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.

 

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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.

 

ON LIBRARIES: Are You Successful?

I suspect many of you would answer the title question in the negative. I hear from many librarians who are feeling frustrated and exhausted, and while I understand their reasons, it causes me great concern.  These symptoms, if prolonged, lead to burnout and that in turn results in not giving your best to your students and teachers.

But what can you do when you are overworked and under-appreciated?  The answer begins with changing your mindset. When you change your mindset, you can start recognizing you are far more successful than you think. I am not saying you aren’t working under stressful conditions, but it’s how you react to them, how you internalize them, which can make all the difference in the situation.

Our new National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries refers to having a “growth mindset” which is the antithesis of a “fixed mindset.”  It is defined as “people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work.  This view creates a love of learning and resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” (p. 276)

And you definitely need resilience to deal with what is on your plate.

You certainly believe that a growth mindset is important for your students. But how about you? You are working hard but are you working towards your mission, your purpose? Are you only seeing what you aren’t accomplishing and the negatives around you? That will only move you into a downward spiral.

I challenge you to define what success would look like.  What do you think being successful with your students looks like?  With teachers?  With administrators? Your list likely has places where you haven’t achieved what you consider success.  But look a bit more closely.

You are undoubtedly more successful with your students than you are giving yourself credit for.  Has a student thanked you for your help in some way lately?  What about any relationships you have developed with teachers?  Has one of them expressed any appreciation for something you have done? Have you made any inroads with your principal?

I recently read an article by Jillian Kramer entitled 4 Myths We Are Taught about Success. This comes from the business world but there are strong connections to what we are dealing with every day.

Her first myth is one I have discussed before, “If You Are Good at Your Job, You’ll Get Promoted.”  You are good, and no one is noticing you.  True in the business world and true for us.  And what does she recommend to change this?  Build relationships – and focus on your next step.

The second myth, “You Must Start Young,” doesn’t seem to connect – but it does.  The point is yesterday doesn’t matter.  It’s what you do today.  Where do you want to go? How will you get there?  And then, start NOW.

The third is “You Must Kill Yourself to Succeed.”  Some of you are trying that route.  It doesn’t work.  You feel like a martyr and you have nothing left for what’s really important in your life.  Working late everyday is not a recipe for success.  Try my mantra, “Everything will get done. It always does.” This really means if it’s a priority, you will make it happen.

The final myth is, “You Must Play Politics.”  Guess what? In business and in our world, that kind of approach is obvious to everyone. Being a team player is not being a brown-nose. On the other hand, you do need to know what your stakeholders’ goals are, whether you are referring to administrators or teachers. That’s how you successfully connect your library program to what matters to them.

It’s easy to focus on all the negatives in our lives. Obviously, they must be dealt with, but when we bring them to close to our vision, we see nothing beyond it. I counter that habit by keeping a Success Journal.  Each day I record whatever has occurred that makes me feel successful. (Such as completing my blog for the week.)

Learning to take a wider view will help you establish a more positive mindset, which will improve how you see your world and yourself. Ultimately, I hope you will discover you are far more successful than you thought.

ON LIBRARIES: In the Award Spotlight

This past week AASL announced it 2018 award winners.  Next year you could be one of them. Does that scare you? Thrill you? Both? Good!

Now is the perfect time to think about going for one of the AASL awards. School is almost over everywhere.  (Some of you have only a few days left.) You have the benefit of more free time over summer to choose the best award for you and get your application organized. Most of them will be due February 1, 2019. In past blogs, I have alluded to applying for awards as a way to get noticed for what you do.  For those of you who are still unsure about putting yourself forward as a leader, this is a potential first step.

There is one caveat.  You must be a member of ALA/AASL to qualify – and too few librarians belong to our national association. 

Joining has so many benefits – developmental, social, and even financial.  For example, everyone needs to own the new National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. The hefty price tag of $199 is reduced to a far more reasonable $99 if you are a member of ALA/AASL, and first-year membership costs $119.  So for an additional $19 you get your membership and the standards.

