ON LIBRARIES: Time To Move On

The question is a bit shocking. Although people in other professions do it all the time, librarians and teachers rarely consider changing jobs unless they aren’t rehired. It is probably related to tenure which makes us never think of the possibility.

There are three reasons to start thinking about finding a new job. The reasons range from the obvious to the surprising –at least for those of us in education.  (And even if you don’t fall into any of the three categories, it’s wise to be prepared.)

The most obvious reason is moving.  Your spouse got a transfer or for some other reason, you are going to be pulling up stakes and moving too far away to continue in your current job. Finding a new position can be challenging particularly if you are changing states. You need to research and network.

The research will tell you how complicated it will be to move your certification to your new location and how to go about it. You can also find out about which are the best school districts and salary scales. Networking involves connecting to the school library association. You can’t get on their listserv if you aren’t a member, so join quickly.  Introduce yourself there and on their Facebook page which they are most likely to have.  Ask about job openings. This is not a time to be shy.

The second reason is you dread going to work most days. Everyone has some bad days, but if you rarely have a good one, it is time to move on.  Maybe your workload keeps increasing.  No matter what you try, your administration only thinks of you when they have another job you can take on. Your teachers are so exhausted and demoralized they can’t possibly collaborate with you. The school culture, which I wrote about last week, also will inform this situation.

This is when you need to accept the truth that you are no longer doing well by your students or your teachers.  Your schedule keeps you from doing the things that were why you became a librarian. Your first step is to start checking your state association’s listserv.  If you see any vendors let them know you are looking.  January is a good time of year as districts will soon be getting ready to hire for the fall.

The final reason I’m going to offer is not obvious.  Most of us can see the proverbial handwriting on the wall but few act on it. These are the times you know things are almost undoubtedly going to go downhill, but you just stay put.  It’s like knowing a train wreck is coming and doing nothing about it.  Sometimes you need to trust yourself and take a big leap no matter how scary it seems.

I lived through this.  I had been in a district for twenty-two years. The last five or so I had a principal who was an egotistical bully and a liar. But I had great teachers and a strong program.  I also had a superintendent of schools who always knew what was happening everywhere in the district.  She was the one who had transferred me to the high school six years before this principal showed up because she liked what I was bringing to the educational community.

Then my superintendent announced she was retiring in two years.  I immediately called her and said I was job hunting.  She urged me to stay, but I could read that handwriting clearly.  The assistant superintendent would get her job and stay for three years to get a larger pension.  He was a nice guy but had nowhere near her strength or vision.

Once he was gone my principal would become the superintendent of schools and my life would be all about managing him and working to keep him from undermining my program. Dealing with him would drain so much of my energy, it would affect all aspects of my job.  And it would affect my home life likely leading me to come home so angry at his latest tactic I would rant and rave to my husband.  I knew he would just tell me to quit.

No sense in waiting for his advice.  I decided to act.  There was going to be a workshop on the automation system we used at one library in a great school district. I let the librarian who was hosting know I was job hunting, and she said she was retiring at the end of the school year. I made the necessary contact with the district’s H.R. department and had an interview scheduled for a few hours before the workshop.   By the end of the week, I had a job offer and a signed contract. When I told my superintendent, she asked me to give the principal a chance and to talk with him.

My meeting with him quickly proved me right.  He had no trouble or issues with my leaving. He told me he had done their Middle States Evaluation and talked about their great budget.  Since it would be a much longer drive to work, he suggested I try audiobooks.

I had a wonderful time in my new district and discovered how much I had learned over the years. When I would return for retirement parties at my old district, I found out I had correctly read the situation there.  Four years later, my former principal was the Superintendent of Schools.  And the teachers kept telling me how smart I was for getting out.

Yes, I lost my tenure.  But I knew that I wouldn’t want to work for any district that didn’t grant me tenure.  What I really gave up was my sick days, but only in the short run.  It was worth it.

Next week I will blog on how to get the job you want.

 

 

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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.

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 – Gift Giving

Merry Christmas to those celebrating today!  I hope you received the gifts you wanted.  For those of you who are with family and friends this holiday weekend, being with them can be a gift in itself. For those who find themselves on their own at this season, I wish quiet peace and finding the strength and courage to fill your life with joy. For all of you, I wish time to relax and rejuvenate.  Too often we go from our hectic jobs to an almost frenetic pace preparing for and participating in the holidays.  Before you know it, your vacation is over and you return to your libraries exhausted.

So, take a breath.  Look around. And savor the gifts you have in your life.

