ON LIBRARIES – New Administrator – Now What?

You just heard the replacement for your principal or your superintendent of schools has been hired.  As a leader, you need to be prepared.  You don’t wait to see what happens. You go into action mode.

At the rate administrators turn over these days this is a common situation. The coming of a new administrator reminds me of the line from Exodus, “Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.”  The reputation you have built up and the relationship, good or bad you had with the previous administrator are gone.  You are starting anew. 

(To keep from the awkward “he/she,” I am using feminine pronouns throughout – although most of the administrators I worked for here male.)

Put your research skills to work as soon as you know the name of your new principal or superintendent.  See what you can learn about what kind of a leader she was in her last school or district.  If you can locate the names of librarians there, email one of them to find out how the library program did under her tenure.

The previous school/district website can provide further information as it may have messages from the administrator.  This will clue you into her priorities.  Also, Google her name and look for Twitter accounts and Facebook pages to get a sense of her achievements, values, and whatever else can help you get a picture of who your new administrator is.

Once you have a handle on what to expect, you still need to meet her to ensure she will regard your library program in the best possible light.  Schedule a meeting as soon as possible. If she is taking over during the summer so much the better. Although she will be busier than a continuing administrator because she is still finding her way around, it is still calmer than when school begins.

If the new administrator is your principal you (and your co-librarian if you are fortunate enough to have one) attend the meeting.  If it’s a superintendent, all the librarians of the district need to be there and everyone should be prepped for it. Plan on it taking no longer than half an hour.  Fifteen minutes is better.  This acknowledges you understand she is extremely busy and you can show you can be informative while being succinct.

Before the meeting, review what you found out about the administrator. Based on that, what is something you have done in the library that would be of most interest to her?  If she is a techie, have a file of pictures from your Makerspace or Hour of Code.  For a book lover, focus on any reading program you have done. You are giving highlights not the whole program so choose wisely.

Prepare questions to ask—but memorize them, don’t read them.  You want to sound spontaneous. Let the administrator know you want to ensure that the library program supports her vision for the school/district.  Ask what she liked best about the library program in her previous school. What, if anything, didn’t she like?

Those two questions should give you a direction. If her answers are fuzzy you know she has no clue as to what the library program does and you will have to work to slowly “educate” her. If she is specific but fairly negative, you will have to overcome a belief that is probably the result of her dealings with previous librarians.  A positive attitude means you start ahead and can focus on creating a good foundation.

For the rest of the school year, you must keep your new administrator informed but not deluged with what is happening in the library program.  For a superintendent, every month have each librarian share a one activity keyed to her interests, but have them send the information to one of you (rotate the task) to put together in a brief report. Always use visuals to supplement the text (Piktochart, Issuu, Animot, etc.).  Do the same for a principal. Focusing on just one activity should keep the task from being overwhelming for you to manage and for them to read.

Remember the reports should be very brief.  A new administrator has a steep learning curve and is being closely watched by the superintendent (if a principal), the Board of Education, parents, and sometimes the union.  You don’t want to add to the burden; you want to be a help. Of course, at the end of the year, you send an annual report.

Throughout that first year and in subsequent ones, invite your new administrator to “events” in the library.  If it’s the superintendent, send an invitation to both making sure each knows the other was invited.  Explain to your principal that you want the superintendent to know how the library program supports district goals and mission.

Be prepared for your administrator not to come.  She may not even let you know she isn’t coming. Don’t ask why just feature the event in your next report.  Keep inviting.  Eventually, she will come.  And it may be unannounced.

Seek another meeting the next summer. This meeting is about sharing where you want to take the library program in the next year and getting her input. By this time the administrator has a good handle on her new job., and you have shown her the value of the library program.

Have you had to deal with a new administrator recently?  What did you do to “market” your library program?  What success did you have?  What worked and what didn’t work?

ON LIBRARIES – Leaders are Lifelong Learners

Invariably, I come across articles on the qualities of leaders.  Over the years, my list of these qualities has been slowly growing and I pass the knowledge along in my presentations, books, and blog posts.

It recently occurred to me I have never seen lifelong learning given as a leadership quality. The more I thought about it though, the more I felt perhaps it was such an obvious trait many simply overlooked it.  You can’t be a leader if you are not growing. You need to know as much as you can about the world and community you inhabit so you can be prepared for changes and, in many cases, be the change agent.

In most of our Mission Statements, we as librarians refer to empowering students to become lifelong learners.  We sometimes forget we are an important model of lifelong learning. We can’t help it. It’s vital for our jobs.

