8 Tips for Time Management

I recently read “Time Management in the School Library,” an article by Marge Cox in the October 2017 issue of School Library Connection. It got me to thinking of how I manage my time in the school library. Here are some things I do – maybe you will find them helpful as well.

1. Folder for each day and each class – As a teaching librarian, I create lesson plans each week. Those plans go in the folder for the appropriate elementary class. Copies, game pieces, any supplies for the lesson go in that folder as well (if they will fit). They are filed in an organizer behind the folder for the day on which I have that class. The day folder will have what I need for extra classes I may be teaching – my secondary students come on an “as needed” basis so I do not have class folders for them. When they visit, what I need for their lesson goes in the appropriate day folder.

2. Prep before leaving for the day – I have a cart that I use as a rolling podium within the library. Each afternoon before I leave, I place what I need for the next day’s lessons on that podium – folders, read-alouds, etc. This is helpful if I get “slammed” as I walk in the door – everything is ready for me. It is also helpful if I have to call in sick – everything is ready for my sub. If it is going to be a light day class-wise, I may leave a to-do list on my desk to remind me of tasks I did not complete which will need my immediate attention in the morning.

3. Desk Calendar – I keep a desk calendar on the check out counter. As teachers come in (or send me emails) to schedule classes – they are written on the calendar. That way I can tell at a glance if I have something scheduled in a specific period. Meetings also get added to this calendar.

4. Google Calendar – I don’t do as well as I would like with this one, but I do have a Google Calendar with my fixed library schedule on it. I also try to update it on a weekly basis with extra classes and meetings. I can access this calendar from my phone so even when I am away from the library, if I get a verbal request for library use I can check the calendar and add it in. With these verbal requests, I send myself an email as well so that I remember to add it to my desk calendar and the notebook.

5. Notebook – This year I started keeping a 3-ring binder on the check-out counter. This notebook contains two types of pages: weekly schedule and weekly tasks. The weekly schedule page is a table of the five days of the week as columns and the 8 periods of the day along with before and after school as rows. The weekly task page is also a table of the five days with a tasks in rows.

Weekly Schedule – my fixed elementary schedule is already included in my document. Each week I make a note of the topic taught in each class. At the beginning of the week I add in anything from my desk calendar along with the reason. If there are last minute additions to my calendar, I make sure those get on the weekly schedule in the notebook as well. The notations on this weekly schedule are helpful at the end of each month as I prepare my report for my administrator.

Weekly Tasks – My weekly tasks list includes things like cataloging, processing, cleaning tasks, shelving, checking emails, and book repair. My assignments for my student aides, my paid aide, and any volunteers who might show up, often come from this list. The list are also helpful to keep me on track and give me focus should I have 15 minutes with “nothing to do.” As tasks are completed I make a note of who completed the task. These notes are helpful when I prepare my monthly administrative report.

6. Delegate Tasks – look at all the work that needs to be done in a library. If your library isn’t a “one person show” you don’t have to do it all. Let go of some of your perfectionism – done is better than perfect. Decide which of your many tasks can be done with someone without your technical training. You don’t have to be the one who sharpens the pencils your students use to complete their worksheets. You don’t have to be the one who makes the copies for your classes. Can you train your student aides or volunteers to process or shelve books? Could they take on some of the cleaning tasks not done by your school maintenance staff? Can your paid aide or adult volunteer be trained to input cataloging information into automation system? Think about what needs to be done, look at the help you have, and decide which tasks only you can do. Then delegate the rest.

7. Spending Money – If your school is like mine, budget for the library is limited. Mine covers only our annual automation system fees and a subscription to World Book Encyclopedia Online. I fund raise the rest of my operating budget. Once in a while we will get a year-end gift for the library. I keep a public wish list on Amazon. When I come across something I’d like to add to the library for a special lesson or a teacher requests materials on a specific topic, those items go on my Amazon wish list. I have had parents purchase items off the wish list and donate them to the library. I also use the wish list when I have a surprise gift or my restricted fund is getting large enough I feel I can spend some of it. I feel like having the Amazon wish list saves me time.

8. Passwords – My smartphone, like many of yours, is pass code or fingerprint protected. I have a document in my notepad where I keep many of my passwords. That way, when I forget one, it is easily available to me, yet protected from outside eyes.

The biggest things to remember are you don’t have to do it all and done is better than perfect.

What are your favorite time management tips for the school library? Like this post and comment below. I’d love to hear your ideas.