Going back to the awards options, AASL offers a number of awards and grants and, with some preparation, one will fit with what you are doing. My favorite grant, for several reasons, is the Ruth Toor Grant for Strong Public School Libraries. Some of you may know that for more than 30 years Ruth and I co-authored 14 books for school librarians, the last three for ALA Editions.  We also wrote and edited The School Librarian’s Workshop, a bi-monthly newsletter, which eventually lead to a growing, supportive Facebook group over 7,000 strong.

 

The Ruth Toor Grant for Strong Public School Libraries is sponsored by Ruth’s husband, Jay Toor and speaks to something Ruth, and I, have always been passionate about – creating a public awareness/marketing campaign promoting the school library program as a necessary resource.  The grant winner gets $3,000 to carry out the campaign.  Another $2,000 goes to the librarian and an administrator (or volunteer parent) to attend an AASL or ALA conference. It is not one of the simplest grants to apply for, so I recommend it for an established librarian.  It is a fairly large grant, and you should build in many opportunities for widespread coverage of whatever event is part of your campaign.  Whether you get the grant or not – do what you can to carry out the campaign you create (you may be able to find some local funding if you need it) and get you and your program recognition from the administration.

Have you and a teacher worked together on a learning opportunity that was highly successful? One where students created new information and were thoroughly engaged?  If so, you are ready to apply for the Collaborative School Library Award, which is not nearly as complicated. The winner of this award, sponsored by Upstart, receives $2,500.  If you start putting this together now, be mindful that the criteria refer to meet standards in Empowering Learners. I am sure it will soon be updated to require using the National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries (see, another reason you need a copy of this!)

If your successful collaborative unit is about Social Justice, look at the criteria for the Roald Dahl Miss Honey Social Justice Award.  Your project should “expose social injustice while at the same time inspiring … students to repair the world through justice, service, or advocacy.” Possible themes are genocide, civil liberties, and local issues on the topic. The winner of the award, sponsored by Penguin Random House, receives $2,000. Additionally, there is up to $1,000 reimbursement for travel to attend the AASL Awards at the ALA Annual Conference – and a $5,000 book donation from Penguin Random House. That will boost your collection – and put your program in your administration’s spotlight.

The $2,500 Innovative Reading Grant, sponsored by Capstone, is for a unique program, motivating reading, particularly among struggling readers. Up to four grants are available for the Inspire Collection Development Grant, sponsored by Marina “Marnie” Welmars.  The grants go to middle or high school librarians (grades 5-12) in public schools with 85% or more of the students qualifying for Free/Reduced Lunch Program.

The most challenging award to apply for and the one requiring the most developed programs is the National School Library Program of the Year. Sponsored by Follett, it is meant to showcase exemplary programs. As such, they ensure that “the students and staff are effective users of ideas and information. These programs empower learners to be critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skillful researchers and ethical users of information.” Winners receive $10,000 and a lot of attention, starting when finalists get visits from the award committee.  If you want to tackle this award, you will not only need to start early but, as the guideline suggests, do check the rubric. (Also use the National School Library Standards, not the old standards.) 

Look over these awards and grant and see which one you might win with an investment of time and a bit of risk-taking.  There is a link to the past/current winning entry for each of them so you can see what was previously submitted and impressed the judges. Consider emailing the librarian if you have questions. Next year you could be honored at the AASL Awards luncheon.

 

ON LIBRARIES – Community Outreach

So you’ve have been working hard to be a leader in your building.  The teachers have come to rely on you and, hopefully, you have made your administrator aware of what you have been doing to improve student achievement, guiding them to being critical thinkers and lifelong learners. That is wonderful!

And it’s not enough.

Budget shortfalls can have a devastating effect. You need community support behind you and your library program.  The time to begin is now, not when the crisis hits. Remember, advocacy is not about you advocating for your program. It’s about getting others to advocate for it.  To recognize your value and that of your program.

