ON LIBRARIES: Are You Confident?

confidence2Leaders are confident. Not arrogant.  Not bullies riding roughshod over others, just confident. They trust themselves and, while they listen to others, they don’t constantly second guess their decisions.

Confidence is a natural part of leadership. Who would follow someone who was uncertain and continually thought, “Well maybe we should do it this way instead?” This doesn’t mean good leaders don’t alter their course or tweak a plan. However, they do it in a well-thought out reasoned way.

Since I advocate that leading is not an option but a job requirement for school librarians, I have come to recognize developing confidence is a necessary prelude to becoming a leader.  Leadership seems a difficult challenge for many and idea that you can become confident seems equally remote.  If you are in that situation, I have some suggestions.

Dress with Confidencedress for success

In this context, it means dress like a leader.  People react to visual messages before they hear the verbal ones.  See how teacher and administrators dress and emulate them. You don’t have to go over the top, but avoid clothes that don’t fit well or send a conflicting message.

Anyone who has worked in an elementary school is aware of the different building climate on “picture day.”  Students dress up and without anyone saying anything their behavior improves and becomes more orderly.  Dressing up for a prom sets the tone making it a special day.  We all dress for a dinner at a fine restaurant.

Clothes affect how we think about ourselves and how we act.  For those who aren’t confident, dressing as though you are helps you “fake it till you make it.”

Speak with Confidence

You might not know where to begin with this, but there is an easy first step.  Monitor how you end a sentence when expressing an idea.  Does your voice go up as though you are asking a question?  This speech pattern has become common particularly with women and girls.  It implies you are uncertain about what you are saying.

Become familiar with educational and library issues.  AASL’s and your state association’s web page report on these.  They give background information.  From there you can pick up the language in use.  Talk to a mirror at home about these topics.  When you speak without too many pauses, needing time to re-check the information, you are ready to share your “expert” opinion on the issues. And you will sound confident.

gears of confidenceProject Optimism

Confident people are optimistic.  The current climate in most schools has caused even those who aren’t pessimists by nature to develop a negative outlook. Search for the positives.  This doesn’t mean be a Pollyanna who sees life only through rose-colored glasses. Being realistic is important.  But remember nothing in life stays constant.  You don’t have to be in education too long before you realize change is always happening.

For example, you can point out that the stresses caused by Common Core and PARCC testing has roused parents.  They are now working with teachers and are putting pressure on districts and the state to make changes.  Note that ESSA has been passed and this will make a difference in the educational landscape.  While the shift will probably cause additional stress, you will be there to help them adapt and work through them. And since you have been on the AASL and your state association website, you will be current with where ESSA is and where it’ going.

Adjust your attitude. Whether or not you are a person who likes affirmations, start each day with a positive thought. Think of seeing a teacher or a class you like to work with.  Focus on the parts of your job that you love.  Yes, there will be incidents that pull you off, but just get back to why you became a librarian.

Ask for Helpconfidence

This sounds counter-intuitive, but remember confident people listen to others. It’s how you ask that makes the difference.  Instead of saying, “I am supposed to do this, but I have no idea what to do,” say, “I am working on this and would like you input as I value your opinion,”

Check with your PLN.  Librarians are an incredibly helpful, supportive group. Ask for suggestions and opinions (we have some great conversations on the School Librarian’s Workshop Facebook page!).  You will get a vast amount of valuable assistance.  In turn, be ready to help others.  It will build your confidence.

One final piece of advice.  Smile – and mean it.  It goes a long way to projecting confidence.



ON LIBRARIES: You and Your Professional Development


professional dev1If you want to be the best possible librarian you can be, you must take responsibility for your own professional development. You might feel it isn’t fair, since teachers don’t have to do this, but fair is not the issue. The only way you will get what you need is to seek it out yourself.

To stay current with constant changing world and learning how to integrate the latest trends and technology into your program, help teachers, and continue to prepare students for their future, you need to pursue relevant professional development. “Relevant” is the key term since most districts provide professional development several times a year. While these are helpful in understanding what is being required of teachers, they rarely are directly helpful to you and your program.

