Magazine article Texas Library Journal

TOOLKIT for School Administrators: Hiring and Retaining Librarians

Magazine article Texas Library Journal

TOOLKIT for School Administrators: Hiring and Retaining Librarians

Article excerpt

"I don't speak your language!" Many school librarians and K-12 school administrators will admit that while they may have the same goals, it sometimes feels as if they speak a different language. Principals are well-versed in all things teacher. They have the tools, skills, and communications networks to recruit, train, and retain quality teachers, but when they are faced with the need for new school library personnel, they may not be as well-versed.

Texas school librarians have always dealt with a certain amount of ambiguity over their status or category in the education realm: teacher/non-teacher, certified/non-certified. This situation is due, in part, to the fact that Texas does not mandate certified school librarians. The Texas State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC) does clearly define the criteria for certified school librarians. The Texas State Library and Archive Commission (TSLAC) promotes Standards for School Library Programs: Standards and Guidelines for Texas (2005), a policy document which also offers clarity if you know where to look.

The Texas Library Association (TLA) recognized that it would be helpful to have a toolkit designed for school administrators and school HR departments to better inform them when hiring and retaining library personnel.

The intent of this project is to create a repository or toolkit of sample documents, templates, examples, question banks, and links to help K-12 school administrators navigate the shift from classroom teachers to teacher librarians. We started planning for this resource by brainstorming a list of potential areas to include: Where to post openings? Where do librarians look for jobs? What interview questions will elicit the best outcome for ensuring quality and qualified hires? How can administrators effectively evaluate a librarian?

While many of these documents and procedures closely parallel the process for hiring a good teacher, some major aspects remain that apply to library services but not to classroom. Some of these areas include library budget management, collection development, technology integration, support of diverse areas of the curriculum, collaborating with teachers, and of course, circulating books and digital resources. School administrator certification programs may not offer much guidance on these issues, so it is a 'win-win' to help busy principals gain insight and access to user-friendly information in non-library language.

The work on this project took place virtually using email, conference calls and collaborative Google Docs and Sites to work through the process and bounce ideas around. We started with a core group that networked with library colleagues across the state to get input on what types of information and resources administrators and HR departments needed to know, what links would be helpful as we developed this materials, and which sample documents and questions we could use or adapt. We polled groups including a local North Texas Library Director's group, contacts at the Education Service Centers, and others to make sure we were getting input broadly. We were careful to ask permission to use sample documents and to strip any identifying information when requested.

The toolkit, still evolving, will contain several categories ranging from librarian communication channels (such as TLA's own TLA listserv and LM_Net) and "idea/best practices" venues to support human resource materials. The goal is to provide administrators with information and access showcasing librarian collaborative forums, banks of sample interview questions they can pick and choose from, sample librarian evaluation forms, and links to Texas school library standards, certification information, and other policy issues.

The next steps in this project include categorizing the list of interview questions and adding some possible "ideal"' responses or keywords as an aid for the administrator that does not recognize responses they might want to be aware of and sample job descriptions for both school librarians and paraprofessionals. …

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