ON LIBRARIES: Upping Your Advocacy Planning

I am always thrilled when I hear about librarians showing up as leaders in their building. They are stepping out of their comfort zones and taking on the challenge of leadership. For librarians, becoming a leader carries the implicit requirement for building advocacy for the library program which includes you.

While advocacy is a given, I am concerned that in the conversations I have been having, I don’t hear much about advocacy plans. Without a concrete plan, advocacy will occur in a hit or miss fashion.  And in that case, it will mostly be miss. As the eminent philosopher, Yogi Berra, once said, “if you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up someplace else.”

Start by creating a strategic plan which is ALWAYS about advocacy. Whatever you want to accomplish must also build relationships and partnerships for you and your program. All good plans start with your Mission (and Vision).  In brief, your Mission declares your Purpose—showing why the library program is vital.  It’s your “perspiration.

For example:

The mission of the Blank School Library is to provide students with the opportunity to become not only lifelong users of information, but also creators of information. The library strengthens the curriculum by collaborating with teachers, developing a collection that is representative of the community, and implementing literacy instruction for students.

Or

The Blank School Library mission is to empower and inspire all students to apply the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to become creative thinkers and problem solvers, to experience individual and team success, and to become responsible, contributing members of our community.

Your Vision is what you wish to achieve and how you want to be perceived. It’s your inspiration and aspiration.

For example:

The Blank School Library Media Program is the center of collaborative learning producing creative students who have an appreciation of literature, critical thinking skills, and a respect for others and self, and who are prepared to make a contribution to the world.

Or

The school library media program is a safe, open, accessible and inviting learning library commons, essential to student achievement, citizenship and support the principles of intellectual freedom. Our students think globally and are capable of creating new knowledge.

Now take the next step.  What would you want to achieve that would strengthen your program?  Who else would benefit? How does it promote your Mission? How long might it take to accomplish?  Whose support are you trying to get?  What does that person (or group) want?

Keep thinking and putting down questions.  Use the answers to create multi-year goals.  You can have one goal that builds collaboration with teachers and another for getting parents more involved with the library.

For every goal you need an Action Plan.  What are you going to do next year to get you closer to the goal?  What resources will you need?  What stakeholders can be part of it? How will you get the word out?  Create a timeline and an assessment for each of the key steps.  At the end of the year, develop your Action Plan for the next year.

Actually crafting an Advocacy Plan takes thought and commitment but it’s vital if you are going to build ongoing support for the library and the library program.  But you are just one person and are carrying a heavy load already.  Good news – there are some places to get help.

AASL to the rescue. Its Advocacy Page provides a wealth of resources for you.  Check out the Tools.  Definitely download the AASL Advocacy Toolkit.  As you go through it, note the Everyday Advocacy pages. Do any of those fit with the goals of your Advocacy Plan?

ALA has an Advocacy page as well. Although much of it relates to the legislative aspects of Advocacy, there is a link to the Libraries Transform campaign which I have discussed previously.  You can get great ideas for slogans from this page.

Finally, use your colleagues.  Ask for help on your state association’s listserv.  Check the various library-based Facebook groups.  Post your questions and challenges.  We are an incredibly supportive group.  You will be amazed at how much information you will get in response.

Don’t put this off until you have time to do it.  You will never have time.  Make the time – and START TODAY.

 

 

 

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ON LIBRARIES: The Art of Asking

You want to attend a conference or workshop, or you want to purchase something for the library that isn’t in the budget.  Spring and fall are the most common times for state library associations to have their conferences. These are always excellent sources of Professional Development (PD), but many librarians don’t attend because they aren’t given the time and/or the money.

What do you do?  Do you ask anyway?  Many choose not to if past experience has led to your administrator turning you down.  But we know – if you don’t ask, the answer is always, “No.”  Even when you are all but certain you know the answer, you can get heard and receive a different result if you frame your request differently.

The first thing to do is look at how you ask now.  Do you send an email with the information or ask in person? It’s far too easy for an administrator to send a quick refusal via e-mail. You need to meet in person, and you need to plan your campaign in advance.

Before your meeting go to your association’s website and carefully review the programs at the conference.  Which ones are you likely choose?  Invariably it’s those that have bearing on what you do with teachers and students.  Make a note of which ones you plan to attend along with how you hope to implement what you learn.

