I had the honor of working in three elementary schools as a school librarian before moving to the university to teach future school librarians. Each job has been different and provided new adventures. My decisions to move on were some of the hardest I ever made. But, the biggest lesson I've learned from all of those jobs has been that change = growth.
My first job was as an elementary librarian covering two schools. I learned a lot about juggling two different principals and two different staffs. I learned how to work smarter and not harder. I learned there were limits on what one person could accomplish. I learned how important advocacy was and basked in the celebrations when they hired five more librarians so we all went full time. Those were three glorious years of working as a team of librarians to build an amazing program. Our team shared so much with each other. It was such an amazing experience. Unfortunately, I learned the other side of advocacy when we lost positions. The writing was on the wall, and I saw this as a sign that perhaps it was time for me to move on. I'll admit that I cried the whole way from my old school to my new one, but I knew that I had really done all I could at that old school and it was time to move on.
I started my new job with a fanfare of excitement. I was moving to a district where there was a library coordinator. It was a place where libraries were valued. It was a place where we were all encouraged to innovate. Here, I learned about building relationships. I learned about the amazing potential of the librarian and principal partnership. Again, I learned from a great team of elementary librarians. There were many opportunities for leadership in the district as well as in professional organizations. This job valued my involvement in our state organization and in the American Association of School Librarians. They supported my time as AASL president. They saw the benefit of my involvement and the skills that I brought back to our school. I learned about the influence the library can have.
I was at this job long enough to see time go by. I saw for the first time the impact of turnover. I went through several principals. I saw the impact of effective leadership and not so effective leadership. I saw teachers retire, teachers move to other schools and districts, and I saw teachers shifting to different grade levels. All of these things taught me different lessons about the influence people have on the school and what happens when they are gone. Because I was at this job for a long time, I saw the shifts in initiatives. I saw our curriculum grow and evolve on what we offered in the library. I also saw that towards the end I could feel the need to do something different. I loved school libraries, but I could see that it was maybe time for the next adventure.
Which leads me to my next (and I like last) adventure. I absolutely love impacting the future of our field by teaching graduate students in school librarianship. I've gotten a chance to be very reflective about my time in a library and share stories about what worked and what didn't work with my students. I've learned so much from my colleagues in our program. I'm learning a whole new skill set as I work on my Ph.D. and begin to think about that "big paper at the end."
So, while I'm someone who appreciates routine, patterns, and consistency, I have found that when I make changes, I grow and learn. The stories I shared in this column are big changes. But, even little changes like thinking about your policies or maybe rearranging the furniture in your library can lead to growth and learning. Every time I made a change I learned something (both good and bad). Learning helps us to grow and evolve, and it is something as school librarians we want to be doing from our first day on the job until the last.