ON LIBRARIES – Standard Approach to Leadership

be calm and leadNo, this is not about a basic way to be a leader. I meet so many school librarians who feel being a leader is too difficult or too time-consuming or too—add you own reason (for more excuses see my blog October 15 Stories We Tell Ourselves).  This is about a very simple way to ease into leadership.  And you do need to find a path to leadership because, as I have been saying for some time – Leading isn’t an option—it’s a job requirement.

Standards have become an educational obsession.  Many librarians have proven their value by showing how they can help teachers in meeting the Common Core Standards, and the research results consistently show a high correlation between an active library program staffed by a certified school librarian and student performance on high stakes test. By doing so, these librarians have shown the value of their program, but you can use standards to do even more to showcase you as a leader.

And good news – there is a shortcut.short cut

AASL has a Crosswalk between the AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner and the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts, Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Reading Standards for Literacy in Science/Technical Subjects, Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science & Technical Subjects, and Mathematics. In other words—the Common Core standards in all subject areas are matched to the AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner and you can either start with the Common Core standard and find the matching AASL one(s) or start with the AASL standards and get the related Common Core standards.

You can look at your lesson plan and see which AASL standard(s) you are addressing: Standard 1 – Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge: Standard 2 – Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge; Standard 3 – Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society, and/or Standard 4 – Pursue personal and aesthetic growth.  When you click on that Standard you find a two column table.  The first column lists the indicators for each of the four strands. The second column give the applicable Common Core standard that matches.

crosswalkSince I am more familiar the AASL Standards than with the specifics of Common Core, this is the way I would begin.  I know what AASL Standards I want students to get as the result of a learning opportunity, so I check for the Common Core standard that includes the grade level I am dealing with.

However, if you want to really focus on Common Core, go in that direction. Select the appropriate standard area and click on the grade level.  Don’t be alarmed by the many standards for which there is no corresponding AASL Standard.  Just keep scrolling down.  The empty cells reflect areas not part of the library program. You are not reproducing what happens in the classroom.  Your unique role is in providing those components of Common Core which are central to the library program.

Now when you write your lesson plans, do a copy/paste of the matching Common Core and AASL Standards.  Not only does this show how you address the needs of students, it also highlights how our national standards are in alignments with Common Core.  Once you have done this a few times, make an appointment with your supervisor or principal and show how this crosswalk works.

If you have purchased the 12-copy packet of AASL Standards, give one to the administrator, if not, download them and do the same. Point out what is on the first two pages and then discuss the four strands which are explained on the last page.

How does this make you a leader?  It demonstrates you are an instructional partner to teachers. It also highlights your understanding of the importance of standards and how AASL has national presence in developing standards for 21st century learners. (Do stress the word learners as opposed to students – it focuses on the need to realize we are all learners.)

On a final note – Common Core is slowly moving out of the picture and AASL is in the process of revising the standards which are now eight-years old.  This is a fast-moving world and AASL seeks to stay on top of the changes.  As a leader in your building you must do the same.  Be on the lookout for whatever succeeds Common Core.  Something will.  Keep checking the AASL website so you are aware of the new standards when they are published.  Your students, teachers, and administrators need you to be prepared.  That’s how leaders behave.


ON LIBRARIES – You Are Unique

you what you believeRecognizing that you are unique in your building is essential for establishing you and your program as indispensable to the educational community.  No one else in the building has the expertise you bring in working with students, teachers, and administrators. While most of you have heard this before and may even say so to others, far too many of you don’t believe it is true of you personally.

My aim in this blog is to convince you that you are unique because once you believe it you will be communicating your essential contributions in all your interactions.  So here is a list of what is done by no one else but you.

Information Literacy – You do this every day, but in discussing it you should always explain the specifics of what the term encompasses.  The first component of information literacy is to know when information is needed — and of course students and teachers recognize that most of the time.  What they don’t understand is that doing a search — on Google, Wikipedia, or YouTube is far different from doing research. .  Finding is not a problem. Finding quality in the sea of information available requires a more complex set of skills and understandings to accurately evaluate it what has been located for accuracy and relevance. Citing what was selected has become far more complex in the digital age.  Teachers are generally capable of explaining how to cite print sources, but knowing what and how to cite online databases, websites, videos, audio files, and graphics is less understood.  You are the only one teaching students about Creative Commons and how to use it.information literacy

