Become Confident

Leaders are confident. Confidence is the outward manifestation of your trust in yourself. It is an essential ingredient for leadership. When you trust yourself, people trust you. When they do, they will follow and work with you. That doesn’t mean you believe you are always right. You can question your original decision and/or get feedback from others. But you are still confident and recognized as such.

You need confidence when you propose a new program. You need confidence to deal with students who are acting out. You need confidence when you make changes to the facilities in the library. You need confidence to face challenges to your collection. You need confidence to grow. And if you are not growing, you are dying.

But how do you develop confidence?  The Indeed Editorial Team gives some helpful recommendations in Building Self-Confidence: 10 Ways to Boost Your Confidence.

  1. Attend professional development training – The more you know, the more confident you will feel. Going to your state’s school library conference is an important investment in yourself. In addition to the specific knowledge you gain, you also develop a vocabulary that shows you are informed about the topic. The added benefit of attending PD sessions is the connections you make. Building relationships with other librarians is as important as building relationships with people in your building. They are potential mentors, people with whom you can safely vent, and sources of advice and experience.
  2. Learn new skills – Similar to the first, but this can also refer to choosing a specific course or topic. For example, you may feel you could use more help with time management. Or you want to learn more coding so that you can make recommendations to students and teachers. Searching online for some training in this area will make you feel more knowledgeable and therefore more confident.
  3. Dress for success – This outward step has an important impact on your inner self-assurance. Your dress affects your attitude and mindset. Think of elementary kids on picture day. When they are dressed up, they behave much better. When considering this, make sure your clothing does not restrict you from being able to do your job comfortably. If your day requires you to sit on the floor or a low chair, keep that in mind. The way you are dressed transmits a silent subconscious message to others while potentially empowering you.
  4. Leave your comfort zone – Almost everything on this list asks you to take this step. It is key to professional growth. Giving your first presentation is scary. Getting through it is an enormous confidence boost. The Indeed Editorial Team also notes that doing something like a presentation can open the door to new opportunities. Someone in the audience might note something that suggests a new direction. Confidence lies outside of your comfort zone.
  5. Emulate confident peers – Look for role models. Who do you know who appears confident? How do they do it? The authors of the article suggest observing how these people interact with others and incorporating some of their strategies.
  6. Set goals for yourself – As with #2, start with something you want to learn or do and set small goals on your path to achieving it. Each goal you reach builds your confidence and keeps you going.
  7. Focus on your strengths – There are things you already do well. Can you do them better or can you use these skills more? Don’t look for perfection. Keep your focus on improvement Indeed recommends keeping a list of your achievements. (I keep a journal of what I accomplish each day.)
  8. Learn from your mistakes – Mistakes are a good thing – even though they don’t feel that way in the moment. They are part of growing. Mistakes give you information on what’s not working so you can do things differently. Use this information to move forward.
  9. Eliminate negative language – Notice how you treat yourself. We tend to be our own harshest critics. Change that mindset and look to what your accomplishments are and the goals you are working toward. Keeping that journal will help.
  10. Ask questions – Questions are another important part of the growth process. Pretending you understood everything someone said keeps you uninformed. Everything around us is changing at a faster rate than ever. One way to stay on top of what you need to know is by asking questions.

The Indeed Editorial Team had 3 final tips:

  • Take your time,
  • Be persistent, and
  • Keep developing your mindset.

I would add to that: Keep growing; Recognize the value you bring, and Build your PLN. With practice and awareness, confidence is there for you.


Creating an Advisory Council

In this day of libraries receiving regular disputes about books in their collection (and ALA has some great resources should this happen to you), it’s important to have advocates for the library who can support you through this process and any other challenges your program may face. One of the best ways to do this is to create and develop an Advisory Council.

When you’re planning, try to make your council as diverse as possible without becoming unwieldy by limiting your board to between 5 and 8 members. First, consider other librarians. You can invite the local public librarian and a college librarian, if there is one in your area, are other potential members. If you are at the elementary level invite a middle school librarian. Middle school librarians should look to high school, and high school librarians invite the middle school librarian.

Next, consider inviting one or two teachers from different subject areas, STEM teachers especially. If you are at the high school level, consider adding a student representative. Reach out to the community as well. Invite parents and local business owners. Inform your administrators, inviting them if they are interested. (And keep administrators in the loop no matter what).

As you develop your plan, start by creating your ask. What will be the purpose of the Advisory Council? How do you see the potential contribution of the members?  What will the commitment entail? Before or after school? Evening? Zoom or in-person? Know what you are asking people to do.