Check the keynote and luncheon speakers.  What topics will they be covering?  Do these have any relevant connection to what you are doing in your school? Or a connection to a goal of your administrator? Knowing these things and being able to speak to the benefits will support your cause for funding. If you also need to be looking at new purchases for the library, try to find out which vendors will be there.  You can assume that automation systems, some publishers, and database companies will be in attendance.

Prepare a bulleted list, divided by categories such as technology, literature, STEM, and critical thinking. Your list should be in order of what you principal most values. Armed with your information schedule a meeting with your principal.  Studies show that Friday at the end of the day is the best time.  Your principal is least harried then.

You don’t want to take more than ten minutes or your principal is likely to start checking his/her watch. Plan your presentation carefully. Lead with the needs of the students and/or teachers.  For example, you might say, “Our students are having difficulty finding valid pro/con sources for their papers. To deal with the problem, I want to investigate the best and most reasonably priced databases to help them.”  Then mention the conference.

Continue with one or two more items and give your principal the list you prepared.  State that the conference is PD directed towards school library programs, will be of benefit to the whole school. Then ask for the professional day(s).  If you get it, also try for reimbursement.  Remember, if you don’t ask, the answer is always, “No.”

Is this guaranteed to work?  Of course not, but it will certainly improve your chances. Having this meeting shows you are interested in improving the library program and your skills for the school, and when you come back next year and ask again (which you should no matter the answer!!) you very well might get a different answer.

If you are willing, let the principal know this is so important you will take a personal day.  After the conference write up a brief report (no more than one page) of what you learned and how you plan to use it. If you were given the time or funding, make sure to offer your thanks. When you have a lesson that incorporates something you got from the conference, invite the principal and/or video the highlights so he/she can see the benefits in action.

Asking for something larger (read: more expensive) requires even more planning.  Way back in the early 1990s, CDs were the emerging technology.  Encyclopedias and some databases were available in this form.  In order to easily access them, you could get a CD tower that enabled the switching to occur seamlessly to the user.  Unfortunately, the towers were expensive.  (I really think they may have been $20,000 since computers were costing about $9,000.)

I was working in a district that voted down the budget twenty times in my twenty-two years there. I scheduled a meeting with my Superintendent, knowing even my principal couldn’t authorize that much money without doing some begging for me which wasn’t going to happen. I met with her during the summer.  And I heartily recommend you do this every summer – normally with your principal.  This is the best time to negotiate for anything including getting professional days and reimbursement for conferences in anticipation of the upcoming budget preparation in the fall.

As I anticipated, my superintendent was somewhat taken aback by the price tag. I agreed but reviewed why we need it.  She said I had to cut my existing budget someplace.  After looking at the possibilities that would least impact the program, we ended up cutting some book money, some A-V purchases, and a few other places.

When fall came and I had to submit my budget for the next year, the CD tower was on it.  I made sure my principal knew it was “pre-approved,” explaining that because the cost was so high I wanted to be sure we would all be on the same page.

I didn’t always get what I wanted.  Sometimes I had to modify my requests or recognize it was a lost cause.  But I did get a high percentage because I was prepared, persistent, and flexible. Asking for what I wanted took work and planning, but it was always worth it – no matter the answer. I showed I was a leader and that I was always working to improve the library program to benefit students and teachers.

It pays to ask, otherwise… they are going to say “yes” to someone else.

 

ON LIBRARIES: Empathy – It’s Not Just for Students

After years of focusing solely on the cognitive area, educators have re-embraced the knowledge that learning has its basis in emotion.  We also recognize the need for the library to be a safe, welcoming environment for all.  Our professional journals discuss the importance of diversity in our collections so students can see themselves in books and also learn about those whose lives are much different. To achieve these goals, we want our students to develop empathy.  I just recently posted on my School Librarian’s Workshop Facebook group a list of picture books that promote empathy.  But there is little out there in library literature about becoming empathetic ourselves.

Empathy is one of the many qualities of leadership.  It’s a part of Emotional Intelligence which I have discussed before, including a blog about being Emotionally Connected. Since that post, it’s become increasingly obvious that we must better at it.  We need it to communicate more successfully with our students, use it to build relationships with our colleagues, and in today’s often highly-charged atmosphere, we need it to ensure we can get along even with those with whom we disagree.

