ON LIBRARIES – Culture Conscious

How would you describe your school’s culture?  If you have never thought about it, now’s the time to start.  The school (and district) culture influence everything from your budget requests to the willingness of teachers to collaborate with you and administrators to support you.

I have written in the past of two very different cultures in districts where I worked.  At the first, education was regarded as being like medicine.  You don’t like it, but you have to take it.  The twenty budgets that were defeated in the twenty-two years I was there was an obvious indicator.  The district depended heavily on teachers’ commitment to helping their students since there was never an extra payment or support for what they did.  I knew one world language teacher who taught four different sections including having an AP Spanish class within Spanish IV.

The other district saw itself as a leader in education with a diverse, multi-cultural student population.  The culture reflected pride in what they were doing and bringing to students and, by extension, the community. The Wall of Fame saluted graduates who had made major contributions.  It included authors, government officials, and those in noted businesses

While these districts could not be more dissimilar, I could get funding for projects in either place by working with the culture.  In the first district, I always presented my requests by stressing how this would save money in the long run, using as a theme, “the library gives you the biggest bang for your buck.”  I even had one teacher tell her department chair they didn’t need new textbooks, “as long as Hilda’s library was up-to-date.”

In the second district, my proposals were always tied in some way to why it would keep us in the forefront of education. Knowing how strongly the administrators felt about moving to block scheduling, I put in a request for extra funding to purchase support material for the faculty.  I noted that many teachers were opposed to the change because they couldn’t see how they were to get through their curriculum within the structure of a longer period and alternating semesters, (e.g. Spanish I in the fall of 9th grade and Spanish II in the fall of 10th grade).  The extra resources I was proposing would give them the information they needed to continue to be great teachers and show that the district was there to support them.

On a daily basis, the school culture affects you differently.  My two districts had radically diverse cultures, both had teachers strongly committed to serving the students.  To have teachers collaborate with me, I had to convince them that what I taught would help their students be more successful. The English teachers in one district relied on me to teach each grade the research process for term papers because it ensured every student had received the same background information and experience.

I had a co-librarian in one district who teachers rightly felt didn’t like the students.  When they brought their classes to the library, if I was already scheduled to work with another class, they taught their students themselves.  That situation is an example of how we can also negatively affect the culture around us.

click image to read the full article

In an article primarily directed towards administrators on “5 Ways to Impact School Culture,” Dr. Amy Fast offers suggestions that work well for school librarians.  The first is “Assume Best Intent.”  So, if you send a teacher a resource for his/her students and there is no response, don’t assume you are being ignored “because the teachers don’t appreciate what I do.”  Things get lost in cyberspace.  Either send it again with a message saying, “I don’t know if you received this when I sent it out,” or speak to the teacher in person, which is probably best, and find out what the situation really is.

Her second recommendation is, “Surround Yourself with Greatness,” because “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”  That can be a scary thought.  Work hard to connect and get into relationship with the teachers who are recognized as “stars.”  As they create units with you, the others will follow, and your school library culture will thrive.

“Elicit Feedback” is her third way. I discussed this in my blog on “The Power and Importance of Feedback.” The fourth idea is to “Know Your Sphere of Influence.” Too often we think all the power – and leadership—comes from a title.  You can, in fact, lead from the middle- or the bottom.  In my Weight Watcher program, I have been keeping up enthusiasm which was crushed when the leader we adored was fired. I lead from my seat – and it is recognized by the other members.

Dr. Fast’s final suggestion is “Make Your WHY Transparent.”  You know why you became a school librarian.  You know why you love your job (most days). Make sure you are communicating that in your words and your actions.  It will also keep you from focusing on the negatives that are a part of any job.

If you are struggling to get teachers to work with you or you want your administrators to recognize your value, review the ways you interact with school culture and see which ones might help you improve your school library culture.

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ON LIBRARIES: In With The New (Standards)

appy New Year! There is always a flurry of activity around the beginning of the year. Resolutions, goals, intentions, new things to try, old things to toss.

