Thursday, November 17, 2005

Blog Interaction with Dana Hochstedler & Rob Cox – Thurs. Nov. 17 to Sat. Nov. 19, 2005

Dana Hochstedler and Rob Cox are both elementary media specialists in the same school system. This is Rob’s first year.

Learn more about both Dana and Rob at http://eduscapes.com/sms/hochstedler.html

You might start the discussions with Dana on her insights into maximizing a library center budget, her assignment covering two elementary buildings, and also facilities planning (One of her schools opened this year). You might ask Rob for his candid views on the first year on-the-job; his position is also divided between two schools.

31 comments:

  1. Dana and Rob,

    How difficult is it to manage your time between two schools? How does this effect daily workings, such as collection development? How do you make sure you are treating both media centers as fairly as possible and not play favorites?

    Amanda

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  2. C. Heck7:23 PM

    Rob,

    I see you have a fair amount of experience in school libraries prior to becoming a media specialist. Given that you had worked in school libraries before, were there any surprises in your new role as a SLMS? Do you have any advice for others who are about to embark on their own school library journies?

    Thanks,

    Chad Heck

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  3. Hi Rob and Dana,

    First question is for Rob: Is it difficult to switch between working with elementary school kids and middle school kids? What is the biggest difference you notice between the two programs?

    For Dana: What was your involvement in the facilities design for the new school? Did you work with a consultant? How much of what you wanted in terms of design/furniture/technology did you actually get? What is one thing that you would have done differently or one thing that you really wanted by weren't allowed to have?

    Thanks!

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  4. Hi Amanda,
    Managing two libraries takes patience, practice and lots of multi-tasking abilities. The hardest part was getting to know the names of my 60+ staff and then, getting a glimpse of their curriculum, teaching styles and overall personalities. I used to have a hard time remembering who asked for what....I ended up writing everything in a planner and carrying it with me at all times. I still do today. I also keep my old planners to use as references. Managing two libraries just takes time and practice. As for the collection development, I encourage my (two) assistants to keep notes on their desktops. If something needs replaced, they write it down. If a student really wants a title, they write it down. Believe it or not, we read professional literature together and discuss future purchases. I will even get a mother to cover the circ desk so I can have my assistants with me during major spending time. When it is time to spend money, if you surround yourself with competent people, they become invaluable. As for treating the media centers fairly, that is not possible. You just do the best you can and take advantage of every opportunity available. I used to worry about being fair; I don't anymore. I do my personal best at each school.

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  5. Dear Steph Adams,
    Those are great questions. I wish I could answer all in a positive manner. The truth is... yes, I did meet with a consultant, an architect and even the principal on a bi-monthly basis during the construction phase, but did I get everything I wanted?....no. Sometimes the architects have their minds made up and "pretty" offices won over practical teaching space. For example, I did not want my office tucked away in a corner. I wanted my office out in the open. End result: I got a hidden office that I will probably use as storage. On the other hand, I did not compromise my starting collection $ amount. I went straight to the school board for back up. I found that during this process I had to pick my battles. I had zero input on color choices and structure set up....(see the NON TEACHING architect for that). I had zero input on furniture, except for the circ desk. But, I had complete control on the technology part and choices of media equipment. As a matter of fact, I have a meeting next Tuesday to hone the project. I can't really say what I would change (want), give me a year. I am sure I will find something....Thank you for your question. If you ever have a chance to create an opening collection, call me. There is so much to cover.

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  6. Rob,
    I found it so interesting when you mentioned that you had changed careers and became a media specialist. What factors lead to your decision? What benefits and drawbacks have you experienced from your new career path?

    Also, I noticed that you have worked as an aid in several media centers before running your own. What components from your previous school experiences were "must haves" when you started your new job.

    Congrats on your new position!

    Sawyer Beier

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  7. Dana,
    I was very intrigued with all of your methods for managing your budgets. I will admit that the budgets were the biggest thing I felt the least prepared for when I took my first job. Do you have any words of wisdom for those who are looking for ways to manage their budgets or work with their book keeper as a team? Formats you use, programs, filing methods, etc.

    Since you have been so meticulous with your monies what trends have you noticed happening to your budgets with the state administration over the last few years?

    Thanks for blogging and sharing your ideas!

    Sawyer Beier

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  8. Rob,

    Congratulations on your first year as a media specialist. What insights have you learned so far as to what school librarians are able to do realistically versus the theory we gain in a university learning environment?