LaRae Quy, whom I have quoted previously, writes Empathy Makes You a More Effective Leader. She makes six points to help you become empathetic starting with Understand[ing] the Meaning of Empathy. It’s not the same as sympathy.  That’s something you offer.  Empathy is about being open to receiving the other person’s emotions or feelings. If you know where the other person is coming from, it is far easier to connect with them.

What blocks most people when they try to read body language is their own determination and commitment to be right.  We have all dealt with administrators or teachers whose attitude is “my way or the highway.”  It doesn’t work. While you never want to communicate in that way, you will need your empathy skills to reach those people.

Quy says we need to Realize Empathy is Driven by Our Brain.   It’s the neurotransmitters in our brains that help us make connections with one another. The brain rewires to adjust to new situations and help us survive. Getting along with others is a survival mechanism that goes back to cave days.  Humans are very fragile creatures.  They quickly learned they needed to be with each other and work together for protection. If you think of a clan living together in the confines of a cave, it is easy to see why we recognized the importance of getting along.

In our schools today, there are bound to be colleagues who don’t think as we do. We aren’t going to change their minds by arguing.  Instead, do what you can to validate their views without violating your own beliefs. Before things get too heated, say something like, “We aren’t going to agree, but I respect your willingness to share your views.”  And say it like you mean it.

As has been often noted here in several contexts, it’s important to Pay Attention. Facial expressions and body movements all communicate what is going on in someone’s mind.  If you are thinking about what you are going to say, or even worse, what you have to do next, you will miss a lot of important information.

We also need to Communicate Empathetically. This begins by becoming aware of the cues others send. The signals we send our read by others.  If you are talking with a difficult teacher, is your body stiff?  Are your lips tight?  That will affect your voice as well.  When you are engaged in a conversation, tune in to yourself as well as others.

Active listening, which supports empathy, is a skill that can and must be learned. It’s one I’ve been working on for years. Do you look up from your computer when someone is talking to you? Better yet, do you stand up and move away from it? Our actions and body language communicate whether we are listening and another person’s willingness to open up is enhanced by our focus.

Finally, there is the tried-and-true Fake It Till You Make It. There may be people you feel you can never empathize with.  It can be done. Quy, who worked with the FBI, tells of managing to fake being empathetic with a child molester, finding that after faking it for a while she was able to develop a bit of real empathy. That is quite an extreme case but shows it can be done.  You just have to be willing to make the effort. Willingness goes a long way.

Looking at the ways we are creating relationships by using empathy – or not using it – can show us where we are succeeding or missing the mark when creating a library and library program which is a safe, welcoming environment for everyone.

ON LIBRARIES – Inquiring Minds

from The Purposeful PreSchool

Inquiry-based learning is embedded in our National School Library Standards. As the Key Commitment of the Shared Foundation, Inquire states, “Build new knowledge by inquiring, thinking critically, identifying problems, and developing strategies for solving problems” (AASL, National School Library Standards, p. 67). Inquiry is where learning begins, and we work hard to develop it in our students. In the business world, leaders are continually searching for “what’s next.”  They know that they can’t afford not to anticipate what is coming. They have to be ready to shift their business model, and sometimes we do, too.

Inquiry, or curiosity, is essential to lifelong learning.  And as role models for lifelong learning, we need to model it in our daily lives. Too often we have a passing curiosity about something new and because of time pressure we don’t Explore (another Shared Foundation) it, and we lose the opportunity to “discover and innovate” (AASL, National School Library Standards, p. 103).

Curious minds keep growing, and as I and many others have said, “You are either growing or dying.” To be a successful leader you need to curious about the world around you in large part because, as I mentioned in my blog a few weeks ago you are more than your job, however much that defines you.  Keep an eye on what’s happening outside the world of school librarianship, beyond education. Connect to what interests you as often as you can.

Obviously, curiosity is another quality of leadership and it is time to cultivate that mindset. The challenge is to do it when you are so busy just keeping up.  Once again, the business world has faced the same issue and offers a solution.

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Mara Swan explain What Happens When Leaders Lack Curiosity?  Interestingly, their first observation is that those with intellectual curiosity are more open to new experiences. They are more likely not to pre-judge people.  They are more tolerant and able to see beyond the narrow frame of their own perspective. They are, simply, more successful.

Tolerance for others is part of our Shared Foundation Include which has as a Key Commitment, “Demonstrates an understanding of and commitment to inclusiveness and respect for diversity in the learning community (AASL, National School Library Standards, p. 75). When you reach out to collaborate with teachers, do you choose the ones who are most like you?  Or do you recognize those with different backgrounds and interests can add a deeper dimension to the learning experience – and be a model for students?

