ON LIBRARIES – Up To Standards

Are you ready for the new AASL Standards or are you feeling some trepidation about them?  As a leader, you must get up to speed rapidly so you can tweak and revamp your lessons as necessary.  It is natural to want to cling to what you have known and used since 2007, but stop and think — it’s been ten years.  How much has the world changed since then?  How much have you changed? You – and your students – are doing things you couldn’t possibly have done, or even imagined, then.

The new standards will be brought out at the AASL Conference in Phoenix, November 9-11.  I will be there and attending one of the pre-cons on them on Thursday. There’s still time to put in a pre-publication order so you will be ready to go as soon as possible. Click HERE to go to the order page for the standards. And HERE for the Standard Framework preorder.

Meanwhile, AASL has set up a portal to get you started by providing the philosophical base of the new standards.   I recognized the need for new standards but there was so much in the old ones that I liked, I had a few concerns.  Thanks to the portal, I am eager and more prepared to embrace the new. Let’s walk through them together.

Start with the Common Beliefs. The existing standards had nine. The new ones have six. The first,  “The school library is a unique and essential part of a learning community,” promotes the program on a far wider scale than the old which stated, “School libraries are essential to the development of learning skills.”  As in the old standards, a short paragraph explains the Belief in more detail:

  • As a destination for on-site and virtual personalized learning, the school library is a vital connection between school and home. As the leader of this space and its functions, the school librarian ensures that the school library environment provides all members of the school community access to information and technology, connecting learning to real-world events. By providing access to an array of well-managed resources, school librarians enable academic knowledge to be linked to deep understanding.

The second breaks new ground by declaring the worth of librarians. “Qualified school librarians lead effective school libraries,” positions us as indispensable, stating:

  • As they guide organizational and personal change, effective school librarians model, promote, and foster inquiry learning in adequately staffed and resourced school libraries. Qualified school librarians have been educated and certified to perform interlinked, interdis­ciplinary, and cross-cutting roles as instructional leaders, program administrators, educators, collab­orative partners, and information specialists.

Complimenting Common Core, the third belief states, “Learners should be prepared for college, career, and life.”  The explanatory paragraph addresses our unique contribution to student learning:

  • Committed to inclusion and equity, effective school librarians use evi­dence to determine what works, for whom and under what conditions for each learner; complemented by community engagement and inno­vative leadership, school librarians improve all learners’ opportunities for success. This success empow­ers learners to persist in inquiry, advanced study, enriching profes­sional work, and community partici­pation through continuous improve­ment within and beyond the school building and school day.

Mirroring, “Reading is a window to the world” from the old standards, the fourth proclaims, “Reading is the core of

personal and academic competency.”  We must never forget our commitment to literacy and the accompanying paragraph succinctly defines it.

  • In the school library, learners engage with relevant information resources and digital learning opportunities in a culture of reading. School librari­ans initiate and elevate motivational reading initiatives by using story and personal narrative to engage learners. School librarians curate current digital and print materials and technology to provide access to high-quality reading materials that encourage learners, educators, and families to become lifelong learners and readers.

Much like “Equitable access is a key component for education,” the fifth Common Belief is, “Intellectual freedom is every learner’s right.”  Our profession is staunchly committed to this right and has officially been so since ALA’s Bill of Rights was first adopted in 1939.  The new standard states:

  • Learners have the freedom to speak and hear what others have to say, rather than allowing others to control their access to ideas and information; the school librarian’s responsibility is to develop these dispositions in learners, educators, and all other members of the learn­ing community. 

The final Common Belief is, “Information technologies must be appropriately integrated and equitably available.” This is a call to action as so many schools do not have adequate information technologies, and the new standards recognize that with this supporting paragraph:

  • Although information technology is woven into almost every aspect of learning and life, not every learner and educator has equitable access to up-to-date, appropriate technology and connectivity. An effective school library bridges digital and socioeconomic divides to affect information technology access and skill.