Free PD

Your first concern is likely to be cost.  Teacher PD is usually paid for by the district, but this isn’t true for librarians. However, you don’t have to let this stop you. We just have to be more creative.  And the long term and professional cost of not finding ways to include this is potentially very high.costs

Your colleagues can often be a source of highly relevant, useful information.  There are numerous Twitter Chats you can join with different themes and days and times when they are held.  This Piktochart infographic has several excellent ones.   For an explanation of how the chats work and brief descriptions of some (including a few from the Piktochart infographic) go to Top Twitter Hashtags for Librarians.

Library magazines such as School Library Journal frequently host webinars. They are normally held in the afternoon so may be impossible for you to attend live, but most make the archive available to listen to at a more convenient time. You can pick and choose which ones are of greatest interest to you.  Since these are free, you can’t always find exactly what you want, but you may discover something you hadn’t considered.

aasl ecollabAASL offers some free webinars through their eC0LLAB page.   For example you can choose “A 21st-Century Approach to School Librarian Evaluation” or A School Librarian’s Role in Preventing Sexting & Cyberbullying.”  Two excellent possibilities are the ones on the 2015 “Best Apps for Teaching & Learning”, and “Best Websites for Teaching & Learning.” The webinars discuss some of the winners for the year and give you great ideas to use with your teachers and students.

Occasionally a publisher hosts a webinar. These are always free, but obviously they have a product to sell.  It doesn’t mean the webinar isn’t worthwhile.  If you are curious about the product, it’s no different from seeing a presentation at a conference.

Quality PD at a Range of Prices

The best source for relevant professional development comes from your state and national library associations.  In addition to the free webinars AASL offers, they also have online asynchronous e-courses. The AASL e-Academy offers a number of options.  A four-week course is $119 for members, $245 for non-members, and $95 for student AASL members. Courses are offered on a rotating basis, so if one you are interested in is not being offered in the near future, you can contact Jennifer Habley at AASL and she will let you know when it will be scheduled again.

Have an idea
Get creative about your PD!

ALA editions offers e-learning in the following areas: Computing, Technology, & Web Design; Copyright; Management; Programming, Outreach, Marketing and Customer Service; Personal Development; Reference; Cataloging and Metadata; Collection Development; and Information Literacy and Library Instruction.  These are all connected to books published by ALA and part of the cost is for an e-book that goes along with the course.  For example under Personal Development you can see a course I am teaching “Being Indispensable: A School Librarian’s Guide to Proving Your Value and Keeping Your Job” which is a 6-week asynchronous course and will start on July 18.  Prices vary from one to the other, but this course is $195.  I am currently teaching one on New on the Job and it is $245.




ON LIBRARIES: Stopping Summer Slide

summerThe school year is coming to a close and teachers and administrators are talking about a persistent problem—summer slide.  Summer vacation is longed for by students and many tired teachers.  Long days, no homework (or lesson plans) makes those days away from school idyllic.

But all those weeks without any school work comes with a cost. Far too many students lose so much of their reading and learning skills that teachers need four to six weeks to bring them back to where they were at the end of the school year. Not surprisingly less proficient students lose more than those who do better in school. The latter are more likely to read on their own while the former are glad they don’t have any required reading. Lower income students are hit the hardest.

This is not just a problem in the United States. Canada recognizes it as well. The province of Alberta has a site on Preventing Summer Slide. It’s short and gives you some ideas on what to do.

Many schools have a summer reading list which has both positives and negatives aspects.  While it does force kids to read some books, those who have been through it before know that in most places there is little follow up when school resumes.  And if there is an assignment of some type connected with it, doing a poor job on it has only minor consequences. In addition, as librarians we know that putting reading in the context of something potentially punitive is the worst way to encourage life long readers.summer slide

Summer Loans

While you might not be able to do much about loss of math skills, you certainly can help to curtail loss of reading skills. One quick approach, if your administration approves, is to allow students to borrow books for the summer.  Yes, there is a danger they will be lost, but combatting summer slide is far more important. You can limit the number to four but ten would better, and you can restrict the borrowing to paperbacks or older book

If you go with this option, set up several table top displays to encourage browsing.  See if you can get paper bags with handles and put a colorful label saying “My Summer Reading” on them. Place students’ selections in them and encourage them to put them back in the bag when they are finished and bring the bag back at the beginning of the school year.

Put a “review” card or sheet of paper in each of their books.  Have them write the author/title and call # on top, rate the book from 1-10, and add an optional comment about it. Be sure to have a good selection of non-fiction books available for those who prefer them.