If you look back twenty years or more, you can see that teachers’ jobs have changed to a degree while much remains the same. For example, the focus and reliance on PARCC testing are onerous for them and us, but standardized tests have always been with us. Chalkboards are gone replaced by smartboards, but the purpose is the same.  The specific technology is what has altered.  Desks may not be in rows as they once were, yet in most classes, you still find the teacher in front of the room.

By contrast, our jobs have altered drastically. For us, we live the message of the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland who said, “My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.” Most of us start our day on a run and never slow up.

You work at being Instructional Partners with teachers and that takes effort whether you try to coordinate with their units at the elementary level or find ways to collaborate at the middle and high school.  You look for websites, apps, and other resources they can use with their students and offer it to them freely.  You may even send out a newsletter or an e-mail blast to share a new tool, offering to show them how to use it with their classes.

And how do you find out about those resources? By building your Professional Learning Network. You use what AASL offers.  You belong to several librarian Facebook groups.  You join librarian Twitter chats.  You are on the lookout for what’s new and possibly better than what you have been using. It’s exhausting and exhilarating – depending on the day.

Because librarians have more one-on-one interactions with students, we learn from our students more frequently than teachers do.  When I went to school, world history didn’t go farther east than Egypt and Africa had no past before Stanley and Livingstone. Working with my students on their research papers, I learned as much as they did. From a student doing a math research paper, I learned that Arabic numerals came from India.  While subject teachers are aware of new developments in their field, I was learning about them in all areas.

My students have often taught me about technology.  They love sharing and realizing they know more than I do. They enjoy seeing me learn as much as I enjoy watching them.

As a librarian, I love learning.  By showing them I am a lifelong learner, they, too, embrace the concept. We don’t “teach” lifelong learning, we model it. 

A librarian once said to me, “We shouldn’t be called library media specialists.  We are library media generalists.”  Quite true.  While we each have our preferred subject areas and reading tastes, we are always eager to learn—whatever the subject.

Are you modeling lifelong learning? Where do you go to discover what’s new – and what’s next? What have you learned from your students?

ON LIBRARIES – Plan, Persist Prevail

How do leaders get so much accomplished?   Whatever they do works out.  It sometimes seems as though they are luckier than other people.  Attributing their success to luck, however, gives you a way out.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

A well-known phrase comes to mind, “Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.” (Sometimes an earthy adverb is included to modify “poor,” which you can check on Google.) The fact is leaders are always planning.  Last September I blogged about Strategic Planning in “Always Have a Plan.” Although I focused the planning on creating a strategic plan, I said then that leaders are always planning, always have a plan because “You never know when an opportunity will arise and you have a chance to do something but have to move quickly. I have known of librarians who are informed there is suddenly a specified amount of money available but it must be spent within a short time frame.”

During my career, part of my ongoing planning involved my practice of seeing m Superintendent of Schools over the summer, although you might be better off doing this with your principal.  “In that quiet time of the year, I would discuss where I wanted to take the library next and how it might affect the budget.  We would negotiate for the funds I wanted for a given project.  I would agree to take money from one part of my budget and she would acquiesce in getting me additional funds to make it happen.”

In addition to making one of my plans happen, I was also sending an important message.  I was letting my Superintendent know I had a vision for the library program and had mapped out a plan to achieve it. I displayed my expertise as a librarian and was letting her know any monies spent on the library program would bring a maximum return.

As I reported in the blog she once said to me, “I have the feeling that if I go one step with you, you have nine others waiting.” She was right.  I needed those other possibilities.  In case my first idea was shot down, I would bring up the next.

That same Superintendent told me on another occasion “She learned the easiest way to deal with requests was to say no.  Almost everyone would take that for an answer and go away.  But those like me, who came back with an alternative, were listened to.  She could see we were committed to getting something done.”

What others saw was that my proposals always seemed to go through. A guidance counselor remarked I was lucky as I always got what I wanted. Not true. But like the swan paddling furiously under the water, my behind-the-scenes preparation and my persistence were not usually seen.

In another district, my library was attractive mainly because the windows looked out on a very pleasant view and that’s what most people saw.  But we had huge clunky library tables and heavy chairs. This was in the late 90’s and our computers sat on top of the no-longer-used card catalog.  There were too many study carrels and not enough seating to accommodate more than two classes at a time in a school of over 1,200 students.

