ON LIBRARIES: What Do You Project

We all send out and receive non-verbal messages.  It is why we make almost instantaneous decisions as to whether we like or dislike someone we just met.  Something may change our minds eventually, but part of that first assessment is almost always there.

If you want your administration to regard you as indispensable, you must project that.  It’s subtle and will affect all your interactions.  But first, you must honestly believe you are indispensable. The good news is, as with other aspects of leadership, you don’t have to be born with the ability to project strength, professionalism.  It can be learned. The hard part is learning to retrain your brain. 

What you project is all about your mindset.  Remember that old truism supposedly said by Henry Ford, “If you think you can, or you think you can’t—you are right.”  Our thoughts either limit us or set us free to grow.  A statistics professor I knew at a library school told a student who said she would take her “C” here (since she was limited to two C’s in order to graduate), she just guaranteed she wouldn’t do better than that.

Positive self-talk is vital.  Stop focusing on where you are not doing well and celebrate your achievements – no matter how small.  I keep a Success Journal.  Every day I note where I have succeeded at something.  Some days I only list two successes.  Other days I might have five.  But I see where I succeed every day.

LaRae Quy lists Confidence, Persistence, Dedication, and Control in her article 4 Secrets of a Strong Mind and writes how these characteristics will take you far.  Here’s how they play out in our world.

You won’t be taken seriously if you are not projecting confidence.  This is not the same thing as being a know-it-all.  It does mean you know what your job is, believe you do it very well, and are prepared to demonstrate that.  I had a principal tell me, “You be the expert, or I will be the expert.”  I answered, “I am the expert.”

Quy says, “Confidence is a belief in yourself and your ability to meet your goals. Push out of your comfort zone and expose yourself to different situations. Learn how to push through the uncomfortable.” Remember, it’s what you believe about yourself and stepping out of your comfort zone.

Persistence means you don’t give up. You try another tactic. A superintendent once confided in me that her first answer was always, “No.” because most people went away and didn’t come back.  I always did which convinced her I was serious and knew what I wanted and why.  It also showed her I would carry the project through and not waste the money – which was a big factor in all her decisions.

Quy says, “Persistence is the tendency is to see life’s obstacles as challenges to be met, rather than as threats. Don’t whine, point fingers or blame others for your predicament. You can be the hero of your own life and choose your destiny.” Become creative.  Keep putting forward what your program needs.  Whatever it takes.

Dedication is an easy one for us.  We really care about what we do, and we show it. Many of you come in early and stay late. It’s about living your Philosophy of the library program and the values of our profession. They guide you in your decisions along with your Mission and Vision.

Quy says, “Strong-minded people have a dedication that comes from a purpose in alignment with their deepest values.” I think most of you do.  Now you have to see that in yourself which will help you project it.

Control is not a word I usually like, but Quy uses it to mean closing out negative thoughts. It’s back to a positive mindset.  Have a goal you work toward and record every small success you have in getting there. Don’t listen to nay-sayers—particularly the one in your brain.  You have achieved much.  You can and will achieve more. Quy says, “Control is having a certainty that you are able to shape your destiny and not passively accepting events as fate.”

I have added Quy’s words and ideas my ever-growing list of leadership qualities. And just to show you more how they manifest in my world, I am under 4’11’’ and yet my mail carrier commented recently, “You are one powerful lady.”  He doesn’t know anything about my professional life, but he “got” what I project. When I was still a high school librarian my principal and the curriculum supervisors responded to that, giving me the respect and attention necessary to carry out and grow the library program.

Everything we do is a choice.  Choose to see yourself as powerful and indispensable.  Remind yourself whenever you can it’s true. Believe it and others will see you that way.

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ON LIBRARIES – You Are More Than A Leader

Yes, you are a leader – and you will be an even more effective and happy one if you open up to and are aware of all the other things which make you who and how are.  While being a leader is part you are this is not, nor should it be a complete description of you.

I have been known to say I am a leader everywhere in my life and that is mostly true.  But if I hold on to that statement, I can fail to see a larger picture of me.  One that is also important. In a recent article Ed Batista, an executive coach, speaks to CEO’s who are “profoundly lonely” despite interacting with many people during the day.  School librarians often feel the same. Yes, they speak with teachers and students all the time. But even when we use social media for professional connections, there is a disconnect.

See the bigger picture of your life

Batista’s first piece of advice is to Get out of the Role and cultivate different interests, and when you can with like-minded people.  He mentions rock climbing and ballroom dancing. Definitely not leadership “tasks.”

For example, I am a walker.  I certainly am not leading when I am walking.  Yet walking is important to me as a person.  It gets me out of my head.  It invigorates me.  I meet people.  Sometimes I see them repeatedly.  Most often they are brief encounters with merely a head nod in acknowledgment.  But each one fills me in a certain way.  Walking restores me. I miss it when weather or life interferes with me getting out three to five times a week.

I am also a reader, of course.  Reading is like breathing to me.  If I don’t have at least five titles waiting to be read, I get nervous.  Like walking, it takes me out of where I am now and lets me fly free. I have friends who are quilters and those who are knitters.  One is an avid practitioner of yoga.  Some are vegans.  Notice the word is “are” not “do.”  These are all part of our lives outside of being leaders and they are just as important as leading.  Indeed, by enriching our lives they make us better leaders.

