ON LIBRARIES – The Highly Effective School Librarian

When school librarians are recognized as a leader they are called highly effective.”  Until now the best tool for evaluating this has been the Danielson Framework – Library Media Specialists, but thanks to ALA Past Presidents Sari Felman and Julie Todaro their ALA Initiative,  “Libraries Transform – The Expert in the Library has given us something more precise.  Now we can point to eleven competencies based on the National Policy Board for Educational Leaders’  Professional Standards for Education Leaders (PSEL).

Thanks go to Susan Ballard, Dorcas Hand, and Sara Kelly Johns who have created a way we can self-assess and determine our own route forward. The website for School Librarian PSEL Competencies – Building Our Expertise has directions and the host of resources you need to act on what might be the best PD you ever had.

To help you get started, I will unpack what is available for you on the website.

First, there are 11 Competencies they have identified along with the explanation for each:

  1. Mission, Vision and Core Values – Effective School Library leaders develop, advocate, and enact a shared mission, vision, and core values of high-quality education and academic and/or professional success and well-being of each learner.
  2. Ethical Principles and Professional Norms – Effective School Library leaders act ethically and according to professional norms to promote each learner’s academic success and well-being and/or practitioners’ professional success.
  3. Equity and Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness – Effective School Library leaders strive for equity and inclusivity of educational opportunity, and culturally and linguistically responsive practices to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being.
  4. Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment – Effective School Library leaders design, deliver and support intellectually rigorous and coherent systems of curriculum, instruction, and assessment to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being.
  5. Community of Care and Support for Students – Effective School Library Leaders cultivate an inclusive caring and supportive school community that promotes each learner’s academic and/or professional success, personal interests and well-being.
  6. Professional Capacity of School Personnel – Effective School Library leaders develop their personal professional capacity and practice to best support other school personnel in order to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being.
  7. Professional Community for Teachers and Staff – Effective School Library leaders foster the development of a professional community of teachers and other professional staff to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being.
  8. Meaningful Engagement of Families and Community – Effective School Library leaders engage families and the community in meaningful, reciprocal, and mutually beneficial ways to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being.
  9. Operations and Management – Effective School Library leaders manage resources and operations to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being by creating an inviting environment, providing a flexible program, developing the collection, curating and organizing the resources, integrating digital and technology access, managing appropriate funding and encouraging critical thinking to create a community of lifelong learners.
  10. School Improvement – Effective School Library leaders act as agents of continuous improvement to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being.
  11. Literacy and Reading – Effective School Library leaders promote reading for learning, personal growth, and enjoyment (and) are aware of major trends in children’s and young adult literature. They select reading materials in multiple formats to support reading for information, pleasure, and lifelong learning. They use a variety of strategies to reinforce classroom reading instruction to address the diverse needs and interests of all readers. Literacy takes many forms (EX: digital, information, cultural, etc.) that all rely on the foundational literacy of reading.

 

The list manages to be reassuring and daunting at the same time.  I would venture to guess most of you are at or close to the Highly Effective level with at least items 1 through 5 as well as 11. But then there are the other five.  How can you work on them when you have so much to do in your day?

The solution is on the website.  Follow these three steps:

  1. Choose the competency 1-11 that you want to work on.
  2. Identify in the rubric your level of Expertise.
  3. Move to the resources to read those recommended to support your growth to a higher level, as well as the AASL resources for all levels

Note that you only work on one at a time.  And it’s the competency of your choosing. Below the list of competencies are links to the rubric for each one.

For example, I find #10 to be very challenging.  To determine how close I come to being Highly Effective, I select this rubric:

10.  Rubric for School Improvement – Effective School Library leaders act as agents of continuous improvement to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being.  COMPETENCY 10 RESOURCES
HIGHLY EFFECTIVE School Library leaders create data such as action research to act as agents of continuous improvement to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being through an inquiry-based approach, utilizing a variety of instructional strategies to meet a diverse learning population, while collaborating with other all stakeholders to meet the mission core values and curricula of the school community.  RESOURCES
EFFECTIVE School Library leaders use data to act as agents of continuous improvement to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being through an inquiry-based approach, utilizing a variety of instructional strategies to meet a diverse learning population, while collaborating with other teachers to meet the mission core values and curricula of the school community.  RESOURCES
EMERGING School Library leaders act as agents of improvement to promote some of the learners’ academic and/or professional success and well-being through an inquiry-based approach, utilizing a variety of instructional strategies to meet a diverse learning population; however,  in isolation from most other teachers.  RESOURCES
INEFFECTIVE School Library leaders do not promote academic and/or professional success and well-being because their program is devoid of any inquiry-based approach and in isolation from other teachers and curricula.  RESOURCES

I feel I am Effective but not Highly Effective at this so I click on the Resources and find:

Calhoun, Emily F. “Action Research for School Improvement.Educational Leadership, vol. 59, no. 6, Mar. 2002, pp. 18–24.

Loertscher, David V., and Ross J. Todd. We Boost Achievement!: Evidence-Based Practice for School Library Media Specialists. Salt Lake City UT, Hi Willow Research, 2003.
Todd, Ross J. “Evidence-based Practice and School Libraries: Interconnections of evidence, advocacy and actions. Knowledge Quest 43.3 (2015): 8.

And now I’m ready to go!

You are undoubtedly more than halfway there.  Start the process, and when you have attained Highly Effective in all (or almost all) 11, share the rubrics with your administrator.  We all need to know—and let others know—we are Highly Effective School Librarians.

How close are you to being Highly Effective at all 11 Competencies?  Which one are you going to start with?

 

 

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ON LIBRARIES – Why Ownership

Although it’s been around for a while, “ownership” has become one of the latest buzz words.  It has always been important for you as a leader to own your library program, but there are others who need ownership as well.

Owning leads to lifelong learning for students, and involvement and investment in your program from teachers and administrators. Consider the difference in renting or owning a home. If you rent a home and are conscientious you keep it in good order and that’s about it.  When you own your home, you feel pride in it.  You look for ways to improve it, make it better.

The same is true for students’ connection to schoolwork.  The “good” kids are like conscientious renters. They do what is necessary to get an “A,” but they are not truly invested in it.  I know and have known many excellent students who are merely going through the motions by the time they are half way through high school.  They have learned the game and play by the rules, but unless it’s in a subject they love, there is no passion or excitement around the learning.

We have been talking about student engagement for some time, recognizing kids need to be interested in what they are learning in order for the content to have any lasting impact.  We can all remember taking courses where the attitude was cram and forget.  You “learned” what you needed for the test and once you received your grade, you promptly forgot it all. (This is related to students often-asked question, “Will this be on the test?”)

If you who want a review of what student engagement entails, an article in Educational Leadership, “Student Engagement: What Do Students Want” provides an excellent overview.  You will notice the article is from 1995.  What we have moved to is student ownership.

In another article in Educational Leadership, this one from 2008, Adam Fletcher discusses the “Architecture of Ownership.” In it, he covers Students as Planners, Students as Teachers, Students as Professional Development Partners, and Students as Decision Makers. Just reading the headings is enough to get you thinking.

From http://edchat.pbworks.com

Student ownership connects into inquiry-based learning and problem-based learning. If your Mission states you guide students into becoming producers as well as users of information, you are giving student ownership. Makerspaces are one way many of you are giving students a form of ownership.

When students make something, they are proud of what they have produced. It’s theirs.  They had to figure out how to do it.  Without a grade being involved, they threw themselves into the task. They were invested.

Some elementary librarians have helped students create a garden whose produce is used in the cafeteria or given to a community kitchen.  Again, students aren’t being given a grade but they are learning, and they are proud of their accomplishment.  They own the garden. 

I have had a library council and student volunteers (not counting the ones “assigned” to make up needed courses for graduation).  By giving them tasks beyond shelving, they owned the library.  They created displays on topics they cared about. They compiled webliographies to help teachers, and they were encouraged to pull books for possible weeding when they were shelving.

By carefully helping teachers reframe an assignment you can give students ownership of their work.  For example, a World Culture teacher came to me after she thought she gave her students what they wanted—and it flopped.  The kids had complained about the topics, finding them boring, so she told them they could explore any topic related to World Culture—and they froze.  They had no idea where to begin.

