Feeling More Like a Real Librarian

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It’s been busy times for me over the last couple of weeks. I think I am starting to feel the full effects of going to library school full time, working two part time jobs, and doing a practicum. I’ve decided that as long as I’m working at the high school, I will try to give away any of the Sunday shifts I’m working at the public library. I’ll keep my Wednesday shifts, but if I work Sunday that becomes a six day week. I need the money, yes, but I need my sanity more.

Something else I am finding is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to separate the tasks I am doing at the elementary school from the tasks that I’m doing at the high school. Although there are many differences in the age groups I deal with at each school, the fact of the matter is that you’re still a librarian either way so you end up doing a lot of the same jobs. You’re still cataloguing, still choosing books, still interacting with students. You might do them in different ways, but you’re still doing them. That makes it a little tough for me because I know that McGill isn’t interested in hearing about anything I do at the high school, as it’s not part of my practicum. But it’s hard for me to reflect on something I’ve done at the elementary school without also reflecting what I’m doing at the high school.

Two weeks ago at the elementary school, on January 30th, I got my first taste of cataloguing using the ILS specifically developed for school libraries in Quebec, Regard. My first experience with it was not especially positive as the EMSB has the earliest, buggiest version of it and it is not remotely intuitive. That said, the cataloguing itself was actually pretty easy compared to that I have done in public libraries. Fill in a few fields using the LoC subject headings, and bam, done. Most of the time other school libraries will already have the book, so then all you have to do is copy-catalogue the record with a new barcode. 

During this past week my task was to do Storytime. Mary just gave me a book and threw me in. It was a lot of fun reading to the kids, who really seemed to enjoy the story. That was probably the best part of working in the library itself. Next week I have to do Storytime in French, which I’m a little nervous about, but I picked a story that has a lot of action so hopefully the kids will enjoy it. I’ll use Google Translate to double-check the pronunciation of some words and go from there.

I have to say, though, I really hope the heat is working in the library next week. When all the staff has coats on, you know it’s bad. And some of the littlest kids were in there in t-shirts! It was freezing.

Although I know I can’t write about my time at the high school for my practicum, I can write about it here. Last week was a challenging week even though I only worked two days. Now that I am getting more comfortable in the job I am starting to see what an insane amount of work there is and how hard it is to get it all done just because getting interrupted is the nature of the job. Aside from that, I had to break up a fight. Stuff like that always bums me out as an educator. I know that adolescents are dealing with all kinds of crap in their lives but it bothers me that by stepping in I am nothing more to them than Nameless Autocratic Authority Figure. I don’t have it out for them. I’m just trying to keep the library a safe space for everyone. It makes me miss my Korean students, who are tougher to crack at first but will love you forever once you learn their trust. I have not yet have enough Canadian students to know when that will happen. It may not, as right now I’m just the person standing in for their usual librarian.

Friday was a professional development day and I was invited to go along and meet the rest of the librarians at the board’s other schools. Everyone was very welcoming and told me to contact them any time I needed help. I think I will have to do that, as I am apparently running a Battle of the Books competition but don’t have the first idea how it works. I am worried that working only two days will mean that I won’t have enough time to set up a team for the librarian I’m replacing. Oh, crunch time!

Tammy and I met a couple of weeks ago to work on the cheat sheet we are planning to make for the teachers. I am getting more comfortable with the ebooks now, since I have had experience with them at both the high school and elementary level. I’m going to work on getting that done tonight. 

My account of my deliverables is due this week, so I had better get on that too. Well, I think that’s enough of an update for one day. Later!

Catching up in one fell swoop!

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I am bit late on my weekly logs so today I am going to try to catch up in one well swoop! So, here’s what has happened so far.

Week 2 (January 13-19): I spent my second week at the elementary school observing the kids. I think I am starting to get a handle on how the library runs and the protocol that my supervisor has in place for managing them. For each class, she reads a story and discusses it with them a bit, occasionally reviewing the library rules if she thinks they need a reminder. Then students are allowed to choose their own books. For the younger classes, age-appropriate books are laid out on the table and the kids can choose from that pile. Older students can choose up to four books, one fiction and one non-fiction to please Mary, and also one in English and one in French. The students can choose two books to please themselves. Then they line up to check the books out, and for the most part they know to give their names so that I can find them in the ILS. I am managing pretty well with the French, so that is encouraging. I feel that I really need to get a better handle on Dewey but I suppose that will come with time. 

Week 3 (January 20-26): Well, there has been some amazing news. After I had spent my morning at the elementary school last week, I received an e-mail from the district librarian from a nearby school board asking me if I would like to cover for a high school librarian who is out on sick leave. Not only will that give me a chance to give me a foot in the door with the board, it will also give me a chance to learn on the job, as being a high school librarian is exactly what I want to do. Mary also said that she’d be happy to count my time at the high school as part of my “off-site” time for the practicum, which will definitely ease my enormous to-do list. I’m excited to start there on Friday, January 25th.

In other news, Mary and Tammy and I went book shopping for the three schools that she oversees on Wednesday, January 23. It was fun to finally have a chance to put into practice some of the things that Tammy and I learned in our Collection Development class last year. Firstly, I had been feeling a bit lost as far as French books go – I wasn’t sure where to look, and although I knew that libraries have to purchase from accredited book vendors in Quebec, I didn’t know what counted as accredited and what didn’t. Mary explained it all to me in a way that was easy to understand. She took us to Monet, a French bookstore that has an absolutely amazing collection of French graphic novels, or bandes dessinées, and then we went to Babar, a children’s bookstore that had materials in both French and English, though English predominated. It was a fun challenge to choose books that would:

  • Appeal to boys
  • Appeal to reluctant readers
  • Suit the the students at three schools very different from each other in terms of demographics and reading ability

I probably went a bit overboard at Monet, but I was pleased to see that for the most part, Mary liked my choices and that I was choosing things that would suit the kids. I am also pleased to discover that my French, while far from perfect, is definitely up to the challenges of choosing library materials for the kids.

First Week in the School

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My name is Laura, and I am currently a second year MLIS student at McGill University’s School of Information Studies. My last semester here includes a practicum. Since I am hoping to become a school librarian, I have opted to do my practicum at an elementary school with their librarian, a woman named Mary. Part of the work required for the practicum includes weekly logs, so I thought, why not do them as a blog? It makes it easy to access and will give the logs a reflective aspect as well. So, that explains why this entry is dated January 24 even though I wrote it on January 11. The idea for a blog didn’t come to me until two weeks in.

I chose to work with Mary because I got the sense that I would be able to do a wide variety of tasks and really get a sense of what it means to be a school librarian. She’s also allowing me to be fully self-directed and pursue the projects that are most of interest to me. Also, the school is French immersion, which will give me a sense of how my own French is and what I can do to improve it.

Today, January 10th, was my first visit to the school. Mary and I had agreed that I’d spend the first two weeks just observing and getting a sense of how everything operates. So today, when I went in, I did the following:

  • Got to know the collection and learned some French terms for the library such as documentaire for non-fiction.
  • Checked books in and out to visiting classes. Learned that the ILS used by the school system, Regard, is…well…not the greatest.
  • Sorted and shelved books.
  • Started to get a sense of how English and French books differ due to cultural differences.
  • Learned a bit about the kids and the dynamic of the school, which is much different than the dynamic of the international school in South Korea where I used to teach. Here the kids have a lot more freedom, and seem able to handle it.
  • Observed Storytime for the grade ones and grade fours.

I really enjoyed my time and am looking forward to gaining a better sense of how to direct my practicum.