Another characteristic of curiosity is being able to deal with ambiguous situations and issues. Although your roles as a school librarian are clearly spelled out in the National School Library Standards, how this plays out in your school setting is not always so clear.  Every day you are faced with people who think they know what you are to do and while they are usually right about part of your job but often doesn’t take in the whole nor see how the pieces all intersect.

One of you may have an administrator who is so enamored with technology, he or she wants you to focus on that exclusively.  Another is totally committed to literacy and only wants to see that in the library. There is nothing wrong with technology in the library and certainly reading is one of our Common Beliefs.  What you do is follow the directive you have been given.  And then you get creative. You support your Makerspace or STEM programs with books that stimulate thinking.  You read stories to the kids and have a display of nonfiction related to what you read.  You blur what you were told to do so you can deliver a comprehensive library program. In doing so, you make your students curious as well.

Most of all, Chamorro-Premuzic and Swan say curious people have a “hungry mind.” They are not committed to creating a plan and sticking with it no matter what.  They accept that things change and changing direction can improve the outcome. Indeed, that’s a concept we would like our students to develop around their research.

copyright Margret and H. A. Rey, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co

In March, I blogged on building students curiosity.  We need to cultivate it as well, no matter how busy we are.  To me, it seems librarians are naturally curious as a group.  We need to know – and we love knowing.  We can’t let the demands of our job keep us from this vital leadership quality. I hope you find lots of ways to indulge and enjoy your curiosity this summer

ON LIBRARIES: Makerspaces – A Lesson In Leadership

When Makerspaces burst onto the scene several years ago, it was the public libraries that led the way.  Proactive school librarians seized on the idea and, after a slow start, they are now in many schools, although not always in the library.  On the whole, it seemed to be an easy advocacy tool, increasing a positive perception of the library.  But not everyone has been happy with Makerspaces.  A few places have reduced or eliminated them.  Is this the new trend?  Were Makerspaces a fad that is fading?  Not really, but the reasons behind some of the dissatisfaction with them provides a good lesson on leading.

The first school librarians who incorporated Makerspaces were leaders, as early adopters usually are.  Most often they moved into it slowly, minimizing the risk of investing too heavily in a project before knowing the pitfalls.  You do have to be careful when blazing a trail, but those following shouldn’t assume the path is clear.

At the initial obstacles were financial, but eventually, the spaces became about more than expensive equipment like 3-D printers. Vendors, seeing a growing market began, producing affordable kits that were a natural for Makerspaces.  And they thrived and grew. Contributions and expansion into what had been seen only as hobbies and crafts made it easier to develop Makerspaces on a shoestring.  The kids were creating, problem-solving, and having fun.  The tie-in to STEAM which was a growing education trend made it even more appealing.

Click on the image to read the article at Knowledge Quest

All was going well until a few blips appeared.  Some librarians reported problems with Makerspaces which was an uncomfortable thing to share because everyone was still talking about how great the spaces were. Because only a few were having difficulties, the issue was ignored. People were too excited about this new “toy” and it’s embarrassing to have a problem when the vast majority are being wildly successful. But the truth is, there is a growing challenge to having and maintaining this aspect of your program.

Makerspaces had trouble when they were suggested to the librarian instead of by the librarian.  The fact that administrators loved the concept when librarians introduced it was a plus for the movement.  But when Makerspaces are implemented under the principals’ direction, they lose much of the advocacy opportunities, and how it is put into the library can have a negative effect on the program.  What has happened in some districts is that the administrator puts all the focus on the Makerspace to the exclusion of nearly everything else including literacy activities.  The principal believes he/she has a cutting age library program when in reality the true 21st teaching is being lost.

Makerspaces also tend not to be successful when the librarian plunges into it believing the simple existence of one makes it an advocacy tool.  If all you do is read the “contents” of a Makerspace and come close to duplicating it, you won’t have a successful program.  Leaders know planning is the key to success.

And planning always begins by reviewing your Mission and Vision (and possibly your Philosophy). How

From https://www.chiefoutsiders.com/blog/not-screw-up-value-proposition

will this addition help further these? In what way?  Who are the stakeholders?  How can you spread the word to the community?  Is there a way to involve them so they know and possibly participate in the aims and achievements of the Makerspace or whatever you are promoting?