    Emily

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  9. Hi Sawyer,
    I was hoping someone would ask me this question. I enjoy the “budget” aspect of my job and truly enjoy setting goals and achieving them. What I mean is….how are you going to get money if you don’t know what your want. This first thing I do is decide what I need and why I need it. I write it down, do a little research, and present my case to anyone and everyone who will listen, including parents and the superintendent. (Via phone, newsletter, or in-person visit) My first year I was a little confused about Title money and the difference between AV supplies vs. AV equipment…whatever. I made an appointment with our corporation Business Manager and had her explain the ins and outs. (The BA is a great person to know ..) I also asked how she would like the requisition forms filled out. (handwritten, computer template, program) and the rules for account sharing. Each school corporation can be different. She gave me a friendly 101 lesson and we are still in communication today. I ALWAYS have a “wish list” in waiting just in case. This past week a sorority lady stopped by my media center and said she “heard” I had literature needs. I, of course, had my list, reasons for needing audio books and research ready. She offered me $1500.00 in grant money. Because I have a new library, I asked her to keep us in mind each year as grants go out. I will be sending her a thank you note soon. To keep track of my budgets, I use a simple Excel spreadsheet. I have 7 major accounts at each school not including my fundraising money. I have goals “in waiting” set for each account, just in case. As for filing, I keep my accounts folders separate and in a file drawer, nothing special. Advice: Use whatever format you know and like. Programs are not important; they all work. Keep track of everything you send out. I Xerox copies and write notes for myself. I also note the date I sent it to my principal and the day I receive shipment. When the office calls and asks about a certain PO, I have the answers and dates ready. It sounds tedious but I believe it is mandatory. Secretaries do not argue with you if you have accurate notes. Don’t think for a moment you will remember everything; write it down.
    Trends: Besides the worry of less money and less time to do it in…..I keep abreast of current events on the ALA page or AASL (check out Issues and Advocacy). It is quick, easy and they do the research. As for my budgets, they have increased steadily in the last four year, but I will continue to promote library awareness to my superintendent. Thank you again for your question.

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  10. Rob Cox4:25 PM

    Amanda asked..
    “How difficult is it to manage your time between two schools? How does this effect daily workings, such as collection development? How do you make sure you are treating both media centers as fairly as possible and not play favorites?”

    Hi Amanda, It is very difficult to manage my time between the two schools. I find that I spend so much time doing the day-to-day tasks that I don’t have the opportunity to work on the big picture items near as much as I would like to. Things like collection development are done on the fly. I have yet to truly analize either of my collections, I have done my ordering based on my impressions and the recommendations of others. The aides at both schools see what gets checked out on a regular bases and know what kids are asking for so I depend on them a lot. I have also had students at my intermediate building pick books on the Follett website that I then bought. I hope to formalize a system where kids get to choose more books, maybe make it a part of the reading program that kids who read X number of books get to spend X number of dollars for new library books. In any case, I definitely like having the kids help with it, they know what they will read far better than I ever will. I’m not fair at all in my treatment of the media centers. They are such different situations that I don’t worry about it at all, I try to do what I think is best and leave it at that. I have spent a lot more time working on stuff at the intermediate building than I have the elementary, but I am sure the pendulum will swing the other way at some point.
    Rob

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  11. Dana,
    All of your advice on budgets is very helpful. How do you allocate your spending. Do you track useage or do you move around the media center improving one section at a time.

    Rob,
    I am doing my internship at Carmel High School next semester with Bonnie. I'm very excited about it. What did you find most useful in your intership experience now that you are a full fledge media specialist?

    Nicole

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  12. Rob Cox5:02 PM

    Chad asked…
    “I see you have a fair amount of experience in school libraries prior to becoming a media specialist. Given that you had worked in school libraries before, were there any surprises in your new role as a SLMS? Do you have any advice for others who are about to embark on their own school library journies?”

    Hi Chad, I have been surprised at the number of different decisions I have to make, sometimes things that are kind of goofy, like whether the music should be played in the hallways after school? I have also been very surprised at the number of teachers who spend their time telling the kids to be quiet in the library. I had not seen that in any of the other buildings that I have worked in, but I see it all the time now. The noise the kids are making rarely bothers me half as much as the noise the teachers are making trying to get them to be quiet! However, I have decided that I can work on that next year; I think I need to be accepted as a valuable member of the staff before I start telling teachers to be quiet in the library! I may regret not working on this right away though, time will tell. One of the media specialists that I did my student teaching with told me that I should pick my battles wisely, and I am finding that I have a surprising number of battles to fight. It’s tough trying to decide which ones are worth fighting now, and which to put off. I would have broke my own decision about telling teachers not to shush the kids in the library one day if I hadn’t been so stunned; I actually had a teacher shush her kids because they were laughing too loud. I was reading a funny story at the time! I sat there in total awe, unable to make my mouth move.