You need to reach an audience beyond your school to build advocates who have discovered what a school library program means to students, teachers, and the community as a whole. Remember, in many places the whole town votes on the budget.  Some won’t want to support your program, particularly if they don’t have children in the schools. In addition, when most people think of school libraries, they picture the one they had when they were in school.  To their mind, it seems rather dated.  What can you do to change the picture – change the story about school libraries they have in their head?

Slowly become a presence in your community.  Start with the public library.  You can build a collaborative/cooperative program with them. See if they will allow you to showcase student learning happening in your library. Display student-produced work. You can return the support by posting information about the public library in your school showing the students how this additional resource can help them.

Next, consider the many groups in your town.  Is there a Historical Society? A garden club?  Perhaps they would like to do a display in your library – and you can augment it with material from your collection.  Get your local news outlet – newspaper or cable – to cover it.

Are there local businesses who might be able to contribute to your Makerspaces?  Either supplies or leading a session or both?  If you are in a high school, could they do a special program talking about what they want from interns or employees? Consider holding the event in the evening so that parents can come as well.

Just don’t tackle everything at once.  That will overwhelm you which leads to giving up, and you don’t want that. Have a goal then consider slow steps to achieve it.  To help you be more successful in your community outreach, ALA has to the School Library Health and Wellness Toolkit.  After an excellent explanation of advocacy and how it must be approached, it provides a systematic 5-step way to build support, including helpful resources.

In Step 1, you are directed to identify your stakeholders. The list starts with students and continues with parents, teachers, and administrators, ending with community members and legislators. For each stakeholder, the toolkit offers “sample issues, concerns, priorities, and needs.”

Step 2 has you think about ways to solve stakeholder problems and concerns through library programming. It reminds you when considering stakeholder priorities that your efforts need to be about their priorities, not the “library needs and wants.” Everyone wants to know what’s in it for them.

Step 3 briefly points to the need to market to your stakeholders and “educate” them about the library program.  Once again you need to consider to whom you are sending the message and what is the best way to deliver it.

Step 4 focuses on evaluation and evidence.  You need to measure how successful you are being so you can make adjustments.  And you need evidence to show what libraries do. Focus “on data that shows contributions to educational goals.  In particular, have data showing contributions to student achievement and the development of 21st Century work and learning skills”

The final step is sharing your findings. Don’t wait to be asked. “Sharing positive data and evidence before a situation is critical is key to preventing cuts. Make positive messages and proof of student learning part of the culture of the library program.”

A list of “Quick Tips” follows along with links to a number of resources including a Sample Library PowerPoint Presentation “Powerful Library School Program.”  And don’t forget the ALA initiative Libraries Transform. Scroll down to the colored boxes with their powerful slogans.  Clicking on each gives you more information to back up the statement.

Like Leadership, Community Outreach is not an option. It must be included in your strategic advocacy planning.  Again – start small, use the online resources as your PLN (including our Facebook page) and don’t stop.

ON LIBRARIES: Regarding Guarding Privacy

With the recent uproar over privacy on Facebook and so many other breaches of privacy, including a password breach last week at Twitter, it sometimes feels as though privacy no longer exists. Certainly, it’s much harder to protect.  And yet, as educators we need to do all that is possible to protect our students’ privacy and to teach them what they can do to guard it. Today, I’d like to discuss the former.

ALA through its Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) is a resource you can turn to for help. Choose Privacy Week is held annually on May 1-7 (yes, today’s the last day).  The OIF “works with other privacy advocates to highlight current privacy practices and guidelines”. ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee, Privacy Subcommittee, is one of the sponsors of the week and helps in creating and providing resources.   But how does this play out in your library and school? In too many places, there isn’t a Privacy Policy or even guidelines to raise awareness and take the precautions needed to protect students. To get an overview of what is needed, I recommend reviewing the Library Privacy Guidelines for Students in K-12 Schools.

