day(s) in the life

“But what does an average day LOOK like?”

I get that question a lot, as I work with several practicum students, interns, and visiting teacher-librarians (both virtually and in real life). Our library has what we call a “fixed-flex” schedule. This means that we have regular bi-weekly library enrichment class visits built into our schedule, but we also have the flexibility to meet, collaborate on planning, and teach with faculty. During student extension visits, we integrate information and literacy skills into students’ learning in other curricular areas. Because that description still leaves people wondering what it actually looks like when the rubber hits the road, and because every day is different, I thought it’d be fun to provide a snapshot of not one, but two days in the life.


7:20 – 7:45 AM:
I arrive at school and open the library (turning on computers, checking in books, unlocking our iPad cart, and filling displays). I pull resource books for 3 different teachers who have emailed me over the weekend. Several teachers drop into the library on their way to their classrooms to find books to use for upcoming units and activities. When I get a chance, I plug in and turn on my laptop and log into my email (so I can see when new messages are received throughout the day). I also spend a few minutes readying my instructional supplies for the day (making sure I have the visual guides I need, books ready to read, graphic organizers made, etc.).

7:45-8:15 AM:
This is what we call “Open Library” time, where kids and families can browse our collection and check out materials before school. There is always a flood of children ready when our doors open. Today, I had to explain to a group of kids that Firelight (Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet book #7) doesn’t come out for several months. The countdown has begun.

8:15-8:45 AM:
My colleague and I meet with a parent to discuss our book fair and ways that the library can recommend books to be added to the fair inventory. We also developed a plan for creating and sharing a suggested book list for parents to use when the book fair is in session.

8:45-9:15 AM:
Fourth graders visit for library extension. We explore our digital library resources using a thinking routine called SEE – THINK – WONDERseethinkwonder

9:15-9:35 AM:
I catalog a few new books that needed to be added to our collection. I also touch base with a teacher about a book that we’re thinking of incorporating into a unit on Chicago later this year.

9:40-10:35 AM:
We have back-to-back kindergarten classes visiting the library for enrichment. We are kicking off our state children’s choice book award (The Monarch Award), so together we read last year’s school- and state-wide winners.

10:35-11 AM:
I notice that our display in recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month is looking small, as a lot of the books we had featured have been checked out. I take a few minutes to pull and display additional books from our collection.

11:05-11:30 AM:
This is when I take a minute to grab lunch and reply to a few emails. Before I leave the library, a group of third and fourth graders drop in looking for “just right” books. I also show an assistant teacher how to use our self-checkout process.

11:30 AM – 12 PM:
I have lunch duty and help children in the cafeteria. At this same time, my teaching colleague has another kindergarten group visit for library checkout.

12-12:15 PM:
I go to my mailbox, where I find a few catalogs, some junk mail, a new Booklist, and bills for our subscriptions. I print out resources that I will need for my 12:15 meeting.

12:15-1 PM:
I meet with my supervisor to go over my goals for the year. We discuss many interesting topics and ideas, and I leave with a burst of energy (from our conversation and also from a piece of candy that I get from her office).

1:10-1:35 PM
Junior kindergartners visit for computer science class. (I teach CS as part of a 7-person faculty team.) We discuss how computers follow directions given to them by programmers, and we play a game of “programmer says.” We also explore how directions have order and the kids contribute to an idea map where we consider and define “order.” We read Z csorder1is for Moose by Kelly Bingham and Paul Zelinsky and 1-2-3 Peas by Keith Baker to think about other things in our lives that have a certain order (or sequence).

1:45-2:15 PM:
Fourth graders visit for library enrichment and to borrow books. We review routines and norms for using the library. Children sign a contract for the space and also help to create signs that will go up in our space all year. For the signs, the children pose in photographs that teach “how to use the library.” These photographs model library tips, tricks, and expectations to our visitors.

2:30-3:30 PM
After school “Open Library” begins. Kids and families drop in to take home materials for the night and tell us what they’ve been enjoying reading. One family has fun at our MakerZone center and creates a wacky hairstyle with chenille strips after learning about magnets.

3:45 – 5 PM
I attend a meeting of teachers and administrators. We engage in a thinking routine (Compass Points) which helps us consider goals for teaching and learning in the years to come.

5 PM
The library officially closes at 3:30, but five is consistently the “end” of our day. If I’m not at a meeting after school, I’m usually checking in books, emailing our volunteers, replying to emails, making pathfinders, creating book lists, or setting up extension visits for student groups.


7:20-8 AM
I arrive at school and do the same morning routines as yesterday. I work with our facilities department to move furniture to accommodate a large group for an event that will begin at 8:15.

