ON LIBRARIES – The Gift of Gratitude and Generosity

Thanksgiving in North America is over and the December holidays will soon be upon us.  While many take time on Thanksgiving to reflect on all the reasons they have to be thankful, the day is barely over before we are bombarded with the frenzy typified by Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Whether it’s adults scrambling to buy gifts and decorate the house, or kids campaigning to get something they can’t live without, the holidays can become more about material goods than people and celebration of thing that last beyond the life of a AA battery. It makes you want to hibernate instead.

We live in a stress-filled world. Our students are stressed as well.  Not only does this interfere with thinking clearly, it also causes us to focus on negatives.  It becomes so easy to complain, we forget what we have. You could easily fill a page with what is wrong on the job and in your life.  But what do you get from that? Let’s face it – it’s easy, but it doesn’t help or work. It’s not good for building relationships and it ends up making the library much less of a welcoming environment.

When I focus on having an “attitude of gratitude,” as corny and meme-like as that might sound, I recognize how fortunate I am.  I am grateful for the joy my family brings me, having work I enjoy doing, and the wonderful friendships I have within the library world. (Before I retired, I also recognized how fortunate I was in having colleagues who became friends and students who thanked me every day for the help I had given them.)  To ensure that I do think of the good things in my life, I keep a gratitude journal.  Each day I record two things for which I am grateful—big or small.

When you keep your focus on gratitude and the things that are going well in your life, the world becomes a nicer place.  Your problems don’t go away, but they don’t constantly dominate your thinking.  As a result, you feel less stressed which leads to additional positive benefits. It changes your body language and tone of your voice.  You become a calm port in the raging seas of others’ emotions, which run high at this time of year for many reasons.  People who interact with you come away feeling relaxed and supported.

In the spirit of the season, you could set up a Gratitude Jar near the circulation desk along with small pieces of paper and pens.  Encourage students and whoever else cares to join in to write something for which they are grateful and put it in the jar.  Signing is optional.  You might even set up a Gratitude bulletin board and post some submissions placed in the jar, changing them every few days. It’s someone everyone can participate in – teachers, students, volunteers, and administrators.

And since I always talk about this – while I have not seen it listed in any article I have read, I believe gratitude is a quality of leadership. Strong leaders are aware of what is working in their programs as much as they are aware of where there is potential for growth. They are grateful for what they have in their lives and the people who work with or for them.  And good leaders are quick to express that gratitude.

From Richer Life Journey

The season is also a reminder to be generous.  There are so many ways we can and do give to our family, friends, and communities.  It may be money, as many of us contribute to various charities this time of year, but it may also be the gift of time or sharing our talents with the world.

Time is a very precious commodity in our world.  Do you volunteer at a soup kitchen?  Serve on your state library association or AASL?  There are countless ways to give back.  My daughter’s childhood friend “scarf-bombs” Detroit, leaving hand knitted scarves that she makes all year long in key spots around the city. Each scarf has a note which reads: If you’re cold you can keep me. If you know someone who’s cold, please take me to them. She’s made and delivered over 400 scarves in the past three years.

Children love knowing their time and efforts can make a difference. In some schools, the produce of gardening projects is donated to soup kitchens and food banks. Other districts do food and/or coat drives or even collect gently used books to give to those who don’t have them.  What other ways can students show generosity?

You could also create a Generosity Jar to encourage students and others to be mindful of giving back.  Using the same system as with the Gratitude Jar, people can write all the ways they have helped others in the past year.  Consider posting some questions to help students recognize how they can give back. Did they clean up their room or the dishes without being asked?  Did they help a friend with homework?

We all have much in our lives to be grateful for and most of us do find ways to give.  I truly believe when we become aware of Gratitude and Generosity in our lives, we make our own world a better place and positively affect the larger world as well.

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ON LIBRARIES: Ease into the New National Standards

The New National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries have arrived. It’s exciting and wonderful but carries a certain amount of trepidation

– What changes will I have to make in my lessons?

– How am I going to find time to learn it all?