Most school libraries have set their automation system to not keep records of what students have borrowed (it usually is the default setting.) which is an extremely important part of guarding student privacy.  Yet there are other practices that erode that privacy. For example, notifying students of overdue books is invariably done through the classroom or homeroom teacher depending on grade level. If the teacher receives a list of the outstanding loans/books for each student that’s a violation of the student’s privacy. It’s not the teacher’s business what the students are reading. What should be done, is to create individual notes for each student. Staple the notices closed and put the student’s name on the outside.  This can then be sent to the teachers.

I have no solution for the common practice of generating a list of overdues (and fines) at the end of the year.  In these situations, it may be the school’s policy that students do not get their report card or next year’s schedule until the books are returned and any fines paid.  What should never be done, and I have seen it, is to post the list on the windowed walls of the office, allowing anyone passing by to see who had taken out what book.

Gossip is another issue that infringes on student privacy.  There are still a number of you who have volunteers in your library.  I have often said they are your program’s eyes and ears to the community. They can be your biggest supporters and spread the good word about you and your program. The problem is they are also the mouths.  They see different students whom they know from other settings.  Without guidelines to inform the volunteers, or, better yet, a Board approved Privacy Policy, they may share their opinion of the behavior of different students and what books they have checked out.

If a parent group runs the book fair and it is held in the library, the same thing has a tendency to happen.  You have a responsibility to do your best to eliminate or minimize these violations of student privacy.  With your volunteers, share a written privacy policy, including the Library Privacy Guidelines for Students in K-12 Schools. Explain to them why it’s important.

When parents are in the library to run a book fair, you won’t be able to go into detail, but you might want to try a quick rundown of your guidelines.  You cannot guarantee it will help, but you will know you have made every effort.  We know when students are concerned that people are “watching” what they read, it has an inhibiting effect.  And that is counter to the Open Access and Freedom to Read values so important to most of us. Safeguarding our students’ privacy is a part of making and keeping the library a safe place for all.

Don’t worry that the first week in May is up. It’s never a bad time to look at what you are doing to safeguard your students’ privacy and helping them to understand the value that privacy has for us all.

 

 

 

 

ON LIBRARIES: Dealing With Difficult People

 Difficult people are everywhere.  Although they are in the minority by far, when they show up they add stress to your life.  The stress is even greater when you are confronted by them on the job.  Students, teachers, and administrators can all potentially prove difficult. If this happens you want to have the skills to manage your emotions, sometimes deal with their emotions, and keep things on an even keel. When you encounter difficult people it’s important not to react or you will get sucked in and the confrontation will escalate.

Students are the ones who are most frequently difficult. Every place has some so the idea is to be able to reduce the numbers. Take a proactive position with those students who are misbehaving upon entering the library.  The likelihood is that something set them off before they arrived.  Saying things like “Calm down, you’re in the library” don’t work. Has anyone ever calmed down because they were told to do so?  They might not know how to get themselves under control from the place they’re in.  Instead, you might say, “I can see you are very upset. Did something happen? Can I do something to help?” Speaking in a friendly tone can interrupt what is boiling inside. If you can reduce their anger level to a simmer you have a much better chance of things going better moving forward.  Will it work every time? Definitely not, but it’s a tool to keep in your arsenal.

Disruptions in the middle of the period (or class) are usually caused by one student aggravating another. If you don’t respond quickly, a fight can ensue and then you have a major problem to deal with. Identify both “culprits” and move to separate them.  If possible give them different tasks to do to keep them occupied with something more positive.

Exiting the library is another point when students can get out of hand. Having a standard procedure in place minimizes these occurrences.  Using exit tickets is one strategy that helps. Asking a few quick questions related to what they did in the library is another.

Having the library be a safe, welcoming environment for all is a core part of your responsibilities. While I know some schools are more volatile than others, keeping the number of confrontations down, will help you achieve that goal.

Teachers and administration present a different type of challenge.  You need to strive to have at least a professional relationship with them.  The library is for everyone, and you don’t want to create distance between you, the library program and them. That being said, there will be some teachers who are known for being confrontational.  When you feel you are being attacked, the natural response is defense. Once you go there, the exchange usually gets more heated.