One of the big new things to embrace? The new National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries.  Have you bought your copy yet? Are you excited, or hoping it will go away? (HINT: Go for the former. The latter isn’t happening.) I blogged about this change back in September (the post is here and gives you several links to help you start), and since then I’ve heard about them at the AASL conference in November and started using them. It is a change I am definitely excited about.

Many of you have been put off by the price tag of $199 if you are not a member of ALA.  Even the cost of $99 to ALA/AASL members has caused some gasps. But recognize, these will be our standards for the next ten years. You may as well bite the bullet and get started. If memory serves the old standards, Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Media Programs, cost about $45, but it but had only 64 pages!  The new standards comes in at a hefty 314p.  That’s almost five times the size – so it’s practically a bargain! 

Personally, I have been immersing myself in the National School Library Standards in order to update an online course I’m teaching starting January 17.  Since it’s a course text, I had to re-do much of the syllabus, rewrite sections of my lectures, and change topics for discussion as I figured out how to introduce my students to the standards.

The task of wading into these new standards seemed enormous at first.  It’s such a big book and there didn’t seem to be any parallels between old and new standards which would have allowed me to simply insert new page numbers.  It was intimidating, but I am so glad I couldn’t put it off.  The more I explore the Standards, the more I find to like.

I like the idea that there are three Frameworks: one for learners, one for school librarians, and one for school libraries. All three have the same structure so you can see how the same Domains (Think, Create, Share, Grow) and Shared Foundations connect.  It is simple to compare them and once you have familiarity with one Framework, you can easily grasp the others.

Most likely you will want to begin with the AASL Framework for Learners.  It’s a free download and only eight pages so not having ordered the larger book it is no excuse for not getting started. We all are learners and more than ever we need to focus on our own learning. Spend time with the centerfold that lays out the standards for learners. Read the Key Commitments for each of the six Shared Foundations. You will find your old lessons almost always included aspect of the four : (1) Inquire, (3) Collaborate, (4) Curate, and (5) Explore.

Your lessons may not have incorporated Include and Engage but you now should give these two serious consideration Include (the fourth Shared Foundation) articulates the need to incorporate diversity and global citizenship into student learning opportunities. Engage (6) focuses on the ethical use of information.  Both have been components of your practice, but the six Shared Foundations keep them in front of you.  This is not to say you need to include all six Shared Foundation and all four Domains in one unit, but in constructing your units, you should see which ones fit best.

Check the AASL portal for the Standards regularly.  If you “enter” as School Librarians, you will find resources to support you in getting started with the new National Standards for School Libraries.  New ones are added frequently.

Once you have your copy of the Standards, I recommend How Do I Read the Standards? It boils down how the six Shared Foundations and four Domains combine within the three Frameworks, defining the competencies we want to achieve. In addition, it explains how to identify which of the Shared Foundations and Domains you are using in a lesson.  All this in a one-page (free!) infographic.

Another resource I like is Reflect and Refresh: Getting Started with National School Library Standards. Again, a single page PDF, it briefly explains “What Should I Know?” What Should I Do?” and “What Should I Share?”

Do check the Professional Development AASL is offering.  Upcoming events as well as archived ones are available.  Choose one and get started.

It is a new year and we have new standards.  It’s a bit scary, but it’s also exciting to be here as we truly take our profession and practice into the future.

ON LIBRARIES: Ease into the New National Standards

The New National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries have arrived. It’s exciting and wonderful but carries a certain amount of trepidation

– What changes will I have to make in my lessons?

– How am I going to find time to learn it all?

– Is there a start date for implementing them?

– Can I just wait a while?

– Do I have to buy the book?

All good questions.  And while I do own the book as I participated in the pre-con on the Standards at the AASL Conference in Phoenix, I don’t plan to sit down and read it through in a week or so.   I have looked at the Table of Contents and been led to some key pages, but I am going to absorb this in small doses.

You can and should do the same.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Excerpts from AASL’s National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries, used with permission.  Copyright American Library Association, 2018. For additional information and resources visit standards.aasl.org.)

Your first stop is the AASL portal for the Standards to download the AASL Standards Framework for Learners.

So much is being loaded here, almost on a daily basis, the site is a bit hard to navigate.  It will be cleaned up but for now, I have given you the link because that’s the best way to start. This will help you see how our new Standards are organized and give you a way to start incorporating them into your lessons in easy steps. See? A framework.