Inquiry-based Learning – Technically this and the following ones are all part of Information Literacy but it’s important to separate them so you and others recognize the scope of what you bring to students and to teachers who collaborate or cooperate with you. In the classroom the stress is laid on answers.  But answers show only that the content has been learned.  Nothing new comes from re-stating what is already known.  What is important is taking learning to the next step, to probe deeper by asking significant questions and then searching for answers to those questions.  Inquiry-based learning, which is central to the AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner, challenges students to develop questions on a topic, preferably in an area where they have a personal interest, and discover possible solutions.  In the process, they frequently have to refine their search, modify and/or add questions.  Information Literacy skills are employed, and students are asked to assess what they did and how they did it to learn what worked and what they might do differently next time.  While the learning opportunity is usually connected to a classroom unit encompassing state and national standards, it more significantly is building the techniques and skills for lifelong learning in student’s personal lives and future careers.

you show studentsTechnology Integration – You are the one person in the school who keeps current with new technology and the latest resources to be found on websites and apps.  You hear it from your colleagues who share their latest “discoveries,” or see a presentation at a library conference or webinar, or search the AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning and Best Apps for Teaching and Learning. What you learn you share with teachers and students giving them new ways to organize, share, and present information.  When a student does work for one person — the teacher—it means s/he tends to frame it in ways to please that sole reader and lasting learning is lost.  In this world we are expected to reach out to colleagues and others using tech resources suited to the targeted audience.  A paper meant for the teacher alone is therefore as outdated as an audio cassette. You show students how the tech they love can be used to help them grow academically and personally.

Knowledge Creation – The challenge is not to repeat what is already known, but to build knowledge and create new content. Students should not be expected to do “busy work” with culminating projects that take time – such as dioramas and poster boards or even presentations using current technology—but have no ultimate purpose.  Did their research lead them to believe a law should be changed?  How can they work to make that happen?  Should people be informed about an issue?  What tool should they use for it and what information needs to be included?  Students of today must be more than information consumers.  They must become knowledge creators.  The activities occurring in the library are structured so they become true participants in society.

Digital Literacy – A subset of Information Literacy, digital literacy is the ability to find, evaluate, use, communicate, and create across a variety of platforms and formats.  It expects students to be “transliterate” which also includes using social and mass media.  Digitally literate students understand how to exist safely in cyberspace, are aware of the benefits and how to avoid the dangers.

Global Connections – More and more librarians are connecting their students with others around the country and globe.  It is vital for students to become tolerant and understand different cultures and peoples. Working with them from an early age opens minds and builds the understandings necessary for working and living in a global culture.                                                                             

Literacy Leading to Lifelong Learning – And of course, at the core of what we do is promote reading for pleasure and information. Others teach the skills necessary to read, we provide the environment where students discover the joy in reading unfettered by tests.lifelong learning

Some of you are saying you don’t do all of this. You still do much of it – and no one else does it. Yes, you can possibly do more – but that’s where your work stays exciting and new for you. Keep building your Professional/ Personal Learning Network (see the blog for August 10, How Large Is Your PLN?) and you will find it much easier to add those unique components to your library program.

Don’t sell yourself short.  You are unique.  Recognize it.  Believe it, and be sure to let others know it.

ON LIBRARIES: Time To Move On?

changes aheadElecting to stay in or leave a job is rarely an easy decision, but it can be a vital one for your career. When your passion and enthusiasm are being sapped by what is happening on a daily basis, how well can you do your job?  How long will you go to work each day without the joy that first filled you?

I have been exchanging emails with a librarian who is dealing with difficult problems in her district.  She is a recent part-time hire but has found both the job responsibilities and relationships are causing a problem.  Her principal wants her to teach lessons in the classroom, but when she created a sign-up sheet no one was interested.  I suggested direct contact with the teachers first, but as a part-timer she doesn’t get lunch and has no opportunity to meet with teachers.

The principal said if she couldn’t manage to set up some lessons he would transfer or get rid of her. He has also asked for an SGO (Student Growth Outcomes) but she is not yet clear on her responsibilities.  There are two other librarians and at this time they are refusing to share lesson plans with her.  The younger one has become openly hostile.  frustrated

Whether or not the librarian made some errors in creating relationships with the other librarians, anything she does now will take twice as long to get results.  It is also quite possible that she won’t be able to accomplish much.  It’s time to start job hunting.

Another librarian with whom I have spoken has seen her budget cut in half and then completely eliminated. Her part-time clerk has been let go and the position won’t be refilled.  Being able to read the handwriting on the wall is a critical but often ignored skill.  Even more challenging is acting on it.