Many years ago, I started a new position in a high school library with a good-sized staff, including a co-librarian, 12-month secretary, 10-month clerk, and a circulation clerk. (It sounds unbelievable today.) It was in the early days of automation and, at the time, you could only use numbers on barcodes.

I was in my office when this teacher comes barreling in and starts haranguing the circulation clerk.  I immediately went to see what was happening.  The clerk certainly didn’t deserve to be harassed that way.  The teacher quickly turned on me.  She had just learned that not only was her barcode her social security number, but the information was on a Rolodex behind the circulation desk, “where any student could access it.”

My first thought was, “How is this my fault?  I am here only a few months.  This has been in place for years.”  Instead, I responded, “I understand your reasons for being upset.”  I said we would immediately change her barcode to the last five digits of her social security number, “return” all her books (she had quite a lot in her classroom) and recheck them out.  We would change the other teachers’ barcodes at the end of the year.

Had I said what I was initially thinking, the situation would have become worse, and I expect the principal would have become involved. By validating her anger, I defused much of it. She was mollified and eventually became one of the biggest library supporters.

I handled a similar but, in some ways, a more challenging incident with an assistant superintendent. He was highly intelligent and known for “shooting from the hip.”  He never pulled his punches. As the leader of the district librarians, I was speaking to him about trying to pilot a flexible schedule in the elementary schools. He angrily said he had observed one librarian showing a filmstrip (and it was on the way out even then) about how books were made starting from a tree.  It seemed to him that a teacher could have done the same thing and what would be different about making the schedule flexible.

To calm things down, I responded to his message, not this method of delivery.  I told him I recognized his point. My solution was to talk about effective lessons at the monthly librarian meetings I led. While I never got the flex schedule for that level, I did earn his respect and overall value for the work we did.

If you’re having trouble with someone, take a breath before responding. Focus on how you can help the situation not on how you need to fix the person. Hopefully, some of your more difficult people will eventually become allies of your program.

ON LIBRARIES: Saying Yes – and No

It’s important for leaders – and you are a leader—to step out and take on new challenges. Moving out of your comfort zone is how you learn and grow.  I would venture to say you’ve already done this in so many places in your life, not just in librarianship. My personal leadership journey took a leap forward when I started volunteering in my state association, then called EMANJ now NJASL. Over time, however, I’ve learned when it’s important to step into a new opportunity and when I need to say no. “No” can be a very effective leadership tool.

I learned so much about leadership and leading when I became president of NJASL.  It was a bit scary at the time, but I had a lot of support.  And it built my confidence which was an important benefit. I took another leap forward when my position as president-elect and then president took me to the AASL Affiliate Assembly.  Suddenly I was swimming in a bigger pool.  There were so many leaders with more experience than I had, but they were easy to approach and always extremely helpful.

I also was developing a much broader perspective. I began learning what the other library associations in my region and the country were dealing with and what they were doing.  Many of their challenges were the same as my state’s, others were not.  Occasionally their issues surfaced in my state at a later time.  Not only was I prepared, I knew whom to reach for advice.

From the state level, I moved on to AASL committees. Each one focused on a different aspect of school librarianship.  I have been on so many over the years including an early one on strategic planning, programming for the AASL Conference, the Fall Forum, several Task Forces, and Advocacy.  Committees change over the years, but they were all key learning experiences. Almost every time I accepted an appointment to a committee or task force, I felt I didn’t know as much as I would like to be able to do a good job.  No worries.  The chair knew, and I was able to learn on the job.

I was very secure in my AASL niche.  Then I was appointed as AASL liaison to ALA committees.  Time to step out of my comfort zone. The pool became huge.  I understood school libraries, but now I was working with public, academic, government, and special librarians.  Their world was very different from mine.