Page three lists the Common Beliefs which is “How … we define the qualities of well-prepared learners, effective school librarians, and dynamic school libraries.”  I discussed these six in my blog on September 25th.  You can look at that if you want to review the Common Beliefs.

The centerfold is where the big new is.  It is the AASL Standards Framework for Learners. From there are two additional frameworks. One for School Librarians and another for School Libraries. (We have dropped the word “program” because we want the focus on school libraries.) The good news is all three follow the same structure.

The frameworks are tables. Reading across are the Roman Numerals identifying the six competencies that form the Standards:

  • Inquire
  • Include
  • Collaborate
  • Curate
  • Explore
  • Engage

Beneath each is a one-sentence key commitment.  For example, Explore says, “Discover and innovate in a growth mindset developed through experience and reflection.”

Visit the Ogden School District Library program by clicking the image

Reading down the chart are the four domains:

  • Think
  • Create
  • Share
  • Grow

You may remember these from Learning for Life (L4L).  These are connected to the domains of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Think is the Cognitive Domain.  Create is Psychomotor, Share is Affective, and Grow is Developmental.

The Shared Foundations and Domains form a grid with each box having two to five competencies identifying what the learner is expected to do.  For example, the box formed by Inquire and Think says, “Learners display curiosity and initiative by:

  1. Formulating questions about a personal interest or a curriculum topic.
  2. Recalling prior background knowledge as context for new meaning.”

So, if you were to use both in your lesson you would refer to it as I.A.1. and 2.

Depending on your learning unit or your own preference, you can focus on Inquire through Think, Create, Share, and Grow.  Or you can choose to have students Create through all or some of the Shared Foundations.  You can pick and choose as you wish.

web banners available from AASL website

If you would like to see the Frameworks for School Librarians and School Libraries and you are not quite ready to purchase the National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries, consider getting the AASL Standards Mobile App from the Apple App Store or Google Play for $19. You can’t get it at the ALA Store but a description of the App is given there.

This is my route to slowly implementing the Standards, but you have many helpful resources on the Standards Portal.  There are videos you can watch, or you can download the one-page PDF on Where Do I Start? 6 Action Steps for Getting to Know the New National School Library Standards. Keep checking the Portal. New resources are being added quickly, and it will become better organized.  Meanwhile keep exploring it to find treasures.

You do need to get around to buying the book.  The $200 price tag for non-AASL members and even the $99 cost for members has been something of a sticker shock.  Since I advocate for all school librarians to be members of AASL, let me point out that first time membership is $119 – so for an additional $20 you have the book for $99 and a one-year membership in AASL with all its resources such as e-COLLAB and Knowledge Quest. And this volume is equal to what was in Empowering Learners, Standards for the 21st-Century Learner in Action, and A 21st-Century Approach to School Librarian Evaluation. Which really makes it a bargain.

What have you done to get started with the new Standards?  What do you like best about them so far?  And if you need help to come up with the cost to purchase the book – post to our Facebook group and see if anyone has suggestions and ideas.

ON LIBRARIES: Confessions of a Conference Junkie

It’s true.  I admit it I am totally hooked on library conferences. On Wednesday afternoon I will be flying to Phoenix to attend the AASL Conference.  The following week I will be at my state library association’s conference.  I am already registered for ALA Midwinter in Denver (yes, winter in Denver) in February of 2018.

Those of you who haven’t attended any of these, particularly the ALA/AASL ones, may wonder how I got hooked and why I keep going.  It started innocently enough.  I went to my state conference. And one of the reasons I chose to go was because it was easy to get to the site.

It turned out to not only be familiar but a lot of fun. A number of my librarian friends were there and the vendor reps for the most part were the ones who called on me. I got to see several programs that were helpful, some of which were led by people I knew so I could follow up with them.  There were some nice freebies (now called swag), and I met more librarians from my state who I hadn’t known before.

I continued to attend and I became known by leadership people which led to my being asked to serve on committees.  Although it was a bit scary, I tried one.  It accelerated my learning curve, and I became a truly active member of the New Jersey Association of School Librarians (then called EMAnj).