Do you think anything is missing from these Common Beliefs?  Don’t be too quick to decide.  The new standards also have six Shared Foundations, summarizing Competencies for Learners. The infographic link shows how learners Think, Create, Share, and Grow with each of them, and how librarians lead the way.

There is certainly lots to take in and learn, which makes me grateful for this preview from AASL. I was very proud in 2007 of the AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner. I think I am going to be even prouder to represent and lead from these.  I can’t wait to dig into them.

What do you think of these beginning documents?  Is there anything that stands out for you? Are there any which particularly that excite or motivate you? What are you doing to get ready for the new standards?

 

 

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ON LIBRARIES: Leaders Keep Growing

Leadership is a journey without an end.  You are either growing or dying.   So how do you continue to grow? Like everything you face in life, it’s a matter of choices.

Consciously or not, many librarians have sadly made the choice not to lead, but for those who have taken steps along that road, after each new step is in place, you want to be looking at where you want to go next. There are many ways to continue your growth, so choose the directions that best meet your needs.

Three weeks ago, I blogged about Leading Larger, suggesting you consider becoming more active at the state and/or the national level.  While actively participating in these associations are the most obvious steps, you might consider moving out of the librarian silo.  For example, at one point in my career, I became the union rep for the high school. I did it primarily to be in a position to advocate for the union’s support for the librarians in the district.  It was an effective move because it strengthened my relationships with teachers, but not one I enjoyed. For those of you who do like it, it’s a wonderful way for informing your teaching colleagues of the contributions school librarians at all grade levels make to students and the whole educational community. You might even become the union president. Those of you who work in states where unions are not permitted don’t have this choice, but you can find other options.

You can join organizations such as the International Reading Association or ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development). The latter includes many administrators.  While the journals of both are excellent, to grow your leadership you need to become active at least in your state association’s affiliate.  If you have an affinity for a particular subject area, you can choose its national or state association to join and become an active member.

Beyond those possibilities, there are other ways to continue growing as a leader and some are fairly simple. Marlene Chism in a SmartBrief on Leadership discussed “7 Signs You Are Growing.”  You should find it reassuring to see how many ways you continue to grow.

From: Seven Signs You Are Growing

The first sign she writes about is “Your beliefs are still evolving.”  We all have our personal belief system while we also internalize the beliefs of our profession.  With the hate speech and violence making headlines, librarians everywhere are looking at the ALA Code of Ethics and Library Bill of Rights to determine when if ever certain types of speech are not acceptable in a library.  In the discussions being held within ALA and on various Facebook pages, school and other librarians are keeping an open mind and are prepared for shifts in beliefs as they come to their conclusions.

The second sign of leadership growth is the ability to see different points of view.  Although it connects to the first sign, it also is a constant within the school setting.  If you are to build relationships with teachers and administrators, you must be able to accept their perspective on a situation and work from there without judgment.

Third is the willingness to stop unproductive habits. This one is challenging. (I’ve mentioned my Klondike solitaire habit, right?) You might be willing, but doing so is not easy. If you want to work on this, pick just one that you think is keeping you from being as effective as you want to be.  When does it appear and why? What actions can you take to deal with it? Don’t expect to be perfect while making the change. A habit is a habit and it takes work to do something differently.

Chism’s fourth sign is, “You consciously build productive habits.”   This is the flip side of the third sign and is somewhat easier to do. Again, just choose one habit you would like to acquire.  For me, it’s not checking Facebook before getting productive work done.

Next is “You grow thicker skin.”  It’s natural to take negative comments personally, but it won’t help you as a leader. Learn to focus on the message, not the method of delivery. In growing as a leader you build your self-confidence and you are no longer intimidated by others.  You trust your skills and abilities.

The sixth sign is “You achieve more than you thought possible.”  Have you launched a successful Makerspace or other projects?  Did you get a teacher who barely used the library to collaborate with you? Did you serve on a committee and discover the other members valued your input? You find yourself thinking, “Did I really do that?”  You look back at where you were a few years go and realize the person you were then would be stunned to see what you have done.