When I am on an AASL committee I can count on knowing at least some of the members.  It’s not quite the same when it’s ALA, but the same welcoming response I found in AASL was here as well.  I have gotten to know presidents and past presidents of ALA and other major leaders and have a much larger perspective on how each type of library impacts all the others.

As a result of my ongoing volunteering for ALA and AASL (and I am going back to Affiliate Assembly as my state’s delegate after several years away), my ability to talk to those outside our field about the value of school libraries—and all libraries—has increased incrementally.  I have the vocabulary and the fluency to communicate these ideas. I have often said I should have received CEU credits from what I have learned.

Saying yes to new opportunities is a positive and an important aspect of leadership, but what about saying, “no?” When is that powerful?The answer depends on why you are saying it. I first blogged about “The Stories We Tell Ourselves” in 2015 and have expanded on it.  There are always reasons to say no. But too often these prevent you from becoming the leader you absolutely need to be.  But sometimes a leader must learn to say no.

When you have been a leader for a long time and are accustomed to getting out of your comfort zone, saying yes becomes your automatic response.  But recently I came face-to-face with the need to step back.

As a number of you know, a few weeks ago I had major surgery and for the most part was not able to take care of many of my daily tasks from online teaching to committee work for two weeks.  My natural tendency is to quickly get back to what I was doing.  But I had to accept I couldn’t resume everything at once.  I have to go more slowly.

It’s easy to help others.  It’s hard to ask for and accept help but that’s a component of leadership as well.  In addition to delegating, it’s important to trust others in the different areas of your life to step into the breach. In some cases, it’s empowering.  For example, one of my students took on a leadership role in getting her classmates to continue posting on the online Discussion Board and supporting each other.  In my personal life family members, including extended ones, have been there to help, some in unexpected ways.

I’m still impatient to get up to full speed.  I’m dealing with a steep learning curve with regards to some new (and hopefully temporary limitations) and reminding myself to draw on past successes to maintain my confidence.  Leadership is a continual learning activity, and I expect it will always continue to be one of mine.

ON LIBRARIES: Expect the Unexpected

THIS WEEK GUEST BLOGGER: Rona Gofstein

Last Tuesday, Hilda went to the ER with stomach issues and before the day was out she needed emergency surgery. As of this morning, she’s still in the hospital but will soon be heading to a rehab facility before going home. Needless to say… this wasn’t on her to do list.

As the first person who reads her blogs and then edits them, I offered to write one for her this week, and in preparing to do so I thought about the things Hilda focuses on most often: leadership, community, and communication.  I can tell you all of those things played a part this last week.

When the word went out among her friends and family, people called, sent flowers and a few headed out to the hospital. Community came together. There were comments and posts throughout social media, hopes for a speedy recovery pouring in to Hilda and her husband. There is nothing like a sudden health issue to make you feel alone and isolated. I know Hilda felt the connection of her community who reached out in so many ways to help.

As for communication,  being able to communicate clearly with doctors and other care providers is very important.  Hilda has worked hard this past week, starting when she was arrived at the hospital, to be clear about what was wrong, how long the problem existed and, now that she’s in a patient room, what she needs to be comfortable and support her own recovery. This includes asking for the support she needs to take regular walks, get what she needs for pain management, and reaching out to family for things she needs them to bring (I can tell you, her Nook was at the hospital almost immediately).

Then there’s leadership. What to say about leadership?

I think John Allen Paulus said it best with, “Uncertainty is the only certainty there is.”  There is no way to avoid surprises whether that’s a class showing up in the library unexpectedly, a beloved principal retiring, or  your car not starting at the end of the day. It’s rarely fun; it’s frequently unsettling; and there’s no getting away from it.

As a leader, it’s important to use what skills you already have – and frequently these include communication and community – to make the situation into one which doesn’t take you away from your long term goals and mission. In fact, I think Hilda would be quick to remind us this is one of the marks of a strong leader, and one of the benefits of being clear on your mission and vision. If you know where you want to end up, then the unexpected won’t have the dramatic or long term results that they might other

I know you’ll join me in wishing Hilda a speedy recovery. And as we writers say, when life throws something unexpected at you, yell “PLOT TWIST” and keep moving forward!