Then in 1979, (yes, I have been a librarian for a long time), I attended my first ALA Annual Conference.  Along with Ruth Toor, I had written my first book – The School Librarian’s Almanac – and thought it was time to look at the larger scene.

That year the site was easy again. It was held in New York City. As a New Jersey resident who was born in New York, I was comfortable there. Lots of the New Jersey librarians I had come to know also attended.

It was somewhat overwhelming, but thrilling at the same time.  It was SO much bigger. As I walked to the Convention Center I saw so many people wearing conference badges and carrying the bags attendees were given.  I struggled a bit to choose among so many programs.  There were more vendors than I ever heard of, but I did see a quite a few familiar faces among the reps. And the swag was amazing. I came home with bags, books, bookmarks and other great things for my library.

One of my best memories from that conference was meeting Isaac Asimov.  I had loved his works since I discovered them while in high school.  He even kissed my cheek.  I didn’t want to wash it.

Sitting at the food courts and sharing tables I met so many librarians from all over the country. There even were some from countries around the world.   I was learning even when I wasn’t at a program or in the exhibit hall.  I was hooked.  I never looked back.  I couldn’t wait for the next conference.  Fair Warning—conference going is addictive.

Since that time I have never missed an ALA Conference. I remember going to Toronto, Canada in 2003 for the first joint conference with the Canadian Library Association.  It was made even more memorable because shortly before the conference, Canada experienced an outbreak of the SARS virus.  Those of us who didn’t decide to skip the conference were made extremely welcome.

After attending ALA Annual for several years, and taking volunteer positions in my state organization I became the president-elect of NJASL and was therefore a delegate to AASL’s Affiliate Assembly. Since it met at ALA Midwinter in addition to annual, I attended that.  And discovered it was the same and different from Annual.  Smaller in some ways, without as many programs, there were still committee meetings, great exhibits—and of course, swag.

In my new position I met our national leaders. I was surprised to discover how approachable they were. Before long I was serving on AASL committees.  In 1980, AASL had its first conference.  I didn’t the first or second (they are every other year), but I did go to the third held in Atlanta, GA. Aside from a family emergency that caused me to change plans at the last minute, I have attended every AASL Conference since then.

I had no choice but to be hooked. So many programs, so many vendors.  And all of them directed to school librarians.  It was perfect.  When AASL began holding its National Institutes, commonly known as the Fall Forum, I couldn’t wait to attend.  These were very small, and focused on a single topic/issue of importance to school librarians. It was the perfect setting for intense learning.

So here am I once again eagerly packing for an AASL Conference. (I will be skipping my blog next week as I will be in Phoenix.) What do I have to show for it?  Well, the swag does accumulate.  I will never need to buy a canvas bag.  I always have a huge supply of pens and post-it notes plus assorted helpful items from thumb drives to earphones.

More importantly, to a great extent, the leader I am today came about as a result of all my conference going.

Are you a conference junkie?  Which ones do you attend?  What are some of your best memories? What would be a good first one for you – state, AASL, or national? Wanna join me in New Orleans next year?

 

 

 

 

 

ON LIBRARIES – Are You a People-Pleaser?

From https://livelearnwrite.com/2016/10/13/how-being-a-people-pleaser-can-effect-your-future/

Or do you please people?  There is a big difference between the two, and it’s not just semantics. The second is a successful leader. By contrast, it’s impossible to be a leader and a people-pleaser.  It may seem as though it’s the safest approach to ensure your position won’t be eliminated, but the opposite is more probable.

There are numerous websites on the characteristics, qualities, and results of people-pleasing. Most of us don’t fall into the full spectrum of people-pleasing as described by psychologists, but too many incorporate aspects of it into work behavior.  Reviewing what is discussed, look to see if you notice patterns that reflect some of your behaviors.

Jay Earley lists the following actions in The People-Pleasing Pattern:

  • I avoid getting angry.
  • I try to be nice rather than expressing how I really feel.
  • I want everyone to get along.

What’s wrong with avoiding being angry or wanting everyone to get along? Doesn’t it make for a better workplace environment? Isn’t that using your Emotional Intelligence? Not exactly.

