ON LIBRARIES: Follow The Leaders


Leadership wordleAn ongoing challenge of our profession is keeping up with what is happening in technology and education and how they combine to transform teaching and learning.  It’s daunting for all of us, but you don’t have to do it alone.  Connect to the leaders and quickly identify the trends most likely to impact you and your students.  Use this knowledge to determine what and how you will incorporate into your program.

Who are the leaders?  It depends on what you are talking about. No one knows everything about school librarianship let alone is an expert in all its facets so you may need more than one.

The easiest place to start is your state association’s listserv.  Identify the librarians posting valuable information. What is their strength?  Technology?  Literacy? Global and digital citizenship? Instruction design?

When these leaders give links to information or answer a question someone posed, bookmark or save it to appropriate folders.  You rarely are going to use it immediately, but if you haven’t saved it you won’t be able to find it when you do need it.

Bloggers are another great source for finding information from leaders. My favorites, in alphabetical order, are:

Buffy Hamilton – The Unquiet Librarian – https://theunquietlibrarian.wordpress.com/ – Currently the librarian at Norcross High School in Gwinnett County (GA), her specialty areas include critical literacy, participatory learning and culture, ethnographic studies, critical pedagogy, and writing literacies. Although she brings tremendous erudition to her blog, everything connects to what she is doing with her students.  Most recent posts are:  Formative Assessments: Our Compass for Understanding Affective, Cognitive, and Physical Aspects of Information Search Processes and Write-Around + See-Think-Wonder + Gallery Walk-Big Group Share=Art Students’ Awesomeness. (Don’t be put off by the title of the first example. Check the post).  (Also @buffyjhamilton)blue skunk

Doug Johnson – Blue Skunk Blog – http://doug-johnson.squarespace.com – He is the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage (MN) Public Schools Director of Technology with a background in teaching K-12. He brings his technology strength and his perspective as an administrator to his blog.  Recent posts include: “Why technology is resisted” and “BFTP: What is an authentic question?”  (Also @blueskunkblog )

library girl2Jennifer LaGarde (aka Library Girl) http://www.librarygirl.net/ – She is Lead School Library Media Coordinator/Digital Teaching and Learning Specialist for New Hanover County Schools in Wilmington, NC Her blog is filled with inspiring ideas to motivate reading. Among her recent posts are: Your Students Need A Reading Champion | Giving Yourself Permission To Read and Learning To Read Alone Is Not Enough. Your Students Need A Reading Champion.  (Also Library Girl @jenniferlagarde)

Joyce Valenza http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/ – Currently at Rutgers School of Communication & Information but, she has a long history as a school librarian and is responsible for #TLChat, TLChat Live, and TL Virtual Café. She has several fields of expertise including social media, unconferences and global participatory culture. Among her recent blog posts are: several where she brings great ideas from other sources and PopBoardz: a media dashboard for instruction and presentation and How to host a hackathon (on the #sljhackathon breakfast) (Also @joycevalenza)

Specifically on Twitter, follow Shannon Miller (TLChat) @shannonmiller and Elissa Malespina @elissamalesphin (TL News Night Live Cohost).  Shannon has great global project ideas and Elissa is knowledgeable about augmented reality.

When you attend conferences, (as I suggested in last week’s blog) get the contact information of those who presented what you considered to be great possibilities for your library program.  This way you can follow up with questions.  They will help you.

And finally, you can also join my School Librarian’s Workshop Facebook group for regular posts from me and others about issues in school librarianship, ideas to share with teachers, or what might be next in technology.  On Saturday, I posted something about the possible impact of wearable technology on education.

By picking and choosing what interests you, you can learn quickly what is out there, and  make contact with those who can help you, When you bring it to your students and teachers, you are being a leader and making yourself indispensable.


ON LIBRARIES: Are You Getting Full Value from Your Library Associations?


Ivalue1 thought this would be a short blog.  I was wrong. This is important to your future as a librarian and the future of the programs for which we are responsible.

Most of you are members of your state association. A good number of you, although it should be much more, are members of ALA/AASL but only a small percentage of you are getting all you can from your membership.

Are you using the resources our state and national associations provide?  How often to you check their websites?  AASL has a wealth of information and resources—and for most you don’t even need to be a member.

Become an active member. Although AASL has paid staff, and your state association may have some paid positions, the organizations direction an accomplishments are powered by volunteers.  Even if for some reason you don’t feel ready to participate at the national level (and they welcome newbies), do contact your state association to find out how you can be of service.