– Is there a start date for implementing them?

– Can I just wait a while?

– Do I have to buy the book?

All good questions.  And while I do own the book as I participated in the pre-con on the Standards at the AASL Conference in Phoenix, I don’t plan to sit down and read it through in a week or so.   I have looked at the Table of Contents and been led to some key pages, but I am going to absorb this in small doses.

You can and should do the same.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Excerpts from AASL’s National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries, used with permission.  Copyright American Library Association, 2018. For additional information and resources visit standards.aasl.org.)

Your first stop is the AASL portal for the Standards to download the AASL Standards Framework for Learners.

So much is being loaded here, almost on a daily basis, the site is a bit hard to navigate.  It will be cleaned up but for now, I have given you the link because that’s the best way to start. This will help you see how our new Standards are organized and give you a way to start incorporating them into your lessons in easy steps. See? A framework.

Page three lists the Common Beliefs which is “How … we define the qualities of well-prepared learners, effective school librarians, and dynamic school libraries.”  I discussed these six in my blog on September 25th.  You can look at that if you want to review the Common Beliefs.

The centerfold is where the big new is.  It is the AASL Standards Framework for Learners. From there are two additional frameworks. One for School Librarians and another for School Libraries. (We have dropped the word “program” because we want the focus on school libraries.) The good news is all three follow the same structure.

The frameworks are tables. Reading across are the Roman Numerals identifying the six competencies that form the Standards:

  • Inquire
  • Include
  • Collaborate
  • Curate
  • Explore
  • Engage

Beneath each is a one-sentence key commitment.  For example, Explore says, “Discover and innovate in a growth mindset developed through experience and reflection.”

Visit the Ogden School District Library program by clicking the image

Reading down the chart are the four domains:

  • Think
  • Create
  • Share
  • Grow

You may remember these from Learning for Life (L4L).  These are connected to the domains of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Think is the Cognitive Domain.  Create is Psychomotor, Share is Affective, and Grow is Developmental.

The Shared Foundations and Domains form a grid with each box having two to five competencies identifying what the learner is expected to do.  For example, the box formed by Inquire and Think says, “Learners display curiosity and initiative by:

  1. Formulating questions about a personal interest or a curriculum topic.
  2. Recalling prior background knowledge as context for new meaning.”

So, if you were to use both in your lesson you would refer to it as I.A.1. and 2.

Depending on your learning unit or your own preference, you can focus on Inquire through Think, Create, Share, and Grow.  Or you can choose to have students Create through all or some of the Shared Foundations.  You can pick and choose as you wish.

web banners available from AASL website

If you would like to see the Frameworks for School Librarians and School Libraries and you are not quite ready to purchase the National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries, consider getting the AASL Standards Mobile App from the Apple App Store or Google Play for $19. You can’t get it at the ALA Store but a description of the App is given there.

This is my route to slowly implementing the Standards, but you have many helpful resources on the Standards Portal.  There are videos you can watch, or you can download the one-page PDF on Where Do I Start? 6 Action Steps for Getting to Know the New National School Library Standards. Keep checking the Portal. New resources are being added quickly, and it will become better organized.  Meanwhile keep exploring it to find treasures.

You do need to get around to buying the book.  The $200 price tag for non-AASL members and even the $99 cost for members has been something of a sticker shock.  Since I advocate for all school librarians to be members of AASL, let me point out that first time membership is $119 – so for an additional $20 you have the book for $99 and a one-year membership in AASL with all its resources such as e-COLLAB and Knowledge Quest. And this volume is equal to what was in Empowering Learners, Standards for the 21st-Century Learner in Action, and A 21st-Century Approach to School Librarian Evaluation. Which really makes it a bargain.

What have you done to get started with the new Standards?  What do you like best about them so far?  And if you need help to come up with the cost to purchase the book – post to our Facebook group and see if anyone has suggestions and ideas.