I had been in this position for only a few years, but I wanted to make changes.  At the ALA Annual Conference, I focused on furniture and shelving when I went through the exhibits and knew the names of the vendors I thought had the right idea.

One day as I was heading to lunch, I saw my new Superintendent, my principal, and the vice principal looking in my library through the hall windows. He was commenting on the computers and the card catalog. I immediately changed my lunch plans and went back inside. When they entered, I was ready.

The Superintendent commented on how old-fashioned the library looked and how cramped it was.  We knew because of environmental issues we couldn’t physically expand it. I explained we could make some furniture changes to maximize the use of the existing space and suggested we use moveable book stacks. I told him I knew of a vendor who installed them.  He was hooked.

I made the call, first to the vendor of the book stacks who also could help me with the furniture.  By the end of the week, I had the proposal for a complete renovation which I presented to the Superintendent.  He was concerned about the total cost, but I had anticipated that and outlined how it could be managed over three years.  And that was what we did.

My standing with this Superintendent immediately improved.  He added to my proposal by suggesting a circulation desk more in line with an automated system (which we had).  And when the circulation clerk resigned (we had 5 people including two librarians staffing the library), he proposed a “media clerk.” She proved invaluable in taking care of system updates not only at the high school but also with the other schools in the district.

Because I was willing to plan, look at my current situation and make decisions for what would best serve the program and my vision, I could present what I needed it when opportunities present themselves and when I created opportunities.  I wasn’t lucky. I had plans.

So what plans—and that’s plural—do you have in mind for your library program.  How can they be modified?  What can you give up in a negotiation to get one or more of them implemented? Do you have a conversation with your principal in this quiet time over the summer?  This is how you construct a foundation for your future plans and demonstrate how the library program can be a showcase for the school.

 

ON LIBRARIES: The Mission of Mission

(WAVING TO ALL OF YOU FROM ALA NATIONAL IN CHICAGO! – If you’re here — post to our Facebook group and let me know if you want to get together!)

I recently got into a discussion with a professor friend of mine for whom I have the greatest respect, and we disagreed on what should be in a Mission Statement.  He held that the library mission should be the same as that of the school.  I argued that it needed to align with the school’s mission, but had to declare the unique role of the school library program. While we will agree to disagree, I wanted to bring the issue to this blog.

I first blogged about writing a Mission Statement June 8, 2015. At that time I wanted to have librarians recognize the value of having a mission.  What is the purpose (or the mission) of a Mission Statement? 

What I said then was:

The mission defines your purpose—what you and your library program do.  It should highlight what makes you unique and vital to the educational community and expressed in words laymen can understand.  You can start with the mission AASL gives in Empower Learners: Guidelines for School Library Media Programs (ALA, 2009).

And while we need to use evidenced-based practice to ensure we have the best possible program and use the data produced by it to show our administrators what we contribute, it doesn’t mean we don’t need a Mission Statement.

Everyone needs to see what our purpose is.  I recommend that librarians frame their Mission Statement and hang it where it can be seen by all who come into the library. It is our declaration of why we are vital to the school – the students, teachers, and by extension the administration.  It highlights what we do that’s unique.  Because if we aren’t unique, we are redundant. Someone else is doing we what we’re doing – so they don’t need us.

In addition, the Mission Statement gives us a focus.  A reminder of what we strive for each day, each school year.  In that original blog, I noted that “The school year is over. How do you feel as you look back on it? Do you have a sense of accomplishment over what you have achieved?  Or are you tired and exhausted, able to recall a handful of great moments but no real sense of having gotten anywhere? If this describes you, chances are you are operating without a Mission Statement.”

My point is a mission centers you.  Even if events in the school pull you off it on occasion – or regularly – at least you are aware that it’s happening and can work to get back on track the next day. It also becomes central to all planning.

You want to start a Makerspace?  Fine. How does it fit into your Mission?  That’s what you need to consider every time you plan a project.  It helps propel you forward.

