds with one stone - attendance, and I knew which kids could get a new
book without having to check them all in.


5) I set a timer and limited myself to 10 minutes per day of shelving. 
did not go to graduate school to shelve books and I don't think it is a
prudent use of the dollars spent on my salary.  Don't get me wrong - I
actually LIKE shelving books - hence the need for the timer - but I was
there and being paid to teach. The books did not pile up as much as you
would think.  Probably due to strategies 1 and 2 above.


Good luck.  The worst part for me was actually the loneliness. 


I like the idea of listing everything we do. I was without a clerk at
beginning of last year due to a retirement.  I felt like I was running a
sprint all the time.  I was just told last week that the clerk who came
October is going to another school (where she will run the library -
another issue) and I will be 'on the wheel' (specials) for all grades. 
year I only had 3rd and 4th...  I usually 'just do it' and get as much
as possible, but I know I was reaching the breaking point before they
got a
clerk last year and I don't want to feel that overextended again.  It
that my children are grown and I could stay at school until 8:00... but
shouldn't have to do that on a regular basis...



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