Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Day in the Life of a Librarian

We have several openings for school librarians in our district: two in elementary schools, and one at the high school - my counterpart, Christina Russo is retiring. In a recent interview, one candidate asked "What does an average day look like for a school librarian at New Canaan High School?" It was a great question - one I have been thinking about quite a bit.

We have new leadership in our district. I recently mapped out leadership changes over the past four years, and I realized that I have had six different supervisors in that time span. New supervisors create opportunities for self-reflection. One tends to consider what one's practice looks like through their eyes.

So back to that question, "What does an average day look like for a school librarian at New Canaan High School?" It was a question I asked myself in mid-January this year, so I conducted an experiment. On the first day of second semester, I took a photo every period of the school day, plus another one after school (since I close the library). It seemed like an efficient strategy to document activity. I found the results interesting, so I pledged to continue for a full week. I soon set alarms as reminders to capture photos.

I created a ComicLife! template to curate the photos, and posted my daily logs to Tumblr. As the first week wound to a close, I decided to stretch the experiment over a month, then I extended it until the end of the quarter - a total of 44 school days.  

Eight periods per day over 44 days makes for a lot of data points. In order to find meaning in what I was documenting, I classified my activity into five categories:
  • Co-teaching: Planning, teaching, assessing, and reflecting
  • Makerspace management: Organizing and teaching innovation
  • Library administration: Collecting, organizing, preserving resources, plus meetings
  • Helping students: One-on-one conferencing and support for learners
  • Documenting & communication: Teacher evaluation, newsletters, and social media
  • Reader's advisory: Helping the learning community select independent reading materials

The end result follows. I spent nearly 40% of my time co-teaching. Another 12% was spent assisting students individually, and reader's advisory accounted for 6% (I hope to raise this number in the future!). Altogether, 57% of my time was spent on instruction, if you include reader's advisory.  Twenty-four percent was spent on library administration and teacher evaluation, excluding makerspace management. The makerspace took up 18% of my time.

Documenting all this without compromising the outcome was probably the biggest challenge. While the photos were taken in real time, the documentation was compiled "off the clock".

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