I can hear you saying, “I agree those are great resources and I would really love to be more active, but I haven’t the time.”  That’s our favorite response to almost everything.  And as I said last week with the stories we tell ourselves, it’s grounded in truth.  You don’t have time, but when you recognize it’s a priority in your life, you are willing to make time.

I keep hearing librarians complain about irrelevant PD offered by their district.  Although I believe you can always get something from these offerings, AASL has webinars geared specifically to areas you need. Do you sign up for them?  AASL also offers e-Academy asynchronous courses lasting only a few weeks on topics of concern to school librarians. I give two six-week e-courses for ALA editions, one based on Being Indispensable and the other on New on the Job. You can’t take advantage of them if you don’t know they exist.aasl

Are you on your state’s listserv?  Their Facebook page if they have one? If you are an AASL member you can be on the AASLForum electronic discussion list.  It’s a great source for getting and sharing information you need every day on your job.  You will also get to recognize the leaders, those who know and use the latest in technology.  Because of my presence on my state’s listserv I had a librarian contact me and ask me to mentor her.  Of course I did so.  Although she is now well on her way to being a leader in her own right, every now and then she still checks in with a question.

Fall conference season is upon us. Several state library associations have already had theirs. In my state, the New Jersey Association of School Librarians will be holding its annual conference from November 15-17, and before that AASL will have its biennial conference November 6-8 in Columbus, Ohio.  I will be at both of these.  Will you be attending any?

Even if you can’t take professional days to attend the AASL and/or your state conference, it’s worth it to take personal days.  When you do, write up a brief report letting your administrator know what you learned and how it will affect what you are doing with students.  It shows you are a professional, and what you receive from your time at conference will inspire and rejuvenate you.  It’s the best PD you can get.

Looking further down the road, and registration has been open for some time, ALA’s Midwinter conference is in Boston this year from January 8-12. Book now since rates go up after November 12.  You needn’t attend the whole conference.  Arrive Friday after work and leave on Sunday in time to be back on the job on Monday.  There is no official programs at Midwinter, but the exhibits are far more extensive than all but the very largest state conferences. (I am thinking of Texas.)

While there you can sit in during AASL’s All-Committee meeting, which I believe will be on Saturday. Round tables are set up in a very large room for the various AASL committees to meet and conduct business.  Guests are welcome.  It’s an excellent opportunity to see whether you would like to serve on one.  If you find one to your liking, let the chair know to recommend you be appointed to it.  You needn’t get to every ALA Annual and Midwinter to serve on a committee.  Most of them have virtual members and a lot of business gets done in conference calls and through ALA Connect which is onlne.

ala midwinterI learned to be a leader thanks to my participation in my state association and ALA/AASL.  I was nervous when I was asked many years ago to run for president-elect of my state association. When I won, I had to figure out how to plan and run our annual conference.  Beyond that, I had to deal with budgets, agendas for meetings, dealing with conflicting views of board members and more.  In AASL I learned about long range planning, advocacy, and strategic planning.  The latter I also did at the state level.  I have been and am on ALA Committees and developed a deeper understanding of how all types of libraries connect and need to support each other.

Each committee, each task taught me more than I ever learned in library school or at my district’s PD offerings.  I became a much better librarian and one whom administrators and teachers respected for what I knew and brought to them and students.

Is that enough of a priority for you to consider becoming active?



ON LIBRARIES: The Stories We Tell Ourselves

storytellingAs librarians we love telling stories.  It’s story time at the elementary level, and we delight in entrancing students with tales new and old.  In the upper grades, we work hard connecting students to just the right book, knowing that is how we build lifelong readers.  We believe in the power of story… the power of fiction…. the power of a lie?

Because there’s another type of story – the ones we tell ourselves. The ones about why we do or don’t do certain things, and like the ones we bring to students, these have power.  When our stories are positive, it helps us do great things, but most often we cling to our negative stories.

I am most concerned with the stories you have about being a leader.  I have spoken with many librarians who recognize the value of being a leader but know they can’t be one.  And they all have a story.  Are any of these yours?

I don’t have the time.  I have a full schedule.  I work in two (or more) schools. I barely have time to breathe on the job.  I go home to more work.  It’s hard enough for me to complete all my responsibilities.  When would I find time to be a leader?

Leaders are born, not made, and I wasn’t born to be a leader. I can tell you countless stories of how I have never been a leader.  I was last picked for teams. I was always the nerdy girl (or guy). Whenever I did run for an office, I didn’t get elected.

I can’t talk in front of a large group. Teaching a class of students is not the same as speaking before my colleagues or parent groups. I am really an introvert.  If I have to get up before a group, my palms sweat and my voice gets shaky.  I don’t sound like a leader, I sound nervous and scared.what's your story

Even fairy tales have elements of truth. It’s why we can relate to them, and each of the stories I’ve mentioned above has an element of truth, but like those tales, there is quite a bit of fiction within them.  But let’s look more closely and see if it’s all true.