Working with the class, we put all the countries they were studying in one column.  In another, we listed cultural aspects from art and architecture through literature, medicine, and science.  This second column grew long as kids came up with more possibilities.  They then had to choose one from column “A” and another from column “B,” and they had their topic. Those interested in the same subject worked together on the project.

Before we finished, we also developed a list of general questions they needed to answer such as, “Why this was an important topic?”, “What was the contribution to the country and the world?” What people need to know about this?” etc.  After reading an overview, they added more questions.

You can give teachers ownership as well.  You want them to see the library as theirs.  If you haven’t done so already, start a professional collection but don’t leave it on some back shelves.  Display titles with a note “Specially for Teachers.”  Invite teachers to suggest items for purchase. When publisher representatives came to my library, I invited any teachers who were there to evaluate the books along with me.

If at all possible create a “teacher nook.”  Whether it’s on the reading room floor or in your office, teachers appreciate that separate space even if there is a department office. Put out the most recent issue of a professional magazine if you get them.  Provide supplies if they want to create something for their room.  Ask them what they need/want.

Whenever you do a big project such as Battle of the Books, a Makerspaces, or the garden, involve teachers and parents.  Let them work on the parts they most enjoy.  The more they are invested in the success of the project, the more ownership they have.  And when they feel they have ownership in the library, they become advocates for your program.

Giving students, teachers, and parents ownership of the library is about being a leader and creating the partners who want your program to succeed.  I haven’t thought of a way to give administrators ownership, but that would further the success of your program.

How are you giving ownership to your stakeholders?  Have you figured out a way to give administrators ownership?  Share your ideas.

 

 

ON LIBRARIES – New Administrator – Now What?

You just heard the replacement for your principal or your superintendent of schools has been hired.  As a leader, you need to be prepared.  You don’t wait to see what happens. You go into action mode.

At the rate administrators turn over these days this is a common situation. The coming of a new administrator reminds me of the line from Exodus, “Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.”  The reputation you have built up and the relationship, good or bad you had with the previous administrator are gone.  You are starting anew. 

(To keep from the awkward “he/she,” I am using feminine pronouns throughout – although most of the administrators I worked for here male.)

Put your research skills to work as soon as you know the name of your new principal or superintendent.  See what you can learn about what kind of a leader she was in her last school or district.  If you can locate the names of librarians there, email one of them to find out how the library program did under her tenure.

The previous school/district website can provide further information as it may have messages from the administrator.  This will clue you into her priorities.  Also, Google her name and look for Twitter accounts and Facebook pages to get a sense of her achievements, values, and whatever else can help you get a picture of who your new administrator is.

Once you have a handle on what to expect, you still need to meet her to ensure she will regard your library program in the best possible light.  Schedule a meeting as soon as possible. If she is taking over during the summer so much the better. Although she will be busier than a continuing administrator because she is still finding her way around, it is still calmer than when school begins.

If the new administrator is your principal you (and your co-librarian if you are fortunate enough to have one) attend the meeting.  If it’s a superintendent, all the librarians of the district need to be there and everyone should be prepped for it. Plan on it taking no longer than half an hour.  Fifteen minutes is better.  This acknowledges you understand she is extremely busy and you can show you can be informative while being succinct.

Before the meeting, review what you found out about the administrator. Based on that, what is something you have done in the library that would be of most interest to her?  If she is a techie, have a file of pictures from your Makerspace or Hour of Code.  For a book lover, focus on any reading program you have done. You are giving highlights not the whole program so choose wisely.

Prepare questions to ask—but memorize them, don’t read them.  You want to sound spontaneous. Let the administrator know you want to ensure that the library program supports her vision for the school/district.  Ask what she liked best about the library program in her previous school. What, if anything, didn’t she like?

Those two questions should give you a direction. If her answers are fuzzy you know she has no clue as to what the library program does and you will have to work to slowly “educate” her. If she is specific but fairly negative, you will have to overcome a belief that is probably the result of her dealings with previous librarians.  A positive attitude means you start ahead and can focus on creating a good foundation.