8-8:15 AM
As fourth graders enter school, they check in with their teachers and then make their way down to the library. They have a few minutes to explore the collection and converse with one another while we wait for everyone to arrive for our morning guest speaker.

8:15-8:50 AM
The fourth graders have been learning about Japan, and next month they will visit the Chicago Botanic Garden’s bonsai collection. A special guest (who studied under Ivan Waters, past curator of the CBG bonsai collection) teaches children about bonsai and what to look for and appreciate when they look at trees on their field trip.

My students gave this thank you card to our speaker.

8:50-9:10 AM
It’s picture day! I run upstairs to get my snapshot taken.

9:10 – 9:35 AM
I have to sign and deliver paperwork that approves some recent book orders. I also send an email to a local bookseller about special ordering titles for a “One Book, One School” event I’m coordinating for the spring. I notice that our book drop is getting full, so I check in a couple books.

9:45-10:15 AM
First graders visit the library for enrichment. They learn routines and read Audrey Vernick and Matthew Cordell’s First Grade Dropout with my teaching colleague before checkout.

10:20-11 AM
Our laminator is broken. Luckily, my colleague fixes it right away.  I notice I have a voice message from a parent. I write a note to myself to contact her later. I also take this time to look at a post-it on our computer screen about a few books we need to order. I do a quick online purchase of those titles. I take a moment to put on my “co-department” chair hat and call my co-chair to discuss the agenda for our next department meeting. I also reply to an email from a high school teacher about an independent study one of her students is doing on the topic of children’s literature (specifically, beginning chapter books). I upload a few back-to-school library photographs to our intranet. Before our next class group arrives, I print out and post the photo signs the fourth graders helped finish yesterday on the bulletin board by our library’s main entrance.

11:05 – 11:30 AM
Second graders visit for enrichment. We talk about the different rooms (sections) of the library, and read Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman and Zachariah OHora. The children demonstrate their knowledge of the library sections by classifying Wolfie the Bunny as a fiction picture book that belongs in our “Everybody” section.

11:30 AM – 12 PM:
I have my lunch duty in the cafeteria.

12 – 12:10 PM:
I grab a quick lunch.

12:10-12:35 PM:
A group of second graders will soon be visiting with their teacher for what we call “book shopping.” The books go into special bags the kids decorate and are used during reading instruction. We set up three tables of books (similar to a bookstore display, but there is a table for early readers, a table for emergent chapter books, and a table for other chapter books). The children choose between 3 and 8 books to borrow. Since these books are chosen for reading instruction and the children are limited to “just right” levels, they get checked out under the teacher’s name.

12:35 – 1:10 PM
The children visit and “book shop” with their teacher’s guidance. If a child falls in love with a title but it won’t work for reading instruction, we check the book out for the child.

1:10-1:35 PM
Junior kindergarten visits for library enrichment. This is their first library enrichment visit of the year! After introductions and learning and practicing procedures, my teaching colleague leads the children in a compare/contrast activity between two picture storybooks: I Don’t Want to Go to School! by Stephanie Blake and Whatever by William Bee.

1:45-2:10 PM:
A fourth grade class visits for extension. We do another see-think-wonder routine to help us set a purpose for reading The Peace Tree from Hiroshima by Sandra Moore and Kazumi Wilds. The kids make thoughtful, insightful predictions using the information they learned about bonsai from the morning.

2:30-3:30 PM:
More families visit during “Open Library.” I help one caregiver find two abridged versions of the same classic story for her child. I notice someone pulled all of our Magic School Bus books onto the floor, and spend a moment putting them back on the shelf. A bunch of children create magnet hairstyles at our MakerZone. (We have a Padlet that students use to save and share their creations.)

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 9.15.56 AM3:45 – 5 PM:
After the library closes, we have another faculty meeting after school. Before I leave the library, I think about writing this post and run a circulation report. In two days, 302 books were borrowed from our library! I wonder how that figure compares to most days/weeks (I know we circulated over 16,000 books last school year).


Before I leave for work each morning, I will read my emails and make a to-do list for myself. I do most of my ordering, article reading, checking up on social media, and lesson planning on weekday evenings. I do most of my book reading during my commute or right before bed. (Fun fact: I just started using Boomerang to manage when emails are sent. This is worth looking into if you’re a night owl or early bird who doesn’t want people feeling one way or another about receiving work emails from you in the wee hours.) I do other professional development and projects (such as reflecting on this blog) whenever I get an opportunity, which is usually on weekends or during breaks from school. Today is a non-attendance day. I look forward to multi-tasking while I get my car serviced. 🙂

So, those are two back-to-back days. Even though there is no such thing as a “regular” day in the school library, hopefully this begins to answer that question up at the top of this post.


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