No time: Most of you are very busy, but the fact is in our world no one can find time.  You have to make time.  Which means look at what you are doing and determine priorities.  Yes, you must get your lessons taught but there is much you do within your school day that does not have as a high a priority.  Getting every book into the catalog as soon as possible.  Checking everything in before the end of the day. You have others depending on your job. Yes, they are important, but making your presence known in the building, leading the way with tech integration, and sending visual quarterly reports to your administrator featuring what students are learning in the library are more important in assuring your program and you are valued.  Pick on and add it to your “to-do” list.

Born Leaders: Sure, some people seem to be natural leaders from childhood, but as Shakespeare said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” The bottom line is, the need to be a leader has been thrust upon you.  You can do it.  You have achieved so much in your life by this time, you are more than capable of going those extra steps and taking the risk of stepping out as a leader.  Look for a mentor in the field, someone who you see as a leader and ask for advice and help.

get rid of the storiesPublic Speaking: It’s true that in countless surveys people put the fear of public speaking higher than death, but who said leaders must speak in front of large groups? That’s only one aspect of leadership and not everyone needs to do it.  Quiet leadership can be equally and sometimes more effective.  Be the person who teachers can count on to show them how to use a new tech tool.  Help your principal carry out a new administrative directive.  When rubrics first erupted on the educational scene, I had a few teachers come to me quietly to ask for help.  I had not made one for myself as yet, but they were confident I could help them—and I did.  I also worked with the administration when the decision was made to move to block scheduling, getting material for teachers and giving them advice based on my research.  That, too, is leadership.

What stories are you telling yourself that keep you from being the leader your student need you to be?

ON LIBRARIES: Grassroots Advocacy

library_word_cloudYour biggest supporters are right in front of you.

Many of you are uncertain about advocacy, feeling you don’t have the time and/or it’s too big a job. But doing it in a grass roots way – person-to-person – is quick, easy, and you get better the more you do it. Advocacy is a responsibility of all of us. You don’t have to do it every day, but you do need to get it into the habit. The future of our students is at stake.

Administrators and many teachers often don’t realize what you do; the general public is even more clueless. You can begin to educate them.

Start with your friends. Do they know what you do?  Yes, they are aware you are a school librarian, but do they have any idea what your job entails?  Make a point of sharing a story about a student (not giving names) and how you made a difference for the child that day. Or a project in which minds were stretched, curiosity nurtured, and a more sophisticated approach to searching online was learned.busy library 4

Some recommendations:

  • Always be positive. Focus on what is great about your job and why you love it. If you mention job cuts discuss how that will impact students, not you.
  • Don’t go on and on about your job. One story at a time is sufficient. You want to plant a seed and help it grow, not inundate and bore your listener.
  • Do include the public library in your conversations. I was recently talking with a friend from another state and mentioned how all libraries are being affected by budget cuts. I pointed out the services the public library provided from free internet to help with finding jobs. My friend was stunned. She had no idea, and shared that her boyfriend was out of work and becoming frustrated. Now, she is sending him to the public library. The two of them are likely to become strong library advocates.

And then there’s your elevator speech. Always be prepared for a quick library promotion. I usually focus mine on school libraries. Someone mentions local budget cutbacks and I say something like, “The cost to students has been drastic and it is will have a negative impact on their success on high stakes tests as well as their readiness for college and careers.”  With that bold statement, I usually get their attention and follow it up with, “Countless research studies have shown the relationship between student achievement and a school library with a certified school librarian.”  These days I close with, “Eliminating a classroom teacher is bad enough since it increases class size, but getting rid of a librarian eliminates the entire library program.”  When I still worked in a school I would also invite the person to come in and see a school library program in action.

Click for blog: Partnering for student success
Click for blog: Partnering for student success

One more way to build grassroots advocacy is by going to District Dispatch from ALA’s Washington Office. Sign up for their Legislative Alerts so you are aware of any pending legislation which will affect school and/or public libraries. You will be able to quickly contact your legislators to ask them to support important acts. It takes under a minute to complete. Your state association’s legislative chair will also send out messages about it on your association’s listserv. If you have parents or friends who have become library supporters, give them the link for when you want them to reach out to legislators. Legislators listen very closely to people who are not in the profession as they logically see us as having a vested (read: biased) interest.

One-on-one advocacy can be the most impactful, particularly if a relationship already exists between you and the other person, but even with a stranger it’s a great way to get the message out about libraries.