    Regarding advice, the best advice that I was given before I started is almost trivial, but oh so true:
    “Stand over the trash can when you read your mail.” I am still amazed at the volume of catalogs I receive. 2-3 every day, and we are now into our 4th month of school! With two buildings, I have thrown away hundreds of catalogs and they still pile up.

    The worst advice that I was given:
    “Don’t change anything right away.”
    The intermediate school library I took over had a Young Adult section. I hated it immediately because it made no sense to me in a library that only serves 2 grade levels, and I literally could not figure out the criteria based on what was included and what was not, but I was afraid to do away with it because it was a big change. I ended up deciding to go ahead and do it right before students started checking out books which resulted in me spending my weekend moving books. It proved to be a smart move because the YA section didn’t make sense to anybody else either, and it was a real turning point for me. I truly took ownership of the library when I did that, it really changed the way I felt about it. I wish I had done it over the summer though instead of waiting until after school started.

    The advice that I would give to you from my own heart is to trust your instincts.
    My experience in the number of different buildings I have worked in so far has convinced me that you have to find what works for you and not worry too much about trying to emulate somebody else. Your teaching style has to suit you and your personality! Don’t be afraid to be yourself. The principal that hired you (or principals in my case) saw something in you that made them hire you, so don’t think you are going to disappoint them by being the media specialist that you want to be.

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  13. Rob Cox5:03 PM

    Steph
    “First question is for Rob: Is it difficult to switch between working with elementary school kids and middle school kids? What is the biggest difference you notice between the two programs?”

    I don’t find it at all difficult to switch between the kids; in fact, it’s a lot of fun to see a wide range of kids. What is difficult is the extra time I spend coming up with things to do with them. I can’t take my lessons from one building and use them at the other. On the other hand, it’s fun always changing what I am doing from day to day. The two programs are like night and day.
    Dana was the media specialist at the elementary I took over and we are very like-minded on what we should be doing, so it has been relatively easy to take over. The intermediate school is a different story. It has been slow going getting the teachers used to the idea that I can teach the kids something. The previous media specialist just cataloged books, didn’t do any teaching. She still works in the district and has been very helpful to me so don’t get me wrong, I don’t really mean to be too critical, she is simply different from me. However, she has left me a situation where I really have to change the attitudes before I can do the things that I want to do. I have made a lot of progress, but it has been painfully slow! I have to take the attitude that it will be a very long process and that I will only be able to accomplish so much in one year, otherwise I would be too frustrated. It’s kind of strange on a day-to-day basis; I go from an elementary where everyone takes it for granted that I do things with the kids and the library is a bustling place to an intermediate building where I am constantly reminding the teachers that I exist and the library is normally as quiet as a graveyard. The intermediate is even dividing within itself. The fifth grade teachers are happy to work with me if I remind them constantly while the sixth grade teachers won’t give me the time of day regardless of what I do.
    Rob

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  14. Rob Cox5:27 PM

    Sawyer asked…
    “I found it so interesting when you mentioned that you had changed careers and became a media specialist. What factors lead to your decision? What benefits and drawbacks have you experienced from your new career path?”

    Hi Sawyer, I hated being a mechanical engineer from day one and I hated it for 11 years. I finally got laid off, found a new job, got fired, and found myself walking out of job interviews thinking “man, I hope they don’t offer me that.” I realized I had to change and I can only attribute it to the mysterious workings of God that I ended up where I’m at. It’s too long of a story to tell all the details, but one of the great benefits of it is that I appreciate my wife a lot more than I did before, she was incredibly supportive of my career change, “above and beyond” as they say. Other benefits: lower stress, lower blood pressure, healthier attitude, getting to work with kids. I used to work at a place where the boss would want to know why you weren’t working if he heard people laughing. Now I work at a place where I get hugs and I can bring in old 45 records and play them if I feel like it. Drawbacks: less pay, a lot less pay!

    “Also, I noticed that you have worked as an aid in several media centers before running your own. What components from your previous school experiences were "must haves" when you started your new job.”

