ON LIBRARIES: Leaders Keep Growing

Leadership is a journey without an end.  You are either growing or dying.   So how do you continue to grow? Like everything you face in life, it’s a matter of choices.

Consciously or not, many librarians have sadly made the choice not to lead, but for those who have taken steps along that road, after each new step is in place, you want to be looking at where you want to go next. There are many ways to continue your growth, so choose the directions that best meet your needs.

Three weeks ago, I blogged about Leading Larger, suggesting you consider becoming more active at the state and/or the national level.  While actively participating in these associations are the most obvious steps, you might consider moving out of the librarian silo.  For example, at one point in my career, I became the union rep for the high school. I did it primarily to be in a position to advocate for the union’s support for the librarians in the district.  It was an effective move because it strengthened my relationships with teachers, but not one I enjoyed. For those of you who do like it, it’s a wonderful way for informing your teaching colleagues of the contributions school librarians at all grade levels make to students and the whole educational community. You might even become the union president. Those of you who work in states where unions are not permitted don’t have this choice, but you can find other options.

You can join organizations such as the International Reading Association or ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development). The latter includes many administrators.  While the journals of both are excellent, to grow your leadership you need to become active at least in your state association’s affiliate.  If you have an affinity for a particular subject area, you can choose its national or state association to join and become an active member.

Beyond those possibilities, there are other ways to continue growing as a leader and some are fairly simple. Marlene Chism in a SmartBrief on Leadership discussed “7 Signs You Are Growing.”  You should find it reassuring to see how many ways you continue to grow.

From: Seven Signs You Are Growing

The first sign she writes about is “Your beliefs are still evolving.”  We all have our personal belief system while we also internalize the beliefs of our profession.  With the hate speech and violence making headlines, librarians everywhere are looking at the ALA Code of Ethics and Library Bill of Rights to determine when if ever certain types of speech are not acceptable in a library.  In the discussions being held within ALA and on various Facebook pages, school and other librarians are keeping an open mind and are prepared for shifts in beliefs as they come to their conclusions.

The second sign of leadership growth is the ability to see different points of view.  Although it connects to the first sign, it also is a constant within the school setting.  If you are to build relationships with teachers and administrators, you must be able to accept their perspective on a situation and work from there without judgment.

Third is the willingness to stop unproductive habits. This one is challenging. (I’ve mentioned my Klondike solitaire habit, right?) You might be willing, but doing so is not easy. If you want to work on this, pick just one that you think is keeping you from being as effective as you want to be.  When does it appear and why? What actions can you take to deal with it? Don’t expect to be perfect while making the change. A habit is a habit and it takes work to do something differently.

Chism’s fourth sign is, “You consciously build productive habits.”   This is the flip side of the third sign and is somewhat easier to do. Again, just choose one habit you would like to acquire.  For me, it’s not checking Facebook before getting productive work done.

Next is “You grow thicker skin.”  It’s natural to take negative comments personally, but it won’t help you as a leader. Learn to focus on the message, not the method of delivery. In growing as a leader you build your self-confidence and you are no longer intimidated by others.  You trust your skills and abilities.

The sixth sign is “You achieve more than you thought possible.”  Have you launched a successful Makerspace or other projects?  Did you get a teacher who barely used the library to collaborate with you? Did you serve on a committee and discover the other members valued your input? You find yourself thinking, “Did I really do that?”  You look back at where you were a few years go and realize the person you were then would be stunned to see what you have done.

Finally, “Your definition of success changes.”  The more you grow, the more you see other larger goals to reach for. The other six signs inevitably move you to aspire to greater things – and you go after them.

Are you growing as a leader?  Where do you want to

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ON LIBRARIES: Leaders are Strategic

It is obvious that leaders are strategic, but most librarians are tactical which is not the same. I can hear several questions being raised:  “What’s the difference?” “Why is it important?” And also, “You aren’t describing me. I have a strategic plan.”

The reason we tend to be tactical is the daily need for getting things done, showing progress, and meeting the goals we or our administrators set. We create systems and programs that allow, hopefully, for the achievements we are striving for. But that’s not the full scope of leadership – and it’s not strategic.

For years – and on many of these blog posts – I have discussed the importance of Mission and Vision Statements.  I have found most librarians have become very good at crafting their Mission but not as good at creating their Visions, so they skip it. Although you might write your Mission first since it’s easier, a strategic plan needs to include both a Vision and Mission. (And yes, I know ALA’s strategic plan only states its Mission, but in developing that plan, – at least in the past— it identified the BHAG i.e. the Big Hairy Audacious Goal which in essence is a Vision).