If visiting the public library in the summer is an option for your student population, see if the children’s or young adult librarian can come to your school, bring library card applications, and tell kids about summer programs available at the library.  They normally have a reading program for the elementary grades and other possibilities for older students.  Just visiting the library, being surrounded by books –and computers—encourages reading.

Communicate with parents about summer slide.  While more challenging in low income areas, do the best you can. Your website is one way but it doesn’t work where parents don’t have Internet access. Find out if your town –or city—has a recreational program for the summer.  In many low income areas they or another group provide free lunch to those who can’t get it while schools are closed.  See if they will distribute brochures for you giving parents information about summer slide and what they can do about it.


resourcesEither on your website or in the brochures (or both) provide links to good resources for parents. Some possibilities are:

You can do an online search and find other resources.  Google and Bing have great images you can use to alert parents to the issue. This is a busy time for you. If you can’t put any of these ideas into action now, start collecting sources and information so you will be ready next year. It’s a great way to also promote your library program.

What are you doing to prevent Summer Slide with your students? Have you initiated something in the past that worked?

ON LIBRARIES: Stand Up for Privacy

digital privacyBenjamin Franklin said, “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”

Time and again in these years since 9/11 our right to privacy has been challenged in the name of security.  I am proud of ALA, our national organization, for its ongoing efforts to protect the privacy of patrons despite being accused of being unpatriotic. This is an important part of making certain our libraries are safe places for everyone who uses them.

ALA, through the Office for Intellectual Freedom, works to safeguard the reading history of library users. Individual librarians have had resisted warrants demanding those records.  As with dealing with challenged materials, it is a lonely fight and many don’t understand the importance of holding onto these principles when they feel the nation is being threatened by terrorists.

Re-read the Benjamin Franklin quote.  In giving up a freedom we give those who seek to destroy our way of life what they want. We become more like them.  It’s easy to think you have principles you believe in when no one challenges them.  Standing up for them in the face of so many opposing you is when you discover what you are made of.ala privacy week

We have just concluded Choose Privacy Week, an annual initiative of ALA.  Its purpose is to involve library users in a discussion of “privacy in a digital age.”  It is increasingly difficult to have any degree of privacy in today’s world.  Security cameras are everywhere and while I, too, recognize it is a protection against criminal behavior, sometimes in my head I hear the words of George Orwell, “Big Brother is watching you.” Our phones can be used to track us. We choose to use (and I do) E-Z pass, or whatever it’s called where you are to go through tolls without stopping, which records our actions. Ads on the side of my Facebook page remind me of where I just shopped and thanks to countless searches on my computer, Google “knows” a great deal about me and my preferences.

In this world of surveillance, at least what we choose to read should be our own business.  As school librarians, we also have the responsibility of keeping what students are reading private. If asked, we must tell a parent or guardian. They are still minors.  Be sure your automation system has been disabled so it does not maintain a record.  Most ILS systems don’t keep the record as a default, but you should check.  Once an item has been returned it should disappear from the student’s reading history.

Sending out overdue notices can be an easy way to violate student privacy. Teachers should not get a list of what their students’ overdue books.  Although it takes more time, either put them in envelopes or only give the name of the student and the number of overdues.

privacyEnd-of-the-year notices present a more difficult problem.  Where students can’t get their report cards until they complete their library obligations, it is customary to hand a list of student names with outstanding items to the school secretary who deals with returns, late fees, and lost book charges during the summer. There isn’t much you can do about that, but make a point of informing the secretary that what students have borrowed is private, and as with other information she learns throughout the year, it is to be kept confidential.

All school libraries should have a Privacy Policy spelling out how student and teacher information is to be kept private. ALA has information on Privacy and Confidentiality with resources including a toolkit.  Check it out if you don’t have a Privacy Policy or want to know more about your responsibilities in this area as a librarian.

The website for Choose Privacy Week had a highly informative blog with ideas for what to do to inform users about their privacy rights and how to safeguard it.  The post on Resources for Teaching Privacy offered information on How to Teach Internet Safety in Primary School and a Teen Privacy Guide.

ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee issued new Library Privacy Guidelines for Students in K-12 Schools.  Download it and share it with your administrators. Incorporate it into your current Privacy Policy. And if you have any volunteers in your library, make sure they are aware of it, and recognize they are not free to discuss outside the library what students borrow.