    I think the single “must have” experience I touched on earlier with Chad’s question. I have seen enough media specialists at work to realize that no two are alike, and no two do the job exactly the same way. Do what works best for you. I also have learned not to worry too much about what the students or teachers think of you. If you do your best, they will accept you the way you are. Kids and teachers are both like that, very forgiving, very loving.

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  15. rob cox5:41 PM

    Emily asked...
    “What insights have you learned so far as to what school librarians are able to do realistically versus the theory we gain in a university learning environment?”

    Hi Emily, most of what you learn in school is the theory of how it could be done if everything was perfect. In reality, it never works the way it does in theory. However, I think the theory is still good to know, you need to know what you are shooting for before you can take aim. I think the biggest thing I can tell you that I have learned regarding the reality versus the theory is that you can only do a small part of it. I just don’t have time to teach all of the information literacy standards, and help the teachers teach reading, and help the teachers teach writing, and teach the teachers how to use technology effectively, and develop my collections, etc. Something has to give. I hope I spend my time as wisely as I can, where I will do the most good, rather than just doing what is easiest or the most fun, but it’s hard to say for sure.

    The other thing I have learned is that in theory I’m in charge, in reality I am responsible but have very little power.
    Rob

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  16. Hi Nicole,
    Thank you for the compliment. Collection development is the easiest part of my job. I run a collection analysis through Follett (Titlewave) each year and make notes in the margins for potential budget purchases. I then call my vendors and ask them to run a list of potential new sellers with recommendations on the category needed. If they don't have time or do a poor job, find a new vendor. I have great vendors and I can call them at home with questions anytime. (I would like to add that it took me four years to find these wonderful people. Again, you can’t do it all. Surround yourself with competent people.) I meet with these vendors, discuss new copies, listen to their suggestions and tell them the price I need met. (Yes, you can and should negotiate prices, processing and such…..) As for tracking usage, I have capable circ assistants. They can verbally tell me in ten minutes what gets checked out and what needs replaced. Unless I need to use it as leverage for some extra money, I won’t run an additional analysis. Thank you for your question.

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  17. Rob Cox5:53 PM

    Nicole asked...
    "I am doing my internship at Carmel High School next semester with Bonnie. I'm very excited about it. What did you find most useful in your intership experience now that you are a full fledge media specialist?"

    Hi Nicole, you will love working with Bonnie, she is wonderful. I think the most important thing I learned during my internship is that you can be very professional and still have fun. I've been so busy at both of my schools that I havn't had enough time for fun things, but I havn't forgotten it. Also, meet the kids where they are at; at their level, if you don't get too hung up on the things they can't do they will surprise you with what they can do.
    Rob

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  18. Margaret7:02 PM

    Hello to both of you!

    I welcome any advice and guidance--here's my situation:

    I currently work in an elementary school as a curriculum specialist. My office is located in the media center, so I observe the daily events. This year we have a new media specialist (it's also her first year). Our previous media specialist retired after 30 years. We also have a new principal (also first year) who is not very involved or supportive of our media program. Needless to say, our media program is floundering. To add insult to injury, after conducting a mini collection analysis, the results were not good! My current media specialist has been relying upon my guidance and I'm just learning! Basically, it's like the blind leading the blind!

    Given our circumstances, where do you suggest we begin? We need some help prioritizing. Assuming that we have limited funds to work with, what will give us the most bang for our buck? I like Rob's attitude that he had to take ownership of his media center. It's hard when things have not changed in our media center for the past 30 years to implement new policies. From the perspective of both a novice and an expert, what are some practical goals for this year?

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  19. Julie9:27 PM

    Dana or Rob,
    Because you are split between two buildings and have to prioritize your time and efforts, what are some of the things that you place of the back burner that may not be as essential as others? I think I would have a difficult time deciding and would take on more than was humanly possible to accomplish. In my teaching experience, I find that things never really slow down, and I often find myself never getting to the things I say I'll do later when I am less busy. How do you make time for these things or do some of them never get accomplished?

    What do you feel is the most important aspect/element of any media center (both in terms of facility and programming)? What one thing would you fight to save at the expense of everything else?

    Thanks for participating with our class. I already feel like you both have given us valuable insights.

    Julie Mansfield North

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  20. Dana,
    After reading your email I can only imagine that you have the most organized file system ever! I love your tips for keeping lists, reasons, and research ready. I plan to start one myself.