If you don’t have a Mission as yet, here are some samples I have been using in some of my recent presentations:

  • The mission of the ______ School Library is to provide students with the opportunity to become not only lifelong users of information but also creators of information. The library strengthens the curriculum by collaborating with teachers, developing a collection that is representative of the community, and implementing literacy instruction for students.
  • The Mission of the _______ School Media Center Program is to create lifelong learners with critical thinking skills, and an appreciation of literature by providing opportunities for all students to gain the self-confidence necessary to successfully learn in an information-rich world. It is a place of safety and learning for all.
  • The mission of the School Library Media Program is to ensure that students and staff are effective users and producers of ideas and information, promote literacy, and develop students’ competencies to be ethical participants in a global society.
  • The ______ District Library Media Program cultivates independent, lifelong readers fosters critical thinking skills, teaches the effective and ethical use of information sources, and promotes equitable access to all forms of information media.
  • The ______ School Library Media Program creates a 21stcentury environment that promotes learning for all students by providing equitable access to information, teaching information literacy skills, and encouraging lifelong learning. The library media center strives to be a center of collaborative learning that produces creative students who have an appreciation of literature, critical thinking skills, and a respect for others and self.
  • The ________ School Library mission is to empower and inspire all students to apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to become creative thinkers and problem solvers, to experience individual and team success, and to become responsible, contributing members of our community.

What’s your Mission? Do you think it should be the same as the school’s or do you see the value of having one that shows you are unique?

ON LIBRARIES: The Plagiarism Plague

from http://www.youthvoices.live

Talk to librarians and you hear how widespread plagiarism has become.  Talk to teachers and they know some kids do it but don’t recognize the scope of the issue, in part because unknowingly many of them plagiarize as well. How do you manage to convince students of the seriousness of plagiarism, and, even more daunting, how do you educate teachers without alienating them?

You can’t ignore it. That’s the first thing to recognize.  One of our jobs is to teach ethical use of information.  Because it’s so easy doesn’t make it right.  Everything seems to out there just for the taking.  And who will know?

Start with students. It’s best to begin introducing the concept as early as first grade.  When these primary students do their first reports, have them do very basic citations.  There is no need to worry about commas and periods and the details of an MLA cite.  You want them to learn that if they use someone else’s idea, they need to say where they got it from.  Young kids love it because it makes them feel grown up.

One of my students teaches the lesson by borrowing a pencil from one student and then letting another kid have it. She then asks if this is fair?  The whole class realizes it isn’t.  From there you can have them see this is a form of theft.

The same lesson can be augmented as students get older. Instead of telling them they shouldn’t copy, ask why it’s important not to do so.  This may take longer but keep them at it. Explain that it is allowed with “credit” and once again, have them figure out the reason that’s acceptable.

The big leap is in guiding students to recognize that images, video clips, and audio available on the internet must also be cited.  How would they feel if they posted a cartoon they created and someone copied it and used it as their own?  You must constantly make it personal or relate it to their own life in some way.

One of the ways to make it relevant to older students is to share some of the court cases involving famous musicians and songs. A few students may be aware of a one or two notable ones, but it’s important to bring the issue to all students’ attention.  Both Mental Floss and Rolling Stone cover some major ones.  No one goes to jail, but there are consequences. It’s worth a discussion.  If your school has a character education component, this falls within it.

Walk students through the various licensing shown under Tools on www.images.google.com and the filters Bing has on the right-hand side of www.bingimages.com.  Let them see how different choices affect the images displayed.

You don’t have to do this on your own. It is legal to use lesson plans that other have created for sharing on the topic. A quick search on Google on Common Sense Media turns up an excellent list of lessons and resources for teaching about copyright and using materials ethically. For example, you can find a lesson plan on plagiarism for Grades 3-5 and another for Grades 6-8.   Copyright and Fair Use is an animation for Grades 9-12.

Many students don’t even realize they are plagiarizing. Cut and paste is so fast and easy. Even when they “put it into their own words” they tend to just give a synonym for a word or two and perhaps switch the sentence around.  Introduce them to Grammarly’s Free Plagiarism Checker.  Rather than telling them they are plagiarizing, let them discover it for themselves.  This might be a good time to inform high school students of how seriously colleges respond to plagiarism.

Jennifer LaGarde, an outstanding school librarian, has a site called Copyright and Creative Commons that has numerous links to her favorite resources.  The inimitable Kathy Schrock also has resources on Intellectual Property including several on Creative Commons.

By standing firm for the principles of ethical use of information, you are demonstrating your leadership.

You may have a challenge in reaching teachers.  The problem isn’t new it’s just different and bigger.  Music teachers would copy sheet music because the budget didn’t allow for enough copies for the band/orchestra or chorus.  Teachers would copy worksheets from a book they had and distribute it to the entire class.  They would bring in a DVD of a movie from home and show it although they didn’t have the proper licensing.

How do you handle this without creating hostility between the faculty and you?  Hopefully, your district has a copyright policy.  Read it carefully and offer to help teachers stay within it. This way you are protecting them.

