Saturday, August 22, 2015

Finding Value In Tedious Tasks

We all have tasks within our jobs that fall into the category of "tedious". I can think of unpleasant but necessary tasks I have had to endure in my 20 years as a public school educator: taking daily attendance, standardized testing, and inventory to name a few. For the school librarian, there are still jobs that are not as enjoyable as others. Probably one of the most demanding jobs we are tasked with at Lakeside High School is textbook distribution.

One of our 3 textbook storage rooms.
At a school of over 1300 learners, one can imagine the size of the required textbook inventory. We keep these textbooks in three different storage rooms in the school. During the first full week of school, we schedule all English classes in each grade to come checkout their textbooks. It is an all day event for each grade that generally takes at least four days to complete. There have been years I have dreaded this event, mostly because it occurs during the initial days of school. During this exciting time, I had much rather be planning library events to draw new learners to our programs and to new books. I also tend to worry about classroom technology not working correctly at the first of the year (our library team serves as technology support). There are always glitches with new software and any hardware that has sit idle during the summer months.  It is important to me that teachers and students have access to the technology they need, and that it works correctly! I also want our learning community to have the print materials they need. The first order of business is handing out the texts that contain the information the teachers must use. Right now, textbooks are the vehicle for this content. In the future, electronic devices will hold this content, and I feel certain we will be tasked with issuing these products during the first days of school. This service is invaluable to our school learning community now, and it will continue to be in the future.

Our learners are always happy to pose!

I truly changed my attitude toward textbook distribution two years ago. I realized that this was an opportunity to see every learner. Every student will not come by the library during the course of the school year. Even though we aren't hosting this checkout process in the library, we still represent the library to the learners. Our library team decided this was a great opportunity to serve and positively impact students that we may only see a few times this year.

How can I make a difference in these learners with only a few moments to interact with them as we retrieve their textbooks, get their student ID number, scan the books, and then send them on their way while the next person comes in? The process is simple:

  • I say "hello" or "how are you today?"
  • I smile when they come into the textbook room. 
  • I have been known to "pick" at students (for a laugh) when it is their turn to get textbooks.
  • I take the time to say their name. 

I don't know all the students' names, but I can take the time to look at their name on the circulation database screen and make it a personal interaction by calling them by name. Everyone appreciates this.

Also, this year I decided to genuinely use phrases like:

  • "How can I serve you today?" 
  • "It's good to see you today." 
  • "Thank you for coming by." 

I have noticed the difference it makes when I am served at restaurants or other businesses and the workers say things like this to me. What is the impact for me personally? It is simple: I want to go back to those businesses because the employees make me feel like they care about me! I feel valued!

All students need to hear these phrases. When we say things like this, I believe it makes people feel important. I have personally seen a difference in their faces when I have done this in the textbook rooms and in the library. My hope is that they will want to come back and give us an opportunity to serve them in the library media center.

Yes, we took a textbook checkout selfie ;-)

We also took some photos when time permitted. I found that students loved to have their photos taken holding textbooks or waiting in line. (Yes, we even took a textbook room selfie.) I decided to post some of these photos on Twitter and on our Facebook group for the library. I also shared some of our textbook circulation statistics for the day in these posts. Now, others could be better informed about what we were doing.  In a sense we took a tedious task and turned it into a library promotion event!

One of our library Facebook posts (Good PR!).

Textbook checkout is still a tedious task, but more importantly it is an opportunity to see every learner in our building since they ALL have to have textbooks. If we were able to make one learner feel valued over these four days, it was worth the effort. If they come to the library in the future because we served them well, it was definitely worth the work! I hope this reflection will help you find ways to make your tedious tasks a valuable experience for others. We can make good things happen in almost every situation. Most of the time, it depends on our attitude. Attitude is contagious!

Have you shared your annual library report? If not, what are you waiting for? Go here!

Read what one of our students wrote about the library in "Not Just A Room With Books" here.

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