Emotional Intelligence does require you to manage your emotions, which means getting to the reason for your anger and dealing with it to achieve your goals. Suppressing your feelings means you are making your emotions and yourself less important than those around you.  That is not leadership – or healthy.

The underlying truth to your behavior may be another of Earley’s characteristics—you are afraid to rock the boat, a fear frequently based on the concern that your job and program might be cut. However, you are most in danger of being eliminated if you don’t show your value and being a quiet doormat does not demonstrate value.

Consider what happens if your principal assigns you extra duties or you are told you will be responsible for two schools instead of one. What do you do?  Even though your principal might blame it on the budget situation, should you just accept it as is?

The people-pleasing response is to accept without any comment. This subtly sends the message that it’s no problem for you to take on the extra responsibility.  Which then suggests you have plenty of room in your schedule.  Taking that to the next stop, if you have plenty of room in your schedule, doesn’t that mean that your program doesn’t keep you busy?

If you responded this way, you are not alone.  Many librarians have done the same.  The simmering resentment can then affect how they do their job and their willingness/ability to build a relationship with their administration.  You don’t get to be a leader if that’s how you react.

I am not suggesting you get angry with your principal.  Obviously, you can’t ignore what you are being told to do.  But you can react in a way that will please people – including yourself.

Start by making a list of all your responsibilities.  Take some time to ensure you have identified almost all of them.  As much as possible, do a fair estimation of how much time you spend on each on a daily or weekly basis.   Star anything you definitely don’t want eliminated because it is at the core of your program. In addition, try to determine a fair estimate of the amount of time your additional assignment will take.

Next, set up a meeting with your principal seeking his/her advice and guidance. Explain you want to be sure the students and teachers will be getting the necessary literacy and 21st-century skills after the change in your schedule goes into effect.  Review your list of responsibilities, current and combined. Be clear that some things will have to be eliminated, and you want to have the principal’s agreement as to how to proceed. Also, realize you will have to go along with whatever the principal says you can stop doing.

Yes, you still have the change in your responsibilities, but recognize the difference in how they came about.  You didn’t quietly accept it.  You expressed your concerns, current program needs, and possible sacrifices to the person most able to support you (complaining to coworkers and spouses changes nothing). Your principal had to face the cost of your new assignment.  In the process, he/she was reminded of your value and contribution to the school program.  Managing the request this way will likely leave you with a much greater sense of satisfaction since you have not acted in a people-pleasing manner.

In your dealings with teachers and administrators, you don’t and shouldn’t quietly accept negation of your role while seething inside.  Leaders stand up for their worth.  They don’t do it aggressively.  That loses supporters.  They do it with calm confidence, offering alternatives. We teach people how to treat us.  If you say nothing in response to being minimized, you give that person the right to repeat that behavior.

One of my students in a summer course told me the principal had contacted her to say he was cutting her budget in half, and she needed to eliminate some purchase orders. He added, “I have always been good to you in the past.”  I told her, she could have said, “I saw it as being good for our students and our program, and then laughingly continued if you were being good to me, you would have given me a BMW.”

How have you handled being given additional long or short-term assignments or other changes which were given to you? Were you a people-pleaser or did you figure out a way to please people and show your leadership?

ON LIBRARIES – Emotionally Connected

For several years I have been writing and speaking about Emotional Intelligence (EI) and its importance in leadership success.  Emotions drive us in our lives and are at the root of, according to some studies, at least 80% of all of our decisions.  The more we are attuned to them, the better we can use them to achieve our goals. And when we connect EI with empathy, we have a powerful leadership tool.

ASCD  began promoting Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) in the late 1990’s. The May 1997 issue of their journal, Educational Leadership  was devoted to the topic, and included an article on “How to Launch a Social & Emotional Learning Program.”  The article discussed attitudinal and logistical roadblocks to instituting a SEL program. Those attitudinal roadblocks are undoubtedly why it has taken so long for districts to develop SEL programs. 

Also in 1997, ASCD published Promoting Social and Emotional Learning by Maurice J. Elias, Joseph E. Zins, Roger P. Weissberg, Karin S. Frey, Mark T. Greenberg, Norris M. Haynes, Rachael Kessler, Mary E. Schwab-Stone and Timothy P. Shriver. In the opening chapter, the authors state,

  • “The challenge of raising knowledgeable, responsible, and caring children is recognized by nearly everyone. Few realize, however, that each element of this challenge can be enhanced by thoughtful, sustained, and systematic attention to children’s social and emotional learning (SEL). Indeed, experience and research show that promoting social and emotional development in children is “the missing piece” in efforts to reach the array of goals associated with improving schooling in the United States.”

The book is still available or you can read it online – amazing to find something from 20 years ago that isn’t completely out of date!

Recently, I have been seeing more districts add SEL to their curriculum. Education is finally accepting the fact that emotions do affect learning.  In New Jersey, my home state, the Department of Education has a page on their website on Social and Emotional Learning filled with helpful links.

Interestingly enough, the website page falls under the heading of “Keeping Our Kids Safe, Healthy & In School” and is part of a section on “Safe and Positive Learning Environment.” While we have recognized for some time that feeling safe is required for learning, it is only recently the role of emotions is being seen as playing an important role in that safety.  Without directly referring to EI, the core of the information shows how to develop and improve EI.

If your district hasn’t gotten started with SEL, discuss it with your principal.  You can start by sharing this PDF from the New Jersey site. You will notice that the first three are the “what” about EI and the remaining two are the “how” to infuse it.

Despite the slow reaction of districts to adopt SEL into the curriculum, librarians have always been doing it even when they didn’t have a name for it.  It’s intrinsic to making the library a safe and welcoming space for all.  Now you have the opportunity of being at the forefront of incorporating it throughout the school.

One aspect of SEL – and EI—that many find difficult to master is empathy. According to LaRay Quy, “empathy is the most important instrument in a leaders’ toolbox.” Good leaders take care of their people who in turn take care of them.  If you are fortunate enough to have a clerk or even more staff, you must take care of them.  But your teachers need care as well, and to do so effectively you need empathy. 

Quy, who used to work for the FBI, notes that empathy is like a mind reading tool.  By being attuned to another’s words and body language you can tell what they are thinking/feeling. To take care of them as you learn what’s going on with them, you can’t make your need to be right a priority.  One of my long-time mottos is, “Do you want to be right, or do you want it to work?” Because if you want to be right, it’s not going to work.

This connects to another aspect of empathy, showing that you value the other person’s work.  As librarians, we know how we struggle to feel validated.  Don’t forget others in education feel the same way. Validated another is a way to start an important change throughout your district.

When you are talking to someone, focus on them.  Look at their eyes even as you note their body language.  Don’t multitask.  This is not the time to go through junk mail, or see if another email has come in.  As with the other leadership techniques, it’s as important to use this with students as with your colleagues.

And if there is someone—teacher or student—who seems to rub you the wrong way, you still have tools that can help smooth this relationship. Start by watching your body language as you interact with them. They may be responding to something they are reading in you. By staying open, you may be surprised to discover you can feel empathy for this person.

Graphic from http://www.teachingwithdesign.com/empathy-skill-sets.html

I remember a teacher who I felt was highly confrontational.  My first instinct was to draw away. But by listening and focusing on what she was saying and her body language, I became aware she was reacting to the way people responded to her.  She was very intelligent and had high standards.  Many students disliked her because she was “tough,” which meant she dealt often with angry parents.  By letting her see I respected her knowledge and valued the way she got her students to succeed beyond their expectations, we developed a wonderful relationship.  She became one of the strongest advocates for the library program.

Does your district integrate SEL into the curriculum?  What training did everyone get? What’s your part?  If your district doesn’t include SEL, how will you bring the idea to your administrators?

 

ON LIBRARIES – Up To Standards

Are you ready for the new AASL Standards or are you feeling some trepidation about them?  As a leader, you must get up to speed rapidly so you can tweak and revamp your lessons as necessary.  It is natural to want to cling to what you have known and used since 2007, but stop and think — it’s been ten years.  How much has the world changed since then?  How much have you changed? You – and your students – are doing things you couldn’t possibly have done, or even imagined, then.