Next, express your concern to them about students plagiarizing, mostly unknowingly, and what challenges and problems this might cause them in college.  Run a workshop on how to check students’ sources.  Again, you are helping the teachers – not trying to make them wrong. Once you have done this, offer to show teachers how to use Creative Commons so they can “model ethical behavior for students.”  This way you make it about the kids, but the teachers learn.

How are you handling the plagiarism issue?  Does your district have a copyright policy? Who plagiarizes more in your school, teachers or students?

 

ON LIBRARIES – Your Fourth Role – Program Administrator

In May, I did a blog “Role-ing Through Your Day” in which I highlighted the many roles we have both in and outside the library. Towards the end of the blog, I mentioned our role as Program Administrator. As I was covering so many of our jobs I didn’t spend much time on it, but it is worth paying it some attention.

In Empowering Learners AASL identifies the four roles we have as school librarians: teacher, information specialist, instructional partner, and program administrator.  The first three are our more visible roles, but all too often no one knows what we do or are even aware of our role as program administrator.  And when it’s the principal who doesn’t know you are doing it, it is a contributing factor in not understanding the full scope of what we do.

In the blog, I said of this fourth role that it “is far more than the basic management of the library program.  It comes to the heart of us as leaders.  It demands that we have vision and are willing to be a risk-taker in moving our program constantly forward so it’s not mired in the past. We incorporate the other three roles we have in order to create a program that is viewed as vital and indispensable to students, teachers, administrators, parents, and even the community.”

Here is what AASL says being a Program Administrator entails.

“As program administrator, the SLMS, ensures that all members of the learning community have access to resources that meet a variety of needs and interests. The implementation of a successful SLMP requires the collaborative development of the program mission, strategic plan, and policies, as well as the effective management of the staff, the program budget, and the physical and virtual spaces. To augment information resources available to the learning community, the SLMS works actively to form partnerships with stakeholders and sister organizations at local and global levels.  The SLMS also addresses broader educational issues with other educators in the building, at the district level, and at the professional association level.”

It is an exhausting description of your responsibilities.  And that’s on top of the other three. There is no way you can do more than the bare minimum of these without becoming a leader. My graduate students find this role intimidating and keep pointing to the small budgets as a barrier to making much of this happen.  And while budget issues are a problem, we cannot hide behind them to avoid doing a vital part of our job.

Let’s look at it sentence by sentence. The first does speak to a strong collection that represents diversity and curricular needs.  Not having sufficient funds to order new books can be a serious challenge to carrying this out.  But do you have interlibrary loan through your state or consortium?  Are you making effective use of it? Have you made students and teachers (and your administrators) aware of it?

The second sentence deals with developing a cohesive program based on a Mission (hopefully a Vision as well) and a strategic plan. That keeps everything you do on track.  If you don’t know how to create a strategic plan, look for a session on it at your state conference or check online for samples. If you can’t work collaboratively on developing the vision and plan (and you can possibly do it with other librarians in your district), try having some teachers and an administrator critique what you develop.  Most of you don’t have staff to manage, although if you do have volunteers they are included in this. High school librarians are accustomed to creating and expending their budgets and most elementary librarians are making do with what they have.

As to the physical and virtual space, you do need to look at your library with fresh eyes.  Is it getting tired?  How often are displays changed?  How much student work is present? Can the furniture be arranged better? Are your tables easily moveable?  If not, consider putting on casters. The virtual space is your website and other online presence.  How often do you update content on your website? Is it time to give it a new look? What do you have for parents on your site?

The last two sentences move you outside your building.  If you haven’t done so already, develop a collaborative partnership with the public library and reach out to any college in your area to work together. What businesses in your district would be interested in working with the library?  You may get funding this way as well.

And always, keep up with the trends and concerns in education in addition to libraries. This makes you a resource for your administrators and teachers. It also ensures you are ready for whatever the next “thing” is.

This is you as a leader.  Make the most of it.  And let your administrator know as part of your quarterly and annual reports.

How are rising to the challenge of this fourth role?  Where can you use some help?

ON LIBRARIES: An Ethical Question

As librarians, we are accustomed to celebrating many months.  February is African American History Month.  March is Women’s History Month. And April is School Library Month, Poetry Month, and Math Awareness Month.  I am sure you have displays for all them, just as you do for the holidays in November and December.

