Give Me Five! Collaboration

Give Me Five

This is another article in a series of articles that has a simple premise.  The articles will take you less than five minutes to read (that’s when you give ME five!) and each will contain an introduction to a problem or concept pertaining to our work encouraging kids to read.  Each article will also include a list of five ideas, reasons, tools, steps or other helpful items (that’s when I give YOU five!) related to the topic of the article.  While none of these articles will claim to be the last word on any topic, I promise to make each one fun, well researched and way beyond the obvious. (If you have missed the first four articles, you can view them at or e-mail me at and I’ll send you a .pdf file of the articles or an audio CD of the articles along with a bonus article we handed out at COMO.)  Here is Give me Five…

 #5 – “Plays Well With Others” 

One of the big buzz words for media specialists in Georgia in recent years has been COLLABORATION.  There is no doubt that collaborating with your teachers (the ones who will take advantage of it!) offers many benefits to the school, the teachers and the students.  It also opens the eyes of teachers and administrators to the value of a trained and certified Media Specialist.  It’s always good for them to know that you do more than shelve and check out books all day long!  

Collaboration with teachers of all grades and subjects can be quite taxing, physically and mentally, but we all see benefits in it.  While no one person will know the full extent of your value to the school, collaboration is one way you can show them why they need you.  And since librarians are by nature collectors and disseminators of information, sharing with teachers helps fill one of your needs as well.

Collaboration can benefit you in other ways.  In addition to being a teacher-librarian collaborating with your colleagues at your school, you can also benefit from collaborating with your peers.  As a matter of fact, you may find this type of peer to peer collaboration is one that charges your battery, instead of draining it!

I am a school show presenter and every January I have the opportunity to go to Houston, Texas and spend time with about 25 of my colleagues from across the country.  This year we added a school show performer from Scotland and another from Australia, so now we are an international group!  We stay in touch by e-mail, phone, and even snail mail, offering ideas, encouragement, bragging and complaining, sharing experiences and asking for help.  Without a doubt this type of collaboration has been an extremely important part of my success and has helped me take my performances and my business to a whole new level. 

There are many ways you can be involved in a group of your peers locally, regionally, across your state and across the globe.  You can be a part of a group like GLMA and read the newsletter, blog, and listserve postings.  You can organize or be a part of your RESA consortium.  You can start or participate in a listserve for your school district to discuss challenges, ideas, and opportunities with fellow media specialists.  You can set up a blog for a few invited colleagues from around the country to pool your knowledge and experience.

There are also lots of benefits to being a part of such a group.  Here are five.

  1. You can get answers to problems that others have already solved.  Other media specialists are eager to help a sister or brother librarian if you just ask.  We all like to share our knowledge, and having other experts give you advice can be a lifesaver!  Whether you are looking for ways to decorate a bulletin board or design a website or need to show your principal why you shouldn’t have to do bus duty before and after school and lunch duty three days a week (since you don’t have a class to take care of), chances are that you aren’t the first one to deal with it.  Your peers can help you see things from a different perspective, come up with that perfect idea, or solve that problem.  And they are usually glad to do so!  Don’t rob them of that joy!
  2. You can accomplish more as a team by pooling resources.  When the group I work with develops a new show or works on a new marketing technique, we pool our resources and are able to buy puppets at a discount, or pay the same graphic designer to develop the same poster with slight changes.  Sometimes one of us might have a prop that he or she is no longer using, and will sell, trade or give it to another group member who needs it.  Similarly, your costume for last years’ Read Across America event could be enjoyed by the MS from a nearby school, or you could borrow a flag display from another school for the upcoming International Festival.  Library funds are tight and when you recycle that display or pool your resources to accomplish your goals, you make your budget go farther.
  3. When you “hang out” with your peers, even if it only electronically, you don’t feel all alone.  Everybody needs to know that they are not the only one who is struggling with a challenge or that they can share their successes with someone who would really understand.  Really, how likely is it that the science teacher will be able to fully understand what a victory it is to get your reference material weeded in one day – using volunteers!  Another media specialist will high five you, pour the symbolic GatoradeTM over your head and yell, “You go girl!”  You’ll never get that type of response from the school counselor!  Likewise, few of your school collaborators will understand why it frustrates you to have to rely on two book fairs every year, just to get your job done. 
  4. Friendships will develop that can change your life.  Some of my best friends are people I see twice or three times a year.  But because we share common goals and interests, have similar passions, have a background in performing and are part of the same cellular network, we can talk several times a week and develop a real friendship that can affect many other areas of our lives. 
  5. You can make a difference for someone else.  Not only can you receive benefits from the expertise, experience and empathy of others, you can help your peers to solve their problems, improve their situations, and grow professionally.  There is a great benefit that comes from helping someone else.  As much as I love to get help from my “band of brothers” I LOVE to give it!  There is such a feeling of real collaboration that comes from the exchange being a two way street.  For most people (and for almost every media specialist I know) helping someone else is something that gives us great pleasure.  For many of us, that’s why we chose the profession we did.  And to help others who are like us is even more fun!

Get involved with other media specialists.  It could be one of the best things you’ll ever do for yourself!

Tommy Johns has been getting and keeping the attention of children and adults for almost three decades as a school show presenter and educational entertainment specialist.  Find out more at  He welcomes your comments on this column and ideas for future “Give Me Five!” articles.  You can contact him at

Posted on February 17, 2008, in Ideas and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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