ON LIBRARIES – Creating Collaboration

pieces fittingOne of the biggest challenges facing librarians is how to get teachers to collaborate or cooperate (for those on fixed schedules) with them. How can you break through that barrier and show teachers what you can do for them and their students?  Unless teachers are forced by the administration to work with you, they probably won’t – unless you change the playing field. To make that happen, remember we are in the relationship business.

Too frequently when you are at a middle or high school the teachers are too busy to collaborate with you.  They bring their classes to the library to do a project they haven’t discussed with you and often don’t want you input. At the elementary level it’s even more difficult. Teachers drop students at the library door and pick them up at the end of the period.  Many don’t care what you did with their kids as long as they had time to grab a cup of coffee and catch up with their work on their duty free period. To them, that’s what the library period means.build relationships

Build your relationships first, and keep building them. You probably already get along better with some teachers rather than others.  Consider how that relationship developed.  You might be able to use that knowledge to reach out to other teachers.

Email communications don’t build relationships.  Personal contact does.  It gives you the opportunity to look the other person in the eye. To smile at them.  To give them your full attention. To wait to respond until you are sure they are finished. In the process, you learn something about them. What they like.  What they do in their free time.  All the things that make them who they are.

When you reach out to them to propose a collaborative unit, you speak to that whole person. Offer your support and encouragement.  Ask what the next research project will be about and when it will occur.  Let the teacher know you would like to support her and her students by showing them how the library can make it a more successful experience.  Promise any extra work will fall on your shoulders.

working togetherConduct a careful reference interview.  Was this project done before?  If so what were the results?  Was there anything that disappointed the teacher or was particularly successful?  If it’s new, what does she hope to see in the students’ products?  What are her concerns? From there you can find out if there are any Essential Questions for it.  If not, get back to her with some suggestions and ideas for how the project might be altered and what parts you will take on.  Find tech resources that will showcase what students do and be shareable on your website and any places where parents and others can see it. Be sure to offer to check students’ works cited information.

Show the teacher your ideas and be open to any changes. You are there to help, and while you can carefully guide, don’t overpower.  You are building trust.  Since you have a relationship it’s already there to some extent but you are now expanding it.

When the project is complete, in a brief meeting – or an email at this point – review what worked and what didn’t.  Would the teacher want to do this again next year?  What changes would she like?  What would you suggest?thank you

End with acknowledgement. Send a handwritten note to the teacher, and perhaps one to the principal, thanking the teacher for taking the risk and giving you and the students this opportunity. In this day of texting and emailing, handwritten notes get attention.

To create a cooperative unit at the elementary level, use much the same techniques.  Find out what is being studied and offer to do a complementary project. See if the teacher would like to see the results.

How are you building relationships?  Is it helping you to increase your collaboration/cooperation with teachers? What help do you need?

 

 

 

Advertisements

ON LIBRARIES – Uninformed or Misinformed?

beinformedI was talking with a professor colleague at the library school where I teach an online course, and she mentioned she came across an interesting distinction between people who are uninformed and those who are misinformed.  The first group are open to learning while the latter will reject what conflicts with their thinking.

I have been going over the difference in my mind for several days.  As school librarians we deal with both categories. Our students for the most part are uninformed and whether it’s for a class assignment or their own personal reasons they are looking for accurate information.  We are very good at helping them fill in the many missing blanks in their knowledge.

We also deal with students who come to the library with misinformation, and for them we need to think through how we approach this so they are open to accepting facts.  I believe the reason the misinformed cling to their beliefs is related to something I discussed in a blog last April – eighty percent of our decisions are emotionally-based. We use the other twenty percent to justify them.question things

With our students this may not be the case. It can be they just came across something in a Google or YouTube search and never bothered to verify it.  You can manage this, along with the uninformed by having students complete a KWL chart before embarking on a research project.  Add another column after the “K” for “H” – How do I know it? This provides the basis for fact checking, and gives us an opportunity to review the importance of validating sources.