June is GLBT Book Month.  Have you done anything to highlight it? I can hear a dead silence (crickets chirping) as I write these words.  Many of you won’t do anything.  Some of you have reason to believe you can’t do anything.  But what about library ethics?

Back in April I did a blog post on the “Many Layers of Diversity.” I was bringing ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee’s draft of the Library Bill of Rights Interpretation – Equity, Diversity, to your attention.  I dealt with all the aspects of the interpretation including meeting the needs of everyone in the school including LGBTQ students. (I am more familiar with LGBTQ rather than GLBT.) 

In June, these young people take center stage. Are you up to the challenge? Have you been avoiding books having LGBTQ characters?  I am not here to preach to those of you who are in untenable positions on the topic.  I know some of you work and live in communities where you would be vilified and possibly fired for purchasing these books. And you would not likely be hired anywhere else since the people in the surrounding towns hold the same views.

If you are sufficiently courageous, you might purchase some titles with your own funds.  Keep them in your office.  Your LGBTQ students in these communities are more isolated and fearful than in other more tolerant areas. When you have identified one of these kids, let them read the books you have in the library.  Taking them home could constitute a danger to you and possibly to them.  But you want your library to be a safe, welcoming environment for all your users.  And these students need to feel safe someplace.

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How far you go in marking this month is up to you.  If you are one step up from the most restrictive communities, consider an annotated booklist. In a more tolerant area you can put the titles on display and post it to your website.

Helen Adams, an active member in AASL and the Freedom to Read Foundation just did a blog for Knowledge Quest entitled “June is GLBQ Book Month.” In it she gives example of how to build a rainbow collection. She encourages you to include GLBT titles among others when you give a book talk, and offers suggestions for educating teachers.

Adams points out, “Of the 323 book challenges reported to the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom for 2016, five of the top 10 challenged books for 2016 included titles that LGBT characters including two with transgender children.”  She reminds librarians if they are facing a book challenge, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom is ready and able to offer confidential support.

Do check out the resources and links she provides in the article. Some of you might be surprised by the experiences of one New England middle school librarian who reported, “LGBTQ inclusion has become a normal part of the everyday activities in the library, and I think this has had a positive impact. This year, I’ve had an eighth-grade student ask me a couple times for good coming out stories, and earlier this year a sixth-grade student came to me to ask about pronoun etiquette.”

GLBT kids can be found in every school in the country.  Some are more obvious about it—when they feel safe. Others are desperately trying to hide who they are. They all deserve to know they aren’t alone and your library is a safe place for them. If you think you have a challenge – can you even begin to imagine theirs?

What are you doing for your GLBT students this month – and every month?  How much of a challenge is this for you?

ON LIBRARIES – Take Time To Replenish

How did you spend this long weekend?  Running around to complete a long list of tasks? Did you do things with family and friends that still involved stress – even the good kind such as hosting a gathering or making sure everything was loaded for a short vacation?

So, are you rested now?

Most of us are like hamsters on a wheel.  Whether at school or at home, we don’t stop running.

Some of you have now completed the school year.  The rest of you will be doing so within a month.  What are your plans?  Will you still be on the hamster wheel?  And how and why should you get off?

Back in December, I wrote a blog entitled “Make Room for Joy.” In that piece, I urged you to make time for family and friends, doing things you loved. Today I want to take this thought in another direction.

We need to take time for solitude and reflecting.

We live in a very noisy world.  It’s filled with people we like – and love – and along with those who annoy us.  Much as we enjoy what we do most of the time, we are spending so much time doing and giving we are exhausted.  If we are not careful are well of caring just might run dry.

What happens when your well starts to run dry?  You become increasingly irritable. You snap at family and possibly a student. You wonder when will it be your turn to be taken care of.  Most of the time we aren’t aware of this shift in attitude.  We are so focused on getting the thing done, It’s not till we get a reaction such as our kid crying because of something we said or a “conversation” with a spouse turning hurtful that we realize we are in overload.

I can remember driving home from work one day and shouting in my car, “I don’t want to be a wife, a mother, or a librarian.  I want an air-conditioned cave lined with books and my meals delivered.” My well was running dry.  I loved being a wife, a mother, and a librarian.  I just felt pulled in so many directions I wanted to tune out for a while.  I was on to something but didn’t fully realize it. 

What can you do to replenish your well? Anyone who has young children is familiar with giving them a “time out.”  We remove them from the situation that has caused them to overreact and have them sit quietly until they can find the calm that allows them to return to being themselves.