 

ON LIBRARIES: More Ways to Be Heard

Last week I wrote about the first five recommendations for being heard – and therefore recognized – in John R. Stoker’s article “How to Achieve Recognition by Results.” These recommendations were:

  1. Continue to do the work
  2. Look to make a difference
  3. Support others in their work
  4. Humbly be right
  5. Offer concrete evidence.

Now, the next five ideas.

Stoker’s sixth recommendation, Be Collaborative in Your Efforts seems almost a waste of time to mention. This is at the core of your work. You have been trying to get teachers to collaborate with you and they haven’t been responding.  In the business world, this suggestion translates as “be a team player.” While you do need to be using ideas to get teachers to collaborate or at least cooperate with you, reach beyond the teachers.

We have seen repeatedly that having a supportive principal is a sure road to working with teachers.  Once you have that support, you need administrators to view you as a team player.  Listen carefully and figure out what your principal and/or superintendent want to achieve.  Then show them how you and the library program can help make it a reality.  Just a word of caution –  you don’t want the teachers to think you are brown-nosing.  You will lose them completely. They may not be as good at showing administrators what they are achieving, so show how your work involves them and any and all support they’ve given.

You may not realize that you need to Explain Why but frequently you do. This is particularly important with any staff you have—paid or volunteer.  When someone offers a suggestion on how to do something in the library and you ignore it because it doesn’t work, the other person feels you don’t value them. Explain to students, teachers, or anyone if you don’t adopt their great idea.  When you explain, you could discover you didn’t understand the underlying reason for their suggestion and a great idea might emerge – in collaboration.

It’s so important to Recognize the Contribution of Others.  Remember the story of my two principals.  As I mentioned in Be Collaborative, every time a teacher does a project with you, let the principal know about it. Focus on the teacher.  Have a bulletin board highlighting the achievements of students (and not just athletes) and teachers.  You might talk about their crafting skills or other talents.  People like to be seen as worthy.

Recognize that schooling and degrees does not guarantee intelligence and the lack of them indicate that someone isn’t smart.  I once had a volunteer who had only an eighth-grade education. Her whole manner seemed to suggest a lack of intelligence.  It turned out she was smarter than many teachers and saw things I missed.  I was fortunate to have her in charge of my volunteers for several years. And yes, I let her know how valuable she was to me.

Be open to advice from custodians, secretaries, and students.  The academic decathlon students I advised were fantastic computer nerds.  When the tech department considered purchasing a new firewall, they had my kids test it out. They broke through it in slightly over a minute.  The tech department was appalled. The kids were quite justifiably proud of themselves.  And I was glad they were on my side.  I applauded their skills although in this case and for obvious reasons didn’t publicize it.

Leaders don’t make followers.  They create Leaders.  Look to Develop Others.  When you commend their talents and help them become better at it, they develop into leaders.  And they also become your followers and collaborators.

Over the years, I have encouraged librarians to take on bigger tasks and many have gone on to do great things in AASL.  I have mentored scores of librarians and I hope that my books – and this blog – offer librarians the courage to step out of their comfort zones and become leaders.

Finally, and obviously, Continue Learning. We are models of lifelong learners but also learn from your colleagues.  Let them know how they are helping you.  I planned to be a high school English teacher.  When I got my first elementary library job, it was the teachers (good and bad) who taught me how to be successful at that level.  When I was transferred to the high school they asked me what I would do there, thinking I was trained to be an elementary librarian.

I learn every day from posts on the School Librarians Workshop Facebook group as well as the other library-aligned Facebook pages. I learn from the e-newsletters I get daily some from ALA and some from business and tech sources.  As I have said, you are either learning and growing or you are dying.

So, ten ways to be heard. I hope you heard that at the core of all of them is building relationships. Remember the quote attributed to John C. Maxwell and Theodore Roosevelt — “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”