In order to create both of these statements, it’s important to understand the difference and the different importance between them. Many Visions I have seen are really Mission Statements. The blurring of the two is widespread and not just among librarians.  As usual, the business world recognizes it.

An online column in Forbes by Liz Ryan points out the confusion and helps to clarify the difference.  She notes that many think what they are doing is strategic when in reality it’s tactical. She quotes an old boss as explaining strategy is how to get out of the woods, or how are you going to achieve your goals. Tactics are what you’ll use to implement the how.

Therein lies the major distinction. Your goal is not your Mission. Your goal is your Vision. I recently came across a humorous distinction between the two. Frank Muir said, “Strategy is buying a bottle of wine when taking a lady out to dinner.  Tactics is getting her to drink it.” Mission – is why you asked her out in the first place.

In other words, your strategy is a long-range plan to achieve a desired end, your Big Hairy Audacious Goal—your Vision. Tactics are an assortment of steps you take – and change as needed – to get you to that goal, your Mission.  In one of my presentations, I talk about the difference between leading and managing.  One difference is that leaders are strategic while managers are tactical.

As a school librarian you need to be both a leader and a manager, but it’s important to be aware which hat you are wearing when. Most of the time you are managing. Your well-written Mission keeps you focused as you go about your day. While events might pull you off track, by knowing your Mission you more easily return to it. Another term for Mission is purpose.  It’s what you do every day and is why I have characterized it as your perspiration.

Lynn Parker in Startup Strategies says, “Tactics are the what. Strategy is the why.  Tactics are the actions. Strategy is the planning. Tactics may achieve goals. Strategy is all about setting the right goals.”

This is why those of you who have a strategic plan but don’t have a true Vision, have attained goals.  The question is, are they the right goals?  Do they really get you to your envisioned end?  If your Mission is your perspiration, then your Vision is your inspiration and aspiration.

Here are some sample Vision Statements:

  • The School Library Media Program is a collaborative and instructional partnership between students, teachers, school library media specialists, administrators, and the community with the freedom to explore personal and intellectual interests through informational sources.
  • The School Library Media Program is the heart of the educational community. Love of the written word and the research skills for intellectual and personal achievement are grown and nurtured here.
  • The School Library Media Program is a user-centered environment where up-to-date resources and technology and a responsive staff empower students and teachers to achieve their academic and personal goals.

These Visions picture a desired goal for a school library. I don’t think many (or any) libraries have fully achieved this. But it is what you would like to have. Therefore, it is your aspiration and it can and should inspire you to work towards that end.

By contrast, these are some Mission Statements:

  • The Blank 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 Mission of the Blank School Media Center Program is to promote lifelong learning, develop critical thinking skills and gain an appreciation of literature by providing opportunities for all students to gain the self-confidence necessary to successfully learn in an information-rich world.
  • The Blank School Library Media Program provides a positive environment that encourages students to love reading and assists them in becoming critical thinkers, problem solvers, and effective users and producers of ideas with the ultimate goal of creating life-long learners.

The Mission Statements are all about the “doing.”  The Vision Statements are the place the library program holds in the educational community.

Sun Tsu, the famed ancient Chines military strategist said, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”  You need both in order to attain your goals.

What is your Mission?  Your Vision?  Do see and understand the distinction between the two?

ON LIBRARIES: Some Days Are Like That

We all have those days when nothing goes right.  It sometimes begins before we step out the door, continues during our commute, and goes downhill from there.  Judith Viorst understood and wrote about it.  Her picture book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day captures one of those days in the life of a young boy.  We all have those days.  And the conclusion, “Some days are like that – even in Australia,” sums up the universality of it, as well as the need to move on from it. And we do.

You feel unappreciated, frustrated, disrespected and possibly several other negative emotions.  And your feelings are completely justified. But you can’t continue that way.  When you are in that place you are not a leader.  And you must be a leader.  There is NO other option.

So what happens when your “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day” is every day?  Some of you work in districts where your budget is non-existent, you have two or more schools to oversee coupled with a crazy schedule.  Others of you are ignored by teachers who believe you have an easy job. Your administrators look at the lifeless space the library has become because they have not funded it in years and see it as a vestige of the past, to be eliminated if their budget gets tighter.

Underneath it all, you still love working with the kids.  Most days.  You love seeing their faces light up when they have connected with the right book or found a resource that is just perfect for the project they are working on.  This is why we became librarians.  But for too many of you, the rest of the school environment is sucking the joy from what you love doing.

So what can you do?

Hopefully, you have a Mission Statement and a Vision Statement.  The Mission, which is your perspiration, reminds you (and everyone else, since it should hang in your library) of what you do that’s vital and unique.  Does it include the teachers in some way?  Your Vision, which is your inspiration and aspiration, gives you a goal to attain – even if it seems as though it can never happen.

