It’s Summertime…But the Learning Doesn’t End

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Summertime. A time to spend with family, a time to do some traveling, a time to have some fun, a time to simply relax. You probably know some people who think that’s all you do when school’s not in session—but we all know that summer isn’t all play and no work. We know you most likely spend a lot of your summer on a number of professional activities for which you’re not paid. Rather than asking you to list all the professional activities you partake in during the summer, we decided to narrow it down with our One-Question Survey that asks, “Which professional activity do you typically devote the most unpaid time to during the summer?” Below, Dr. Maria Cahill shares and summarizes the results.

We hope you use these surveys to help you reflect on your own practices. Subscribers can view our archive of past surveys here or check out the complete Summer issue, “Summer Escape,” at our website.

Which professional activity do you typically devote the most unpaid time to during the summer?

Several years ago, January 2015 to be exact, quite a few school librarians reported via the One-Question Survey (1QS) that “Students think I know every book that has ever been written!” Now, you and I both know some school librarians who probably do know just about every book that has ever been written for children, right?! It shouldn’t surprise you, then, that in response to our latest 1QS—Select the professional activity in which you typically devote the most amount of unpaid time during the summer—three of every seven respondents indicated the professional activity to which they typically devote the greatest amount of unpaid time is “reading or reviewing materials written for children and/or YA audiences (e.g. literature, information texts, poetry, audiobooks, etc.).”

As the chart above illustrates, the only other responses selected by more than 10% of respondents were “attending and/or presenting at professional conferences” and “engaging with and/or learning about new technology tools.” The next most frequently identified activity was reading back issues of professional and/or scholarly journals that the school librarians didn’t have time to read during the school year. Interestingly, 11% of high school librarians selected this choice compared to only six percent of elementary and middle school librarians.

Of course, most school librarians work extremely hard during the regular school year and they are not required to engage in any professional activities during unpaid time. However, only about 1% of the librarians who responded to this survey indicated they do not engage in any professional activities on personal time, and several of those who did were somewhat apologetic about it as reflected in this comment, “I would like to do more, but as a mom of [three] kids under [three] (includes twins) they are my first priority. When they’re older, I look forward to participating in more PD opportunities.” Interestingly, not a single middle school librarian selected the “none” option.

As often happens when we force librarians to select a single response, about 20% of the librarians who responded that they engage in an “other” activity commented that they were unable to select just one activity because they engage in all of the activities, and many, many who did select a single response expressed dismay at not being able to choose multiple items. In fact, one librarian expressed this frustration quite directly, “I wish this had been structured to include multiple answers. I’ve been on a selection committee, I tinker with new tech, I attend both [the American Library Association] Midwinter and Annual [conferences] every year, I continue my education via graduate courses, I run our 3D printer, and I read articles and journals. So basically, I think this question was poorly structured since it doesn’t allow multiple options. Also consider that people may help run clubs or activities outside the library that are unpaid.” To this school librarian and all other school librarians who were frustrated with the limited selection option, we apologize—we know that almost all school librarians engage in almost all of the activity options, and we figured the results would be more interesting if we forced a single selection.

The comments school librarians provide in response to the 1QS are often quite interesting, and that was definitely true this month. Among the gems are the following:

—”I really don’t ‘clock out’ for professional activity as I am always thinking/noting and trying out things that I come across both after work and in the summer so the idea of which I devote the most to may not even be able to be quantified!”

—”I do many of these things in the summer and on the weekend: reading and listening to books, locating and learning new tech, working in the physical library, and reading journals. For me this job is an everyday job. I love it so much I can’t stop!!!”

—”I have and will be involved in anything that can help me help my students during my off time.”

—”I never leave time spent on Twitter without learning something new or valuable to pass along to other teachers or use it myself.”

—”I read because I love to read and I love to share what I have read with my students. I do not actually consider reading a professional activity.”

—”I volunteer each week in the summer to open our library one day a week for students and their families.”

—”It was hard choosing just one. I don’t turn off my “teacher mode” during the summer. I am always looking for things to use in my lessons, or to share with my teachers, so they can use them in their lessons.”


Maria Cahill, MLIS, PhD, is an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky in both the School of Information Science and the Department of Education. She received her master’s degree from the University of South Carolina and her doctorate in education from the University of Tennessee. She is author of numerous papers in such journals as Knowledge Quest, School Libraries Worldwide, and School Library Research and has served in numerous professional leadership positions, including on the Educators of School Librarians Section of the American Association of School Librarians and the American Library Association’s Literacy and Outreach Services Committee.

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