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 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 – 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 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?