Now pick something that ties to your Mission and/or Vision. Develop a plan as to how you can address that one thing. If it’s teachers who don’t know or care that you exist, choose one teacher as your focus.  Build a friendly relationship.  Don’t talk library.  Find common ground.  Then make the suggestions that have heretofore been rejected.  You may not succeed at first, but you will over time.  Once you have reached one teacher, add another.  After a while, you reach a tipping point, and your value will increase.

No budget?  Look for grants.  Start with your local education foundation.  They don’t have much money to give, but the grant writing is easier.  Focus on something that will be noticeable.   Perhaps it will fund the start of a makerspace, or create a special collection that’s needed.  When you get it set up, create some sort of sign thanking the donor.  Get pictures of the kids enjoying the addition, post it on your website, and include that in a report to your principal.

The multiple schools challenge won’t go away so select the school most likely to react positively to a change.  Once again, choose one thing or person and make your first inroads.

Is your library drab and dreary?  Pinterest is loaded with suggestions on how to liven it up with little or no money.  Connect with an art teacher in the high school (no matter what level you are on) and see if he/she is willing to make it an authentic learning project for his/her students.

There is no one involved with a school or its administration that isn’t regularly or constantly frustrated by one thing or another. When you feel alienated and/or annoyed with teachers or you are upset because the library is “dusty/musty” as a result of no budget money, you can’t let the situation drag you or your program down.  Eventually, the kids will feel it and you will be less effective with them – and that mindset will prevent you from being a leader.

How are you dealing with your challenges?  What baby steps have you taken?  What successes have you had?

ON LIBRARIES: Leading Larger

You have taken on the challenge, and you are now a leader.  You look for ways to showcase the library program. Perhaps you have started a Makerspace or instituted a way to connect regularly with teachers and possibly parents. Teachers ask you for help because they have learned you are a resource for them.

These are all significant achievements.  But don’t rest on your laurels.  You need to continue to grow as a leader. Once again you have to step out of your comfort zone, and, if you haven’t done so yet, it is time to serve your state association.  Your first foray at that level may be to be on a committee or chair a small one. Once you volunteer you must participate fully.

And I can hear many of you saying, “I don’t have time for that.”  While there is a great measure of truth in that statement, it’s a story you are telling yourself.  In my blog on “The Stories We Tell Ourselves,” I wrote “Most of you are very busy, but the fact is in our world no one can find time.  You have to make time.  Which means look at what you are doing and determine priorities.”

Why should serving at the state level be a priority? Aside from the altruism and giving back to the profession, what do you get from fitting one more thing into your already busy schedule? Leaders keep learning. As a committee member, you meet with other librarians. Should you chair a committee, you will be attending board meetings. In both cases, you will have regular discussions with your colleagues, and if you have ever attended a conference, you know the conversations you have with your fellow librarians are usually as beneficial as the programs themselves.

If you are a committee chair, the board meetings will give you a larger picture of what is happening in your state. What are the big issues? What is the legislature doing that will impact library programs and schools? As the other chairs make reports and share their views, your perspective gets larger.

Your vocabulary increases as well. Not your everyday vocabulary, but the one that deals with libraries and education and policy.  In talking about these concerns and potentially challenging situations, you become more fluent when you speak with others, whether it’s teachers or administrators. You sound like the expert you are becoming, and your comments take on greater value.

In other words, you get a good return on your investment of time.

After you have seen the benefits of serving on the board of your state association, think about running for an office.  Yes, the time requirement will be larger, particularly if you run for president, which is normally a several year commitment depending on your state. Usually, it’s a progression from vice-president to president-elect, president, and then past-president.  Each with its own special duties. But with greater responsibilities comes greater learning. The quickest way to start this is to use the AASL website to Get Involved.

If you do choose to be on track to become president, you will learn the true meaning of leadership. The responsibility for what happens to the profession and your association will rest on you. But you get to listen to others (and it’s vital that you do). You may testify at your state legislature concerning issues of importance to school librarians. Reporters who need a comment about school libraries will come to you.

You can’t get that training anywhere else. You are definitely “out front” for all to see.  While that sounds scary, remember you have at least a year or two as vice-president and president-elect to get the experience.  When you become president, you probably will have moments of doubt. Everyone does. But your confidence and belief in yourself will have grown tremendously.  Back at your school, the administration will recognize and most often treat you like the leader you are.

There are still more steps for you to take.  As president, you will have opportunities to attend national conferences, usually ALA, and be a part of AASL’s Affiliate Assembly.  Now your perspective gets even larger as you view events on a national level.

It’s time to consider volunteering to serve at that level.  While my personal commitment is to AASL as the only organization that speaks solely for school librarians, you might choose ISTE or AECCT.  The idea is to keep leading larger.