For the rest of the school year, you must keep your new administrator informed but not deluged with what is happening in the library program.  For a superintendent, every month have each librarian share a one activity keyed to her interests, but have them send the information to one of you (rotate the task) to put together in a brief report. Always use visuals to supplement the text (Piktochart, Issuu, Animot, etc.).  Do the same for a principal. Focusing on just one activity should keep the task from being overwhelming for you to manage and for them to read.

Remember the reports should be very brief.  A new administrator has a steep learning curve and is being closely watched by the superintendent (if a principal), the Board of Education, parents, and sometimes the union.  You don’t want to add to the burden; you want to be a help. Of course, at the end of the year, you send an annual report.

Throughout that first year and in subsequent ones, invite your new administrator to “events” in the library.  If it’s the superintendent, send an invitation to both making sure each knows the other was invited.  Explain to your principal that you want the superintendent to know how the library program supports district goals and mission.

Be prepared for your administrator not to come.  She may not even let you know she isn’t coming. Don’t ask why just feature the event in your next report.  Keep inviting.  Eventually, she will come.  And it may be unannounced.

Seek another meeting the next summer. This meeting is about sharing where you want to take the library program in the next year and getting her input. By this time the administrator has a good handle on her new job., and you have shown her the value of the library program.

Have you had to deal with a new administrator recently?  What did you do to “market” your library program?  What success did you have?  What worked and what didn’t work?

ON LIBRARIES – Leaders are Lifelong Learners

Invariably, I come across articles on the qualities of leaders.  Over the years, my list of these qualities has been slowly growing and I pass the knowledge along in my presentations, books, and blog posts.

It recently occurred to me I have never seen lifelong learning given as a leadership quality. The more I thought about it though, the more I felt perhaps it was such an obvious trait many simply overlooked it.  You can’t be a leader if you are not growing. You need to know as much as you can about the world and community you inhabit so you can be prepared for changes and, in many cases, be the change agent.

In most of our Mission Statements, we as librarians refer to empowering students to become lifelong learners.  We sometimes forget we are an important model of lifelong learning. We can’t help it. It’s vital for our jobs.

If you look back twenty years or more, you can see that teachers’ jobs have changed to a degree while much remains the same. For example, the focus and reliance on PARCC testing are onerous for them and us, but standardized tests have always been with us. Chalkboards are gone replaced by smartboards, but the purpose is the same.  The specific technology is what has altered.  Desks may not be in rows as they once were, yet in most classes, you still find the teacher in front of the room.

By contrast, our jobs have altered drastically. For us, we live the message of the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland who said, “My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.” Most of us start our day on a run and never slow up.

You work at being Instructional Partners with teachers and that takes effort whether you try to coordinate with their units at the elementary level or find ways to collaborate at the middle and high school.  You look for websites, apps, and other resources they can use with their students and offer it to them freely.  You may even send out a newsletter or an e-mail blast to share a new tool, offering to show them how to use it with their classes.

And how do you find out about those resources? By building your Professional Learning Network. You use what AASL offers.  You belong to several librarian Facebook groups.  You join librarian Twitter chats.  You are on the lookout for what’s new and possibly better than what you have been using. It’s exhausting and exhilarating – depending on the day.

Because librarians have more one-on-one interactions with students, we learn from our students more frequently than teachers do.  When I went to school, world history didn’t go farther east than Egypt and Africa had no past before Stanley and Livingstone. Working with my students on their research papers, I learned as much as they did. From a student doing a math research paper, I learned that Arabic numerals came from India.  While subject teachers are aware of new developments in their field, I was learning about them in all areas.

My students have often taught me about technology.  They love sharing and realizing they know more than I do. They enjoy seeing me learn as much as I enjoy watching them.

As a librarian, I love learning.  By showing them I am a lifelong learner, they, too, embrace the concept. We don’t “teach” lifelong learning, we model it. 

A librarian once said to me, “We shouldn’t be called library media specialists.  We are library media generalists.”  Quite true.  While we each have our preferred subject areas and reading tastes, we are always eager to learn—whatever the subject.