Finally, “Your definition of success changes.”  The more you grow, the more you see other larger goals to reach for. The other six signs inevitably move you to aspire to greater things – and you go after them.

Are you growing as a leader?  Where do you want to

ON LIBRARIES: Leaders are Strategic

It is obvious that leaders are strategic, but most librarians are tactical which is not the same. I can hear several questions being raised:  “What’s the difference?” “Why is it important?” And also, “You aren’t describing me. I have a strategic plan.”

The reason we tend to be tactical is the daily need for getting things done, showing progress, and meeting the goals we or our administrators set. We create systems and programs that allow, hopefully, for the achievements we are striving for. But that’s not the full scope of leadership – and it’s not strategic.

For years – and on many of these blog posts – I have discussed the importance of Mission and Vision Statements.  I have found most librarians have become very good at crafting their Mission but not as good at creating their Visions, so they skip it. Although you might write your Mission first since it’s easier, a strategic plan needs to include both a Vision and Mission. (And yes, I know ALA’s strategic plan only states its Mission, but in developing that plan, – at least in the past— it identified the BHAG i.e. the Big Hairy Audacious Goal which in essence is a Vision).

In order to create both of these statements, it’s important to understand the difference and the different importance between them. Many Visions I have seen are really Mission Statements. The blurring of the two is widespread and not just among librarians.  As usual, the business world recognizes it.

An online column in Forbes by Liz Ryan points out the confusion and helps to clarify the difference.  She notes that many think what they are doing is strategic when in reality it’s tactical. She quotes an old boss as explaining strategy is how to get out of the woods, or how are you going to achieve your goals. Tactics are what you’ll use to implement the how.

Therein lies the major distinction. Your goal is not your Mission. Your goal is your Vision. I recently came across a humorous distinction between the two. Frank Muir said, “Strategy is buying a bottle of wine when taking a lady out to dinner.  Tactics is getting her to drink it.” Mission – is why you asked her out in the first place.

In other words, your strategy is a long-range plan to achieve a desired end, your Big Hairy Audacious Goal—your Vision. Tactics are an assortment of steps you take – and change as needed – to get you to that goal, your Mission.  In one of my presentations, I talk about the difference between leading and managing.  One difference is that leaders are strategic while managers are tactical.

As a school librarian you need to be both a leader and a manager, but it’s important to be aware which hat you are wearing when. Most of the time you are managing. Your well-written Mission keeps you focused as you go about your day. While events might pull you off track, by knowing your Mission you more easily return to it. Another term for Mission is purpose.  It’s what you do every day and is why I have characterized it as your perspiration.

Lynn Parker in Startup Strategies says, “Tactics are the what. Strategy is the why.  Tactics are the actions. Strategy is the planning. Tactics may achieve goals. Strategy is all about setting the right goals.”

This is why those of you who have a strategic plan but don’t have a true Vision, have attained goals.  The question is, are they the right goals?  Do they really get you to your envisioned end?  If your Mission is your perspiration, then your Vision is your inspiration and aspiration.

Here are some sample Vision Statements:

  • The School Library Media Program is a collaborative and instructional partnership between students, teachers, school library media specialists, administrators, and the community with the freedom to explore personal and intellectual interests through informational sources.
  • The School Library Media Program is the heart of the educational community. Love of the written word and the research skills for intellectual and personal achievement are grown and nurtured here.
  • The School Library Media Program is a user-centered environment where up-to-date resources and technology and a responsive staff empower students and teachers to achieve their academic and personal goals.

These Visions picture a desired goal for a school library. I don’t think many (or any) libraries have fully achieved this. But it is what you would like to have. Therefore, it is your aspiration and it can and should inspire you to work towards that end.