For many years, I worked on and chaired AASL committees.  I often said I should have gotten CEU credit for each of them.  I learned so much.  Most recently I have been appointed to ALA committees.  I had to leave my comfort zone.  I knew AASL.  I had many friends there and people know me.   But leaders, including myself, need to keep learning and growing. Currently, I am on ALA’s Committee on Professional Ethics and the Information Literacy Committee.  While I see the issues as they impact librarianship as a whole, I bring the perspective of school librarians to my fellow committee members.

As in the past, I have learned far more than I expected.  I have widened my circle of friends at ALA. The expense—of time and money—has brought a valuable return. While some of you cannot afford to travel to distant conferences, be aware that most committee work is done on conference calls and there are virtual memberships.

I have written many times – being a leader is not an option.  It’s a job responsibility, and it’s a personal responsibility. Leadership brings positive attention to the library program which results in more respect for it and makes it more likely you and the library will not be eliminated.  It also is personal because you become a role model for other librarians who have yet to take on the challenge of becoming a leader. As business management author Tom Peters has said, “Leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders.”

ON LIBRARIES: Branding Your Library

My first association with branding, although I didn’t think about it at the time, goes back to the 1950s when television was new and all the rage.  Kids like me watched whenever we could, much like today’s kids who are buried in their devices.  Westerns were popular and they invariably included cattle rustling and how the rustlers would alter the brand to conceal the theft. They also including television shows sponsored by a single product.

Brands today mean much more, but there is still some truth in what I learned in those old black and white movies.  Brands identify the owners and problems occur when the brand is blurred. Businesses work hard to protect their brand.  Every now and then a marketing plan or a product goes awry and the brand is affected.  It takes hard work to restore it.

What does this mean to you as a librarian?  Remember you are in business (or you are out of business), and you do need a brand.  So, what is your brand?

As John Williams says in The Basics of Branding, “Simply put, your brand is your promise to your customers. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from your competitors’. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be.”

If you haven’t identified your brand, you may be surprised to know you already have one. In this case, however, it’s likely not what you want it to be.  It may be the “shushing place.”  Or “The dusty place of books.”  While you may not have intended this, it is somehow fixed in the minds of students, teachers, and administrators. That kind of brand can lead to decisions on cutting your budget or worse, eliminating the library.

Note the last part of the definition of branding. “Who do people perceive you to be?”  Unless you have developed a strong brand, your users may have a negative perception of you which colors everything. You have to change it.

If you don’t create your brand – one will be created for you, like it or not.

To create the brand you want, look at the rest of the definition.  It’s imperative you differentiate yourself from your “competition.”  For school librarians, the competition consists of classroom teachers, computer teachers, and literacy coaches. If they are doing the same thing you do, your “product” is not unique.  And if you are not unique, you are redundant and likely to be eliminated.

So, how do you create a brand for your library? Start with what you already have and review your Mission, Vision, and Philosophy. For those of you who haven’t written those statements as yet, you can read my blog on Mission Statements which also discusses Visions.  As to your Philosophy, look at the Core Beliefs in the AASL Standards for the 21st-century Learner for ideas.

As you work on identifying your brand, look to make an emotional connection.  The best and most lasting brands in business do.

McDonald’s brand makes it “the happy place.”  Kids’ meals are called “happy meals.” It was the first to have a place for kids to play.  Their spokesman is a clown, and its primary philanthropy is the Ronald McDonald Houses where parents can stay close to a child in in the hospital and not have to travel back and forth. It’s not about the burger. It’s about the feeling.

Coca Cola is another brilliantly brand, in fact considered the most valuable brand in the world.  It promotes the wonderful feeling you get about being with family and friends –and Coke.  One way or another, their marketing is about – things go better with Coke, the “things” are always the strong emotional tugs we get from activities with those who matter to us. Again, it’s not about the soda.  It’s about the feeling.

You may use some aspects of your brand in a tagline (slogan) that carries a positive message about your library program. However, even when taglines are changed to meet new situations or a different target audience, your brand doesn’t change. In 1971 McDonald’s slogan was “You Deserve a Break Today”. Currently, it’s “I’m lovin’ it”. Basically… the same feeling. 

On a personal level, because I write and present, I have a brand.  It is “Be a Leader and Become Indispensable.”  No matter what the topic of my presentation or workshop, no matter the title of my books, no matter what my blog of the week is called – the message is always, “Be a Leader and Become Indispensable” and the feeling I always want to leave you with is that you are indispensable.

