Beginner Librarian, Reflective Librarian

Zen Garden-Jacksonville Zoo

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few. ~Shunryu Suzuki

I am in the first month of my second year as a high school librarian. Our first month of school involves setting or reviewing goals for a number of stakeholders in the school community. From the school governance board, to the technology department, to the literacy team, we have each been focused on our goals, and on identifying the metrics by which we will determine success or failure. My library partner and I have set goals for our media center, and I have two additional personal goals on which I plan to focus this year. Both of these goals are ongoing, both are areas that offer the opportunity for continuous improvement, and the pursuit of both goals promises to make me a better and happier librarian. The first goal is to approach each task ahead of me with beginner mind. The second goal is to make time for reflection regularly throughout each week.

During library school, we had an assignment in which we each wrote a letter from our future self to our brand new librarian self.  I remember writing about the importance of getting out of the library to connect with stakeholders, of collecting data about meaningful use and interactions, and about maintaining a student-centered approach in everything from collection development to programming to services. In the midst of graduate school, where everything seemed to be easy to approach from a fresh perspective, I had somehow forgotten that at work I often get caught up in the rush of day-to-day tasks and I forget to look for the little and big lessons in everyday activities. At the time of that assignment, I also took for granted that reflection is a natural part of the inquiry process that just happened (much as night follows day), and I didn’t remember that it is a step that is often short changed or short circuited in the cacophony of an average busy day in the high school environment.

If I were writing that assignment today, I would still include everything I included previously about making connections, striving for meaning use, and staying student centered. I would also tell myself to consider every aspect of everything we do in the media center as if we were just getting it off the ground. There is value in retaining programs and processes that have been working, and there is value in giving those programs and processes a close, fresh look to see how they can be improved. There is also value in admitting what doesn’t work so that you can devote your resources to something that will. I would tell myself that no matter how many things are on my “To Do” list, it is always worth taking time to reflect on what has worked, what could work better, and what isn’t working as we’d hoped.

So far, employing beginner mind and reflection has given me permission to slow down, look at what we are doing with fresh eyes, and start conversations with my partner librarian and our media center paraprofessional about what is working in what we offer our school community and about what might work even better.

We’re off to a good start. And, I’m looking forward to what comes next!

The photo in this post was taken by me at the Jacksonville Zoo, Jacksonville, FL.

1 reply »

  1. Beautiful thoughts and reflection Kate. I shall carry this sentiment as Instart my school year. I wonder who’s class you wrote the letter for- I don’t remember such an assignment but it sounds awesome!!