Next, he says, Treat Family Like Family. It’s advice I whole-heartedly embrace.  I can remember when I had a challenging principal and brought home my frustration and anger on a daily basis. Not only was my home no longer a way to refresh myself, I was also having a negative effect on my relationship with my husband.

Yes, you can bring work home (sometimes physically), but set a time limit on it. We need our family and they need us. Be open to hearing what is going on in the lives of the people you love.  And use the same active listening techniques you practice on the job.

Treat Friends Like Treasures. The friendships we build outside of work are special.  Give them the time

they deserve. It took me a while to learn the value of having lunch with a friend despite a hectic schedule.  Even if I took two hours for lunch (after retirement), the tasks and responsibilities were waiting for me and still got done. The bonus was that I handled them in a more positive way because I was feeling good and more energized.

Beware the Wolves.  Batista is referring to people who profess connection in the corporate world but who have other often opposing agendas.  For those of us in education, it’s the complainers, those who always have a grievance against the administration or other teachers. Even when they are right, they are wrong for you.  You don’t want them to bring you down. It’s not about being a Pollyanna and only seeing good; it’s about accepting what you can’t change (or find another job) and working towards what you can change.

Finally, he says, Start Now, which is the reason for my writing this blog for you today.  It’s hard to implement new behavior patterns during the frenetic pace of the school year. With your schedule (hopefully) a little more flexible, do what you can to notice these things in your life and enhance the ones that will most fill you up. Then when the next semester starts, be sure to schedule the time you need for you, family, and friendship and continue to steer clear of the wolves.

Take stock of who you are and who you want to be – besides a leader. And cultivate your new behaviors now.

 

ON LIBRARIES: Makerspaces – A Lesson In Leadership

When Makerspaces burst onto the scene several years ago, it was the public libraries that led the way.  Proactive school librarians seized on the idea and, after a slow start, they are now in many schools, although not always in the library.  On the whole, it seemed to be an easy advocacy tool, increasing a positive perception of the library.  But not everyone has been happy with Makerspaces.  A few places have reduced or eliminated them.  Is this the new trend?  Were Makerspaces a fad that is fading?  Not really, but the reasons behind some of the dissatisfaction with them provides a good lesson on leading.

The first school librarians who incorporated Makerspaces were leaders, as early adopters usually are.  Most often they moved into it slowly, minimizing the risk of investing too heavily in a project before knowing the pitfalls.  You do have to be careful when blazing a trail, but those following shouldn’t assume the path is clear.

At the initial obstacles were financial, but eventually, the spaces became about more than expensive equipment like 3-D printers. Vendors, seeing a growing market began, producing affordable kits that were a natural for Makerspaces.  And they thrived and grew. Contributions and expansion into what had been seen only as hobbies and crafts made it easier to develop Makerspaces on a shoestring.  The kids were creating, problem-solving, and having fun.  The tie-in to STEAM which was a growing education trend made it even more appealing.

Click on the image to read the article at Knowledge Quest

All was going well until a few blips appeared.  Some librarians reported problems with Makerspaces which was an uncomfortable thing to share because everyone was still talking about how great the spaces were. Because only a few were having difficulties, the issue was ignored. People were too excited about this new “toy” and it’s embarrassing to have a problem when the vast majority are being wildly successful. But the truth is, there is a growing challenge to having and maintaining this aspect of your program.

Makerspaces had trouble when they were suggested to the librarian instead of by the librarian.  The fact that administrators loved the concept when librarians introduced it was a plus for the movement.  But when Makerspaces are implemented under the principals’ direction, they lose much of the advocacy opportunities, and how it is put into the library can have a negative effect on the program.  What has happened in some districts is that the administrator puts all the focus on the Makerspace to the exclusion of nearly everything else including literacy activities.  The principal believes he/she has a cutting age library program when in reality the true 21st teaching is being lost.

Makerspaces also tend not to be successful when the librarian plunges into it believing the simple existence of one makes it an advocacy tool.  If all you do is read the “contents” of a Makerspace and come close to duplicating it, you won’t have a successful program.  Leaders know planning is the key to success.

And planning always begins by reviewing your Mission and Vision (and possibly your Philosophy). How

From https://www.chiefoutsiders.com/blog/not-screw-up-value-proposition

will this addition help further these? In what way?  Who are the stakeholders?  How can you spread the word to the community?  Is there a way to involve them so they know and possibly participate in the aims and achievements of the Makerspace or whatever you are promoting?

Programs do not exist in a vacuum.  They need to be tied to something and your Mission and Vision helps you define their purpose and their ultimate goals. Planning should also remind you that nothing stays the same.  It either grows or dies. You don’t put a Makerspace into place and then just keep repeating it.  You need to assess what is happening with students.  Where do you want to take them next? How can you help them think deeper, bigger, and more critically?

Makerspaces can be wonderful. They are truly student-centered, promote inquiry, and creativity.  They can be tied to literature as well as STEAM.  They can be an important component of your advocacy plan.  BUT you have to plan.  It’s what leaders do.