Programs do not exist in a vacuum.  They need to be tied to something and your Mission and Vision helps you define their purpose and their ultimate goals. Planning should also remind you that nothing stays the same.  It either grows or dies. You don’t put a Makerspace into place and then just keep repeating it.  You need to assess what is happening with students.  Where do you want to take them next? How can you help them think deeper, bigger, and more critically?

Makerspaces can be wonderful. They are truly student-centered, promote inquiry, and creativity.  They can be tied to literature as well as STEAM.  They can be an important component of your advocacy plan.  BUT you have to plan.  It’s what leaders do.

 

ON LIBRARIES: Are You Successful?

I suspect many of you would answer the title question in the negative. I hear from many librarians who are feeling frustrated and exhausted, and while I understand their reasons, it causes me great concern.  These symptoms, if prolonged, lead to burnout and that in turn results in not giving your best to your students and teachers.

But what can you do when you are overworked and under-appreciated?  The answer begins with changing your mindset. When you change your mindset, you can start recognizing you are far more successful than you think. I am not saying you aren’t working under stressful conditions, but it’s how you react to them, how you internalize them, which can make all the difference in the situation.

Our new National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries refers to having a “growth mindset” which is the antithesis of a “fixed mindset.”  It is defined as “people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work.  This view creates a love of learning and resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” (p. 276)

And you definitely need resilience to deal with what is on your plate.

You certainly believe that a growth mindset is important for your students. But how about you? You are working hard but are you working towards your mission, your purpose? Are you only seeing what you aren’t accomplishing and the negatives around you? That will only move you into a downward spiral.

I challenge you to define what success would look like.  What do you think being successful with your students looks like?  With teachers?  With administrators? Your list likely has places where you haven’t achieved what you consider success.  But look a bit more closely.

You are undoubtedly more successful with your students than you are giving yourself credit for.  Has a student thanked you for your help in some way lately?  What about any relationships you have developed with teachers?  Has one of them expressed any appreciation for something you have done? Have you made any inroads with your principal?

I recently read an article by Jillian Kramer entitled 4 Myths We Are Taught about Success. This comes from the business world but there are strong connections to what we are dealing with every day.

Her first myth is one I have discussed before, “If You Are Good at Your Job, You’ll Get Promoted.”  You are good, and no one is noticing you.  True in the business world and true for us.  And what does she recommend to change this?  Build relationships – and focus on your next step.

The second myth, “You Must Start Young,” doesn’t seem to connect – but it does.  The point is yesterday doesn’t matter.  It’s what you do today.  Where do you want to go? How will you get there?  And then, start NOW.

The third is “You Must Kill Yourself to Succeed.”  Some of you are trying that route.  It doesn’t work.  You feel like a martyr and you have nothing left for what’s really important in your life.  Working late everyday is not a recipe for success.  Try my mantra, “Everything will get done. It always does.” This really means if it’s a priority, you will make it happen.

The final myth is, “You Must Play Politics.”  Guess what? In business and in our world, that kind of approach is obvious to everyone. Being a team player is not being a brown-nose. On the other hand, you do need to know what your stakeholders’ goals are, whether you are referring to administrators or teachers. That’s how you successfully connect your library program to what matters to them.

It’s easy to focus on all the negatives in our lives. Obviously, they must be dealt with, but when we bring them to close to our vision, we see nothing beyond it. I counter that habit by keeping a Success Journal.  Each day I record whatever has occurred that makes me feel successful. (Such as completing my blog for the week.)

Learning to take a wider view will help you establish a more positive mindset, which will improve how you see your world and yourself. Ultimately, I hope you will discover you are far more successful than you thought.

ON LIBRARIES: In the Award Spotlight

This past week AASL announced it 2018 award winners.  Next year you could be one of them. Does that scare you? Thrill you? Both? Good!

Now is the perfect time to think about going for one of the AASL awards. School is almost over everywhere.  (Some of you have only a few days left.) You have the benefit of more free time over summer to choose the best award for you and get your application organized. Most of them will be due February 1, 2019. In past blogs, I have alluded to applying for awards as a way to get noticed for what you do.  For those of you who are still unsure about putting yourself forward as a leader, this is a potential first step.

There is one caveat.  You must be a member of ALA/AASL to qualify – and too few librarians belong to our national association. 