Also consider what members will need to know about the library to be effective. This includes an explanation of the Code of Ethics and the 6 Common Beliefs in the National School Library Standards. Add whatever else you believe necessary, depending on the members, and be sure to have these resources available to the members.

At the first meeting, welcome and thank the members for volunteering their time. After brief introductions, review the purpose of the council. Ask what they know and think about the school library. As succinctly as possible, review what you determined members need to know and encourage questions to ensure their understanding.

As a group, develop what the goals of the Council should be. You might want to focus on the diversity of the collection, reviewing the collection development policy, or what changes are needed to ensure the library is welcoming to all. Although you are leading what the possibilities are, be open to their suggestions.

Alaina Love’s post How to Lead a New Team to Success offers a direction for how to continue.

  1. Listen before leading – Don’t plunge into the tasks. While you want something to show for the first meeting, allow time to hear from the members. You asked them to be on the Council for a reason, but they may have more to offer than you knew. Be open to discovery.
  2. Share – Set up a Google doc or other method where Council members can report so every one can keep up with what is being done. After the first meeting, for example, you may have them comment on any goals that were discussed. Also, the doc can have a place to post any questions they have that have arisen since the meeting. Be sure they know everyone can respond to someone else’s posts.
  3. Seek insight –Discover what drives your members. Why did they agree to be a part of the Council?  What do they hope to give? What do they hope to gain? What have libraries meant to them. Knowing them as people, beyond their titles, will make them more connected to the team.
  4. Evaluate and align – The more you learn about the members the better you are at assigning tasks. We all have strengths and weaknesses. You do as well, and the Council is meant to help you do better at leading the library program. By knowing what members like to do and are good at, you not only get the best results but also increase their commitment to it.
  5. Review – Leaders inspire and inspect. Over time, notice how things are going and assess whether members have been offered the opportunity to give their best. Should you make changes in who is responsible for different tasks, be sure to frame it in the context of feeling they could give more in the new assignment.
  6. Query, acknowledge, celebrate – Get their input as to how they feel things are going. Instead of asking “how are we doing?” ask, “What can we be doing better?” And celebrate Council’s achievements and those of individual members. Even if you meet virtually, try for an in-person celebration. People stay more invested and active when they are acknowledged.
  7. Look outward – Council members don’t stay forever and new blood will always be needed to keep the council strong. Encourage outgoing members to recommend their replacement. Be sure to welcome new members and get them up to speed.

Creating and sustaining an Advisory Council takes work, but the benefits to your program and how you are perceived make it worth it. Bringing in diverse perspectives will give you the direction you need to ensure the library is a safe, welcoming space to all and continues to be an invaluable asset to the school.

Moments in Leadership

Leadership is a journey. You start small and grow as you go. And, no matter how much you grow, the journey doesn’t end. It’s a lifelong pursuit. For librarians, leadership is not an option. AASL’s Vision puts it succinctly, “Every school librarian is a leader; every learner has a school librarian.” 

We cannot forget that until every librarian is a leader, not every learner will have a school librarian. Too many non-leader librarians have seen their positions and libraries disappear. Yes, leaders have been eliminated, but it’s those who haven’t stepped out lead who have been the most likely to have lost their jobs.

We do face a challenge, because librarians don’t have a title, such as principal or superintendent, that implies leadership. We are the ones who define and develop what our leadership is and what it means. Fortunately, we have colleagues who have marked the path. Develop your PLN. Use social media to connect to library leaders. Observe how leaders in your state association assert their leadership and take the profession (and their library) forward. Seek out someone you admire and ask if they would be your mentor.

Mark your own leadership path. Art Petty delineates 3 Big Moments That Can Define Your Leadership Career.

The Moment You Decide to Lead – Making this active decision is key. You must decide, then pursue. Petty recommends some self-reflection questions including, “Am I motivated to help others?”  He follows that with “Am I willing to put their needs ahead of mine?” Think about the ways in which your work supports the goals of students, teachers, and administrators and make that your priority as you craft your goals. By becoming and being a leader, you are positioned to give students and teachers the information and resources they need for success.

The Moment You Decide the Type of Leader You Aspire to Become – Petty writes: Deciding to invest yourself in the work of leadership is essential. Defining the leader you aspire to become is priceless. There are many models of leadership and not all of them work for school librarians. A style known as “servant leadership” works best for librarians. This style focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belon is the style most frequently showed by library leaders. They are empathetic and active listeners; leaders who empower others.

