School Librarian Back-to-School Hacks for 2023–24

SLJ asked 12 librarians to share one new thing they’re planning for the 202324 school year and one thing they do to stay positive in their work. Here’s what they had to say.

SLJ asked 12 school librarians to share one new thing they’re planning for the 202324 school year, and one (or more) things they do to stay positive in their work. Here’s what they had to say.



Tamara Cox, librarian

Wren High School, Piedmont, SC

One new thing
I'll record and share “First Chapter Friday” videos so our teachers can easily promote books during our weekly tutoring time. Titles I’ll highlight include The Inheritance Games, Legendborn, The Girls I've Been , and Ground Zero. I plan to read the whole chapter or excerpts and keep the recordings around five minutes. I serve 1,300 students and over 100 faculty members, and these recordings will allow me to promote books widely.

Staying positive
I keep all the sweet notes and letters from students and revisit that file when I'm feeling down or need a reminder of how our work makes a difference. I'm starting year 19 and still have notes from my first year. When the pressures of librarianship get to me, those notes always lift me up.



Jean Darnell, school librarian

Dessau Middle School in Pflugerville ISD, Austin, TX

One new thing
I’m trying STEM Creation Days this year—themed celebration days combined with a STEM activity. For example, I hope to collaborate with our local zoo to do a Bat Cavethemed day. Austin, TX, is famous for bats hibernating under the Congress Street Bridge. It would be fun to bring bats to the library for a STEM moment, with a nocturnal, dark corner in the library that will serve as a "bat cave." We may even tie in DC Comics hero Batman, why bat poop is great for gardening, and possibly even schedule a field trip to the Congress Street Bridge.

Staying positive
I garden and meditate. I'm growing red okra, purple basil, black jalapeños, blushing cherry tomatoes, and old-school orange pumpkins! As a kid, I longed to visit a pumpkin patch (thank you, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown ). So true to my Fix-It Felix nature, I decided to grow my own. I'm excited to garden and forage for herbs and forest treasures, as I did this past summer. Meditation is also a grounding, self-love activity I do to keep my insides harmonious and relaxing.



Lee De Groft, director, library and information services

Trinity Preparatory School, Winter Park, FL

One new thing
My assistant and I are going to give podcasting a go. We want it to be more than book reviews and recommendations. We are thinking of topics like “behind the scenes in the library,” “books and authors in the news,” “I hated that book/I loved that book,” and highlighting nonfiction. We hope to get some student guests too. Our goal is to put it out not only on social media but our school newsletter to families. Wish us luck!

Staying positive
I celebrate (and document) the wins, no matter how small. If a student or teacher tells me something positive about a book they read, I might make a cute post on Canva with their quote and post it on our school electronic bulletin board to share. I am constantly taking photos or videos of library activity, whether it is teaching classes, the morning rush, or just students hanging out. Spreading these on social media both brings me and the kids joy and also promotes the library. After reading the next dreadful headline about book banning or doing away with libraries, I scroll through our Twitter and Instagram feeds and am reminded not just of the importance of libraries but the happiness they provide. And I live in Florida!



Joni Gilman, library media specialist

Seckinger High School, Gwinnett County, GA

One new thing
I’ll be using our new ActiveFloor from PowerUp Learning to incorporate game-based learning in our library. I plan to collaborate with teachers to develop games that reinforce student learning. I’m also eager to explore generative AI to enhance our library services, including ChatGPT to provide personalized book recommendations and various AI tools to simplify research, including citation support. I also hope to explore AI tools for student projects.

Staying positive
Music plays a big role in helping me stay positive. I enjoy curating uplifting playlists that instantly elevate my mood throughout the day. Keeping a gratitude journal and tuning in to inspiring podcasts are also sources of positivity. I read and listen to books on various self-improvement topics, which help shape my outlook. I spend as much time as I can with uplifting colleagues whose perspective and support help foster a positive mindset.



Sara Kelley-Mudie, librarian and educational technology specialist

Beaver Country Day School, Chestnut Hill, MA

One new thing
I'm integrating more opportunities for students to analyze where their information comes from—not just who wrote and who published it, but how reporting happens, how statistics are gathered, and the choices authors make about what does and doesn't get included. I want my students to develop a more nuanced understanding of how biases make their way into the information we consume—especially as generative AI becomes a more prevalent part of their lives—and how that influences what information is easy to find and what perspectives are harder to find.

Staying positive
Small conversations with students and colleagues consistently bring me joy. I keep toys and origami on my desk to provide people an excuse to stop and chat; I learn so much about my students, their interests, and what they're thinking about. A few years ago, I bought a pep-talk generator and put it on my desk. It is, without a doubt, the best money I've ever spent. Listening to students give each other pep talks is the highlight of my day!



Steve Tetreault, school library media specialist

Holmdel (NJ) Township School District

One new thing
I have worked extensively with my school's ELA teachers in the past, but hardly at all with my science teachers. But I recently learned that the Next Generation Science Standards have a science media literacy component! This school year, I'm looking forward to collaborating with my science teachers to help students improve their media literacy skills regarding science in news and current events. And since the foundational skills are highly transferable, I want to carry those skills into other subject areas, too!

Staying positive
I get so much joy from seeing students write down titles of books when I booktalk with their classes. Before talking, I give each student a color-in bookmark; the back gives them room to write down "Titles I want to check out!" At the very least, they have a place to doodle. But seeing kids excited to look more deeply into a book I've told them about always makes me smile!

I have also started to attend school librarian-focused professional development opportunities, particularly in person. I get so pumped up from spending time in the same space as folks who care as deeply as I do about school librarianship, supporting staff, and helping students succeed! This year I was fortunate enough to attend several such events, starting with SLJ's 2022 Leadership Summit, which was AMAZING! The joy and excitement was palpable, and I came away feeling empowered and energized!

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing