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?


ON LIBRARIES: Role-ing Through Your Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Teacher
  • Information Specialist
  • Instructional Partner
  • Program Administrator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


ON LIBRARIES: Are You Confident

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I know many of you take part in community service activities. You also give of your time to support functions at your school. Giving back is putting your thanks in action. It’s how you demonstrate your appreciation and your caring for others. Giving back to our profession is also important, and not enough of librarians do it.

(EDITORS NOTE: Much of this post comes from Hilda’s book, Leading for Librarians: There is NO Other Option from ALA Editions)

In becoming a leader you were helped along the way. A librarian mentored you or gave you some good advice. Your state and national organization provided resources from which you learned. No one emerges full-blown as a leader all on their own.
Once you have demonstrated your leadership abilities, are being taken seriously, and your program is regarded as vital to both student and teacher success, it is important to give back. Those starting out in our career need a trusted mentor. No one else in their building can do the job. Teachers and administrators assume new librarians learned everything they needed to know in library school. You know how far from the truth that is.

I blogged about Mentors in August of last year, but I will review some of the highlights.
Once you decide to become a mentor, you need to find a mentee. The first place to look is in your district. You know it’s vital that all the librarians are seen as leaders. If there is someone new, let them know you are available to help them over the rough spots.
If your state association has a mentorship program, join it. If it doesn’t propose one. You can get help in setting it up from other states that have done so. Go on AASL Forum and ask –or use LM_NET (or my School Librarian’s Workshop Facebook group). Get copies of Mentor/Mentee agreements to ensure that all participants understand their individual roles.


Your state association depends on volunteers even if they have a paid director and/or other positions. If you haven’t served on a committee as yet, volunteer to do so. If you have, step up to chair one. You might even consider running for an office. In addition to serving the librarians in your state, you will get recognition from your administration.
As a member of the board, you become aware of the state level political situations that affect librarians at the building level. You will see the scope of the challenges librarians are facing and become part of the campaign to make changes. Although you are doing this to give back, your own leadership abilities will grow as a result and it will impact your students and teachers.
Now take a deep breath and consider doing this on the national level. I am a very active member of ALA and AASL but you can also volunteer for ISTE or AECT if that’s your preference. I know some librarians who are active in AASL and ISTE, and they are recognized as leaders nationally as well as in their home states and school districts.
Working at the national level might seem intimidating at first but you will find everyone is welcoming and eager to help you settle in. It’s an eye-opening experience. You discover where challenges are similar across the country and what situations are developing that you haven’t seen in your state but now can be prepared to deal with them should they arise.
One of the unexpected benefits of serving at the state and even more so at the national level is what happens to your vocabulary. You develop a fluency in talking about the value of school librarians and what a strong library program brings to students, teachers, and the educational community. In talking with administrators and others you sound like the expert you have become. And you are taken much more seriously.
Some of you might have reservations about volunteering at this level because of the time and financial requirements. ALA has two meetings a year, Annual and Midwinter. ISTE and AECT have one. Their locations vary from year to year but inevitable require travel and sometimes days off from your job.
I consider the expense a professional expenditure, part of my job, the way I look at the cost of commuting to work or having an appropriate work wardrobe. For those who are already operating on a tight budget, ALA has a possible solution for you. You can become a virtual member and not be required to attend meetings in person. Much committee work these days is conducted on conference calls to get major tasks completed before in-person meetings.
These are all serious and important commitments as well as ways to give back on a larger level. Two quotes to keep in mind as you consider stepping up. The first is anonymous or attributed to several people with variations. “If serving is beneath you, leadership is beyond you.”
The second is also anonymous but was most recently attributed to Elizabeth Warren. “If you don’t have a seat at the table, you are probably on the menu.”
How do you give back? Are you serving at the state or national level? If you are not, what’s holding you back? What help do you need from mentors or other leaders?


Fear. It’s the biggest roadblock to leadership.  Whenever there is an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone, your head starts running scenarios of what can and undoubtedly will go wrong.  It’s what’s underneath the Stories We Tell Ourselves.

When I blogged about it in October 2015, I acknowledged that speaking to colleagues, your administrators or in front of parent groups is not the same as teaching students.  You fear you will sound shaky, your knees will wobble, and everyone will know you are a fraud.  Certainly not a leader.

In that blog I was reassuring, pointing out the fear of public speaking is common and surveys have shown people fear it more than death. You don’t have to speak to large groups to become a leader.  There are many quiet avenues to leadership.  All that is true, but the more you become a presence in your school and district, if you step up to volunteer on the state or national level, at some point you will inevitably have to address a large group.

Before discussing strategies for coping with this fear, it might help to become acquainted with what often lies under the fear.  It’s something called The Imposter Syndrome and it mostly strikes high performing people—women more than men.  I have experienced it personally, and I know many of my colleagues who are regarded as leaders have moments when it hits them as well.

The Imposter Syndrome is the voice in your head that says, “What am I doing?  I am such a fraud, and everyone will know it.”  It happens when you get up to speak before colleagues and think, “Everyone knows all this.  Why should they listen to me?”  I heard those words in my head when I started writing books for librarians and thought, “Why would anyone take my advice?  I don’t have a doctorate degree. I have no formal research to back up what I am saying.”

The American Psychological Association in a post described it as it affected graduate students. They offer six ways to deal with it:

  • Talk to Your Mentors – If you don’t have one, speak with a trusted friend about your uncertainties. They will point to your achievements and remind you of why you have reached the place you are now in.
  • Recognize Your Expertise – In addition to what your mentor or friend said, reflect on your journey to this point. Recall what you have learned, the challenges you faced, and the solutions you found.  Others will benefit from your experiences when you share your knowledge.
  • Remember What You Do Well – We all have our strengths. It can be using social media or being ahead of the curve on current with technology. Me, I have learned a lot about leadership and advocacy.  We all have something to offer.
  • Realize No One is Perfect – You may see one of the leading librarians and think I am nowhere as knowledgeable. Yet that same leader has undoubtedly felt the Imposter Syndrome at time. As someone once said, “Don’t judge your insides by someone else’s outsides.”
  • Change Your Thinking – Your mindset controls much of your actions and behaviors. Remember, “If you think you can or you think you can’t –You are right!” Reframe how you are approaching the public speaking experience.  The audience wants to hear what you have to say.  If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be there.
  • Talk to Someone Who Can HelpThey recommend speaking with a therapist if the Imposter Syndrome is crippling, but I believe if you start small – doing a professional development workshop for your teachers or talking to a parent group, you can become more confident and trust that the Imposter Syndrome is just background noise you need to tune out.

But how do you deal with the basic fears you have about public speaking? There are loads of websites with advice on how to deal with it, further proof you are not alone.  Here are my tips:

Know Your Audience – In preparing your talk, consider what your audience already knows.  What do they need to know about the topic?  You neither want to overwhelm them with information above their heads nor do you want to talk down to them.  Think about how you prepare a lesson for your students. You always know where they are and where you want to take them next.

Rehearse Your Speech.  Don’t memorize it.  You will panic if you forget a line. PowerPoint presentations help keep you on track.  Don’t use text heavy slides, they overwhelm everyone. I mostly use only a few words to highlight the point I am making.  I also have notes for each slide, but I allow myself to digress and add comments that strike me in the moment.

Be Personal. As appropriate, share your personal experiences.  It’s an extension of your relationship building.  By letting them know who you are, they are more accepting of what you are saying.  Think of it as a variation on “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  I have let my various audiences know about my failures as well as my successes.

Arrive Early – You need time to breathe. Check the layout of the room.  Make sure any equipment you need is set up and working – including internet connections.  Greet those who are there.  This means you won’t be speaking to strangers. They will be rooting for you.

About That Shaky Voice – Once you are past your opening, it will disappear.  And your audience never knows you are that nervous.  Have some water nearby.  Take a drink now and then.  I have had people fall asleep.  I tell myself it isn’t me – they were tired before they got there.

What’s been your experience with public speaking? Are you afraid of it?  Do you have the Imposter Syndrome at times?  When does it show up?

ON LIBRARIES – Are You Future Ready

Leaders look to the future.  They know what is good today won’t be so tomorrow, and they recognize as Jim Collins has said, “Good is the enemy of great.”  If you are pleased with what you are doing but not looking to make it better you can never be great.  With this in mind what does it mean to be “Future Ready?”

Future Ready is not an empty phrase.  It has a solid foundation and is continuing to develop. Launched by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology in November 2014, Future Ready Schools . The homepage urges school superintendents to take the pledge to have their districts make a commitment to implement meaningful change “towards a digital learning transitions that support teachers, and addresses the district’s vision for student learning. Over 3,100 superintendents have made that pledge and you can check to see if yours is one.

The homepage is rich with resources, not the least of which is the Interactive Planning Dashboard which walks participants through a 5-step collaborative planning process. What I particularly like is that this process offers a “comprehensive approach and an action plan for implementing digital learning before purchasing anything, ensuring a smoother implementation and digital transformation.”   The page has the ability for the team to save all their work in a password protected format making it easy to revisit and update goals, strategies, and implementation plans.

What has me excited is on the homepage there is a link to Future Ready Librarians. It says, what we have always known, that “School librarians lead, teach, and support the Future Ready Goals of their school and district in a variety of ways through their professional practice, programs, and spaces. If properly prepared and supported, school librarians are well-positioned to be at the leading edge of the digital transformation of learning.”

Follett formed Project Connect which is designed to help librarians work with their district leaders in creating Future Ready Schools and in so doing firmly position themselves as leaders. To this end they have developed online courses to “promote innovative models of school libraries|, and help librarians “cultivate powerful library and school leadership … with a future-ready approach.”

Future Ready Librarians came into existence in the summer of 2016. Follett is one of its strong supporters, and the indefatigable Shannon McClintock Miller has been named a spokesperson for it. On the homepage you will find a link to her presentation “What Does It Take to be a Future Ready Librarian.” In it, she explores the exciting challenge of Future Ready Schools.

So what does it specifically mean to be Future Ready? The core of it is shown in the Framework, consisting of seven “gears” surrounding Student Learning, which is at the center. (Changed to “Personalized Student Learning” in the framework for Future Ready Librarians—which is what we have been doing all along.) The gears and how they translate into the school library (and I borrow extensively from Shannon McClintock Miller’s  presentation) are as follows:

  • Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment – You become a partner with educators to design and implement an evidenced-based practice curriculum integrating deeper learning critical thinking, information literacy, creativity, innovation, and technology. (Big job)
  • Use of Space and Time – For school librarians this means designing flexible, collaborative spaces. Learning Commons are perfect for this, but you can achieve this goal in steps by taking a fresh look at your floor plan and seeing how furniture and shelving can be made mobile. Get help from high school design classes.
  • Robust Infrastructure- In the library, you advocate for equal access to digital devices and connectivity in support of the district’s strategic vision
  • Data and Privacy – Teach and promote student privacy.
  • Community Partnerships – In addition to developing partnerships within the school, reach out to the community including parents, public and academic libraries, and businesses to promote engagement and lifelong learning.
  • Personalized Professional Learning – Provides personal professional learning to develop awareness/understanding of the skills needed for success in a digital age.
  • Budget and Resources– Leverages and understanding of school and community needs to advocate for the digital resources needed to support student learning.

Collaborative Leadership is an extra gear in the Future Librarians framework.  It requires you to lead beyond the library.  As I have been saying, if you stay in your library, no one really knows who you are or what you do. Participating on district committees is vital. One of the most important is any that sets a vision and creates a strategic plan for digital learning.

What can you do if your Superintendent did not sign the pledge and you are not in a Future Ready School? Talk to your principal. Show him or her the Future Ready Schools site and all the supportive resources it has.  Suggest joining the Future Ready School Facebook group. Offer to do a brief presentation on it at an administrators’ meeting. (Definitely moving out of your comfort zone – but being a leader.)

Choose one or two gears that call to you and start working on them while you advocate for the district to become Future Ready.  Join the Future Ready Librarians Facebook Group and attend the webinar Leading Beyond the Library on April 11.

Are you a Future Ready Librarian?  What are you doing to show it?  If you aren’t, what will you do to become one? How can I and other librarians support you?

ON LIBRARIES – Risk and Reward

Leaders take risks.  You are all aware of that, and that awareness leads to something we don’t like to talk about.  In 2015, I blogged about the Stories We Tell Ourselves. I skipped a big one.

The story we tell ourselves is that if we take a risk we’ll embarrass ourselves so badly we won’t be able to face our colleagues and administrators.  It could even potentially cause us to lose our job. And that story is the secret reason why some librarians avoid taking on the challenge of leadership.

Fear of failure can be crippling.  It keeps you from growing.  Oddly enough, the converse is an equally big barrier—fear of success.  If you are successful, people will expect you to continue to do more.

And just like the other stories, it is only that —a story.  No one is suggesting you suddenly decide to campaign to redesign your library as a learning commons if you have never done anything to make your presence known in your building, but you do need to take some first steps.  You do need to build some “street cred” first.

Start small. Share your knowledge of new web and app resources by sending weekly emails to teachers describing just one, explaining how it could be used, and offering to provide one-on-one help for them to learn it.  Include your principal in the email. You may not get any takers at first, but eventually one will click with a teacher.  Slowly, teachers will begin to recognize the help you can give them.

There is no risk in doing that, but two important little goals have been achieved.  You have stepped out of your comfort zone, and teachers begin to take you into consideration when planning a unit. And those two accomplishments are the first building blocks of that very important “street cred.” Look for other no-risk or minimal risk ideas.

Try a book club.  If you don’t know how to do it, ask your library colleagues on your state association’s listserv or other places where librarians help each other. LM_NET is the big one, but there are many more.  Once you know what you are doing, speak with your administrator before putting it in place. Explain your goal for the program, how you plan to run it, and acknowledge there is no guarantee it will work but is worth a try.

If you launch the club, send updates on activities and accomplishments to your principal. Include videos of the kids discussing the books.  Now you have demonstrated your value to the administration.  And your reputation as a leader begins to grow.

Then it’s time to take a few bigger risks. Gardening projects have proved very successful at the elementary level.  There are connections to STEAM and the produce can be given to the cafeteria, to food banks, or a local shelter depending on what seems best for your community.

Other low- risk projects include starting Hour of Code or a Makerspace. For either of those ideas, you can get all the help you need in organizing it from other librarians. We are an incredibly supportive profession.

These early risks build your confidence and you can begin to look for other possibilities. Are you thinking of genre-fying your collection?  How about a Skype author visit?  What about a joint project with students in another school district—or country? Before long you might even be ready to turn your library into the learning commons that had seemed an impossibility.

Being a building leader is vital.  If you and your program are to thrive you must demonstrate you are invaluable to the entire educational community.  Now that you see that risks don’t result in those disasters you imagined, you can step even further out of your comfort zone.

Take your place among leaders.  There is always room for more.  Choose one of your new successful programs and write a proposal to present it at your state conference.  You may think it’s been done, but there are always librarians who haven’t tried it, and you bring your unique perspective to it. If it’s selected let your principal know.  It will build your reputation even further.

Serve on one of your state association committees.  Better yet volunteer to do the same in AASL or ISTE. Although it’s too late for this year’s AASL Conference IdeaLab, start planning to do it in two years at the next AASL conference.  You would be in a large room with many other librarians all presenting their best ideas. You talk one-on-one with those who stop and want more information.  Totally non-intimidating.

The first step in becoming a leader is deciding to step out of your comfort zone.  Every leader has done so.  I still take on challenges wondering how I am going to do it, but somehow it almost always works.

Have you stepped out of your comfort zone?  What did you do?  What was the result? Where do you need help?


ON LIBRARIES: To Do and To Don’t

I am very disciplined.  Usually.  And sometimes I am not. I have a feeling many of you share this duality, and I think there is a good reason for it.

Back in August, I did a blog called A Matter of Time. In it I discussed time management techniques to keep you from getting overwhelmed.  I advocated various forms of To-Do lists to keep you on track, recommending you find one that works for you.

And I certainly have a To-Do list.  I couldn’t function without one, yet there are some days when almost nothing gets checked off.  I used to become upset with myself for being so unproductive and not completing all those important tasks.  But I have come to realize it isn’t all bad to take time off.

I have found I am most likely to procrastinate the day after I have been extremely busy and productive.  It’s as though my mind and body are sending a signal they need to recharge.  And we do.  We can’t keep draining ourselves.  There is a cost.

Most of us have numerous obligations outside of work.  Whether it’s getting kids to sports or other activities, preparing dinner, doing laundry, taking care of the lawn, or shopping.  The list is long.  Consider what happens to your attitude and your patience when you have been on the run for days on end.

When you have been going full tilt on your job, you are likely to get impatient when you are interrupted, whether by a student or a teacher.  And yet, our jobs are full of interruptions.  It’s who we are and we want people to know we are there to help them.  I once wore a button that said, “Please disturb me.”

You know by now the importance of building and maintaining relationships.  They are key to our success.  The last thing you want is for teachers and students to think you don’t have time to respond to their requests.  You can destroy a relationship much quicker than you can build one, particularly if it isn’t well established.

There’s also the matter of burnout.  When you keep going without a break, you stop enjoying your job.  As I have said, much of our communication is non-verbal.  Your exhaustion sends a message that you are uninterested.  And that definitely you don’t want to be disturbed.

Worse, discipline problems in the library will increase. Students who are at loose ends because they didn’t think it a good idea to ask for assistance can get into trouble quickly.  Then there are those who love disruptions and recognize a great opportunity to set you off. Usually, you are able to distract them and prevent most problems.  But not when you are in overload.

Yes, when you get back to your usual helpful demeanor, people begin approaching you.  But if you spend too much time in that harried place, you may find fewer teachers dropping by to see you and ask questions.  Students will not risk a rebuff. What you need to do is recharge.

ticking now on check boxes on blackboard

You will have to focus on high priorities.  Classes must be taught, but you can scale them down.  At the elementary level, instead of a major lesson, consider having a coloring day, and join the kids.  More and more adults are discovering what a de-stresser that can be.  And the kids can use that too. At the end of the class, discuss if they liked the activity and why.

In upper grades, let kids research on their own and walk among them seeing how they are doing.  Ask them about what they are finding.  Close the period by having a group discussion on how successful they were and what they can do differently.  It’s a good self-assessment lesson.

For those of you who picked up the challenge of leadership, you may have been thinking that this is why you didn’t want to become a leader.  It is too time-consuming.  However, leaders must learn to set an example for others.

Among my favorite quotes is the one by Tom Peters, “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” If a leader is seen as being exhausted and constantly in motion, no one will want to emulate them.  You need to show the rewards of leadership.

So ask for help. It may take time before you can figure out just what you need, but you will also be giving someone the opportunity to see what leadership entails. Librarians don’t usually know how to delegate, and if you are accustomed to being in control, it’s hard to give some of that up.  But the benefits are worth it.

Don’t overlook how your being overwhelmed affects your family and personal friendships.  Even if you are able to be your usual wonderful self on the job, when you get home you are not anywhere near your best for them.  Much as you love being a librarian, your work should not be the priority in your life.

You need to live a balanced life so you maintain your joy. Moments you chose not to spend with family and friends because you had “too much to do” can never be recaptured.

To rejuvenate look for small ways to procrastinate.  There are several things I do.  I play solitaire on my computer or spend time on Facebook.  As long as I keep an eye on the clock, the “away time” lets me return with new energy.

My favorite downtime activity is taking a walk.  It clears my head.  I can figure things out so much better than when I am on the computer.  Most of my blog ideas and how I am going to discuss them are figured out while I am walking.  At the same time, I stop and talk to people walking their dogs or take note of the change in season and how the trees and plants are changing.

I also make sure to see my friends on a regular basis.  I work at home primarily, but when my son comes over I stop what I am doing.  I have learned the task will get done.  It always does.  And cherishing the joys in my life helps me do a better job in completing them.

What gives you joy?  How are you living a balanced life?