There are a number of situations where it is toxic to remain.  If you find yourself constantly frustrated by one or more administrators who ignore you completely; if you are now obsessing about how they are creating roadblocks to your program to the extent that you are bringing it home every day; it is time to consider moving on.

Are you in a district with antiquated technology and dusty library books with no hope of a change?  Recognize that the situation is keeping you from staying current with the profession.  You may want to think about leaving.

But, you argue you have tenure. Jobs are hard to come by.  What if the new place doesn’t work out?  It’s far easier to deal with the devil you know, and it’s a truism that teachers (and librarians) don’t leave a job voluntarily unless they retire or a spouse is transferred.  I have faced that challenge.  I was in a district for 22 years.  I had built a strong reputation.  However, a principal who came on board saw me as competition, feeling too many people turned to me (I was also head building rep for the union) and he wanted to be the absolute boss. My superintendent always seemed to know what was afoot and would run interference. On the day she announced she would retire in two years, I began job hunting.  I knew the principal would become the superintendent a few years later, and even the interim would be exceptionally difficult with superintendent gone.

jobI was fortunate, I found a job within a few weeks.  I was at my next district for nine years before retiring and loved every minute of it.  I didn’t worry about the loss of tenure, although I did regret losing my sick days.  Yes, finding a good opening was easier then, but jobs are opening up again.

If and when you decide to leave – be careful.  You never criticize your district or people in it. When you interview for a new position, point to what you want to learn by being in this new district.  Suggest that you are looking for more opportunities to create a truly 21st century library and 21st century learning experiences for students.  Talk about what you want to achieve, not why you want to leave.

There are times when you shouldn’t or truly can’t leave. If you left your previous position less than three years earlier, you need to find a way to stick around a while longer. Employers are wary of those who can’t seem to hold a job. I know someone who stayed in a job because she couldn’t equal her current salary and had two kids in college.  That is a sacrifice you make at times.  In that situation, when you have a rough day you need to remind yourself why you made that choice.going up

If you are thinking of leaving, you are in a good position to search for a new one. You have a job which means you interview from strength.  Should you hear of an opening that sounds interesting, go for it. Listen to what they tell you in the interview — and what they don’t.  If you like it, and they make an offer you can negotiate knowing you don’t have to accept the job.

You want to make a difference for kids. If you are fortunate enough to be in a district where you can give your best, enjoy it.  If not, maybe it’s time to move on.


ON LIBRARIES – Reach Out To Collaborate

collaborationCollaboration is an important word in librarianship.  We all accept that it’s vital in giving students the best possible learning opportunities.  Most often, the word is used when we talk about collaborating with teachers. It’s time to think past the school building when developing collaboration.

The easiest bridge to build is with your local public librarians.  Are you aware of what programs they are offering?  Do they know what you are doing?  Is there a way you can work together?  In many places the children’s librarian visits the public school to promote a summer reading program, but you can invite them to come in during September for Library Card Sign-up Month.  It’s sometimes surprising to discover how many students don’t go to the public library. Talk with the librarian about creating a joint program, possibly a Makerspace and alternate venues.  Have the librarian showcase some of your programs and events on their bulletin board and/or website and do the same in return.

If at all possible, try to schedule a field trip to the public library.  Even middle and some high school students might be interested to see the “back rooms” to find out how materials get processed and get a chance to speak with the different levels of librarians as well as the clerks.  Most public libraries now have a teen section and, of course, they circulate DVDs audio books, and video games. Since their collection is larger than yours, it is good for students to know what’s available.  Their online databases also tend to be more extensive and those with library cards can access them from home.  The more students become aware of the existence and value of all types of libraries, the more likely they are to become lifelong learners and library advocates.public library

You can also collaborate with other schools in your district. Some of you run district-wide Battle of the Books contests, but you can also do joint projects with your students working the students from another school using Skype, Google Docs, or other tech to connect.  Perhaps their final product can be displayed one night at the public library.

Visits by older students to lower grades can be beneficial to both groups.  On Read-Across-America Day, some high school students go to elementary schools to read books to younger ones. I once had a U.S. History project where students had to take a topic, such as the Great Depression, and create a picture book.  First we borrowed historical fiction picture books from an elementary school library and discussed how the authors made a complex idea comprehensible to young children.  What background knowledge would they lack and need to be informed about in order for the book to make sense? With that understanding, they went to work. They field tested their results by reading their creations to kids in the elementary school.