Joining has so many benefits – developmental, social, and even financial.  For example, everyone needs to own the new National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. The hefty price tag of $199 is reduced to a far more reasonable $99 if you are a member of ALA/AASL, and first-year membership costs $119.  So for an additional $19 you get your membership and the standards.

Going back to the awards options, AASL offers a number of awards and grants and, with some preparation, one will fit with what you are doing. My favorite grant, for several reasons, is the Ruth Toor Grant for Strong Public School Libraries. Some of you may know that for more than 30 years Ruth and I co-authored 14 books for school librarians, the last three for ALA Editions.  We also wrote and edited The School Librarian’s Workshop, a bi-monthly newsletter, which eventually lead to a growing, supportive Facebook group over 7,000 strong.

 

The Ruth Toor Grant for Strong Public School Libraries is sponsored by Ruth’s husband, Jay Toor and speaks to something Ruth, and I, have always been passionate about – creating a public awareness/marketing campaign promoting the school library program as a necessary resource.  The grant winner gets $3,000 to carry out the campaign.  Another $2,000 goes to the librarian and an administrator (or volunteer parent) to attend an AASL or ALA conference. It is not one of the simplest grants to apply for, so I recommend it for an established librarian.  It is a fairly large grant, and you should build in many opportunities for widespread coverage of whatever event is part of your campaign.  Whether you get the grant or not – do what you can to carry out the campaign you create (you may be able to find some local funding if you need it) and get you and your program recognition from the administration.

Have you and a teacher worked together on a learning opportunity that was highly successful? One where students created new information and were thoroughly engaged?  If so, you are ready to apply for the Collaborative School Library Award, which is not nearly as complicated. The winner of this award, sponsored by Upstart, receives $2,500.  If you start putting this together now, be mindful that the criteria refer to meet standards in Empowering Learners. I am sure it will soon be updated to require using the National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries (see, another reason you need a copy of this!)

If your successful collaborative unit is about Social Justice, look at the criteria for the Roald Dahl Miss Honey Social Justice Award.  Your project should “expose social injustice while at the same time inspiring … students to repair the world through justice, service, or advocacy.” Possible themes are genocide, civil liberties, and local issues on the topic. The winner of the award, sponsored by Penguin Random House, receives $2,000. Additionally, there is up to $1,000 reimbursement for travel to attend the AASL Awards at the ALA Annual Conference – and a $5,000 book donation from Penguin Random House. That will boost your collection – and put your program in your administration’s spotlight.

The $2,500 Innovative Reading Grant, sponsored by Capstone, is for a unique program, motivating reading, particularly among struggling readers. Up to four grants are available for the Inspire Collection Development Grant, sponsored by Marina “Marnie” Welmars.  The grants go to middle or high school librarians (grades 5-12) in public schools with 85% or more of the students qualifying for Free/Reduced Lunch Program.

The most challenging award to apply for and the one requiring the most developed programs is the National School Library Program of the Year. Sponsored by Follett, it is meant to showcase exemplary programs. As such, they ensure that “the students and staff are effective users of ideas and information. These programs empower learners to be critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skillful researchers and ethical users of information.” Winners receive $10,000 and a lot of attention, starting when finalists get visits from the award committee.  If you want to tackle this award, you will not only need to start early but, as the guideline suggests, do check the rubric. (Also use the National School Library Standards, not the old standards.) 

Look over these awards and grant and see which one you might win with an investment of time and a bit of risk-taking.  There is a link to the past/current winning entry for each of them so you can see what was previously submitted and impressed the judges. Consider emailing the librarian if you have questions. Next year you could be honored at the AASL Awards luncheon.

 

ON LIBRARIES – Community Outreach

So you’ve have been working hard to be a leader in your building.  The teachers have come to rely on you and, hopefully, you have made your administrator aware of what you have been doing to improve student achievement, guiding them to being critical thinkers and lifelong learners. That is wonderful!

And it’s not enough.

Budget shortfalls can have a devastating effect. You need community support behind you and your library program.  The time to begin is now, not when the crisis hits. Remember, advocacy is not about you advocating for your program. It’s about getting others to advocate for it.  To recognize your value and that of your program.