    Here's another question for you. Where do you feel your biggest budget needs are? What would you buy more of if you could shift budget money? If given the option of having one lump sum and spending it how you see fit or keeping strict budgets so money is specifically spent in one area which would you do?

    Sawyer

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  21. Rob,
    It is so refreshing when to hear of people who see the value in time spent with kids. I applaud your bold career move towards happiness!

    Another question for you. Since you have been an aid in the past I am sure you understand what an important role aids and volunteers play in the media center. How do you make the most of your aids (if you have one) and the volunteers who offer you their time?

    Sawyer

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  22. Hi Margaret,
    Where to begin…where to begin….ugly situation! I would begin by setting three goals, writing them down and working all year to achieve them. Keep your goals specific and attainable. Post them in your office for people to see. One of your goals should be to “update” your new principal on the importance of the media center. I would suggest bi-monthly meetings showing the research available (AASL) and also showing the direction you would like to take the media center (the other two goals). Show the principal HOW you can help teachers reach state standards through your curriculum writing and collaboration. Is your media specialist stuck in a fixed schedule? Is she teaching or facilitating state standards? I would worry less about the collection and more on curriculum writing. (Kids love old books as well as new books…. They will love anything you love just as long as YOU ARE excited about the book.) When changing a library, you should always present yourself in a positive manner, even when you don’t feel like it. Smile when you don’t feel like it and work hard to make teachers happy. It really does work. Teachers (and the principal) will see the difference immediately and will want to help you in your new endeavor. I hope this helps. I sympathize with you…. I, too, replaced a 30+ year traditional librarian. The next few years will be hard but worth it when you attain your goals. Feel free to call me at MCE anytime, 317-894-7667. Thank you for your question and GOOD LUCK!

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  23. Hi Julie,
    Oh, Oh tricky question. You want me to share my weaknesses with you! OK, I will admit that I lack decorating skills and showcasing books. I recruit mothers or just have my assistants take control. I will also admit I can’t remember the names of all my 1200 students. (Not knowing their names really bothers me.) You are correct; things never slow down. It is what I love about my job. I am never bored. I get a lot accomplished during Parent/Teacher conferences. I figure if the teachers have to stay, I should stay also. I keep the library well lit during conference time, but I truly only get a handful of visitors. I get so much accomplished this night and I truly love the quietness of my office. (My assistants usually stay with me. I have wonderful principals who allow me to “comp” my assistants with extra days off for working over-time).
    As for the most important aspect of a media center: inviting atmosphere, kid friendly...I want everyone WANTING to come to the Media Center...whether it be good books or good coffee. We want people there...it is the hub of the school. (I started "Starbooks Coffee Center" this past year for the teachers :))
    I would "fight" for the progress of the media center. As I have stated above, the media center should be the HUB, the meeting place of the school. Things are changing and we need to decide if we want the easy road or the challenging road. I know which road I want. Thank you for your question.

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  24. Hi Sawyer,
    You ask great questions; we need to meet at an AIME conference sometime. I love discussing new ideas and trends. To answer your budget needs question, keeping in mind I have a K-4 school, I felt the need to create and develop a new section of my library this year. It is for beginning readers. They are new ‘phonics books”, “I can read books” or whatever I can get my hand on. The kids are crazy for this section (and I am glad because I just spent $10,000 on this project.) Picture books are great, but are the parents reading new books each night? Can beginning reader students actually read picture books? Did I read every night to my children? No! The end result of my risk is the kids are reading and discovering reading is fun. “I can do it myself!” I see first graders EVERY day and most second graders. I am very happy with my investment and the teachers are thrilled too. As for the last question, give me ONE LUMP SUM….better yet, give me the checkbook  Thanks again.

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  25. Anonymous3:36 PM

    Margaret asked...

    “I currently work in an elementary school as a curriculum specialist. My office is located in the media center, so I observe the daily events. This year we have a new media specialist (it's also her first year). Our previous media specialist retired after 30 years. We also have a new principal (also first year) who is not very involved or supportive of our media program. Needless to say, our media program is floundering. To add insult to injury, after conducting a mini collection analysis, the results were not good! My current media specialist has been relying upon my guidance and I'm just learning! Basically, it's like the blind leading the blind! Given our circumstances, where do you suggest we begin? We need some help prioritizing. Assuming that we have limited funds to work with, what will give us the most bang for our buck? I like Rob's attitude that he had to take ownership of his media center. It's hard when things have not changed in our media center for the past 30 years to implement new policies. From the perspective of both a novice and an expert, what are some practical goals for this year?”

