The library media specialist must work with the school administration to ensure that time is available to meet the demands of the position.

woman with timeTeacher librarians are a very busy professionals. It's essential that they are able to schedule their time to address the mission of the library media program. Unfortunately some library media specialists have very little control over their time.

Some professionals are automatically scheduled with back-to-back classes for the entire day, while others are able to work collaboratively with teachers to design a flexible program of activities.

What is flexible scheduling?

Flexible scheduling relates to how a library media specialist schedules his or her time. A flexible schedule allows the teacher librarian to work collaboratively with teachers and administration to develop programs that may or may not include regularly scheduled classes.

People often think about flexible scheduling as two opposing views rather than a continuum of options and opportunities. A library media specialist must work within the established structure, politics, and history of a school. But at the same time, explore new ways of thinking about time and schedules. As a result, flexible scheduling may have less to do with the schedule and more to do with the way a teacher librarian thinks about how they spend their time and focus their energy.

In some cases, it's difficult to change the status quo.

For example, some rigid library schedules are based on teacher union demands for teacher planning time or breaks. The teacher librarian may be in the same category as the art teacher or physical education instructor. As a result, it's unlikely that a flexible schedule will happen.

In other situations, the opposite problem exists. Some high schools are under so much academic pressure that teachers are reluctant to take away time for work in the library. The teachers have no interest in planning or collaborating with the media specialist.

Rather than being miserable or trying to implement radical changes, it may be more realistic to work for change internally. In other words, ask yourself how you can build collaborative relationships within the structure of a rigid system. Or, how you can use a virtual presence to connect with high school teachers who are unlikely to physically visit to your center.

eye means readRead Where the Kids Are by Pamela S. Bacon (July 2004), School Library Journal; 50(7), 28. (Access requires login). This teacher librarian is thinking in innovative and practical ways.

Read Its Good to Be Inflexible by Doug Johnson (Nov 2001) in School Library Journal; 47(11), 39. (Access requires login). This article looks at fixed-schedule library media programs and their effect on teaching and learning.

Also read Johnson, Doug. Real Flexibility.
Contains a few responses to his article in SLJ (Nov. 2001). Unfortunately what many dedicated professionals hear is: “School media specialists in flexibly scheduled programs are good and school media specialists in programs with fixed schedules are bad.”

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Is flexible scheduling important for the consultant role of a library media professional?

A primary role of the teacher librarian is to collaborate with members of the learning community. This role is difficult when faced with a rigid class schedule.

eye means readRead Flexible Scheduling: Implementing an Innovation by Joy McGregor (2006) in School Library Media Research; 9.

Also read Collaboration: It's a Gamble on a Fixed Schedule by G. S. Rowe (Mar/Apr 2007, PDF document). Knowledge Quest; 35(4), 44-6.

Also read comments shared at TeacherLibrarian Ning on Flexible Scheduling - Elementary School Library Question from School Library Graduate Students (Oct. 2007).

Words of Wisdom

As you think about the importance of flexible scheduling and access to information, consider the wide range of views and perspectives.

practitionerRead the perspective of one library media specialist:
Catherine Trinkle gave us permission to post a letter she wrote to Doug Johnson related to her thoughts on the topic of flexible scheduling. Read this PDF document.

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Check Your Understanding

eye means readRead Hurley, Christine A. (Nov / Dec 2004). Fixed vs. Flexible Scheduling in School Library Media Centers: A Continuing Debate (PDF document). Library Media Connection23(3), 36-41.

info powerInformation Power: Information Access and Delivery - Principle 4.

The library media program requires flexible and equitable access to information, ideas, resources for learning. (p. 83, 89)

Define flexible scheduling.

Discuss different perspectives on the issue.

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Make It Real

teachers planning Do you agree or disagree with the positions taken by Doug Johnson (Articles above)?

Take a stand, present your argument. Convince your colleagues.

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Read More About It

Research on Flexible Access to School Libraries

Creighton, Peggy Milam (Jan 2008). Flexible Scheduling: Making the Transition. School Library Media Activities Monthly; 24(5).

Shannon, Donna M. (1996). Tracking the Transition to a Flexible Access Library Program in Two Library Power Elementary Schools. School Library Media Quarterly; 24(3).
This study describes how participants interpret the process of implementing flexible access library programs in elementary school settings and how these programs evolve over time.

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