As a writer of books for school librarians (and School Librarian’s Workshop) as well as being the author of Woven through Time, a YA fantasy, I am well aware of the importance of choosing the right words to convey my meaning. But words in everyday communications are important and powerful, and we all need to tune into what we are saying, how we are saying it, and what others are saying.
I am in the first weeks of teaching an online graduate course for school librarians on managing the school library and my students are wrestling with the words for their mission, vision, and philosophy statements. Although you may not have those statements written down for your library, you communicate them each day in dealing with students, teachers, administrators, and any who walk through your library doors.
You need powerful words to reinforce what you are doing. “Empowering Learners” is the title of the AASL Guidelines for library programs. Those are strong words. Empowering shows how we teach the tools for future success. Learners is far better than students, since it implies we are learners—and must be for our entire life. Contrast that with “supporting or enriching the curriculum.” The AASL phrase is active. What too many librarians say is passive. It’s not what is meant, but it is what is communicated. Words are powerful.
If you want to be perceived as indispensable, you must be pro-active, interconnected with what is happening in the school, embedded in the curriculum. And no one will give that to you. You claim it by providing the information teachers and administrators need. Don’t wait to be asked. You won’t be. Be the person with the answers—or the one everyone knows can find the answers.
Watch how you express yourself. I had a co-librarian who said in conversation, “you teachers,” and with those two words she separated herself from the faculty. Never minimize the teachers’ workload and no matter what the truth is, don’t suggest you have more on your plate than they do.
What you think also gets communicated. If you are thinking the teachers regard you as a babysitter it affects how you deal with students. Without realizing it, any negative attitude you have is conveyed through your body language and often in the tone of your voice. It gets picked up, usually subliminally.
Listen to what you say. Note your reaction to others and whether you got the message from their words or from non-verbal signals. When you catch yourself with a negative attitude towards a teacher, student—or administrator, quickly reframe it into something positive. You will find it does make a difference.