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« CODE77 Rubrics for Administrators 2010 Part 8 of 10 | Main | Buffy the Filter Slayer tomorrow - online »

Is your job on the line (and what can you do about it?)

I'm starting to get e-mails from school librarians who are at risk of losing their jobs due to budget cuts for the 2010-11 school year.  Asking, of course, what to do.

Given the dire budget straits most states are finding themselves this year, I expect this may be the most challenging year our profession has ever had in keeping positions (and my guess is that technology integration specialists may not have it too good either.)

I sincerely wish I had a magic formula, a strategy, a recipe that librarians and TISs could use to insure that their jobs won't be cut or eliminated in this round of educational down-sizing. I don't. Even in my own  "exalted" position as library/technology director, I have very modest influence over district-wide budget cutting decisions. I am one among many, many voices at the table (I am out numbered by principals 15 or so to 1)  when these discussions are held and decisions are made. While I have been looking for incriminating photos of the superintendent, business manager and school board chair, I have to date been unsuccessful.

So, here are the suggestions I've given to my own library folks:

  1.  Line up parents, teachers and students who would be willing to speak to and write on the importance of the library programs in the district. This is the single most critical thing we can do. Other programs will have vocal proponents. Administrators won't care about making us upset, but they don't like making parents mad.
  2. We need to work on our own administrators, discussing the future of the program in each building. This can be a reminder of all the services you currently provide and a chance to ask your principal of his/her ideas about what should be happening. No threats here, but an honest appraisal of the tasks that will not happen if positions/hours are reduced. (Perhaps ask the admins what should be cut from a list of options?)
  3. We still need to be creating program reports that show empirically what we do. Samples were distributed the first meeting we had this year. I have seen no action on this, but come prepared to our next meeting.

I've written more extensively about this before. Here are some short pieces.

I do know this. Once a budget plan is presented to the public via the school board, it is almost impossible to change. Any influence we have has to be exerted during the planning - we can't wait to re-act. (As a part of the administrative team, I am obligated to support the final budget as submitted as well. That's part of being professional.)

I hope the forecast is not as gloomy as I think it may be. It's truly dispiriting to build good programs only to see them weakened, even die. And given the other challenges libraries face, perhaps never be resurrected.

But let none of us go down without a fight.

Any job retention secrets (other than blackmail) you've found?

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Reader Comments (9)

While I don't see the town library surviving unless they make significant changes, I do see the necessity and vibrancy of a well planned school library. In our school division, most administrators cut budgets across the curriculum instead of picking on the poor library. They know the value of a library program. I do see the number of hard copy books dwindling, but the library as research centre of learning institutions will always remain. I know in your previous post I was rather flippant regarding public libraries, but I do recognize the important position the library plays in any community.

January 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTodd Wandio

My colleague and I have put an article in our Principal's mailbox every day that emphasizes the importance of strong library programs and/or statistics on how strong programs benefit schools. We know he is a part of meetings that will determine "the list." As surrounding districts have cut their library programs, we are not naive enough to think we aren't being considered no matter how much we do to further ourselves as professionals and educational leaders (we are both National Board Certified Teachers). We will continue to educate our Administrators and parents!

January 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda Davis

Thanks for the pointers here. This is a topic we are talking about with tech jobs, too. It is simultaneously on all our minds, I guess, as I wrote about this earlier today: I would love to hear from people about how they position technology and tech staff as vital and critical to the success of their school and district missions.

January 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJean Tower

I am fortunate to work for a district and school that values the library program. One of things I make sure to do is to teach as much as possible. We do not have a "library skills" class at my middle school; rather, I integrate teaching tech skills, research skills, etc. across the three grades in my building and make sure to work with a variety of subject area teachers.

While this approach sometimes doesn't leave me a lot of time to do my library work (reading journals, ordering books, cataloging, shelving--I have no support staff) it does make sure that I am quite busy on a day-to-day basis.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew L. Maas

Responding to Matthew--Be sure you document what you're doing in the classroom, get feedback from teachers on how it impacts student learning and report that monthly to your administrators, parents, and faculty. Don't let ANYONE forget about what you do. It's great that your district and school are supportive (right now) but as soon as cuts need to be made and they don't see you as being in the classroom (and if you don't show them they won't see it) you'll be considered expendable, despite what you actually do. Keep up the good work.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret Eves

@Margaret--You are quite right! I am a firm believer in metrics and use a variety of tools to keep administration, colleagues, and parents informed. I do my weekly lesson plans on GoogleDocs and share the folder with my Principal and Assistant principal. I also maintain a large number of calendars with iCal--I schedule my teaching, student library time, and computer usage for my school and then export this data into a database program that allows me to assemble statistical reports that I make sure to share with people. I usual do one a marking period for administration and then a big yearly recap at the end of the school year that goes out to all my colleagues in the building.

Another thing that really helps is that my district holds its BOE meetings in my library. I make sure to always have student projects displayed, make sure the shelves are neat & orderly, make sure that the furniture looks good, and make sure to have a materials display area right when you walk into the library--the current display is of new books. I was nervous when I took this job two+ years ago about the BOE meeting in here, but I have come to realize that it presents a fantastic PR opportunity for the library.

January 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew L. Maas

One of the most important initiatives I pushed as AASL President was this fight. AASL got local and active and that has been continued.

Not everyone does the promotion and marketing needed to develop a core group of advocates who will show up when your program/job needs support. Deb Logan's Advocacy Committee worked hard to put together the AASL Toolkits for a Crisis situation <> and "preventative medicine." <>

They are there for everyone (and some of your writings are in them, Doug).

This is timely, Sara

January 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSara Kelly Johns

Hi Sara,

Thanks for adding this link. I know AASL works to keep layoffs from happening and can provide helpful resources.

I would argue, however, that relying on AASL or one's state organization and NOT working locally is a recipe for disaster.


January 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

Oh, I absolutely agree with that, Doug! We have to be active ourselves; no one will support a program they don't know about!. The resources on the AASL site are targeted to do exactly that, give you the tools you need to make promotion and marketing part of your job--deliberately, consistently and continuously--to develop that core of advocates who will be there for support of your program whether it's for budget support or job retention. But when you are in panic mode, you can forget that there are national resources and support to add to the puzzle.


January 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSara Kelly Johns

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