While the adage in real estate that the three most important considerations are location, location, location, in librarianship the surest way to success is recognizing the three primary rules are relationships, relationship, relationship. Is being current with the latest in tech important? Definitely! Do you need to be a skilled teacher? Of course! Should you be passionate about communicating the love of reading? Beyond a doubt.
But don’t fool yourself. None of your skills and competencies will matter if you don’t build and maintain relationships. Here’s one example. I had a co-librarian who was with me for a little over three years and a clerk going for a library degree. My co-librarian considered the school she attended was far superior and was extremely confident in her tech skills. However as she was learning, my clerk watched interactions I and my colleagues had with students and teachers.
My co-librarian didn’t really like students and preferred to have her desk in a back room with no windows to the main library area. My clerk, on the other hand, connected regularly with students and teachers, helping as much as she could. The teachers soon avoided scheduling classes if it meant my co-librarians would teach. I retired. My co-librarian proved disastrous (as I had expected), and my clerk –now with a degree—is in charge of the library with a new co-librarian. I quote Theodore Roosevelt often. “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
We are in a relationship business. We stand or fall based on whether are colleagues want to work with us—either directly in flexible scheduled buildings, or indirectly if fixed schedule schools. No advocacy program will work unless you have first built the relationships. You need to out there – in the building, in the district—a visible part of the school community, being the “instructional partner” and friend to the entire staff. And your students must know you truly care about them. Develop relationships first. Everything else will follow.