Jenny Gill, school librarian, has been a member of Engaging and Empowering School libraries since January 2022 as a founding member. Continuing this series of blog posts that look at successes behind the membership, Jenny shares her personal achievement gained through focusing on the importance of the right line manager.
To paraphrase those famous opening paragraphs: it is a truth not universally acknowledged that a school librarian possessing a good range of skills must be in want of an appropriate line manager, preferably one at senior level with a good overview of the whole school.
However, well known the skills of said librarian, the community in which they work often consider them to be mere shushers of noisy students and stampers of books and line management can be achieved by anyone with space on their list.
The Art of Line Management
I have been a school librarian for 17 years. In that time, I have had at least 10 line managers including English teachers/literacy coordinators/deputy heads/business managers/HR managers. I have learned over the years that a good line manager is essential to moving things forward or just having your back in difficult situations.
Some of my line management relationships have been really positive where we have had good discussions on library matters. Other Line Managers have just been happy to let me get on with things, providing support only when I had a problem and that is OK, if not ideal.
Recently I found myself with far from ideal or even OK line management as a result of several circumstances coming together. My line manager didn’t understand the library and made no effort to visit or talk to me to find out what my job entailed. As the library fully re-opened in 2022 after COVID, I found myself in need of more support but instead, we kept clashing.
Because of COVID, I had gone with the flow, naively thinking that I would get a more appropriate line manager when things settled down. However, I realized that I needed to take action myself at this point. But how? There was no procedure given for this situation in the otherwise very comprehensive staff manual so I contacted another long-standing member of staff on the leadership team for help. He was supportive but I felt I hadn’t put my case across strongly enough.
Empowering school librarians for impact
With amazing timing, Elizabeth published a blog, Literacy and Reading Promotion via Your School Library, which included a succinct paragraph explaining what appropriate line management looks like for school librarians. I forwarded the link and pointed my contact to this paragraph. He then understood my dilemma and within days I had a new line manager – not a senior management person, but still much more appropriate as we already work together on literacy.
What Elizabeth had written was not new to me but I frequently find that when I’m in the midst of a situation, I cannot stand back enough to think clearly about what it is that needs to be said. I’m sure that the fact that Elizabeth is also a very well-respected professional also had an impact.
I'm so thankful for individuals like Elizabeth, who possess the ability to articulate their thoughts in a manner that truly benefits those of us caught up in the daily operations of managing a school library. Elizabeth's website offers captivating and motivating content, serving as a central hub for the school library community. The assurance of readily available assistance played a decisive role in my effortless decision to subscribe to her membership.
More information about Engaging and Empowering School Libraries can be found here