A Day in the Life of a School Librarian

What is a day in the life of a school librarian really like?

I am the Media Specialist at the Woodbridge High School Media Center in Greenwood, Delaware. Tag along as I provide books, technology, food, conversation, and beverages to students and staff, field questions, and support requests while keeping the hub of the school welcoming and functioning. And that’s just before lunchtime!

The Daily Grind (It’s Not What You Imagine)

7:00 AM. I arrive at the back doors of the library crockpot in hand containing extra food made the night before, and I drop off my backpack. I put on the coffee pot of hot water for tea and hot chocolate for the staff and students and put on a second coffee pot for staff and faculty. Never in my wildest years did I realize coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and snacks bring in people that have never stepped through the library. People wait at the door, and I have ten or more conversations in the mornings with individuals I never usually see. They talk or check out materials (the library wing is further away than you think when you are packed with class all day!) This pop-up courtesy service is a priceless addition to the day. It brings together those I do not usually get a chance to speak with. Stephen King, Spanish titles (we do carry these!), and graphic novels find themselves checked out by teachers as they pass through. I head back outside and park my car in a faculty spot while coffee and hot water simmer to welcome users.

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The Library is a Resource Connector

7:20 AM. After coming back in, turning the “CLOSED” door sign to “OPEN,” I rearranged the sofa cushions in the corners of the library, fire up the front desk computer, send the faculty a daily email with a double message (the virtual Festival of Words author visit this is weekend), as is the daily routine. I let staff know coffee and hot water are on for them. We should expect faculty to pour in with their mugs (and raid the back cabinet for cups) in the next 10 minutes. Get ready! What bean bag chairs, refreshments, and cushions can do to create a den-like environment still amazes me. (As well as what coffee grinds and hot water have done to bring people in). Am I thinking of the name “Back to the Grind” for our morning “continental student service” area? What do you think?

7:25 AM. Small chat with the IT Department and the English and Math Specialists that share an office with me to see what is on their schedule for the day. Students come in to make up tests and ask questions about teacher content they receive, so I know how to direct students during the periods my office mates are not here today.

Two students roll in and ask for a key that opens a drawer for their food stash supplied weekly by a local community pantry. The library is a resource connector resulting from inquiries to community services like Community in Schools and local pantries. We receive a weekly box of food. Plus, food that isn’t consumed can be turned into prepared meals; the crockpot and toaster oven go into operation in the library, teaching students how to take miscellaneous ingredients and prepare meals. Food always brings students to the library to explore further!

7:30 AM. I make American Association of School Librarians (AASL) standards and library policies available for our visiting intern from the University of Delaware, who is coming in today. He needs a full day of various AASL skills to observe for his course in becoming a school librarian. Seeing the in-and-out bustle today will help solidify his understanding of who we are and who we serve.

I forgot about the food I brought in for students this morning, so I hustle back to turn the crockpot on high and get it cooking for students that begin to come in after 10:30 who are hungry.

The School Day Begins

7:40 AM. The bell rings, signaling the first period. As my independent study students file in. I set up the project area for morning announcements, turn on the SmartBoard, call up the High School Website, and click on the morning announcements, pausing them for the start of the first period. Close front door, locked, an announcement for hall sweep.

7:43 AM. To the front desk! It is currently lined with students who are either returning books or need a Chromebook and have forgotten theirs. We begin signing out Chromebooks for the day to keep records of how many resources are checked out in Destiny Catalog, the number of students who experience damaged or forgotten Chromebooks at home, and general circulation information. All are the transparent lifeblood of a library. Library professionals use this information to know how the school can better serve the general population. One of many ways the library is a hub for the overall school. In providing statistics, libraries and librarians can carry meaning through different activities.

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Cultivating a Welcoming Space

7:45 AM. On the way over to the front desk, I provided hot chocolate and donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts to three students to compensate for their bad day yesterday. (Two upset, one crying, the other holding back tears, the third sick, I sent her to the nurse, and she went home early. Not the day they planned). These treats represent the library as a place to go with eyes and ears open when most needed. The gesture is worth more than the individual cost of a donut or snack and says, “I see you in the library, and I welcome you, on your good days and your bad days. The library is always here for you.” The library is a student’s “third space” anytime it is needed.

Training A Future School Librarian

7:47 AM. Someone at the front locked the library door (yep, we are doing hall *sweeps this morning), and I welcome my visitor from the University of Delaware Internship in School Library Media program. We settle in behind the desk and begin reviewing the experiences at Woodbridge High Library Media Center.

*Hall and uniform sweeps occur, which entail staff locking glass doors at the last bell, as the administration will monitor and check students off for being in the hall or out of uniform. After repeating through the day, interventions occur to encourage better habits.

Staying Organized

7:55 AM. I head back to the project area of the library, hit play on announcements, observe the pledge of the flag, and listen to reports. Catch up with students on their morning and weekly events. I turn on relaxing music so that students can have a calming start to a busy morning.

8:10 AM. Return to my emails, darn, five already. Read the Daily Bulletin, see who is missing, answer the phone. “Yes, I am the librarian. Can we make a point to talk tomorrow about those books and choices you have from your company? Thanks so much!” In my mind, I think that it is not very likely that I will use any books from outside companies. I continue to think about the books I will request through my established relationship with the local bookstore. I make a mental note for tomorrow, 8:00 AM, to consider what materials they’d like me to look over. Back to answering emails from faculty about students wanting to come down for the day, students being sent down for testing, and sending students to the Wellness Center for appointments they have today.


8:20 AM. A representative from Talent Search, Upward Bound, or Math and Science Upward Bound arrives. I help set up a table for them before their students arrive. Depending on the day, a different representative comes in to meet with students in the library.