Now it’s your turn.  What do you want your brand to be? It will take some time to formulate.  Spend time playing with the wording to see how to bring an emotional content to it. Some possibilities might be, “Always here to help you with your information needs and recreational interests,” or “Getting you to the right answer you need, every time, no hassle.”

Do you feel the emotion connection in both?  Can you envision possible taglines that may come from either of them? How will you present yourself and your program to embed the brand you want in the minds of users?

If you have developed a brand for your library program, I’d love for you to share it.  How did you establish it?

ON LIBRARIES – They Want Me To Do What?

Invariably at some point in your career, your principal or superintendent will ask you to do something that detracts from your library program. How do you respond?  The bottom line is you do what you are told or you are insubordinate.  But as a leader, and as the expert in what is needed for the library program, there are ways to handle the various situations in a proactive manner.

You don’t want to acquiesce sullenly, which will be recognized by your administrator. Worse is to complain to your friends on the staff about the stupidity of the request.  The school grapevine travels fast.  Your principal/superintendent will hear about it very soon.  This will shatter any relationship you have built up and seriously impact any future requests you make.

On the other hand, I strongly believe we teach people how to treat us. If you act like a doormat, people will step on you.  This may sound like a contradiction of what I said before, but it’s not.

When you are told to do something that takes away from your program, stop for one minute and recognize your administrator is in a bind and is looking for a solution.  It may or may not be the best one, but if you come from leadership, you can get it changed or altered to work better.

Here are some examples – many of which have occurred in my career:

The principal needs to use the library for one period so that a group of students can take a test. You are asked to close the library for that period. You have a class scheduled at that time.

This happened when I was very new at a high school having been transferred from the elementary school. I told him “If you need it, I suppose we will have to close, but Mrs. S. was counting on me working with her students that period.  I will let her know.” He was taken aback, thought quickly and said, “Maybe we can use Mrs. S.’s classroom while she is in the library.  I will speak with her.”

A similar incident, which I discussed in one of my books, occurred in another high school.  I got a call from the principal’s secretary asking me to close the library for several periods to allow the athletic directors from our region to meet in the library.

I told her I would notify all scheduled teachers about the change. On hearing the news, one of the teachers stormed into the principal’s office, complaining.  I heard she said, “Who is our library for?  Our students or the athletic directors?”  I soon got another call from the principal’s secretary in which she said she had misunderstood the principal.  I need only close off a section of the library (privacy screens would be provided.) 

In both cases, I did not object.  I appeared willing to do what I was told, and yet made changes in the outcome. My principals had an opportunity to see the library and I were of value to our educational program.

A frequent occurrence for many of you is being told to cover for a teacher either because the substitute is late or none is available.  I can remember being told I needed to cover a physical education class.

I said it was a shame to have to close the library for the entire school.  Was it possible to have the phys ed class meet in the library?  No problem.  The principal didn’t care as long as students were supervised.  I had the class work on researching aspects of a sport of their choice.  I told students their work would be turned into the teacher for a probable grade.  I got good cooperation from them, and once again showed the administration I was a team player – pun intended.

Many of you are required to shut down the library for days when high stakes tests are given.  Everyone is stressed out, including the administrators.  But it’s a terrible loss to the continuity of the library program.

Successful librarians have dealt with the challenge by getting permission to take their necessary tools on a cart and work with individual classes.  As long as you are not required to proctor, this has many benefits.  You partner with teachers on their territory. Since kids are also stressed and off kilter because of schedule changes, this puts two adults in one room. The kids get to see you in a different setting and as more of a teacher –and you might build new collaborative partnerships this way.

Districts are always dealing with budget cuts and frequently give librarians extra duties.  Sometimes it means going to two schools.  Other times you are given actual classes to teach.

You are not going to get out of this entirely, but if you do everything they ask with regards to this, you will only get more and/or they will assume you didn’t have that busy a day so this really wasn’t a problem.  Make a list of all your tasks.  Star what you consider the high priority ones and put a check next to those you will need to drop.  Take the list to your administrator explaining your “predicament” and ask if he/she agrees with your ranking of tasks and what you will be dropping. Be open to hearing their opinion. You will have taught your administrator the range of the library program and how it impacts the educational community.

One more personal note.  After completing a library renovation project giving the library 25% more shelf and floor space, the principal called me over the summer, asking me to come in.  He had to move the “School to Career” center into the library. This came with many apologies, but there was no other room available.

Again there was no way to escape this.  Looking at the floor plan, I found a section that was out of the way of the general flow. I got a display height bookcase and filled it with our career books to create the area as a separate place. My cooperation was well-received.  The head of the program was great at grants.  He got lots of tech which became library property and he became a strong library supporter.

Following directives doesn’t mean rolling over and playing dead.  What experiences have you had with “orders” from an administrator?  How did you handle it?

ON LIBRARIES: The School Libraries of the Future

With so much change, it is natural to wonder what the future will hold.  Some look on the possibilities with excitement, others with trepidation.  Many of you have become members of the Future Ready Librarians Facebook group.  Not wanting to be left out, I decided it was time for me to trot out my crystal ball.

I have done no research for this beyond what I see and read each day.  I am sure much of what I predict will be wrong which is true of every future caster.  But I think the basics of my predictions will happen.

It doesn’t take much clairvoyance to state there will be many more changes and technology will lead the way.  Social media will evolve or disappear while new ones will come on the scene. Adults will bemoan that kids are so wrapped up in the latest digital format (or whatever) that they are losing out on what is important.  And this includes the new adults who are attached to their smartphones today.

Makerspaces will change and may be replaced by something we haven’t foreseen as yet. Augmented Reality (AR) is already having an impact which will continue to grow. If you haven’t dealt with it, here’s how it works. I know there are librarians out there already using Aurasma.

Virtual Reality (VR) is another technology that will grow as more is available.  There will definitely be complaints about kids so connected to an artificial reality they don’t know what’s going on around them. Think about the Pokémon Go craze.  That is considered either AR or VR or maybe Mixed Reality (there is an ongoing dispute about it).

Despite our growing reliance on communicating electronically, we will recognize the value of working face-to-face.  While we will be doing more distance collaboration, we can’t ignore the fact that humans are social animals.  Anyone who has served on a committee which has met by phone, even using Zoom or Skype, knows when you get together in-person there is a synergy that accelerates the process.

The need for social interaction is why I believe the Library Commons approach will be adopted in more schools, no matter what it’s called in the future.  Library furniture is already becoming more flexible to meet whatever users’ needs are in the moment. Students and teachers need a welcoming space to meet and collaborate as they create new knowledge. The resources of the library and the expertise of the librarian make it possible.

I’m convinced Google will continue to find an endless variety of ways to integrate their products into education and our personal lives.  I also believe many vendors we deal with today will be absorbed by other larger ones (I’ve seen that happen too often over the years not to think it will continue).  But at the same time there will be new services and companies who find more flexible approaches to meet our needs, and we should be on the lookout for them.

Check out the link to this AMAZING library in France – https://ebookfriendly.com/a-futuristic-public-library-thionville-france/

The look of libraries will alter as the new tech becomes integrated into teaching and learning.  Some librarians will struggle to cope with giving up tools they now depend on and love. More will adapt and adopt at varying speeds. Others will lead the way, embracing the new, holding on to what is still valuable and helping their colleagues move into the future.

What does this really mean for you as school librarians and for your program? First and foremost, you and our profession will survive.  And if we are wise and prepared we will thrive.

A quote often attributed to Darwin but which seems to have come from a management text states, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor is it the most intelligent that survives.  It is the one most adaptable to change.”  This is how successful businesses thrive, and we either are in business or we are out of business.

To be adaptable to change, you need to be on guard against decisions coming from your paradigm. The Oxford English Dictionary defines paradigm as “A world view underlying the theories and methodology of a particular scientific subject.” What this means is we interpret the world based on what we have learned as we grew up.  It’s hard breaking through the model we hold.

One of the most well-known examples of this is the tale is of Xerox who became concerned in 1970 about the potential impact the new computers would have on their copying business.  They set up the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), hired many of the leading computer scientists, gave them virtually unlimited funds, and told them to create the future.  They did.  They came up with a graphic user interface (which all computers now use but Steve Jobs saw early), local area networks, laser printers, and more.  But Xerox, was locked into its paradigm, and couldn’t recognize the potential and did nothing with what was created for them.

Despite the need to be ready to make changes, it’s imperative you don’t act too fast or too drastically.  Some things are important and core to libraries. I believe libraries that have gone bookless made a mistake.  Someday print may disappear but studies show even the young prefer print for their recreational reading.

Whatever happens, students and teachers will need librarians to guide them through what will only be an increasing flood of information.  And students will need the safe, welcoming environment of the library to find their path academically as well as personally.

What does your crystal ball tell you? Do you agree with my predictions?

ON LIBRARIES – The Highly Effective School Librarian

When school librarians are recognized as a leader they are called highly effective.”  Until now the best tool for evaluating this has been the Danielson Framework – Library Media Specialists, but thanks to ALA Past Presidents Sari Felman and Julie Todaro their ALA Initiative,  “Libraries Transform – The Expert in the Library has given us something more precise.  Now we can point to eleven competencies based on the National Policy Board for Educational Leaders’  Professional Standards for Education Leaders (PSEL).

Thanks go to Susan Ballard, Dorcas Hand, and Sara Kelly Johns who have created a way we can self-assess and determine our own route forward. The website for School Librarian PSEL Competencies – Building Our Expertise has directions and the host of resources you need to act on what might be the best PD you ever had.

To help you get started, I will unpack what is available for you on the website.

First, there are 11 Competencies they have identified along with the explanation for each:

  1. Mission, Vision and Core Values – Effective School Library leaders develop, advocate, and enact a shared mission, vision, and core values of high-quality education and academic and/or professional success and well-being of each learner.
  2. Ethical Principles and Professional Norms – Effective School Library leaders act ethically and according to professional norms to promote each learner’s academic success and well-being and/or practitioners’ professional success.
  3. Equity and Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness – Effective School Library leaders strive for equity and inclusivity of educational opportunity, and culturally and linguistically responsive practices to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being.
  4. Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment – Effective School Library leaders design, deliver and support intellectually rigorous and coherent systems of curriculum, instruction, and assessment to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being.
  5. Community of Care and Support for Students – Effective School Library Leaders cultivate an inclusive caring and supportive school community that promotes each learner’s academic and/or professional success, personal interests and well-being.
  6. Professional Capacity of School Personnel – Effective School Library leaders develop their personal professional capacity and practice to best support other school personnel in order to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being.
  7. Professional Community for Teachers and Staff – Effective School Library leaders foster the development of a professional community of teachers and other professional staff to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being.
  8. Meaningful Engagement of Families and Community – Effective School Library leaders engage families and the community in meaningful, reciprocal, and mutually beneficial ways to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being.
  9. Operations and Management – Effective School Library leaders manage resources and operations to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being by creating an inviting environment, providing a flexible program, developing the collection, curating and organizing the resources, integrating digital and technology access, managing appropriate funding and encouraging critical thinking to create a community of lifelong learners.
  10. School Improvement – Effective School Library leaders act as agents of continuous improvement to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being.
  11. Literacy and Reading – Effective School Library leaders promote reading for learning, personal growth, and enjoyment (and) are aware of major trends in children’s and young adult literature. They select reading materials in multiple formats to support reading for information, pleasure, and lifelong learning. They use a variety of strategies to reinforce classroom reading instruction to address the diverse needs and interests of all readers. Literacy takes many forms (EX: digital, information, cultural, etc.) that all rely on the foundational literacy of reading.

 

The list manages to be reassuring and daunting at the same time.  I would venture to guess most of you are at or close to the Highly Effective level with at least items 1 through 5 as well as 11. But then there are the other five.  How can you work on them when you have so much to do in your day?

The solution is on the website.  Follow these three steps:

  1. Choose the competency 1-11 that you want to work on.
  2. Identify in the rubric your level of Expertise.
  3. Move to the resources to read those recommended to support your growth to a higher level, as well as the AASL resources for all levels

Note that you only work on one at a time.  And it’s the competency of your choosing. Below the list of competencies are links to the rubric for each one.

For example, I find #10 to be very challenging.  To determine how close I come to being Highly Effective, I select this rubric:

10.  Rubric for School Improvement – Effective School Library leaders act as agents of continuous improvement to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being.  COMPETENCY 10 RESOURCES
HIGHLY EFFECTIVE School Library leaders create data such as action research to act as agents of continuous improvement to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being through an inquiry-based approach, utilizing a variety of instructional strategies to meet a diverse learning population, while collaborating with other all stakeholders to meet the mission core values and curricula of the school community.  RESOURCES
EFFECTIVE School Library leaders use data to act as agents of continuous improvement to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being through an inquiry-based approach, utilizing a variety of instructional strategies to meet a diverse learning population, while collaborating with other teachers to meet the mission core values and curricula of the school community.  RESOURCES
EMERGING School Library leaders act as agents of improvement to promote some of the learners’ academic and/or professional success and well-being through an inquiry-based approach, utilizing a variety of instructional strategies to meet a diverse learning population; however,  in isolation from most other teachers.  RESOURCES
INEFFECTIVE School Library leaders do not promote academic and/or professional success and well-being because their program is devoid of any inquiry-based approach and in isolation from other teachers and curricula.  RESOURCES

I feel I am Effective but not Highly Effective at this so I click on the Resources and find:

Calhoun, Emily F. “Action Research for School Improvement.Educational Leadership, vol. 59, no. 6, Mar. 2002, pp. 18–24.

Loertscher, David V., and Ross J. Todd. We Boost Achievement!: Evidence-Based Practice for School Library Media Specialists. Salt Lake City UT, Hi Willow Research, 2003.
Todd, Ross J. “Evidence-based Practice and School Libraries: Interconnections of evidence, advocacy and actions. Knowledge Quest 43.3 (2015): 8.

