Column Description: This column will focus on highlighting the school librarian profession and the librarians who are making things happen across the state. Through interviews and informational articles, readers will have the opportunity to learn more about the school library profession and the innovative programs and learning happening in school libraries.
As I sifted through my mail on that ordinary Thursday, I realized that I received a book, Educator Bandwidth: How to Reclaim your Energy, Passion, and Time by Jane A.G. Kise and Ann Holm, and a professional journal, School Library Connection, focused on “Restoring your Educational Energy” on the same day. Was the Universe trying to tell me something? It was a powerful message, and it got me thinking about the impact the last few years have had on school librarians. Even though schools appear to be “back to normal,” do school librarians feel like they are back to full capacity and energized in their work?
As a School Library System Director, I visit the school libraries in my region on a regular basis. When school began this September, most schools opened as they would have before the pandemic. That’s not to say there aren’t continuing staff shortages or other challenges, but as I visited some of the school libraries in the WSWHE BOCES region and talked with school librarians, they told me this year feels like a “normal” school year. Most are no longer being pulled from the library to cover classes, their staff are in the library more often, and teachers are beginning to open up to collaboration again. This is great news, right?
While many librarians may feel energized and ready to take on this new normal, others may not have that capacity yet. Many are grappling with finding that spark for the profession that they once enjoyed. The last few years have been challenging on many levels – working through a pandemic, book challenges, and staffing issues to name a few. Given these challenges and the effects of the last few years, it is not surprising they may be struggling. Everyone goes through periods of time when they wonder if the work they do is impactful, if they are following their passion, or if they are where they are meant to be, but if you find yourself in this position, what can you do to restore your passion for the profession?
The articles in School Library Connection and the book, Educator Bandwidth: How to Reclaim your Energy, Passion, and Time by Jane A.G. Kise and Ann Holm, provide several ideas that may help:
Consider taking the Brain Energy and Bandwidth Survey offered online and in Educator Bandwidth: How to Reclaim your Energy, Passion, and Time. This will help you determine what your bandwidth is currently and help you realize your next steps toward increasing your bandwidth and bringing back your passion for school librarianship.
Find colleagues who inspire you and work with them. As Val Edwards explains in “Permission Granted: Energizing your Professional Journey,” “...like-minded colleagues will remind you of what you value about your work.” When I work with colleagues I always leave more energized and excited about our work. They provide new ideas and a fresh perspective that I can’t find anywhere else.
Prioritize what is most important. It can be hard to say no, especially if you are new, but as Edwards states, “...if you are doing work that does not impact student learning, you should stop it.” She goes on to explain that a high profile project may need to be set aside to prioritize one that is more impactful for students.
Remember to take care of yourself. In “Avoiding Burnout and Remembering you are an Awesome Librarian,” Jennifer Hendry encourages school librarians to, “...take a step back…to find your inner awesome. Give yourself a break and be patient.” Find the tools you need and make a plan for your wellbeing that will help you take care of you. Whether it is planning a fun outing or placing a sticky note on your computer that reminds you how amazing you are, these little things can help. And if it is too overwhelming consider reaching out to a professional for help.
Above all, Val Edwards reminds us to, “Give yourself permission to pursue those activities that most delight you, that you find highly motivating, and which you believe will further your delivery of high-quality service.”
Do you have other ideas that may help others? Add them to this Padlet.
Kerrie Burch is the School Library System Director at WSWHE BOCES. Before taking the position at WSWHE BOCES, she was the Director of the School Library System, Model Schools, and Arts at Questar III BOCES. She served as a School Librarian at two rural schools, covering grades K-12, for ten years before becoming a School Library System Director. She earned her Certificates of Advanced Study in School Building Leader and School District Leader from SUNY Plattsburgh, her Masters of Science in Information Science from the University at Albany, and her Bachelor of Arts in English and Secondary Education from SUNY Potsdam. She has presented at the local, regional, state, and national level on various school library related topics. She is an adjunct professor in the School Library Media program at St. John Fisher and at the University at Albany. Her areas of professional interest include curriculum, assessment, and technology instruction in the library. She enjoys traveling, quilting, reading, and spending time with her family.