Getting into position
Developing relationships requires energy and that needs to come from us. It takes time to build trust and confidence between people, especially in such a hectic work environment as a school, so persistence and resilience is essential. How can librarians stay positive when, as we have seen, others are unlikely to find the time or energy to come to us with ideas? We need to ensure that we position ourselves so that we can capitalize on possible opportunities and this depends on us being alert, proactive and determined. Our aim should be that in the longer term, when our role is well established in the minds of senior leadership and staff, we will automatically be involved in the school decision-making process.
Good positioning requires research and awareness on our part. Who are the budget holders in the school? What are the current big projects (e.g. demonstrating pupil progress, social inclusion for all, independent learning)? When we have answered these questions we should consider how and what we can contribute. If we can go to a project manager with a proposal or solution this will allow us to be identified as someone who is knowledgeable, who participates and can be relied on.
In the first instance, we are our own best resource. We have expertise and skills. We should market our wares with shrewdness.
What is possible in the real world of school libraries?
Three major issues faced by most school librarians are accommodation, budget and staffing. How can we respond positively to these challenges?
Few schools have all the space they need and not all school libraries are able to accommodate one-tenth of the school's population at any one time, as recommended by Barrett and Douglas (2004), or even one class, as recommended by CILIP (Shaper, 2014). Does this prevent us from making an impact on teaching and learning? Lack of space can be extremely frustrating, yet many librarians fulfil a vital role in spite of this difficulty. The following vignettes show two responses to lack of space.