I think we could all agree that our jobs over the past year have changed a lot. Just like everything in 2020, education has changed in many ways. As we packed up last March to what we figured would be a few weeks going remote, it turned into over two months of remote learning. That led us all to start thinking differently about how we do our jobs. When August came around, we were all hoping for some sense of normalcy, but that quickly changed to starting the year remotely--then some switching to hybrid while others came back full time. Now we are all back again in the remote world with, thankfully, more online learning experience. Yet many of us feel that we can’t catch up or do our job effectively--especially our Digital Teacher Librarians.
A Digital Teacher Librarian’s job is constantly changing. Sometimes, things change weekly, daily, hourly, and even minute by minute. A DTL’s job is rarely the same day to day, and they are often pulled in many different directions. This year has allowed them once again to reinvent their positions. There are many examples all across the district of ways DTLs are adapting, pivoting, and finding ways to do their jobs to help students, teachers, and parents succeed in this new normal.
Most DTLs spend some of their time working on the technology in the buildings. This may consist of making sure projectors are projecting, doc cameras are working, that devices are distributed, and students are successfully engaging with technology. This has now become a major part of the DTL’s job. Linda Tatalaski, DTL at Creighton Middle School, has actually gone to families’ homes to help troubleshoot a Chromebook to make sure it functions properly. Tobye Ertelt, DTL at Oberon Middle School, used to have the help of her student tech crew, but since we had to go remote that left more of the responsibility on her. In response, she created a Technology Guide. This guide helps families troubleshoot and fix their own tech issues. Angie Wagner, DTL at Bear Creek High School, spends some of her day arranging device repair via curbside as well as providing office hours for students and teachers. I am sure that none of these DTLs thought their job would involve so much tech troubleshooting.
Another way the job of a DTL has changed is how we are checking out books. Remember when you used to be able to just walk into a library, check out a book, and take it home? Now this process looks very different. Libraries across the district had to figure out a way to get books into kids’ hands safely without them ever stepping into the library. One big change this year is students must put books on hold in order to check them out. This is an easy process but does require some instruction from the DTL. Some teachers have assigned this as homework or have set up “Library Time” in their classroom to simulate actually going to the library. Once the book is on hold, it requires someone from the library staff to pull the books and check them out. Finally, the DTL has to creatively figure out a way to safely deliver the books. Heidi O’Leary, DTL at Bradford North, is using grab and go book stations. These books are from different subjects and genres. Heidi said that the best part is when a student requests a book and she actually can find it either at the Bradford Library or the Jeffco Public Library and is able to get the book into the students’ hands!
Finally, one of a DTL’s most important jobs is to collaborate with teachers on lessons. They provide resources as well as support students and their learning. This is challenging in a remote world, but DTLs once again are finding ways to get it done. One resource many are creating is a Bitmoji library space. These are fun and engaging for students as well as providing online resources. Andrea Gilmore, DTL at South Lakewood Elementary, created South Lakewood’s Virtual Library that includes virtual books, book talks as well as Hour of Code activities. Oberon Middle School has also created Oberon Middle School Virtual Libratory that links to the Jeffco Public Library as well as links to Oberon’s library resources. Elizabeth Mehmen, DTL at the Bergens, has created Picture Book Nominees for the CCBA Books for students to become familiar with these award winning books, and to vote for their favorite.
This has been a year to “pivot” at a moment’s notice and to find new ways to keep the library engaging for ALL students. DTLs are constantly reinventing their jobs and spaces to best meet the needs of their students, teachers, and communities. As we wind down 2020 and can see 2021 on the horizon, we can only wonder what new exciting practices will we see next!