The new standards will be brought out at the AASL Conference in Phoenix, November 9-11.  I will be there and attending one of the pre-cons on them on Thursday. There’s still time to put in a pre-publication order so you will be ready to go as soon as possible. Click HERE to go to the order page for the standards. And HERE for the Standard Framework preorder.

Meanwhile, AASL has set up a portal to get you started by providing the philosophical base of the new standards.   I recognized the need for new standards but there was so much in the old ones that I liked, I had a few concerns.  Thanks to the portal, I am eager and more prepared to embrace the new. Let’s walk through them together.

Start with the Common Beliefs. The existing standards had nine. The new ones have six. The first,  “The school library is a unique and essential part of a learning community,” promotes the program on a far wider scale than the old which stated, “School libraries are essential to the development of learning skills.”  As in the old standards, a short paragraph explains the Belief in more detail:

  • As a destination for on-site and virtual personalized learning, the school library is a vital connection between school and home. As the leader of this space and its functions, the school librarian ensures that the school library environment provides all members of the school community access to information and technology, connecting learning to real-world events. By providing access to an array of well-managed resources, school librarians enable academic knowledge to be linked to deep understanding.

The second breaks new ground by declaring the worth of librarians. “Qualified school librarians lead effective school libraries,” positions us as indispensable, stating:

  • As they guide organizational and personal change, effective school librarians model, promote, and foster inquiry learning in adequately staffed and resourced school libraries. Qualified school librarians have been educated and certified to perform interlinked, interdis­ciplinary, and cross-cutting roles as instructional leaders, program administrators, educators, collab­orative partners, and information specialists.

Complimenting Common Core, the third belief states, “Learners should be prepared for college, career, and life.”  The explanatory paragraph addresses our unique contribution to student learning:

  • Committed to inclusion and equity, effective school librarians use evi­dence to determine what works, for whom and under what conditions for each learner; complemented by community engagement and inno­vative leadership, school librarians improve all learners’ opportunities for success. This success empow­ers learners to persist in inquiry, advanced study, enriching profes­sional work, and community partici­pation through continuous improve­ment within and beyond the school building and school day.

Mirroring, “Reading is a window to the world” from the old standards, the fourth proclaims, “Reading is the core of

personal and academic competency.”  We must never forget our commitment to literacy and the accompanying paragraph succinctly defines it.

  • In the school library, learners engage with relevant information resources and digital learning opportunities in a culture of reading. School librari­ans initiate and elevate motivational reading initiatives by using story and personal narrative to engage learners. School librarians curate current digital and print materials and technology to provide access to high-quality reading materials that encourage learners, educators, and families to become lifelong learners and readers.

Much like “Equitable access is a key component for education,” the fifth Common Belief is, “Intellectual freedom is every learner’s right.”  Our profession is staunchly committed to this right and has officially been so since ALA’s Bill of Rights was first adopted in 1939.  The new standard states:

  • Learners have the freedom to speak and hear what others have to say, rather than allowing others to control their access to ideas and information; the school librarian’s responsibility is to develop these dispositions in learners, educators, and all other members of the learn­ing community. 

The final Common Belief is, “Information technologies must be appropriately integrated and equitably available.” This is a call to action as so many schools do not have adequate information technologies, and the new standards recognize that with this supporting paragraph:

  • Although information technology is woven into almost every aspect of learning and life, not every learner and educator has equitable access to up-to-date, appropriate technology and connectivity. An effective school library bridges digital and socioeconomic divides to affect information technology access and skill.

Do you think anything is missing from these Common Beliefs?  Don’t be too quick to decide.  The new standards also have six Shared Foundations, summarizing Competencies for Learners. The infographic link shows how learners Think, Create, Share, and Grow with each of them, and how librarians lead the way.

There is certainly lots to take in and learn, which makes me grateful for this preview from AASL. I was very proud in 2007 of the AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner. I think I am going to be even prouder to represent and lead from these.  I can’t wait to dig into them.

What do you think of these beginning documents?  Is there anything that stands out for you? Are there any which particularly that excite or motivate you? What are you doing to get ready for the new standards?

 

 

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

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?