A variation is collaborative leadership. Here the leader enrolls others and works with them. They value the skills and expertise of their colleagues as they take their library program and students forward. Servant and/or collaborative leaders in our state and national associations make our profession and value known to an increasingly larger audience.

The Moment(s) When You Make a Stand – In the current book-banning climate, there have been several school library leaders who have taken public stands in the face of hostility and even personal danger. It takes courage to stand up for your core values and professional ethics. While there are reasons some are afraid or have reasons for not doing so, these Warrior Librarians are to be admired. Hopefully, their courage will encourage others to do the same.

Making a stand is not always as earth-shaking as those situations. Sometimes, it’s showing up at a Board of Education meeting and talking about the importance to students and teachers of school libraries. It could be making an argument to your principal about the use of your time.

Your leadership journey will have many “moments.”  No matter when, you need to become more active in our profession. The first step will require you to get out of your comfort zone. Subsequent steps will hopefully be a little easier (although stretching yourself will always be part of the process). First, step up to leadership at your state level. From there look to serve on the national level. If you serve on an AASL Committee, look for a leadership position. Be ready to be part of ALA. The same is true for other professional associations/

What type of leader are you or do you want to be? How are you making that happen? The journey never ends.

Deciding What To Do First

We all have full plates. So many tasks calling for our attention at the same time. New ones constantly being added. Where do you start?  What do you do next?  How you answer those questions determines how efficiently you work and how successful you feel at the end of the day.

There are lots of ways to develop your to-do list and determine your priorities. I use the tried and true pen and paper list. To help me, I break my tasks into categories such as Blog, Montana (where I am teaching online), ALA, and Personal. But where do I begin?

Starring the highest priority items helps, but there are always several starred items. The first item of business is knowing which comes first. On Saturdays, it is this blog. This gives me room to complete it by Sunday should life interfere. The imperative is to get it to my editor who edits what I’ve written as well as posts it on my website on Monday.

My second task on Saturday is checking on my students, responding to their posts, and grading their work. The rest of the week, they come first. I count on the amount of time I need with them to increase slowly through the week as they complete readings and are then able to submit work. The other tasks follow.

During the week there are other things on my schedule. Doctors’ appointments, phone calls that are important, and any other number of things which make planning essential because something is bound to throw me off course at some point. Holding onto my fallback mindset, “Everything will get done — it always does” can keep me calm (mostly) about unanticipated disruptions.

Another way to determine what to do first and what to next is to use the Eisenhower Box or Eisenhower Matrix, named for US President Dwight Eisenhower. It’s an excellent guide for helping you making the decisions on what to do first, next, and so on.

James Clear, author of the bestselling book Atomic Habits, explains how to use this  in How to be More Productive and Eliminate Time Wasting Activities by Using the “Eisenhower Box.”  To construct the Box, you work with two categories, Urgent and Important and their flips, Not Urgent and Not Important which give you a matrix with four boxes. Clear gives the following explanation to help differentiate between the two, “Urgent tasks are things that you feel like you need to react to: emails, phone calls, texts, news stories. Meanwhile, in the words of Brett McKay, ‘Important tasks are things that contribute to our long-term mission, values, and goals.’”  You can easily redefine Urgent for your work environment with school-related tasks – student disruption, fire drill, call from the principal.

The Box is pictured above. If something is Urgent and Important – DO it. It’s a priority. If something is Important, but not Urgent, you can schedule when it will be done. If it is Urgent and Not Important, look for ways you can delegate this – it’s not the best use of your time. And if it’s Not Urgent and Not Important… don’t do it. Cross that off and move on to the things in the other boxes.

What is important about the Eisenhower Box is that it has you identifying the difference between what is urgent and what is important. Eisenhower said, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” But it is wise to know when it’s both and when it isn’t.

Life being what it is, this matrix doesn’t always work. Sometimes, you cannot delegate something, and because it is Urgent, you need to do it anyway- sooner rather than later. Which may mess up the scheduling you’ve done for the things that were Important but Not Urgent. Fortunately, this won’t be an everyday occurrence and you can return to the matrix when it’s time to plan again.

If this thought process works for you, consider adding the Eisenhower Box to your time management skill set. When you consciously decide what to do and when to do it, you feel more organized and have a sense of accomplishment. I also, am aware of what time of day is best for me to do certain tasks and what small and not very important things can be dealt with when I have short periods of time available. Look for those things in your schedule and hopefully soon you’ll be spending your time on your priorities and crossing things off your to-do list.