    Margeret,
    I think the purpose of a library collection is to provide interesting reading material for the students and to support the curriculum. To maximize the bang for your buck, look for books that do both. Given your job, it sounds like you should have a pretty good grasp of what the curriculum is so look for books by well known authors that are about the subjects your school is teaching. Don’t forget that a good fiction read-aloud can be used to teach a non-fiction subject. I am a person who prefers non-fiction so I’m not saying that I like the idea of slighting non-fiction, but given limited resources I wouldn’t spend money on a non-fiction book that is only used once a year for a report. Non-fiction books about animals tend to fly off the shelves, so I wouldn’t hesitate to get books about sharks or horses either I’m just saying that when you don’t have money you need to be creative with what you do. Dana is much better at that than I am! I would also ask myself; who currently uses the library: 1st grade, 4th grade? I wouldn’t worry too much about trying to please any grades that don’t normally use the library, if there are any. I also wholeheartedly agree with what Dana said about focusing on a curriculum for your media program rather than the books. You will gain more in the long run by figuring out what you are going to teach and how you are going to teach it. Everyone will notice that right away, few will notice any changes to the collection of books.
    Regarding the new principal, try to find something you can do to make his/her job easier. Volunteer to serve on a committee or something. I don’t really have this problem, both of my principals are very supportive, but I know my elementary principal is very pleased that I have taken an active role on our language arts committee, word gets back to them. When I was an aide I had a principal that didn’t know much about computers, so I would help him do things that made him look good to the other principals and I kept my mouth shut about it. He appreciated that. If you can find a way to make the new principal look good you will be rewarded. Also, administrators are impressed with numbers; I would share the research Keith Curry Lance has done on the impact of a good school library. Don’t forget that the principal’s hands might be tied regarding budgets; you may have to convince people higher in the chain. Dana and I have supportive principals, but we are still split between two buildings due to the superintendent not being very supportive. Obviously, these problems cannot all be fixed in one year! It takes time just to get to know people, be patient.
    Realistic goals for the first year kind of depend on things you didn’t mention, does the current staff not work with you at all, or is it mainly a money problem? I have tried a number of things to get my 6th grade teachers to let me work with their students the same way I do with the 5th grade students. I have had almost no success in getting them to let me work with their entire class, but I have started to see some results since I proposed working with small groups of students during their study hall. Just today I had a sixth grade teacher stop me in the hall and tell me of a particular student that is having a hard time fitting in at school and she thinks I could help him through something I suggested doing earlier with web pages. The same teacher also suggested I start doing literature circles with her high reading level kids. It’s not everything that I would like, but it’s something. There is an old military maxim that you should send your reinforcements where you are succeeding, not where you are failing. I think the same applies to a media program. Don’t take from this that I am giving up on working with my entire group of sixth grade students, I am just being realistic about what I can accomplish my first year. I guess another thing I would remember is the old wisdom that only a fool keeps doing the same thing and expects different results. Try something, if it doesn’t work, do something else. You need small successes to build on and you will have some failures along the way. I also think it is important not to take your failures too personally. My failures with my 6th grade teachers have nothing to do with them not liking me personally; they simply do not know how I could help them. They have never worked with a media specialist before and have no concept of what I can do. That means the problem I need to fix is one of educating them, not easy, but at least I don't go home feeling bad that they don't like me. You need to know what truly needs fixed before you can figure out a solution. I was lucky to have a lot of good people around me, including Dana, to give me background on the situation. Maybe you can find teachers that have been there awhile that can give you some of that background information that will help you understand why things are the way they are. It’s not easy; I have more difficulties with this at my intermediate building than at the elementary. I am constantly running across things that leave me scratching my head and asking “why is this done this way?” I ask around and the answer is always: “I don’t know.” I hate to change something if there is a good reason to leave it the way it is, but I hate to leave it the way it is if it makes no sense to me or anybody else. In your case, it sounds like everything is broken, so don’t be afraid of making changes. I think I am rambling at this point, so I will force myself to stop! :-)

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  26. Rob Cox3:53 PM

    That last anonymous was Rob by the way, I was typing my name and then something bad happened...