We need to find the best way for each of us to have that “time out.”  Some people are good at meditation and that restores their inner calm, replenishing them.  Yoga can work for others.

Some school librarians are putting coloring books on tables – sometimes as part of Makerspaces.  They have discovered that kids—and teachers—are loving them. They can sit quietly, concentrating only on what area to do next and what color to choose.  It has become a national craze.  I think it’s a form of meditating for some people.

You have to find what works for you.  I can’t seem to meditate. My mind starts whirling. And yoga doesn’t seem to be my thing.  Those coloring books don’t attract me, but I do love to walk.  When I walk I can greet people walking their dogs and continue my way. They don‘t want me for anything, not even a conversation.  I watch the seasons change, and it fills something inside me. I do think, but the thinking is so different from when I am home working on my computer. This thinking helps me put things in place. When walking, it doesn’t bother me when my thoughts are interrupted by a beautiful tree or a friendly dog. If I don’t get back to my original train of thought, no problem.

I decided on this topic because I was in danger of having my well drained.  I had a super busy month and there were personal stresses as well. As a friend of mine used to say, I was a Human Doing, not a Human Being.

Memorial Day was created to be a time of quiet reflection, noting those who gave and gave the ultimate sacrifice.  I hope you used it to replenish yourself.  If not, look for times to do it now.

What is your chosen method for giving yourself a much needed time out?

Meanwhile, I am going for a walk.

ON LIBRARIES: Role-ing Through Your Day

It is mind-boggling, and more than a little exhausting, realizing how many roles we play.  Away from our job, we may be wife, mother, friend, parent caretaker, and any number of others.  These roles carry assorted responsibilities and a myriad of duties.  We may love these tasks or feel some are draining, but we carry on.

It certainly doesn’t get any less complex in our libraries. In the years since I first became a librarian I have held many “titles.”  First I was a teacher-librarian which is what I was called in my first certification.  Then I became a school librarian as my state changed what the certification was called.

I went on to be a school library media specialist. That is such a cumbersome title we use the acronym SLMS. My state certification also offers an 18-credit concentration for which you get an Associate School Library Media Specialist certification which is even more of a mouthful.

Throughout the country, I’ve discovered there are more names for what we do.  Library Teacher is common as we strive to remind our colleagues that we have an important role as teachers.  Some places use Information Specialist.   Library Technician is another. I knew someone who billed herself as an Information Generalist, claiming “specialist” was too limiting since we cover so much territory.

At one time there was a growing movement for “Cybrarian,” highlighting our skills using the web. One of the newer titles that has emerged is Innovation Specialist.  I suspect it will last as long as Cybrarian. It’s nice, but vague in a time when we need administrators and others to understand and appreciate the value we bring.

Why all these different names for what we do?  No one has ever suggested changing what teachers are called.  They have been teachers for thousands of years. They need different skills than they did even fifty years ago, their classroom configurations have changed drastically since the middle of the last century, but they are still teachers.

The name changes have been caused by our ever-evolving roles as librarians. While we haven’t been as successful as we need to be in communicating what we do to our administrators and boards of education, our state certification departments have recognized some of it – hence those name changes. Librarians have done the same in an effort to show what we do.

Nope – you can’t read this. There’s too much crammed in to one space!

I have come to believe, along with AASL, that we have confused people more than we have clarified what we do. No one title seems to cover the entire territory.  I now embrace the title of School Librarian and feel we must show what huge, complex, and vital roles that encompasses.

In Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Media Programs (2009), AASL identifies four roles of School Librarians:

  • Teacher
  • Information Specialist
  • Instructional Partner
  • Program Administrator

The first role places us similar to classroom teachers, and we use many of the same skill sets as they do in executing this role. But at the upper levels, our students are frequently disbursed throughout a facility far larger than a classroom and we need to be managers, able to encourage them to explore while keeping them on track.  And at all levels, visitors or teachers might drop in while we are teaching.  We need to juggle competing roles at that point, knowing when we can leave students to proceed on their own so we can attend to the interruption.

In the second role, we are tech integrationists futurists (isn’t that a mouthful).  We work diligently to stay current with the newest tech resources incorporating those that meet needs of our teachers and students. We are also mindful of the values and the dangers of technology. From preparing out students to be safe in cyberspace to teaching how to identify fake news, this is an unceasing role we play.

As Instructional Partners we are diplomats.  We find lures to entice teachers to incorporate our expertise and resources to develop in our students the habits, competencies, and dispositions to be lifelong learners.  This role often requires much patience and tact.

