As the administrator of the library program, you are a leader. However, it is important to stop and notice where you are either not leading or not leading effectively and the first place to look is to your relationships. Do you regularly work on building your relationships with teachers? Have you established a positive relationship with your principal?
AASL’s Vision sets the path for us. “Every school librarian is a leader; every learner has a school librarian.” Remember, a Vision is what we strive to achieve. It may not be realized yet, but your planning and what you do each day should be focused on achieving it. To get to the second part of the AASL Vision, we need to work on the first part.
Relationship is the first building block of leadership, but creating relationships requires both a mindset and a skill set. Douglas Conant, former CEO of Campbell Soup, in a post entitled Leadership That Works: It’s All About the People, aptly defines leadership as, “the art and science of influencing others in a specific direction.” He states: “You can’t become a world-class leader without being anchored in the fundamentals of your craft, the craft of leading people” and offers the following ten building blocks to get you there.
- High-Performance – You work at this every day. But although many of you are coming in early and/or staying late several days each week, not enough of you are letting others know what you are accomplishing. This isn’t about the hours worked. It’s about the results that are impacting your students and their success in the school. Librarians must communicate this to teachers so they will look to you for collaboration and to administrators so they will know your importance to the district.
- Abundance – Your budget may be small or non-existent, but you have an abundance of knowledge to share. Keep your ear out for teacher —and administrator – needs. You should share your tech skills and awareness of great websites, apps, and other resources. While it’s an excellent technique to send an email about a great tech resource each week to the faculty, it is far better if you can send one to a particular teacher that addresses a specific need. Or schedule a drop in time for teachers to come try something out and get coaching.
- Inspire Trust – Relationships are built on trust. You can’t be in a relationship with someone you don’t trust. Be mindful to keep teacher comments confidential. Gossip is tempting and schools, like many other workplaces, run on it. But leaders are trustworthy. Don’t repeat what others tell you.
- Purpose – This is your Mission Statement. It proclaims what you do. It should identify what is unique about you and the library. Create one a fun, noticeable sign for your Mission. Frame it and hang it so it can be seen by everyone who comes into the library.
- Courage – Take chances and introduce new projects and programs. You can get ideas from the many Facebook groups for librarians, other librarians in nearby districts or at state/national conferences. Being a risk-taker is one of the basic requirements of leadership. Not everything will be successful, but if you do your due diligence by getting advice from your PLN, most of them will take off.
- Integrity – You can’t be a respected leader without it. It is what inspires trust (see #3). It also means standing up for the ethics of our profession. The six “Common Beliefs” of the National School Library Standards are the bedrock of the philosophy underlying our program. In addition to the fifth Common Belief – Intellectual freedom is every learner’s right – we also hold to ALA’s Code of Ethics and the Library Bill of Rights, along with the Interpretations of it that relate to working with minors. There may be occasions when it takes courage to stand by our principles, but that’s what integrity requires.
- Grow or Die Mindset – My oft-repeated mantra is, “if you are not growing, you are dying.” It’s wonderful to have a well-respected program, but look for ways it can be better. Be innovative. Keep your eye out for what’s next. Get to conferences as much as you can. Watch webinars that will take your program in new directions. Ask questions. Find a mentor. There are many ways to keep your program growing.
- Humility –We have only to notice how many school districts have lost their librarians to take the definition of humility (having a modest view of one’s own importance) to heart. In addition, as lifelong learners, we are well aware that someone always knows more than we do about something. And that this someone may be one of our students. Even when we are the resident expert, there are other perspectives which can add to our own. Humility can keep us growing (see #7).
- How Can I Help? – The answer to this is likely part of your mission or vision statement. It’s also in the non-verbal message we send daily in our body language and voice, and how we work with students and teachers. We are a service profession which is why building relationships are so important.
- Have Fun – I can’t emphasize this enough. If you have been staying late several days a week, cut back on it. Treat yourself to something you enjoy at least once a week, and hopefully every day. Make time for friends and family. Rediscover a favorite hobby or learn something new. I guarantee it will improve your leadership skills.
I have been writing and speaking about leadership for most of my working life, and I find there is always more for me to learn. I am confident that you have many of these leadership building blocks, but each of them can be improved. Every day is an opportunity to learn something new, do something better, and show everyone you are an invaluable leader.