8:30 AM. Phone rings, “Yes! I do have that student here, and yes, I will get her to the nurse, no problem!”

8:31 AM. Stop moving around the library for a few minutes and begin to give the observing intern some of the documents I have been researching for my American Library Association graduate school night class on Diverse Literature for Young Adults. We discuss the basics of curriculum and library collections, the policy manual I have been editing, and share a document with him. I send a few of the items we need to cover during his visit to the guidance office printer (my printer is not communicating with my desktop for some reason). I pick up documents in the student services office, give them to him, and we discuss the weeding policy challenges he faces in another school library that he is helping in. We spend some time on how he acquires and orders materials and how I order mine.

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School Librarians and Technology Are Intertwined

During this conversation, no less than three phone calls have come in from faculty asking if they can send a student down to service their Chromebook. Some issues might be a cracked screen (bad). Most are showing a hard restart that resets the Operating System.

8:50 AM. “Yep! We have coffee, and it is ready for ya!” to faculty coming into the library between classes for some java.

8:51 AM. I work with the Classic Upward Bound instructor locating students who have filled out an application for the program and need follow-up meetings. Between looking up students’ locations, the staff members representing Communities in Schools come by and ask if any new laptops have come in. Thanks to networking with a New Outlook Pioneers organization member, I provided the names of students needing laptops. A member of this group recently refurbished laptops with new office and Windows programs, and I can get laptops into the hands of students who need personal computers. I note three laptop student needs and send a quick request to see if any are on their way. I go back to looking up more students for Upward Bound meetings.

I Wear Many Hats (Even Santa Hats)

9:15 AM. A student is being helped with a scholarship request. A letter was written and is in Naviance and now needs to be edited to meet the requirements for a local scholarship. I begin to download my recommendation letter, edit, and reprint the letter for this student. I start working on a second recommendation letter.

9:25 AM. I examine displays in the library and set up book displays for February related to Social Justice, Black History Month, and the Chinese New Year.

A call is answered asking if Mr. Perkins, the substitute, is in the library and can come to the office. He is and reports to the front office.

Between setting up displays, Student Services calls, and requests that I create some slides for March that can be displayed on the screens around the school. I will make a note to work on it this evening.

9:50 AM. I finish packing up the remainder of the Christmas decorations that have been donated from the community, including trees. We put a call out into the community for extra Christmas trees and decorations. Having a tree in the library is especially meaningful for many homeless students who will not have a tree. The response was overwhelming, with so many trees and decorations from companies and individuals that we have spent the last few weeks packing everything up. Since storage at the library is minimal, I have decided to take all home in my attic for safekeeping until the next holiday. Students had the idea to create a spreadsheet of all decorations, and staff can sign out next year and place it around the school in classroom spaces.

Mid-Morning Surprises

10:20 AM. Fire alarm! Students exit the back entrance to the library and take in the chilly February day, as everyone is accounted for from all the classroom wings.

10:45 AM. I received a call to come and solve a technology issue from the medical technology class (this is a class offered here where students are jointly enrolled in a medical class at our school and a college class at Delaware Technical School). We played around with the dock for the Chromebook and played around with the Smartboard. It appears there is a mouse that does not want to stop fluttering on the screen. Smartboard non-responsive. I send an email to our techs through a program called SchoolDudes that registers issues with computers across the schools. I head back to the Library Media Center.

11:05 AM. My phone is blinking with an answering machine message. I listen. Our science teacher is experiencing an issue with a student’s Chromebook. This Chromebook had ink spots on the bottom, and now, lines appearing across the screen. I emailed IT and asked and received word that this Chromebook needs to be replaced and returned for warranty. I mark the issue as resolved.

11:20 PM. I received an email requesting a letter of recommendation for a third-period student. I am relieved that I had saved a previous letter to reuse it. I downloaded and edit the letter, cut-paste it into the form, and sent it to the institution.

A student is sent down from a teacher; their Chromebook screen is broken. I will send a form explaining the cost of a broken screen. The teachers will make a call home to explain the damage. When payment is received, a new Chromebook will be issued. The teacher will need to enter the replacement Chromebook with the new tag and a serial number.

Noon! YES! Students in my 5th-period head to lunch, and I sink into a chair to breathe. I know it has been a busy day when my feet are slightly numb. I am there. A few students in my 5th period do not feel comfortable in the cafeteria and hang behind in the library, no worries. The real challenge is policing the library for students who come to the library acting like they have lunch and are skipping class.

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Networking and Advocacy Are Essential

I run in the back and grab a bit of the stew and potatoes in the crockpot for lunch as I jump onto Zoom for the 12:15 meeting of the Delaware Library Association’s Judicial and Legislative Committee. We have come together to advocate for school librarianship.

1:15 PM. I am updating our calendar of events and updating this month’s highlighted events to be aware of. I am so glad I started doing this last year, and now it is just updating! 

Maintaining the Library Collection

2:00 PM. I dive into the recently shipped books and begin placing the Demco book cover plastic on them to protect them (paperbacks become hardcovers, and hardcover books are super safeguarded). I add them into the Destiny Catalog, enabling users to find them when searching for books. Most libraries will pay a service fee to have the books entered in their catalog, which is truly convenient. The more I am involved in classifying the Dewey Decimal number, using the OCLC services often speeds up the cataloging process.

2:35 PM. Students that signed out Chromebooks check them back in. Schedules are referred to and emailed out to have teachers remind students to drop off borrowed Chromebooks before the end of the school day.

2:45 PM. The final bell! Easy day, no? It was great having you with us today, ready for tomorrow?

I blog about my experiences as a school library advocate. I hope you will visit harrybrake.com to learn more!