    Julie asked…
    “Because you are split between two buildings and have to prioritize your time and efforts, what are some of the things that you place of the back burner that may not be as essential as others? I think I would have a difficult time deciding and would take on more than was humanly possible to accomplish. In my teaching experience, I find that things never really slow down, and I often find myself never getting to the things I say I'll do later when I am less busy. How do you make time for these things or do some of them never get accomplished? What do you feel is the most important aspect/element of any media center (both in terms of facility and programming)? What one thing would you fight to save at the expense of everything else?”

    Julie, I want to get to the place where, when I am trying to prioritize, I always ask myself: "what is the most important thing to the students?" I don’t think I do it nearly enough right now. It’s not easy to figure out what is most important when you have books on the shelf that need cataloged, a class coming in for a lesson, and a teacher that is looking for resources. I find that I probably prioritize based upon how long something will take to complete rather than on how important it is. If I have a job that will take 5 minutes to do and one that takes 30 minutes to do and I have 10 minutes available, guess which one I work on? I find that I usually accomplish everything that I need to, but I seldom do anything as well as I would like to. You have to accept less than perfection from yourself if you are going to survive. I can easily see where it would be easy to take on more than you can accomplish, but I have worked with a media specialist who never said no to anything a teacher ever requested and she burnt herself out in a few years and destroyed her family in the process. I have some big ideas that I may never get to, it’s hard to say at this point. Especially when you consider that I don’t have final say over much of it, I can’t do a big collaboration project if I don’t have teachers willing or able to collaborate. There are things on my wish list that I probably cannot accomplish so long as I am split between two buildings. The frustration level in this job can be very high if you worry too much about what you are accomplishing, or failing to accomplish. The specific thing that I am currently placing on the back burner is collection development, it doesn’t hurt that it was probably my least favorite subject in school! :-) Seriously, though, it currently makes sense for me given that I am still learning my collection, the needs of my patrons, and I trust the media specialists that I replaced and know they put a lot of effort into making the collections as good as possible. I'm more worried about teaching right now. Time will change all of that and my priorities will change too.
    I think teaching the students literacy skills (in every sense of the word) is the most important part of a media center program. I always keep in mind that my library is part of an educational facility that is supposed to teach students what they need to know to be productive citizens, or to be self-sufficient, however you want to look at it. That’s a very broad territory that encompasses many possibilities, but it doesn’t include things like: books have to be cataloged perfectly, or shelved perfectly, or my lessons have to cover every state standard for language arts. That kind of nonsense would just get in the way. I try to be the best librarian and teacher that I can be, but I don't want to get bogged down in trying to be perfect. I honestly don’t worry too much about the facility, the small part that I have control over I can make fit my program and I try not to worry about the things I have no control over.
    I’m not sure what I would fight to save at the expense of everything else, it’s hard to imagine. I guess what you’re really asking me is what is most important to me? I think working with the kids; it’s why I got into this in the first place. I like books, but they are secondary to me. Rob

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  27. Rob Cox4:25 PM

    Sawyer, thank you for the complement. My wife truly deserves the credit, she is earning the money while I have the fun!

    you asked... (I like to repost the question becaue I tend to get lost and ramble, I need to go back and look at it now and again!)

    "Since you have been an aid in the past I am sure you understand what an important role aids and volunteers play in the media center. How do you make the most of your aids (if you have one) and the volunteers who offer you their time?"

    When I was an engineer I often had bosses that would give me an assignment and then micromanage me. I never put all of my talents and energy into a task when I didn't feel like I had ownership. When I was an aide, my media specialists would give me responsibilites, any advice or suggestions they had, and then they would get out of the way and let me do it how I wanted. Obviously, you have to trust that the aide is not going to do something really goofy, but the latter is what I want to shoot for, you are wasting the talents of your aides if you don't. Dana and I both have aides that are already very independent, so we don't have to work at this much. They have to be, they are there every day, while we are split between buildings. It can lead to problems, like sometimes my aides set library policies that I don't agree with! I don't like that, but I put up with it because I couldn't function without them being willing to take responsibility for things. It's a vexing problem, there are some things they do that I really don't like, but I don't want to kill their independent spirit either. I'm getting a new aide because Dana is taking one with her to her new building when it opens next month. I'm hoping that I will be able to set the library policies that are important to me from the beginning and then give her some independence on the other stuff. Volunteers are a whole other story. We don't have any regular volunteers where I'm at now, but I worked with them when I was an aide. They are a very mixed bag, sometimes they are great, sometimes hopeless. We have some student helpers at the intermediate building and they are pretty darn good! I'm finishing up a book fair where we had a number of great volunteers, we simply could not have done it without them, didn't have anybody that was a problem either! The volunteers you get are pretty much dumb luck unless you know somebody that knows everybody else and can recruit good people. That was the case with my book fair, I was very fortunate in that regard.