Are you modeling lifelong learning? Where do you go to discover what’s new – and what’s next? What have you learned from your students?

ON LIBRARIES – Plan, Persist Prevail

How do leaders get so much accomplished?   Whatever they do works out.  It sometimes seems as though they are luckier than other people.  Attributing their success to luck, however, gives you a way out.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

A well-known phrase comes to mind, “Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.” (Sometimes an earthy adverb is included to modify “poor,” which you can check on Google.) The fact is leaders are always planning.  Last September I blogged about Strategic Planning in “Always Have a Plan.” Although I focused the planning on creating a strategic plan, I said then that leaders are always planning, always have a plan because “You never know when an opportunity will arise and you have a chance to do something but have to move quickly. I have known of librarians who are informed there is suddenly a specified amount of money available but it must be spent within a short time frame.”

During my career, part of my ongoing planning involved my practice of seeing m Superintendent of Schools over the summer, although you might be better off doing this with your principal.  “In that quiet time of the year, I would discuss where I wanted to take the library next and how it might affect the budget.  We would negotiate for the funds I wanted for a given project.  I would agree to take money from one part of my budget and she would acquiesce in getting me additional funds to make it happen.”

In addition to making one of my plans happen, I was also sending an important message.  I was letting my Superintendent know I had a vision for the library program and had mapped out a plan to achieve it. I displayed my expertise as a librarian and was letting her know any monies spent on the library program would bring a maximum return.

As I reported in the blog she once said to me, “I have the feeling that if I go one step with you, you have nine others waiting.” She was right.  I needed those other possibilities.  In case my first idea was shot down, I would bring up the next.

That same Superintendent told me on another occasion “She learned the easiest way to deal with requests was to say no.  Almost everyone would take that for an answer and go away.  But those like me, who came back with an alternative, were listened to.  She could see we were committed to getting something done.”

What others saw was that my proposals always seemed to go through. A guidance counselor remarked I was lucky as I always got what I wanted. Not true. But like the swan paddling furiously under the water, my behind-the-scenes preparation and my persistence were not usually seen.

In another district, my library was attractive mainly because the windows looked out on a very pleasant view and that’s what most people saw.  But we had huge clunky library tables and heavy chairs. This was in the late 90’s and our computers sat on top of the no-longer-used card catalog.  There were too many study carrels and not enough seating to accommodate more than two classes at a time in a school of over 1,200 students.

I had been in this position for only a few years, but I wanted to make changes.  At the ALA Annual Conference, I focused on furniture and shelving when I went through the exhibits and knew the names of the vendors I thought had the right idea.

One day as I was heading to lunch, I saw my new Superintendent, my principal, and the vice principal looking in my library through the hall windows. He was commenting on the computers and the card catalog. I immediately changed my lunch plans and went back inside. When they entered, I was ready.

The Superintendent commented on how old-fashioned the library looked and how cramped it was.  We knew because of environmental issues we couldn’t physically expand it. I explained we could make some furniture changes to maximize the use of the existing space and suggested we use moveable book stacks. I told him I knew of a vendor who installed them.  He was hooked.

I made the call, first to the vendor of the book stacks who also could help me with the furniture.  By the end of the week, I had the proposal for a complete renovation which I presented to the Superintendent.  He was concerned about the total cost, but I had anticipated that and outlined how it could be managed over three years.  And that was what we did.

My standing with this Superintendent immediately improved.  He added to my proposal by suggesting a circulation desk more in line with an automated system (which we had).  And when the circulation clerk resigned (we had 5 people including two librarians staffing the library), he proposed a “media clerk.” She proved invaluable in taking care of system updates not only at the high school but also with the other schools in the district.

Because I was willing to plan, look at my current situation and make decisions for what would best serve the program and my vision, I could present what I needed it when opportunities present themselves and when I created opportunities.  I wasn’t lucky. I had plans.

So what plans—and that’s plural—do you have in mind for your library program.  How can they be modified?  What can you give up in a negotiation to get one or more of them implemented? Do you have a conversation with your principal in this quiet time over the summer?  This is how you construct a foundation for your future plans and demonstrate how the library program can be a showcase for the school.