by Debbie Hall
Library Services are administered at the district level under the auspices of various larger departments. In some districts, the library manager reports to the director of technology, school support services, or curriculum for example. It is sometimes difficult for the managing department to be responsive to the needs of libraries because they are not well-versed in the unique needs and functionality of school libraries. Here is what I recently shared with members of the HISD leadership team about problems I have observed with how Library Services is being managed. This is especially critical due to the recent resignation of the HISD Library Services Manager.
As a retired HISD library administrator, I watch with interest and concern for events that potentially impact library services to students. Recently, the manager of HISD Library Services resigned. The job was posted on January 20th. When I saw the job application online, which gave almost no mention of school library administration, I became concerned. The present job description for the Library Manager is entirely about the duties of a curriculum manager and barely mentioned libraries.
It is my observation that the decline of library services to students in HISD has escalated under the supervision of the Department of Curriculum. Under the Curriculum Department's control, the manager of Library Services has changed four times in ten years. All the clerical and secretarial personnel have been eliminated and the remaining professional staff has been called upon to perform copyright checks for curriculum projects in addition to their library services duties. Library Services has been used to the advantage of the mission of the curriculum department with little or no support of their own departmental mission. Prior to 2011, HISD had placed Library Services under School Support Services which allowed the department to work collaboratively with many other HISD departments. Library Services personnel routinely provided services to school libraries like cataloging, processing donated materials, inventory, and other help as needed. I urge you to reconsider where Library Services belongs on the organizational chart. It needs to report to a department that believes libraries are essential to public education.
The manager of Library Services is an important school leader who can make a significant difference in the ability of libraries to provide for the needs of all students. The person holding this position needs to have experience in managing libraries and a thorough understanding of the mission of the district’s library program. It is for this reason that the selection committee should include people who are familiar with the skills and experience needed to run a department in a large school district. Considering the current state of HISD’s libraries (so many vacancies and closed libraries), the next library leader should be one who has the vision to restore libraries across the district by implementing a boldly designed plan over time with the support of HISD’s leadership. For this reason, the selection process should include (as it has in the past) library leaders from outside the district as well as HISD librarians. HISD leaders should also take part in the selection process, but a committee without library expertise will not be likely to ask the questions needed to determine a candidate’s suitability. I am concerned that the district will move too quickly on the selection of the next library administrator. Applications are collected until a specified date and then the interviews begin. The current ending date for applying is March 28th. It would be standard procedure to make an announcement that would go out to the Texas Library Association and the American Library Association to attract the best candidates. This has not been done. I just saw the announcement online and posted it on the Texas Library Association Jobline a few days ago.
If the HISD wants to see students served by libraries, it starts here with this job. Get the best candidate and don’t rush the process.
This blog is primarily authored by Debbie Hall and Dorcas Hand, but guest authors are welcome. If you have an idea to share, please contact our email below. Debbie is a retired HISD librarian and Library Services Specialist. Dorcas is a retired school librarian who remains active in AASL/ALA. Both support increased equity in school library access and support for all HISD students and campuses.