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  28. Margaret6:55 PM

    Rob,

    Thanks for the advice and inspiration. I had a serious discussion with my media specialist today, and we agreed on your plan to let the curriculum guide our purchases. We just adopted a new science curriculum, and we have big gaps on our shelves. I guess I am just struggling with the idea that recent, popular fiction brings kids into the library, but as a school library, our job goes way beyond that. I also think I will target 2 teachers who are receptive to new ideas with some collaborative lessons, and my media specialist has thought about doing some lessons in the computer lab (We don't have a technology person!) Maybe if a few teachers can get the word out, then others will see that we are striving for a "new and improved" media program. And, I guess that an uninvolved principal isn't the end of the world. I think she has her hands full with other responsibilities and that we pretty much have the freedom to try some different things. After all, she's new too, and won't know how things used to work. I like your covert plan to make your principal look good. Surely, a successful media program will reflect positively on my principal. I've got my work cut out for me!
    ~Margaret

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  29. Hi Dana and Rob,

    The end of our blogging time has almost arrived but if the either of you are still checking and have a moment to answer, I wanted to ask about one more thing. Throughout the course of our blogging, you've talked a little bit about theory vs. practice and collection development. Dana mentioned some steps that she takes to build her collection and I've discussed it a bit with my site supervisor at my field experience. I was very surprised to hear that she had no collection development policy and there was not a district-level collection policy either. I also visited another media specialist in a different county and she had a very short county-wide collection development policy and was developing her own more specific plan for her media center in line with the more broad county plan. I was wondering if both of you had a collection development plan for your media centers? Are they specific to the individual schools or is there a district or county-wide policy? From your experience, is it unusual for a media center to operate without one (like the site at which I am currently interning)? I know in a perfect world where we have the time to adhere to all aspects of theory, all media centers would have one but in practice, I was wondering if my "adopted" media center is really unusual in that aspect.

    Thank you both for a wonderful blogging experience!

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  30. Rob Cox2:48 AM

    Hi Steph, thanks for your comment. I have had fun, I hope I have shared something that will be of use to somebody. Our district doesn't have a district-wide collection development plan that I am aware of. For that matter, I'm not aware of any district-wide plans on anything. It's something Dana and I have talked about, since our district does not have anybody that oversees the media centers there isn't anybody to coordinate such things. We don't even have meetings or anything for all of the media specialists. Dana and I coordinate what is going on at the 3 elementaries, and I take that knowledge with me to the intermediate, but I have no knowledge at all of what goes on at the middle or high school. Regarding your question about how common district-wide collection development policies are; I have never seen one anywhere in my travels. That's not a large sample, but I would guess it's not unusual. On the other hand, it may be that they exist and I just never happened to find them. Everyone in a school is so busy that they don't always do a very good job of letting others know where to find things or that something exists in the first place. I am guilty of that myself. I also do not yet have a collection development plan for either of my media centers, it is one of the things that is on a back burner for now. Dana probably has something much more specific, I don't know if she has a written plan or not, but I know she has paid Follett to do a detailed study of her collections and she knows what she needs to work on. If anybody has anything else that you want to ask, or you just want to bounce an idea off of someone. I would be happy to hear from you, and I am very certain Dana would be too. I know I have been very fortunate to have Dana so close to me in my first year, I can't even begin to tell you what a difference her experience and knowledge has made for me! robert.cox@mvcsc.k12.in.us

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  31. Hi all,
    Hey Rob,
    You beat me to the answer. You are correct, we don't not have a current policy, but we need one. We actually have an old one from the previous librarian, but I don't like it.(It's in my file cabinet.) I guess I have put in on the back burner. I would rather have a school wide reseach policy in place first and Rob and I plan to do that soon. Right, Rob! Follett does do a free collection analysis on Titlewave. I like that and the principals seem to think the graphs are good for presentations. To make a long story short, YES you should have a plan in action. An YES, all the libraries in a corporation should do it together. There is so much to do...so little time.
    I would like to say THANK YOU for your questions and comments. I had fun. Please stop by any conference and introduce yourself. I'll be at ICE. See ya on Tuesday, Rob. Sincerely, Dana Hochstedler

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