When there is a strong emotional investment, you need to be careful.  This often surfaces when students are doing a pro/con paper.  Many years ago, I had a student who had strong religious beliefs on abortion.  She wanted to do her pro/con on the topic and we had a brief chat.  I pointed out to her that in the course of her research she would have to read and evaluate sources that contradicted her beliefs. Those arguments had to be presented and refuted with facts, not personal convictions.  While her research might confirm her views, there was no guarantee it would. I told her if she couldn’t accept the possibility, she should choose another topic for her paper.

answersDepending on their backgrounds, our students walk into our libraries with many convictions on climate change to evolution and more. These may not stand up to the rigors of academic research, and we do need to allow them the choice of whether to explore those topics.  This is not a denial of their intellectual freedom. The access is there if they choose to investigate the subjects.

Probably nowhere is the issue of emotionally-based decision making more apparent than in political views. As the presidential race heats up, the difference between being uninformed and being misinformed is likely to become more obvious, particularly when the views held are contrary to your own.  It will affect teachers as well as students.  Your responsibility is to have resources on all sides of the issues, whether or not you agree.  To keep your relationship with teachers positive, stay out of political discussions unless you talking with close friends with whom you know the subject is safe.

 

ON LIBRARIES: Makerspace Magic

makerspace wordleThe Makerspace phenomenon is exploding in libraries everywhere and they are an easy platform to use to reach what seemed a difficult goal – library advocacy.

The popularity of Makerspace programs  slowly at first with public libraries acquiring 3-D printers and letting patrons use them.  Soon it spread to first-adopter school libraries and librarians who also managed to get 3-D printers for their libraries.  Now more and more libraries are offering these programs –with or without 3-D printers. The programs are as varied as the librarians and the populations they serve.

In addition to encouraging and developing students’ problem solving skills and imagination, Makerspaces are giving librarians a great platform for advocacy.  When a well thought out program is presented to administrators they often are quick to approve it.  Librarians are amazed to find they have strong administrative support for their program for the first time.

Why are Makerspaces embraced by administrators?  It’s not the library connection.  It’s STEM and often STEAM (including arts) or even STREAM (research and/or reading).  Reacting to the nation-wide push for STEM-related learning, principals and superintendents welcome a tested idea for infusing it into the school program.  And library programs reap the benefit.

For years I have been an advocacy advocate (Isn’t that a great phrase?).  I have written and given workshops on why it is important for librarians to know how to develop advocates for their program.  Because it requires ongoing work, it is a hard sell, but Makerspaces have transformed the atmosphere. makerspace1

As with any advocacy program, you need to make stakeholders aware of what you offer. So promote the existence of your Makerspace widely. Put it on your website.  See if you can announce it in the public library.  Write and send out a press release to your local paper.

You also have a great opportunity to involve others.  When they are a part of it, they become ardent supporters. Which teachers (or possibly administrators) have hobbies or interests which lend themselves to Makerspaces? Would they like to lead a program?

With administrative approval, reach out to parents and others in the community to do the same. Chances are you have untapped volunteers who would love to contribute time, skills or tools. The more people involved, the wider reach your library program has.  Participants are natural supporters. Bring in the media – local newspapers and cable to do a feature.  Have them interview students to talk about why they like the program and what they are learning.

And don’t forget books.  For each Makerspace program have a display of books on the topic.  It always helps to have a quick resource for students– other than watching a YouTube video, which may be blocked. You want to show how hands-on work leads to research which the library facilitates.

make itThis can be a great place for you to get creative too.  Find fun ways to publicize and share your new program and involve as many students as you can. Consider putting together some mini-Makerspace ideas which can be borrowed by students.  Some of the items would be consumable, just as with any Makerspace project while other parts would have to be returned.  List the non-consumable inside the box with the materials so it can be checked in.  Put a library promo piece in each box. You would need approval for this, but it’s one more way to show parents and others how the library program promotes student learning. (NOTE: This idea comes from when, many years ago, my former co-author Ruth Toor circulated “Science in a Shoebox,” each with a different science project, including directions and list or what was contained in the box.)

Do you have a Makerspace program in your library?  Not sure how to get started?  There’s lots of information out there to help you – or you can ask for specific advice on the School Librarian’s Workshop Facebook group.

I am off to ALA Midwinter in Boston this coming week so I won’t be blogging next Monday.  If you are going, I hope to meet you there.