School librarians strive to make the library a safe, welcoming environment.  Protecting the privacy of our users is one way we ensure they feel safe – and welcomed.


ON LIBRARIES: 3 R’s for Librarians – Reading, Research, & Relationships

It occurred to me if librarians focused on the three “R’s” central what we do, our leadership will emerge naturally and advocacy will follow. Since so many of you feel becoming a building leader is hard to do, and advocacy is even more difficult, I thought this might be an easy way to concentrate efforts, and get positive result.

keep calm and love readingReading– Reading is at the heart of what we as librarians are about.  You can’t do research or much of anything else if you can’t read.  Of course, we are not responsible for the teaching of reading, but we are responsible for instilling a love of reading. The first of the “Common Beliefs” in AASL’s Standards for the 21st-Century Learner is “Reading is a window to the world.”  The explanation that follows is:

“Reading is a foundational skill for learning, personal growth, and enjoyment.  The degree to which students can read and understand text in all formats (e.g. picture, video, print) and all contexts is a key indicator of success in school and in life. As a lifelong learning skill, reading goes beyond decoding and comprehension to interpretation and development of new understandings.”

When students fall in love with reading, they become lifelong readers. Their curiosity stays present and grows, and they search out information.  In other words, lifelong readers are lifelong learners—and in our constantly changing world this is a vital attribute.

So how do we develop this love of reading?  On an individual level we pay attention to each student. We listen for their likes and interests.  We are alert to what they don’t enjoy. Not having to compel students to read a particular book or type of book, we connect students to just the right book for them.  In so many casual conversations with adults, I have heard how one book set them on a course to loving to read.lifelong readers

As I have said, forcing students to read leveled books doesn’t do this. And I don’t believe reading for a prize works either whether it’s AR or a contest to see who reads the most.  I would much rather for example see a reading motivation program that seeks to find out what types of books is the most popular.  You could set up a genre bulletin board (and be prepared to add as students choose from new areas).  When they complete a book they like, have then fill in a book-shaped cut-out with the author/title/call# and their name. Staple it to the bulletin board, creating an ever-growing graph.  You can probably come up any number of other ways to do this.

Give a small reward for the first book a student posts.  You can do the same for a post in a new category. This type of non-competitive program, doesn’t put pressure on students to read a certain number of pages or try to best others. It’s personal.

At the elementary grades, librarians are charged with the first step in creating lifelong readers.  They choose a variety of stories to read aloud.  Stories with refrains encourage group involvement. Discussions about the stories builds critical thinking and visual literacy, while cultivating an appreciation of the sounds of language, word choice, and literary heritage.

As one of the bookmarks from the Libraries Transform initiative says, “Because Learning to Read Comes Before Reading to Learn” and learning to love reading is the middle step.”

research 2Research – From the time libraries came into existence, their central purpose has been research. In an age when information is at everyone’s fingertips, the role of libraries and librarians has become ever more critical. Another bookmark from Libraries Transform says, “Because There Is No Single Source for Information. (Sorry Wikipedia.)”  We have an obligation to teach students how to search efficiently – which means to quickly locate relevant and accurate sources rather than what they get with their non-specific Google searches.

We teach how to use information responsibly and ethically as well as digital literacy which encompasses understanding multiple platforms for accessing information.  Students need to learn which is likely not only to be the best one for their current need but also which one to use to share their knowledge.

An ongoing challenge for us is helping teachers restructure assignments so they are not just asking students to collect facts – which can be one-stop shopping-but rather to weigh and interpret their findings to make meaning from them.  Even better is to have students produce something of value to others.

Without proselytizing we must show students and teachers the difference between search and research.  By being mindful of this ourselves, we can guide them into more meaningful interactions with information and truly prepare them to be successful in college and their future lives.building relationships

Relationships – At the beginning of last month I blogged on relationships and why it is vital for the success of our programs. I won’t repeat what I said then, but recognize in order to instill in students a love of reading, you need to develop some relationship with them. Teachers are far more likely to listen to your suggestions on modifying their assignments if you have a relationship with them.

When your relationships are in place, students, teachers (and administrators) are comfortable coming to you with questions and asking for help. You become a guide for new technology and trends in education.  You are trusted.  You discover that you have become a leader.  And because what you bring has become so necessary to the success of all within the building, you have built advocates for your program.