ON LIBRARIES: Confessions of a Conference Junkie

It’s true.  I admit it I am totally hooked on library conferences. On Wednesday afternoon I will be flying to Phoenix to attend the AASL Conference.  The following week I will be at my state library association’s conference.  I am already registered for ALA Midwinter in Denver (yes, winter in Denver) in February of 2018.

Those of you who haven’t attended any of these, particularly the ALA/AASL ones, may wonder how I got hooked and why I keep going.  It started innocently enough.  I went to my state conference. And one of the reasons I chose to go was because it was easy to get to the site.

It turned out to not only be familiar but a lot of fun. A number of my librarian friends were there and the vendor reps for the most part were the ones who called on me. I got to see several programs that were helpful, some of which were led by people I knew so I could follow up with them.  There were some nice freebies (now called swag), and I met more librarians from my state who I hadn’t known before.

I continued to attend and I became known by leadership people which led to my being asked to serve on committees.  Although it was a bit scary, I tried one.  It accelerated my learning curve, and I became a truly active member of the New Jersey Association of School Librarians (then called EMAnj).

Then in 1979, (yes, I have been a librarian for a long time), I attended my first ALA Annual Conference.  Along with Ruth Toor, I had written my first book – The School Librarian’s Almanac – and thought it was time to look at the larger scene.

That year the site was easy again. It was held in New York City. As a New Jersey resident who was born in New York, I was comfortable there. Lots of the New Jersey librarians I had come to know also attended.

It was somewhat overwhelming, but thrilling at the same time.  It was SO much bigger. As I walked to the Convention Center I saw so many people wearing conference badges and carrying the bags attendees were given.  I struggled a bit to choose among so many programs.  There were more vendors than I ever heard of, but I did see a quite a few familiar faces among the reps. And the swag was amazing. I came home with bags, books, bookmarks and other great things for my library.

One of my best memories from that conference was meeting Isaac Asimov.  I had loved his works since I discovered them while in high school.  He even kissed my cheek.  I didn’t want to wash it.

Sitting at the food courts and sharing tables I met so many librarians from all over the country. There even were some from countries around the world.   I was learning even when I wasn’t at a program or in the exhibit hall.  I was hooked.  I never looked back.  I couldn’t wait for the next conference.  Fair Warning—conference going is addictive.

Since that time I have never missed an ALA Conference. I remember going to Toronto, Canada in 2003 for the first joint conference with the Canadian Library Association.  It was made even more memorable because shortly before the conference, Canada experienced an outbreak of the SARS virus.  Those of us who didn’t decide to skip the conference were made extremely welcome.

After attending ALA Annual for several years, and taking volunteer positions in my state organization I became the president-elect of NJASL and was therefore a delegate to AASL’s Affiliate Assembly. Since it met at ALA Midwinter in addition to annual, I attended that.  And discovered it was the same and different from Annual.  Smaller in some ways, without as many programs, there were still committee meetings, great exhibits—and of course, swag.

In my new position I met our national leaders. I was surprised to discover how approachable they were. Before long I was serving on AASL committees.  In 1980, AASL had its first conference.  I didn’t the first or second (they are every other year), but I did go to the third held in Atlanta, GA. Aside from a family emergency that caused me to change plans at the last minute, I have attended every AASL Conference since then.

I had no choice but to be hooked. So many programs, so many vendors.  And all of them directed to school librarians.  It was perfect.  When AASL began holding its National Institutes, commonly known as the Fall Forum, I couldn’t wait to attend.  These were very small, and focused on a single topic/issue of importance to school librarians. It was the perfect setting for intense learning.

So here am I once again eagerly packing for an AASL Conference. (I will be skipping my blog next week as I will be in Phoenix.) What do I have to show for it?  Well, the swag does accumulate.  I will never need to buy a canvas bag.  I always have a huge supply of pens and post-it notes plus assorted helpful items from thumb drives to earphones.

More importantly, to a great extent, the leader I am today came about as a result of all my conference going.

Are you a conference junkie?  Which ones do you attend?  What are some of your best memories? What would be a good first one for you – state, AASL, or national? Wanna join me in New Orleans next year?