You need to reach an audience beyond your school to build advocates who have discovered what a school library program means to students, teachers, and the community as a whole. Remember, in many places the whole town votes on the budget.  Some won’t want to support your program, particularly if they don’t have children in the schools. In addition, when most people think of school libraries, they picture the one they had when they were in school.  To their mind, it seems rather dated.  What can you do to change the picture – change the story about school libraries they have in their head?

Slowly become a presence in your community.  Start with the public library.  You can build a collaborative/cooperative program with them. See if they will allow you to showcase student learning happening in your library. Display student-produced work. You can return the support by posting information about the public library in your school showing the students how this additional resource can help them.

Next, consider the many groups in your town.  Is there a Historical Society? A garden club?  Perhaps they would like to do a display in your library – and you can augment it with material from your collection.  Get your local news outlet – newspaper or cable – to cover it.

Are there local businesses who might be able to contribute to your Makerspaces?  Either supplies or leading a session or both?  If you are in a high school, could they do a special program talking about what they want from interns or employees? Consider holding the event in the evening so that parents can come as well.

Just don’t tackle everything at once.  That will overwhelm you which leads to giving up, and you don’t want that. Have a goal then consider slow steps to achieve it.  To help you be more successful in your community outreach, ALA has to the School Library Health and Wellness Toolkit.  After an excellent explanation of advocacy and how it must be approached, it provides a systematic 5-step way to build support, including helpful resources.

In Step 1, you are directed to identify your stakeholders. The list starts with students and continues with parents, teachers, and administrators, ending with community members and legislators. For each stakeholder, the toolkit offers “sample issues, concerns, priorities, and needs.”

Step 2 has you think about ways to solve stakeholder problems and concerns through library programming. It reminds you when considering stakeholder priorities that your efforts need to be about their priorities, not the “library needs and wants.” Everyone wants to know what’s in it for them.

Step 3 briefly points to the need to market to your stakeholders and “educate” them about the library program.  Once again you need to consider to whom you are sending the message and what is the best way to deliver it.

Step 4 focuses on evaluation and evidence.  You need to measure how successful you are being so you can make adjustments.  And you need evidence to show what libraries do. Focus “on data that shows contributions to educational goals.  In particular, have data showing contributions to student achievement and the development of 21st Century work and learning skills”

The final step is sharing your findings. Don’t wait to be asked. “Sharing positive data and evidence before a situation is critical is key to preventing cuts. Make positive messages and proof of student learning part of the culture of the library program.”

A list of “Quick Tips” follows along with links to a number of resources including a Sample Library PowerPoint Presentation “Powerful Library School Program.”  And don’t forget the ALA initiative Libraries Transform. Scroll down to the colored boxes with their powerful slogans.  Clicking on each gives you more information to back up the statement.

Like Leadership, Community Outreach is not an option. It must be included in your strategic advocacy planning.  Again – start small, use the online resources as your PLN (including our Facebook page) and don’t stop.

ON LIBRARIES: Saying Yes – and No

It’s important for leaders – and you are a leader—to step out and take on new challenges. Moving out of your comfort zone is how you learn and grow.  I would venture to say you’ve already done this in so many places in your life, not just in librarianship. My personal leadership journey took a leap forward when I started volunteering in my state association, then called EMANJ now NJASL. Over time, however, I’ve learned when it’s important to step into a new opportunity and when I need to say no. “No” can be a very effective leadership tool.

I learned so much about leadership and leading when I became president of NJASL.  It was a bit scary at the time, but I had a lot of support.  And it built my confidence which was an important benefit. I took another leap forward when my position as president-elect and then president took me to the AASL Affiliate Assembly.  Suddenly I was swimming in a bigger pool.  There were so many leaders with more experience than I had, but they were easy to approach and always extremely helpful.

I also was developing a much broader perspective. I began learning what the other library associations in my region and the country were dealing with and what they were doing.  Many of their challenges were the same as my state’s, others were not.  Occasionally their issues surfaced in my state at a later time.  Not only was I prepared, I knew whom to reach for advice.

From the state level, I moved on to AASL committees. Each one focused on a different aspect of school librarianship.  I have been on so many over the years including an early one on strategic planning, programming for the AASL Conference, the Fall Forum, several Task Forces, and Advocacy.  Committees change over the years, but they were all key learning experiences. Almost every time I accepted an appointment to a committee or task force, I felt I didn’t know as much as I would like to be able to do a good job.  No worries.  The chair knew, and I was able to learn on the job.