The final role is far more than the basic management of the library program.  It comes to the heart of us as leaders.  It demands that we have a vision and are willing to be a risk-taker in moving our program constantly forward so it’s not mired in the past. We incorporate the other three roles we have in order to create a program that is viewed as vital and indispensable to students, teachers, administrators, parents, and even the community.

Each of the four roles embodies others.  And I am sure we will be adding to them as new demands are placed on us and the educational community who depend on our program.

In Empowering Learners AASL predicted our first role would become Instructional Partner and then Information Specialist with Teacher coming in third.  What is important is that we do what we can for people to think of all these roles and responsibilities when they hear the title School Librarian. We can keep the name of our position simple as we build on the complex and multifaceted role we play in our schools and for our students and administrators.

Which role do you see yourself using most often? Which of your roles do you need to develop further? And how can I and your PLN help?

 

ON LIBRARIES: Are You Confident

Confidence is a grounding leadership quality. It makes it easier to take risks, speak before groups, ask for help, and develop a vision.  What makes the title question difficult to answer is while you may be confident in how you do your job, once you consider leadership, all that confidence melts away.

How can you build the confidence necessary to become the leader your students and teachers need you to be?  You can start by employing some of the skills I have talked about in other contexts.  The first is having a positive attitude. Pessimists and nay-sayers are not confident.  They retreat by pointing to why something won’t work or why things are bad and getting worse. If it won’t work and everything is going downhill, there is no sense in doing anything differently.

Leaders don’t think that way. No one follows a pessimist. They may join in as justification for their own attitude but that’s not following.  Change your mindset and it will change your perspective. Look for the “chopportunity” or the positive challenge that can be found in almost every negative. For example:

  • Losing staff? Look for ways to enlist student help (and if you are in an elementary school you may be able to get high school students to help as part of their community service).  Identify what jobs could be eliminated and discuss with your principal. In the process you will be expanding his/her understanding of all you do. And he/she might come up with another suggestion.
  • New administrator who doesn’t see value of librarians? Use highly visual resources such as Piktochart to create reports featuring students at work and to make infographics. Invite your administrator to see a project you created with a teacher. Depending on the end product, you might see if one or more of the students’ work can be displayed in his/her office.
  • Heavy emphasis on STEM minimizing library use? Incorporate the many STEM-based programs into the library.  For example, connect a Makerspace to books and a research project.

Start a personal “Success Journal.”  Keep a small notebook at your desk.  Record each personal success.  Jot down when you get thanks from a teacher or student. Note when students show they really got a particular lesson or loved the book you recommended.  Once you start doing this you will be amazed at how many times you are successful during the day.

Back in September, I wrote a blog on Dress for Success. It suggested that if you dressed more like an administrator you were more likely to be treated like an administrator.  Dress also can build your confidence.  When you feel that you look good, your mindset shifts and you feel more confident.

You will also boost your confidence if you keep up with the latest ideas in school libraries and in education Be on the Facebook pages that will help. Read articles in education journals such as Educational Leadership.  Just seeing what the monthly themes are will give you a clue.  Being on state and national committees will do even more to keep you abreast of trends.  This keeps you ahead of the curve which will do much for your confidence.

Being informed in your field will also help you speak confidently.  Your ability to do so reinforces your growing confidence. Do be mindful as to whether you have picked up the habit of raising your voice at the end of a sentence as though you were asking a question instead of making a statement.  It makes you sound less sure of yourself, and mentally you pick up on that as well.

Another tool is to learn to have a welcoming smile.  “Smile and the world smiles with you” sounds trite, but there is truth to it. People respond positively to a smile, and that, in turn, makes you feel more confident. Let people see your engaged attitude.

Confidence is also linked to self-esteem.  Self-esteem is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a confidence and satisfaction in oneself.” Note the words “oneself” and “satisfaction.” It means, on the whole, you like the person you are—and you’re not waiting to like yourself until you become perfect. You’ll be waiting a long time on that one.

People in high self-esteem accept that they make mistakes and have bad days.  They don’t let those things change how they view themselves.  Although some may see confidence as a synonym for self-esteem, it seems to me that it’s more that the two terms reinforce each other. If you are in high self-esteem you exude confidence.  If you are confident in what you do and how you do it, you develop high self-esteem.

So how confident are you?  Do you regard confidence as a leadership quality?  How are you building your confidence?