Working Without a Net

safety-lastThat was the title of the presentation I gave to other Media Specialists in my district on Thursday.  Where “net” = “full-time clerk.”  I had a “full-time clerk” at my last job but she was getting pulled for more and more things so I was already having to adapt.  At my current school I do not have one and neither do some other folks in my district, so I was asked to present some tips and tricks on dealing with that.

There is a full time “Instructional Clerk” who works out of the Media Center.  She does all the copying (of which there is a crap ton on a daily basis), the daily slide show, runs the laminating machine, helps with the website and all kids of random things.  She can step out and help with the circulation desk in a crunch, but that is not her job and she can run the morning show and bus dismissal slides if I’m out or something.  So that is a big help.

They have hired me a Friday-only clerk.  Fridays were crazy last year.  Apparently the previous librarian paid for a Friday person with book fair money.  I refused to do that and said I consider book fair money is for, you know, books.  So the principal found some money in the couch or something and now I have a Friday clerk.

I also have been cultivating a number of volunteers.  They are amazing but having volunteers instead of a full time person loses consistency and leads to more training.  I try to keep the training up because I figure you never know if a clerk position did open up, who might take it.  Best to have them as knowledgable as possible.  And if a clerk job never opens up, then that’s an even better reason to have them as knowledgable as possible.

So I get by.  But it’s not nearly what I could do if I had a full time clerk.  I rarely leave the media center.  I used to always go to grade level meetings and now never do.  I could leave and teach lessons in classrooms or help with projects in the computer labs.  Not now.  I had more time for collaboration, weeding, signage projects, displays, more interesting lessons.

Now I do fly-by collaboration when someone comes to me with a question or when they come to pick up their copies. I teach mini-lessons when whole classes come in for checkouts, but not all classes come down as a class.  Many students come in on passes and I never see the whole class for lessons.  I spend a chunk of my day doing clerk-related stuff like checking in books and sorting them.  I don’t do much shelving.  I leave that for volunteers.  So I try not to get too uptight about how the shelves look.  If they want it in better shape they’d hire a clerk.

I don’t whine about it all the time however.  I told the principal I’d push for a clerk if hired.  When I was hired I told her I didn’t want to bug her about it but did want a time to discuss the matter.  She said January was when they got their points projection. So I have it on my calendar to see her every January and give her my spiel about how much more effective the program would be with a full time clerk. Or even a regular part time one.  I also mention it when I’m asked to add anything extra to the program.  “That’s something I’d love to do when I get a clerk.”

It doesn’t look good, though.  We’ve added many new students so they just added two new teachers and a half rime “testing room clerk.”  Yup.  Having someone whose job it is to sort and collate and deal with standardized testing is apparently more important than having a properly staffed library.

So I’m not holding my breath.