I was very secure in my AASL niche.  Then I was appointed as AASL liaison to ALA committees.  Time to step out of my comfort zone. The pool became huge.  I understood school libraries, but now I was working with public, academic, government, and special librarians.  Their world was very different from mine.

When I am on an AASL committee I can count on knowing at least some of the members.  It’s not quite the same when it’s ALA, but the same welcoming response I found in AASL was here as well.  I have gotten to know presidents and past presidents of ALA and other major leaders and have a much larger perspective on how each type of library impacts all the others.

As a result of my ongoing volunteering for ALA and AASL (and I am going back to Affiliate Assembly as my state’s delegate after several years away), my ability to talk to those outside our field about the value of school libraries—and all libraries—has increased incrementally.  I have the vocabulary and the fluency to communicate these ideas. I have often said I should have received CEU credits from what I have learned.

Saying yes to new opportunities is a positive and an important aspect of leadership, but what about saying, “no?” When is that powerful?The answer depends on why you are saying it. I first blogged about “The Stories We Tell Ourselves” in 2015 and have expanded on it.  There are always reasons to say no. But too often these prevent you from becoming the leader you absolutely need to be.  But sometimes a leader must learn to say no.

When you have been a leader for a long time and are accustomed to getting out of your comfort zone, saying yes becomes your automatic response.  But recently I came face-to-face with the need to step back.

As a number of you know, a few weeks ago I had major surgery and for the most part was not able to take care of many of my daily tasks from online teaching to committee work for two weeks.  My natural tendency is to quickly get back to what I was doing.  But I had to accept I couldn’t resume everything at once.  I have to go more slowly.

It’s easy to help others.  It’s hard to ask for and accept help but that’s a component of leadership as well.  In addition to delegating, it’s important to trust others in the different areas of your life to step into the breach. In some cases, it’s empowering.  For example, one of my students took on a leadership role in getting her classmates to continue posting on the online Discussion Board and supporting each other.  In my personal life family members, including extended ones, have been there to help, some in unexpected ways.

I’m still impatient to get up to full speed.  I’m dealing with a steep learning curve with regards to some new (and hopefully temporary limitations) and reminding myself to draw on past successes to maintain my confidence.  Leadership is a continual learning activity, and I expect it will always continue to be one of mine.

ON LIBRARIES: Expect the Unexpected

THIS WEEK GUEST BLOGGER: Rona Gofstein

Last Tuesday, Hilda went to the ER with stomach issues and before the day was out she needed emergency surgery. As of this morning, she’s still in the hospital but will soon be heading to a rehab facility before going home. Needless to say… this wasn’t on her to do list.

As the first person who reads her blogs and then edits them, I offered to write one for her this week, and in preparing to do so I thought about the things Hilda focuses on most often: leadership, community, and communication.  I can tell you all of those things played a part this last week.

When the word went out among her friends and family, people called, sent flowers and a few headed out to the hospital. Community came together. There were comments and posts throughout social media, hopes for a speedy recovery pouring in to Hilda and her husband. There is nothing like a sudden health issue to make you feel alone and isolated. I know Hilda felt the connection of her community who reached out in so many ways to help.

As for communication,  being able to communicate clearly with doctors and other care providers is very important.  Hilda has worked hard this past week, starting when she was arrived at the hospital, to be clear about what was wrong, how long the problem existed and, now that she’s in a patient room, what she needs to be comfortable and support her own recovery. This includes asking for the support she needs to take regular walks, get what she needs for pain management, and reaching out to family for things she needs them to bring (I can tell you, her Nook was at the hospital almost immediately).

Then there’s leadership. What to say about leadership?

I think John Allen Paulus said it best with, “Uncertainty is the only certainty there is.”  There is no way to avoid surprises whether that’s a class showing up in the library unexpectedly, a beloved principal retiring, or  your car not starting at the end of the day. It’s rarely fun; it’s frequently unsettling; and there’s no getting away from it.

As a leader, it’s important to use what skills you already have – and frequently these include communication and community – to make the situation into one which doesn’t take you away from your long term goals and mission. In fact, I think Hilda would be quick to remind us this is one of the marks of a strong leader, and one of the benefits of being clear on your mission and vision. If you know where you want to end up, then the unexpected won’t have the dramatic or long term results that they might other

I know you’ll join me in wishing Hilda a speedy recovery. And as we writers say, when life throws something unexpected at you, yell “PLOT TWIST” and keep moving forward!