Boogers & Books: Working in a School Library while Managing Grad School

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on April 22, 2019.

While working on my MLIS degree I’m also working as a library aide between two elementary schools. Let me tell you… kids are quite the patrons. I’ve had kids tell me I look their dog (I took it as a compliment), tell me they had a secret and then sneezed in my ear (should’ve seen that one coming), and survived the general day-to-day experiences of working with 5-10 year-olds. My courses have talked a lot about the best way to serve patrons and help them find the right materials but they definitely haven’t covered the weird experiences you may go through when working in a school library. 

Let me preface this by saying I’ve only been working as a school library aide for about 8 months. I’m sure that those more experienced have encountered some pretty wild stories but there’s something about a kindergartener picking his nose and wiping it on the carpet in the middle of story time that just really gets to you. 

Working in a school library also does a great job of testing your patience. There’s only so many dinosaur books located in our library but when a kid requires you read all 14 of them to determine the best one–and then chooses a book about dolphins, it can be quite comical. One of my favorite parts of working in a school setting is that I get to see all grades, kindergarten through fifth grade. I may only get them for 45 minute spurts but I can promise those minutes are filled to the brim with mini lessons and checking out the *perfect* book. 

What’s great about the program Mizzou offers is that it’s not only 100% online, but it’s also catered to those that are working full time. 100% of my due dates fall on weekends, which is great for someone working Monday through Friday. In addition, courses provide online meetings that open after a typical work day–normally 6:30 or so. This flexibility and consciousness of students’ needs is definitely something to consider when applying for an MLIS degree. During undergrad I despised online courses but I’ve learned to love them and the flexibility they provide. It’s really allowed me to take control of my learning pace and taught me time management. 

Here’s some tips on how to survive working in a school library while managing grad school: 

  1. Enjoy the small things. There’s something about getting an A on the paper you worked so hard on, or seeing a student get excited about a book they found. Enjoy these small moments.
  2. Build relationships with your professors. You may think this is an impossible task being an online student but it’s as simple as setting up a Zoom meeting, responding to feedback on assignments, or even submitting your assignments early.
  3. Coffee. As cheesy as it sounds you’re going to need caffeine to survive working full-time and taking a full course load. Coffee is your friend.
  4. Read alouds. Especially for grades K-2 this exercise is both fun and meditative. There’s something about performing a book to a group of attentive students that really fills your bucket. Also, you definitely need to read Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by David Messing and Carol McCloud. It’ll definitely make your heart happy.
  5. Be confident. I swear they can smell fear. Fake it ‘till you make it, friend.
  6. Have fun and be energetic. The best way to cure crazy kiddos is to be just as crazy as them. If you’re passionate and energetic about books and reading, that will eventually transfer to them.
  7. All those super cute handwritten notes and pictures you get? Save them. Put them in a drawer for when you’re having a rough day.

Being a library aide and full-time student is stressful, crazy, and so so rewarding. You may be told your ears look weird but when a kiddo tells you, “I love learning new things with you” or “I love library so much” it makes everything worth it. Kids may be a little too honest at times, but it makes it all the more sweeter when they finally say nice things!

Categories: advice

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