Library Resources: Scheduling Options & Techniques

Instructor: Emily Hamm

Emily has B.S. in elementary education and a M.S. in educational technology. She teaches full-time, works as an adjunct professor, and is a freelancer.

Setting the schedule for the school library? This lesson will discuss advantages and drawbacks to the main types of school library scheduling options and how to promote equal access for all members of the learning community.

Scheduling Options

As William Penn is quoted as saying, ''Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.'' The schedule is often a cruel master of a school. Ensuring that all stakeholders get equitable access can be draining and feel impossible.

However, through the collective knowledge and research-based practices, the element of time in a school's Library Media Center (LMC) can be organized well.

There are three main types of scheduling that occur in a LMC. These include a fixed (or set), a flexible, or a mixed schedule.

Fixed (set) schedules are the same schedule, day by day or week by week. Often determined by the administration or the Library Media Specialist (LMS), a set schedule occurs in the same way at the same time with regularity.

For example, the Kindergarten goes to the library each day from 8:30-9:00, the 1st grade from 9:00-9:30, etc. Alternatively, there might certain library days that are part of a set schedule. Monday and Thursday might be the days that 3rd grade goes to the library from 1:00-2:00.

A flexible schedule allows for open-access to the library at any point throughout the day. In lieu of a formal time that is allotted for each class, the library is essentially open and available to meet the needs of the teachers and students.

A mixed schedule, as its name implies, is a combination of fixed and flexible schedules. Maybe there's a set schedule for part of the school day and open time for the rest. Say, the morning the library is rigidly scheduled for classes, but the afternoon is open.

Advantages of Each Type

A fixed schedule has the perk of being consistent and reliable. The administration can use library time to ensure that teachers are receiving adequate (and often bargained for) plan time. Students can benefit from the consistent routine as well.

For example, if Juan knows that his library day is Monday at 10:00 am, he is more likely to return his book to the LMC with consistency. The library media specialist also has a routine and knowledge of what they can expect in the schedule on any given day.

A flexible schedule is beneficial in that it allows the classroom teacher and the librarian to work collaboratively as educators. The view of the Library Media Center is switched from only a place to check out books to a place where live inquiry and impactful learning can take place.

This type of scheduling also provides more equitable access to physical and digital collections because the LMS isn't distracted with other classes all day and uses all the staff to the best of their ability.

For example, the classroom teacher can work as the content specialist while the LMS functions as the information process specialist. Students can benefit from having a location that serves them based upon their needs whether that be researching, collaborating, or reading.

A mixed schedule can provide benefits of both the aforementioned. For example, if the morning is a set schedule and the afternoon flexible, the perks of each kind of scheduling can be utilized,just in smaller amounts.

Drawbacks of Each Type

There are several negatives of a fixed schedule. The most dramatic is that the LMC functions as less a place for inquiry, team teaching, and collaboration. Counter-intuitively, by requiring that all students have the same amount of time in a LMC, you are limiting the equitable access to the space. The library time for students is often hurried to make space for the next class. Lastly, there is often little to no planning time provided for the Library Media Specialist.

The flexible schedule comes with its own issues. The micro-politics within a school can impact the library use. Some teachers may not allow students to go to the library without an appointment even if that is the wish of the LMS. The administration will have to find other ways to provide classroom teachers the time necessary to plan.

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