Sunday, May 3, 2009

I was recently asked whether, as a teacher in today's economy, I feel my job is threatened. I answered honestly that for the first time in 6 years, I have a sense of security in my position as a media specialist. I am the youngest media specialist (by at least a decade) in my very large district and while this does not bode well for my seniority, there is a very large group of my co-media specialists who are nearing retirement. And, let's face it, library media education is not something that many young college students even consider as a possible future career (I know I didn't). I am looking forward to what the future of my field has in store, as I have several decades left to climb the library media specialist beanstalk before I reach that seemingly mythological place in the clouds called retirement.

On that note, and after reading Essential Reference Services for Today's Media Specialists, specifically chapter 11 on evaluation, I think it is critical to not get complacent in my seeming security. I have long been a fan on informal surveys of my students to see how they think things are going in class, what I could improve on (they ALWAYS get this one 100% correct!), and what their favorite part of the class was. My district requires student and parent surveys to be given yearly by every professional seeking tenure, and in many ways I think it is a more relevant method of determining how effective a teacher is than standardized tests (and of course, as there is no MCA in library/media skills, there needs to be some measure to keep us accountable).

I'm not currently in a library that is used very often when it comes to reference, my clientele is more interested in finding the newest Junie B. Jones than anything else, so I worry a bit that my skills in being a reference librarian will grow quite rusty however I had the thought as I read chapter 11 that a "How Did We Do?" survey might be of good use. A modified version of the form on page 109 (I'm thinking simple 1-5 rating, it's what students are most familiar with) that with a simple "by the way, could you rate your experience here today and drop it in the box?" reference librarians could gain immense insight into their effectiveness. I'd probably even go so far as to put a big bowl of candy right next to the surveys to draw attention to it. Or better still, create an anonymous online survey that students can access anywhere and leave comments at their convenience (because if they can do it at SuperTarget, it must be a good idea).

Also one thing I appreciate in my district is the dedication to peer evaluation. All achievement of tenure candidates must go through a peer-coaching training. My biggest problem with this is that the vast majority of the time I am not being evaluated by peers that have any idea how a library media center is run. I like the ideas given on p. 111 but I think ultimately it is up to me to seek out job-alike peers to evaluate my performance, and take the time to observe other media professionals to gain insight into how they run things differently (and more efficiently in some cases).

Ultimately, as "a school media specialist, you have an obligation to be the expert at your school in current technologies" and effective reference practices. It does not do to become complacent, even if you feel secure in your job. The cliche "if it's worth doing, it's worth doing well" comes to mind, and as cliche as it is, it is a truth worth remembering.