Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What I didn't learn in library school...

Awhile back, the ALSC blog ran a series on What I Wasn't Taught in Library School. It's a great series, but I've been thinking of some additions lately and that's what today's post is about.

What I didn't learn in library school...

You get better with practice. I guess that's probably obvious, but it wasn't obvious to me the week before I did my very first preschool storytime for my internship. I was so nervous I couldn't sleep! Now that I do storytime all the time, it seems silly, but that's the kind of ease that comes with practice, with familiarity. You won't know everything when you first start and that's okay. That's what more experienced librarians can help you with. And as you keep reading and doing programs, you'll get better at picking books that suit your audience and you'll learn from your mistakes, too. The best thing is when you have a more experienced librarian to mentor you, to bounce ideas off of... I know that not everyone has this. I recommend joining PUBYAC or a state or system listserv to find a supportive community of librarians. Or, if all else fails, you can bounce ideas off of me (though I have to say that I don't have that much experience - I've been a librarian for three years now). 

Even though you're better with practice, new things may still make you nervous. This is okay. You'll get better at them, too, with practice. I've been doing programs for various ages for three years now, but I was still nervous before my first Mother Goose on the Loose baby program last week. I got through it. It wasn't perfect (I forgot the words to "This Little Piggy", among other things), but that's okay! I'll do better next week. And the week after that. And the week after that. Until this program becomes as comfortable as the programs I've been doing for years. And then we'll start something new... ;) 

Attendance at programs can be cyclical. So, you planned an awesome program, you advertised it, you were certain you'd have a huge crowd... and you only got two kids, one of which is a coworker's son. Is it you? Maybe. But probably not. So many things can affect attendance at programs - the weather, kids' extracurricular schedules, holidays, fear of the swine flu... So don't take it personally if no one shows up to your awesome program. File it away and try it another time.

Librarians share programs ideas. Like, all the time. Okay, not all the time. But very frequently. It's what we do! We have a successful program and we want to share it. We don't mind when others recreate it. And we're often borrowing our program ideas from other librarians. This is one of the reasons for listservs, library journals, and blogs. Sure, you'll come up with some news ideas and try them out, but you don't have to worry about coming up with original programs from scratch every single time.

You do your programs your way and that is okay. Librarians get inspiration from each other. We share ideas. We read journals and blogs and listservs and decide to copy these fantastic programs at our library. But just because one librarian does it a certain way doesn't mean you have to. Put your own spin on it. Do what works for you and your patrons. There's no absolute right way to do a program or a storytime. That said, if you're open to new ways of doing things you'll probably stumble across some great ideas that make your programs work even better for you.

No one knows what you're doing if you don't advertise. (This, of course, is different in every community.) Maybe you're the person in charge of promoting your programs and maybe you're not, but one thing I've especially learned over the past few months at my new job is that you have to get the word out! My library does not have the resources to mail out a newsletter or program schedule to all patrons in our district. We make use of the local papers, write blurbs for our website, send emails to district teachers, create signs and flyers (which I hand out to community members at appropriate networking meetings), and send word to area homeschooling groups.

And how about you, librarians? What have you learned on the job that wasn't covered in library school? Put it in the comments!