Are you reading Judi Moreillon’s QR: Quick Remedies in School Library Monthly or online? In each issue, Dr. Moreillon examines multiple stakeholders’ perceptions of the mission, policies, and activities of the school library. This month’s column, “Policy Challenges: Consequences that Restrict Borrowing,” considers the viewpoints of students, teachers, parents, and principals when late or lost books result in restricted borrowing of library books – a tricky balance of responsibility, access, school property, and developing and supporting habits of reading and using libraries.
Weighing this complicated subject – with questions like “what about teaching students to remember their books so that others can read them” and “what about kids who live in different homes during the week” – reminds me of struggling with disciplinary measures that might prohibit my middle school students from visiting the library for a certain period of time.
I wasn’t a pushover when it came to student behavior in my work as a middle school librarian, but the relaxed atmosphere might have suggested otherwise to the untrained eye. I had a very intentional philosophy behind what may have appeared to be a rather easy-going classroom management environment. During most of my time as school librarian, I had three rules: Be respectful. Be responsible. Be productive. (Oh- and the rules in the image above aren’t mine, just a great list from maczter on Flickr. I just really liked the idea of listening with your heart.)
But back to my rules, at the beginning of the year for study hall students, or when classes started library projects, we’d go over what these rules looked like in practice. I wanted students to respect the space, the materials, one another, and their teachers. Once in a while a teacher would suggest “no library” for two weeks as a consequence for something, and except in rare cases (like a very novice attempt at credit card fraud, or instances of bullying), I typically tried to steer consequences in another direction. I wanted to help the students to see the library as a safe, inviting place for reading, information seeking, and learning, not only within the four walls of their school library, but when they encountered other libraries in new settings. And in order to do that, I needed the kids to be in the library, not kicked out of it. So instead, I tended toward consequences like warnings per the school handbook, reviewing of rules in a frank discussion, making a genuine apology, or if merited, assisting with an unexciting task in the library or the classroom. I tried not to nag about inconsequential things, I focused on redirecting kids’ behavior in what I thought were important communication and life skills (like listening to each other), I encouraged active discussion not constant quiet, and I didn’t insist on “school-related” tasks during students’ independent visits to the library. As much as it was my job to support students’ learning and information literacy, I believed it was also my job to help students gain confidence in depending on libraries and librarians.
My practice was always a work in progress, and in thinking about Judi Moreillon’s discussion of diverse perspectives on library policies, I think that I could have done a better job of communicating the reasons behind my disciplinary approach to my colleagues, the kids, and the parents. After reading these QR articles, I think I might have gained even stronger support for building lifelong library users with some more explanation of why I handled things the way I did in the library, and I could have gained perspective on other teachers’ classroom management preferences, among other things.
How can you reflect upon and explain your library policies and choices to the school community? What can you learn about your school community members’ priorities and questions? A good start might be reading and thinking on more QR: Quick Remedies columns: closing the library at the start of the school year; library orientation; and no kindergarten checkout until December.
References: Moreillon, Judi. ““Policy Challenges: Consequences that Restrict Borrowing.” School Library Monthly 29, no. 4 (January 2013): 22-23.