I have a beautiful library and really enjoy my
job, but I feel that students and teachers are
not using the facilities to their fullest potential.
We have some students checking out and reading
fiction, but not as many as we should for
a school population of 1,060. Most student
research is done online, and my computer lab
is usually booked.
My goal is to update my nonfiction
and reference books, but I'm having
trouble deciding whether investing money in a
lot of print material is a good idea. So far, very
few teachers have used our professional section
or asked to work on a collaborative project.
I attend conferences, read professional literature,
and visit other media centers, but I am
still having difficulty clarifying long-term goals
and a vision for what I would like my media
center to be in the next five years. Am I the
only librarian with this problem? I want to be
the hub of learning in our school, but I need
some guidance. Any suggestions?
Library Media Specialist
Dear Library Media Specialist,
It sounds as if you have a dream and the passion to
make the media center a vital, thriving "hub of learning,"
as you call it. From what you say, you've been
challenged to find a way to meet that goal, despite all
of your professional development, the models you've
seen, and the efforts you've made. Your frustration is
You say you feel isolated ("Am I the only librarian
with this problem?"), and, of course, you're not. But
our profession has long been disjunctive, with few, if
any, opportunities for educators to connect with their
colleagues' work. At the New Teacher Center, we put
great stock in collaborating. We promote it in our mentoring
and in our work with one another.
Let me suggest you first reach out to all the stakeholders
in the school and let them help you create a
vision for a media center that attracts and serves a thriving
learning community. You don't have to bear the
burden of creating a flourishing media center alone.
In your role as the school's media specialist, you're
in a position to lead. You could arrange to meet with
administration and key representatives -- students,
teachers, and parents -- to fashion the vision collaboratively.
You might share what you've found that works
and what you've found engaging. Eventually, you'll
need to bring that shared vision to the school community,
where it could be modified further, if necessary.
This is a promising opportunity for schoolwide professional
Begin at the end, envisioning the outcome you want
in considerable detail, and then devise steps to get
there. You might ask, "How do I imagine a media center
that really is the hub of learning? What sort of
impact would it be having? What might I see happening
in such a media center?"
The popularity of the computer lab is telling; it suggests
there's a hunger for information at your school.
Because people don't know what they don't know, you
can use your knowledge of the media to provide access
to even more information.
You may find that what's happening in the computer
lab can be complemented by programs and centers
available in the rest of the library. Supplementary offerings
could include author studies, book talks, and
readings (perhaps connected with local author
appearances); a primary-texts station, where students
find sample media that can inform text-based studies,
as well as facsimiles of historic documents and artifacts
that enhance scientific literacy and numeracy; and
other hands-on experiences that can build on what
students are discovering online and through in-class
learning. Perhaps teachers and students could display
their course-developed artifacts in the library so others
can see and learn from them.
Credit: Bart Nagel
You're competing for the attention of many busy
people, so your work is cut out for you; but it's a
challenge you seem ready to rise to. It takes a leap of
faith to step outside your own familiar territory and
stand in front of colleagues as a leader.
In the past,
possibilities of real leadership for teachers have been
too few. But the profession is changing to become more
collaborative and collegial and your question is rich
with opportunities to lead your
school community in transforming
your media center.
Thank you for your question,
and good luck.
Ellen Moir is a veteran bilingual teacher who is focused on the challenges faced by new teachers as well as on the needs of those with long careers in education. She is also the executive director of the New Teacher Center, at the University of California at Santa Cruz, a resource for educator-induction research, policy, and practice.
Bewitched? Bothered? Bewildered? Ellen Moir is here to help. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and please include your name, affiliation, and contact information.