By contrast, these are some Mission Statements:

  • The Blank District Library Media Program cultivates independent, lifelong readers fosters critical thinking skills, teaches the effective and ethical use of information sources, and promotes equitable access to all forms of information media.
  • The Mission of the Blank School Media Center Program is to promote lifelong learning, develop critical thinking skills and gain an appreciation of literature by providing opportunities for all students to gain the self-confidence necessary to successfully learn in an information-rich world.
  • The Blank School Library Media Program provides a positive environment that encourages students to love reading and assists them in becoming critical thinkers, problem solvers, and effective users and producers of ideas with the ultimate goal of creating life-long learners.

The Mission Statements are all about the “doing.”  The Vision Statements are the place the library program holds in the educational community.

Sun Tsu, the famed ancient Chines military strategist said, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”  You need both in order to attain your goals.

What is your Mission?  Your Vision?  Do see and understand the distinction between the two?

ON LIBRARIES: Some Days Are Like That

We all have those days when nothing goes right.  It sometimes begins before we step out the door, continues during our commute, and goes downhill from there.  Judith Viorst understood and wrote about it.  Her picture book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day captures one of those days in the life of a young boy.  We all have those days.  And the conclusion, “Some days are like that – even in Australia,” sums up the universality of it, as well as the need to move on from it. And we do.

You feel unappreciated, frustrated, disrespected and possibly several other negative emotions.  And your feelings are completely justified. But you can’t continue that way.  When you are in that place you are not a leader.  And you must be a leader.  There is NO other option.

So what happens when your “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day” is every day?  Some of you work in districts where your budget is non-existent, you have two or more schools to oversee coupled with a crazy schedule.  Others of you are ignored by teachers who believe you have an easy job. Your administrators look at the lifeless space the library has become because they have not funded it in years and see it as a vestige of the past, to be eliminated if their budget gets tighter.

Underneath it all, you still love working with the kids.  Most days.  You love seeing their faces light up when they have connected with the right book or found a resource that is just perfect for the project they are working on.  This is why we became librarians.  But for too many of you, the rest of the school environment is sucking the joy from what you love doing.

So what can you do?

Hopefully, you have a Mission Statement and a Vision Statement.  The Mission, which is your perspiration, reminds you (and everyone else, since it should hang in your library) of what you do that’s vital and unique.  Does it include the teachers in some way?  Your Vision, which is your inspiration and aspiration, gives you a goal to attain – even if it seems as though it can never happen.

Now pick something that ties to your Mission and/or Vision. Develop a plan as to how you can address that one thing. If it’s teachers who don’t know or care that you exist, choose one teacher as your focus.  Build a friendly relationship.  Don’t talk library.  Find common ground.  Then make the suggestions that have heretofore been rejected.  You may not succeed at first, but you will over time.  Once you have reached one teacher, add another.  After a while, you reach a tipping point, and your value will increase.

No budget?  Look for grants.  Start with your local education foundation.  They don’t have much money to give, but the grant writing is easier.  Focus on something that will be noticeable.   Perhaps it will fund the start of a makerspace, or create a special collection that’s needed.  When you get it set up, create some sort of sign thanking the donor.  Get pictures of the kids enjoying the addition, post it on your website, and include that in a report to your principal.

The multiple schools challenge won’t go away so select the school most likely to react positively to a change.  Once again, choose one thing or person and make your first inroads.

Is your library drab and dreary?  Pinterest is loaded with suggestions on how to liven it up with little or no money.  Connect with an art teacher in the high school (no matter what level you are on) and see if he/she is willing to make it an authentic learning project for his/her students.

There is no one involved with a school or its administration that isn’t regularly or constantly frustrated by one thing or another. When you feel alienated and/or annoyed with teachers or you are upset because the library is “dusty/musty” as a result of no budget money, you can’t let the situation drag you or your program down.  Eventually, the kids will feel it and you will be less effective with them – and that mindset will prevent you from being a leader.

How are you dealing with your challenges?  What baby steps have you taken?  What successes have you had?