And now I’m ready to go!

You are undoubtedly more than halfway there.  Start the process, and when you have attained Highly Effective in all (or almost all) 11, share the rubrics with your administrator.  We all need to know—and let others know—we are Highly Effective School Librarians.

How close are you to being Highly Effective at all 11 Competencies?  Which one are you going to start with?

 

 

ON LIBRARIES – Why Ownership

Although it’s been around for a while, “ownership” has become one of the latest buzz words.  It has always been important for you as a leader to own your library program, but there are others who need ownership as well.

Owning leads to lifelong learning for students, and involvement and investment in your program from teachers and administrators. Consider the difference in renting or owning a home. If you rent a home and are conscientious you keep it in good order and that’s about it.  When you own your home, you feel pride in it.  You look for ways to improve it, make it better.

The same is true for students’ connection to schoolwork.  The “good” kids are like conscientious renters. They do what is necessary to get an “A,” but they are not truly invested in it.  I know and have known many excellent students who are merely going through the motions by the time they are half way through high school.  They have learned the game and play by the rules, but unless it’s in a subject they love, there is no passion or excitement around the learning.

We have been talking about student engagement for some time, recognizing kids need to be interested in what they are learning in order for the content to have any lasting impact.  We can all remember taking courses where the attitude was cram and forget.  You “learned” what you needed for the test and once you received your grade, you promptly forgot it all. (This is related to students often-asked question, “Will this be on the test?”)

If you who want a review of what student engagement entails, an article in Educational Leadership, “Student Engagement: What Do Students Want” provides an excellent overview.  You will notice the article is from 1995.  What we have moved to is student ownership.

In another article in Educational Leadership, this one from 2008, Adam Fletcher discusses the “Architecture of Ownership.” In it, he covers Students as Planners, Students as Teachers, Students as Professional Development Partners, and Students as Decision Makers. Just reading the headings is enough to get you thinking.

From http://edchat.pbworks.com

Student ownership connects into inquiry-based learning and problem-based learning. If your Mission states you guide students into becoming producers as well as users of information, you are giving student ownership. Makerspaces are one way many of you are giving students a form of ownership.

When students make something, they are proud of what they have produced. It’s theirs.  They had to figure out how to do it.  Without a grade being involved, they threw themselves into the task. They were invested.

Some elementary librarians have helped students create a garden whose produce is used in the cafeteria or given to a community kitchen.  Again, students aren’t being given a grade but they are learning, and they are proud of their accomplishment.  They own the garden. 

I have had a library council and student volunteers (not counting the ones “assigned” to make up needed courses for graduation).  By giving them tasks beyond shelving, they owned the library.  They created displays on topics they cared about. They compiled webliographies to help teachers, and they were encouraged to pull books for possible weeding when they were shelving.

By carefully helping teachers reframe an assignment you can give students ownership of their work.  For example, a World Culture teacher came to me after she thought she gave her students what they wanted—and it flopped.  The kids had complained about the topics, finding them boring, so she told them they could explore any topic related to World Culture—and they froze.  They had no idea where to begin.

Working with the class, we put all the countries they were studying in one column.  In another, we listed cultural aspects from art and architecture through literature, medicine, and science.  This second column grew long as kids came up with more possibilities.  They then had to choose one from column “A” and another from column “B,” and they had their topic. Those interested in the same subject worked together on the project.

Before we finished, we also developed a list of general questions they needed to answer such as, “Why this was an important topic?”, “What was the contribution to the country and the world?” What people need to know about this?” etc.  After reading an overview, they added more questions.

You can give teachers ownership as well.  You want them to see the library as theirs.  If you haven’t done so already, start a professional collection but don’t leave it on some back shelves.  Display titles with a note “Specially for Teachers.”  Invite teachers to suggest items for purchase. When publisher representatives came to my library, I invited any teachers who were there to evaluate the books along with me.

If at all possible create a “teacher nook.”  Whether it’s on the reading room floor or in your office, teachers appreciate that separate space even if there is a department office. Put out the most recent issue of a professional magazine if you get them.  Provide supplies if they want to create something for their room.  Ask them what they need/want.

Whenever you do a big project such as Battle of the Books, a Makerspaces, or the garden, involve teachers and parents.  Let them work on the parts they most enjoy.  The more they are invested in the success of the project, the more ownership they have.  And when they feel they have ownership in the library, they become advocates for your program.

Giving students, teachers, and parents ownership of the library is about being a leader and creating the partners who want your program to succeed.  I haven’t thought of a way to give administrators ownership, but that would further the success of your program.

How are you giving ownership to your stakeholders?  Have you figured out a way to give administrators ownership?  Share your ideas.

 

 

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?