Looking back on my weeks at Old Trail School, I can readily conclude that my practicum was an extremely valuable experience on a number of levels. I wanted to reflect a moment by returning to the original goals I set to see how well they were accomplished.
Objective: To gain a better understanding of the daily responsibilities of a school librarian and experience in handling the day-to-day work activities and demands.
This objective was definitely accomplished. While I recognize that every setting is different, I had many opportunities to simply work through a typical day, balancing teaching responsibilities with managing library patrons, meetings, volunteers and the myriad duties a librarian juggles. Organization is definitely a key and one I will have to work very hard at my first few years. I think that the infusion of volunteers into this library made the librarian’s work much more doable, and having them around was truly enjoyable as well. Ms. Swift has a lot of routines which help keep daily tasks manageable and leaves her time for the bigger jobs like collection development and lesson planning.
Objective: To gain experience with library automation and cataloging.
I was a little worried that two days would not be enough to feel comfortable with this, and of course I have much more to learn. However, spending those final two days so immersed in MARC records, the catalog and the management of the collection’s resources did at least give me some experience with this area, and I am much more comfortable with the general process, even if I may need refreshers on the specifics. Ms. Swift also prepared a binder of resources and notes for cataloging to help me as I begin managing my own collection, for which I am grateful.
Objective: To gain experience with school library programming and/or lesson planning.
Programming is such a strength of Ms. Swift’s, and I so appreciated having the opportunity to learn from her in this area. She does not spend enormous amounts of time lesson planning, but is constantly on the lookout for new resources and materials to inject into her curriculum. It grows organically over the years, changing in response to her ability to stay informed on current trends, and the needs she perceives. This lessons the time she has to spend creating new material and allows her to focus on delivery and the creation of other programs. She gave me many ideas, like the parents’ group, which I hope to use, and allowed me many opportunities to work with the children and try new things.
Objective: To continue developing a collection of professional resources and ideas for running a school library, working with students and supporting teachers and administration.
I have to think about this a little, but not because I did not accomplish it. Ms. Swift does a remarkable job of maintaining her awareness of current trends and resources, but she does it so naturally that it was not always obvious how she was doing it. She did walk me through her resources and I was always impressed with the variety of small things she knew about which added richly to the library experience at Old Trail. I think overall, I did accomplish this goal and will certainly be using many of the things I saw and worked with at Old Trail – already have, in fact, as I completed summer classes, added to discussions, and developed resource collections of my own.
Objective: To gain experience in collection development – selection and deselection of materials.
I got to spend a lot of time on selection and concentrated time on deselection, both of which were so helpful. Ms. Swift took advantage of the intensive amount of reading I have had to do over the last year to have me contribute additions to her collection, particularly in the areas of picture books and graphic novels. She also had me concentrate specifically on developing certain areas of the nonfiction collection, where I had to consider student and teacher input, currency and breadth of the current collection and the potential resources available to purchase. Deselection was much more intimidating – I was amazed at how quickly a section of the nonfiction collection can become outdated. The changing of one law, one historical event, one scientific decision and suddenly every book on the subject is giving information that is no longer accurate. I really appreciated being able to work side-by-side with her to weed the professional collection. Many of the choices we made were more obvious than they might be when getting rid of student resources, but I was able through that process to get a much better feel for how weeding decisions are made.
Objective: To build a plan of action for approaching the initial weeks of my first professional position.
This is probably the only goal I can’t honestly say I accomplished. However, on reflection, I’m not sure that it was an appropriate goal. I do not know anything about the setting or challenges I will face in any specific position. What I did come away from my practicum with, I think, are the tools I will need to build this plan once I do understand the specifics of a new job. I have more resources, and more importantly, I have had several weeks of watching a truly effective library in operation and participating in that experience. I know what a good library should look and feel like. Counterfeit police don’t spend time learning how to detect counterfeits by examining a lot of counterfeit bills. They spend their time examining and handling the real thing so that they will know it so well, a fake will be easy to spot and remove. I think the same principle is true in a career like this one – the more exposure we have to effective operating procedures and practices, the more resources we develop to help ineffective situations become better. It’s not enough to know what doesn’t work; we must know how to fix it. While I have nowhere near all the answers, my practicum gave me the opportunity to gain a much better understanding of what does work in a school library and how to accomplish it.