Consider collaborating with 2 and 4 year colleges in your area.  The latest issue of Knowledge Quest, the magazine from AASL has numerous articles dealing with different ways to do this.  Field trips, again, acquaint students of the huge jump from a high school to a college library including the size, number of databases, and Library of Congress replacing the familiar Dewey Decimal System.

A visit from a college librarian talking about research projects at the college level is an eye-opener for students.  Years ago, a colleague of mine, arranged with a college professor to grade research papers that had already been graded by their teacher.  They were stunned when the college grade was returned as it was a full grade lower on average. Check Knowledge Quest for more ideas.

build bridgesOnce you start thinking outside the box—and outside your school—look for ways to involve the community.  Is there a Historical Society in your town? Could you come up with a project to collaborate with them?  Check to see what is out there, reach out to their contact person (with the knowledge and approval of your administrator) and see what projects you can create together.

Go worldwide. A number of librarians are connecting their students with students in another country. In the August/ September 2014 issue of School Librarian’s Workshop Shannon McClintock Miller explained how she devised a project that had her students making Rainbow Looms and sharing them first with students in an orphanage in India. She found the location in India by tweeting about her project and posting it on her Facebook page.

She and her students created a Banding Together Facebook and Tumblr on the project called Banding.  You can find out more about it at Banding Together” project on her Smore

Besides your teachers, with whom can you collaborate?  Start thinking.


ON LIBRARIES – Be a Transformer

Back in February I blogged on how school librarians transform student learning. The idea came from an initiative ALA was developing. It has now blossomed into a campaign.  The new website focusing on it, Librarians Transform should be one you check regularly. Also sign up to receive updates.

libraries transform videoThe campaign, in the words of the website is, “Designed to increase public awareness of the value, impact and services provided by libraries and library professionals, the Libraries Transform campaign will ensure there is one clear, energetic voice for our profession. Showcasing the transformative nature of today’s libraries and elevating the critical role libraries play in the digital age.”  Note the emphasis on “one clear … voice.”  This means no matter what type of library you are in, you should be using the wording of the campaign. It ensures that people recognize the value of all libraries and come to value what we bring.

I particularly like the large statement on the home page, “Because Transformation is Essential to the Communities We Serve.” Although AASL first focused on how we transform student learning, it’s important to recognize our role in transforming the entire school community.  It is a big job, but we are the ones most aware of areas rooted in the past that no longer serve the present.  Through our understanding of tech resources we can gently guide others into making changes that will impact everyone within our school and potentially our district.library_word_cloud

Immediately below that opening statement is wonderful short video showing, “The ways in which libraries transform are as nuanced and varied as the people they serve. Physical transformations are easy to spot. Transformations in service and scope can be less apparent, but are ever changing. This video is the first of many sharable tools created to spark conversation on the transformed library and library professional.”  After you have seen that one, you can look at two others.

If you scroll down, you come to boxes explaining Why Libraries Are Transforming including: Because the World is at Their Fingertips and the World Can Be a Scary Place, Because More Than One-Quarter of U.S. Households Don’t Have an Internet Connection, and Because Employers Want Candidates Who Know the Difference Between Search and Research. (Colleges do as well.)

At the top of the page there are three tabs: Because, Trends, and Toolkit. What I just described is part of Because.  If you click on Trends, you see twenty colorful circles each with a trend identified by The Center for the Future of Libraries.  Among the ones most related to school librarians are: Digital Natives, Flipped Classroom, Gamification, Maker Movement, and Connected Learning.  You might also want to explore Drones, Robots, Unplugged, Sharing Economy, and Privacy Shifting.  Or look at all of them.

Each Trend opens with a statement defining what it is. How It’s Developing explores the factors that have combined to make it a trend and how it is evolving. Why It Matters explains what problems it may cause for some people and what librarians can do to help. Since we are librarians, below each trend are links to Notes and Resources.

becauseThe last tab, Toolkit, seems to still be under development.  However, you can download The Top Ten Ways (and One Bonus!) to Engage with the American Library Association’s Libraries Transform Campaign. You can also download web banners and posters of the opening Because boxes in a variety of sizes.

Watch this video of ALA President Sari Feldman and her “Transform” tour in four Washing D.C. locations http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/blogs/the-scoop/libraries-transform-across-dc/

This is a great resource.  Do become part of the campaign and enlist the other librarians in your district and state associations to join as well.