New to the Job?

Yesterday I was honored to be videotaped as a guest presenter for Dr. Virginia Wallace of the University of South Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science program. Her course, SLIS J742, concerns the curricular role of the library media specialist, but she encouraged me to discuss other aspects of a high school librarian’s job.

Where Do I Begin?
As I was checking my Shelfari account this morning (one of the tools I recommended in my presentation), I found a request from a new media specialist who is excited to start her job this fall but wanted some guidance on where to begin.  Since I had shared a few tips in my presentation, I was able to quickly supply her with an answer.  I am providing it below, just in case this might benefit any other media specialists who are gearing up for their first job.

My Response

Congratulations! This is my dream job because it combines so many of my passions.

1. Find the Policies and Procedures manual and read it. This is not set in stone – you can change things, but you need to know what is in place now.
2. Memorize your mission statement (again not set in stone). Your programs and instruction must support the statement.
3. Begin advocating for your program early. Meet with the principal before the year starts and ask A) what committees you can serve on (School Literacy Team would be perfect), B) to be added to the first faculty meeting agenda so that you can introduce yourself and share info on how your program can help the teachers, C) ask to be put on the new teacher orientation agenda – you may be one of the new teachers, but you can still help ease everyone’s jitters by sharing with them what your program can do for them, D) find out what your budget is and the proedures you must follow in ordering for your school/district.
4. Create a library brochure geared towards your teachers to share at both of those meetings. (Email me and I can send you what we use.)
5. Familiarize yourself with the library’s collection – walk the shelves to see what is available. Run a Titlewise Analysis to get an overall view of the collection.
6. Organize your office.
7. Set up a method for signing up classes to visit the library.
8. Set up a method for checking out equipment and videos to your teachers. (This may already be in place – just know how it is done.)
9. Make sure you are familiar with the circulation program that your library uses.
10. Get your bulletin boards up before the teachers come back.
11. Plan on keeping monthly statistics to share with your principal. (Again, I’ll be glad to share what we use.)
12. Start a folder in which you put a copy of every handout, brochure, bookmark, monthly statistics, program information,  etc.  This way you have a record of your year so that you will be able to create an end of the year report.
13. Your first few days will be a whirlwind of activity! Being prepared for them will make things go more smoothly and will project the image  that you are knowledgeable about your program. First impressions are so very important.

Good luck – I hope you will love your job as much as I love mine!
My email address: (Please include “New SLMS” in the subject line.)


Okay, those  wonderful media specialists reading this post, what other suggestions do you have to share with new media specialists as they are preparing to embark on this new adventure?

Image Attribution:


9 Responses to “New to the Job?”

  1. Fran Says:

    If I had read my email before writing this post, I would have included this wonderful site shared to our state’s school librarian listserv (SCASL) by Cathy Nelson:

    There is a great checklist specifically for elementary librarians.

  2. Doug Johnson Says:

    Excellent advice.

    Please don’t ignore the long-term goals of your program – even just starting out!



    • Fran Says:

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and resources. The idea of creating first year goals for your program would be an excellent post for first year school librarians!

  3. clnelson Says:

    I would include to be become very friendly with colleagues in your district, county, and even state. Most school librarians are singletons in their schools, and don’t have a person in their building who can understand the daily tasks or challenges that are faced as a media specialist. So begin to cultivate a PLN that includes local voices, and expand it to county, state, national, and even international voices. I have some amazing friends just because I like to network with like-minded people (like Fran for instance.)

    These people can be a ready reference for the librarian, and help make you successful in your school!

    Also, don’t forget to get to know your ETV comrades as well, as they can be awesome help yo you as well. Just this month SCETV is offering free workshops on Discovery Streaming and more, and they are even offering FREE to bring staff development to you school.

    You will be an instant hit when you tell your principal about free ready to visit your site staff development.

    As you get you know your school and staff, remove the word “no” form your vocabulary, and replace it with “I will give it my best shot.” Kids and teachers alike love to be put first. Greet them at the door!

    GREAT article Fran!! I know the video is awesome too. Dr, V knows who her “go-to” girl is!!

    • informania Says:

      Great advice, Cathy! It is so easy to become overwhelmed in all that must be done when the others in your school don’t understand what issues a you face. Just knowing others are out there and ready not only to “listen” but also to offer advice makes a huge difference.

      Not only do your colleagues (district, county, state, and beyond) offer advice and share awesome ideas, they also challenge you to keep improving.

  4. Heather Loy Says:

    I strongly agree with #3 above. While I do more “non library” activities these days by being on the leadership committee and volunteering, those responsibilities as well as developing a close working relationship with your principal will keep you on the pulse of the school. You’ll be able to assist all school areas as well as promote your library program as an integral part of the school curriculum and community.

    Developing relationships with your teachers and staff is a MUST. Eat where they eat, provide drop in opportunities in your library, attend school events, etc. The goal is to drum up more business and collaborative partnerships and you can’t do that if you are isolated in the library. They wont always come to you – you have to “meet them where they are.”

    My first year in the school I “adopted” a department, in my case science since they happened to be in my building. Together we performed a collection analysis to weed and purchase resources as well as ways to work together. The one science teacher still here 9 years later is one of my best customers, collaborators, and supporters.

    Find a mentor teacher within your school as well as a mentor media specialist in your district (preferably the same level as you) who can help guide you and offer suggestions. Having never worked in a school before (LMS was a career change for me) having these two ladies teach me the ropes was invaluable!

    • Fran Says:

      Excellent points, Heather! I really like what you did your first year in adopting a department. By asking them to help you weed the collection and make suggestions for purchases to support their curriculum, you gave them ownership of the collection and helped to ensure the use of those materials.

      Our school assigns each new teacher a mentor their first year. I would hope that this applies to first year media specialists. If not, they certainly need to request one.

  5. Alice Yucht Says:

    Great advice! see also my Y’s guide to a new school/new job:

  6. Fran Says:

    What a wonderfully detailed list, Alice! Thank you so much for sharing. I especially like reminding your family that you will NOT be cooking the first week of school =)

    I wish I had had this list to help me my first year.

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