“What does a typical day for a teacher librarian look like?”
I get this question from my students a lot and I can understand why. I mean, we like to know what we’re getting ourselves into. We also like to be able to plan ahead. I think people outside the profession also have questions about what we do with our days as the misconception that we spend our days reading books is still common. So… Although I’m no longer in a school library, I thought I would share my experience of what my days looked like back when I was a teacher librarian in practice.
Firstly, let me preface this by saying that I was part of a school library that had a great team. We had two teacher librarians (my Head of Library and myself), a library technician, and two library assistants. We had just enough staff to cover everything we set out to do and we did a lot with a little. I acknowledge that I was fortunate to work in a school that supported school libraries in this way, afterall, we all know that students need school libraries that are staffed with qualified staff and well-resourced!
Secondly, while I was full-time employed, I did have a teaching load. In my final year of teaching I had one senior geography class, one year 9 history class, one year 8 humanities class, and a pastoral care class. I also did playground duties outside the library and we did bus duty three times a term.
So… my day.
A typical day for me looked like this:
First Break (40mins)
Second Break (20mins)
Often a spare, sometimes a double lesson
Sometimes a spare, sometimes a lesson
Pastoral care class
Playground duty OR supporting staff in library
Lesson of some kind
Lesson of some kind
Supporting staff in library
Lesson of some kind
The first thing on my daily agenda was to check-in with my team. We’d talk about how they were doing and what they had on the agenda for the day. I would then go and get coffee (so important!) and when I returned I would continue the conversation with my team about what was on for the day/week. These conversations were so important to ensure great communication and general team building.
The next step in my day then depended on whether I was teaching first up or had spares. If I had spares, I would:
- Organise myself for my teaching lessons that day or week. Some days I had a 6 on day full of teaching, so planning ahead was key.
- Maybe mark but I tended to keep this for after school so that if I was to get pulled away from my spare I wouldn’t lose track of where I was at or what I was thinking.
- Create resources for the library – these might include instructional videos, website articles, social media posts, blogs, reviews, research support documents, and more.
- Impromptu callouts to classes for research support, technology support, or covers.
After spending some time at my desk with my noise cancelling headphones on (or teaching), the first break would be upon us and I’d head out into the library space to support my library staff. This would involve me monitoring the different areas of the library – yes, general staff had playground supervisions in the library as well but having me present on the floor helped to reinforce some of our rules, such as… the quiet zone is for individual work; no eating in the library; we understand that you are excited about books but please don’t run in our library or play hide and seek in our shelves… I would also often end up being approached by students for support with their school work or help with finding a book. Being visible during breaks was always really important to me. I’d also spend time helping behind the circulation desk doing anything my lovely library ladies needed. Sometimes, I would have scheduled meetings with our various book clubs or students for academic support too.
The middle periods of my day often included my teaching lessons (those classes I mentioned earlier) or prearranged research support lessons with classes. I might also have a library lesson for reading scheduled too. I was often moving around the school between buildings and classrooms. As comfortable or easy as it might be to bring classes into the library space, I do think there’s a lot to be said for seeing the teacher librarian out and about, visiting a variety of classrooms.
Second break, I’d be back on the library floor doing my thing.
The final period of the day was most often the lesson that classes were booked in for a library lesson on reading. We had a program that ran for all classes in year 7-9 to come to the library once a fortnight for reading. My Head of Library and I divided the classes up between us and made recurring bookings. This was my favourite time of the day and a time where you would find me sitting and reading, modelling good reading behaviour for my students. I also had check-in chats with students about their reading. The format of these lessons was: Book chat from me, sometimes I would read part of a book to hook them, then we’d borrow and I’d help students find the perfect book, after that everyone would find a comfy spot to sit down and read. Students would often get approximately 30mins of silent reading time in these lessons. During this time, I would either read with them or call them up to chat. We had created a culture of talking about reading. When we first started with these chats, I will say that it was awkward and some students were hesitant. After a while, they got more comfortable talking about reading, especially when they learnt that these chats were not to name and shame but for me to understand what was happening in their reading lives.
After school I’d either still be in the library offering support during our teacher supervised study sessions, running to departmental or whole staff meetings, trekking up to bus duty, or debriefing with my lovely library ladies. Most often I would still be working away in the library after we had “closed” for the day.
At this point, you might be wondering when I ate… I would often eat snacks at school rather than a meal. This meant I could squeeze something in on my way to classrooms or commitments or while I was on the library floor. The only non-negotiable in terms of food for me was my morning coffee from our on campus barista. (Yes, very luck, I know!)
There were days where I achieved a lot of big tasks and there were days where I wasn’t really sure what happened but all days were jam packed. I was fortunate enough to work in a school library that had a great library team. We each had various roles to fill but we also chipped in. Some other tasks you might have found me doing throughout the day were:
- Returning, cleaning or shelving books;
- Stocktaking and weeding books (by far my favourite activity!);
- Moving furniture around (you’d be surprised how often you do this in a school library);
- Helping with displays;
- Upskilling library staff in technology or platforms;
- Consulting with teaching staff on their needs and how I could support them;
- Consulting with the IT department about technology needs and how we, as a library, could support the staff and students in moving to or using a new platform (or a myriad of other tech needs – I swear, my Head of IT and I got along very well but he always had a big sigh when I came to him and said “I’ve been thinking…” or “I was wondering…”)
And yes, sometimes if I had 5 minutes to carve out for myself, I would spend those precious moments reading a book from our collection to either write a review on, add into my Book Chats rotation, or simply because I wanted to.
So, that’s what my days often looked like. I think the biggest takeaway from this is that our days are varied and fluid. No two teacher librarian days will look the same! Every day will be different depending on the teacher librarian’s team, the school they’re in, whether they are primary or secondary, state or private… the list goes on! The constant is that we must be flexible and adaptable. We must be willing to say yes to things where we can fit them in and get out and about to be visible in our schools.
For another ‘day in the life of a TL,’ please check out this Tweet thread by the wonderful Madison. Madison shared what her day looked like when we celebrated Australian School Library Day 2022:
So, what do you think? Is this what you expected for a day in the life of a teacher librarian? Have I missed anything important? Let me know!
*Featured image from the Pexels library through WordPress.