It’s too easy to identify what you wish for and don’t have.  Instead, reflect and focus on what you have and all perhaps take for granted.  Commercials and appeal letters in the mail remind me of the many people who don’t have the simple basics of life that we take for granted such as fresh water and ample food (too much for many of us at this time of year).

Give yourself the gift of time. It’s so lacking in our lives. If you live by your to-do list as I do, include yourself on the list. Binge watch a favorite television program you have been too busy to watch. (My daughter recently couldn’t stop talking about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime). Read a book you want to read.  Play some board games.  Do what you enjoy that you haven’t been doing because of the tasks that occupy so much of your life.

For me, I make sure to go out for a walk.  I have been doing this 3-5 times a week for a few years now.  It’s what I do for me.  It gets me away from my computer and out in the world.  I have met so many wonderful people on the way.  Sometimes they even toot their horn and wave when they drive past.  I watch the seasons change, and pet dogs on their own walks.  I have watched exterior home improvements happening, seen people sell their homes and new owners move in.

Most of all I take this time think.  Sometimes it’s about what my I should write for this blog.  Other times I contemplate what I am going to eat. (I am a lifetime Weight Watcher member.) And in-between random and focused thoughts, my mind unclutters. It’s peaceful and my own form of meditation.

Make time to appreciate yourself.  Many of you feel unappreciated at work (and sometimes at home).  Think of the gifts you give to others.  What do you do for your family?  What do you do for your teachers and students?  If you are doing it because it’s who you are, and only on bad days do you feel you are being taken for granted, give yourself a pat on the back.

How many times have students thanked you for your help?  Don’t gloss over their words.  They recognize the gifts you give to them.  Remember the time teachers also thanked you.  They, too, are harried and over-worked.  They may not take time to express their gratitude, but when you reach out to them and build relationships, you will hear it more often.

Do give thanks to others.  Make it a practice to thank those who in any way are helpful to you. If you are specific in your thanks, as I noted in last weeks blog “The Power and Importance of Feedback,” you will help make their day.

Being true to my own words, I am thankful to all my readers and the participants in my Facebook group and to the extensive librarian colleagues and friends in my life.  You make my days richer. You are there to answer my questions and to post comments that keep me learning.  It is challenging for me to keep up since I no longer work in a school library, but thanks to you, I am not lost in the past. I thank you for that gift.

Enjoy your vacation – and the gifts you get and bring.  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

 

 

 

ON LIBRARIES – The Gift of Gratitude and Generosity

Thanksgiving in North America is over and the December holidays will soon be upon us.  While many take time on Thanksgiving to reflect on all the reasons they have to be thankful, the day is barely over before we are bombarded with the frenzy typified by Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Whether it’s adults scrambling to buy gifts and decorate the house, or kids campaigning to get something they can’t live without, the holidays can become more about material goods than people and celebration of thing that last beyond the life of a AA battery. It makes you want to hibernate instead.

We live in a stress-filled world. Our students are stressed as well.  Not only does this interfere with thinking clearly, it also causes us to focus on negatives.  It becomes so easy to complain, we forget what we have. You could easily fill a page with what is wrong on the job and in your life.  But what do you get from that? Let’s face it – it’s easy, but it doesn’t help or work. It’s not good for building relationships and it ends up making the library much less of a welcoming environment.

When I focus on having an “attitude of gratitude,” as corny and meme-like as that might sound, I recognize how fortunate I am.  I am grateful for the joy my family brings me, having work I enjoy doing, and the wonderful friendships I have within the library world. (Before I retired, I also recognized how fortunate I was in having colleagues who became friends and students who thanked me every day for the help I had given them.)  To ensure that I do think of the good things in my life, I keep a gratitude journal.  Each day I record two things for which I am grateful—big or small.

When you keep your focus on gratitude and the things that are going well in your life, the world becomes a nicer place.  Your problems don’t go away, but they don’t constantly dominate your thinking.  As a result, you feel less stressed which leads to additional positive benefits. It changes your body language and tone of your voice.  You become a calm port in the raging seas of others’ emotions, which run high at this time of year for many reasons.  People who interact with you come away feeling relaxed and supported.

In the spirit of the season, you could set up a Gratitude Jar near the circulation desk along with small pieces of paper and pens.  Encourage students and whoever else cares to join in to write something for which they are grateful and put it in the jar.  Signing is optional.  You might even set up a Gratitude bulletin board and post some submissions placed in the jar, changing them every few days. It’s someone everyone can participate in – teachers, students, volunteers, and administrators.

And since I always talk about this – while I have not seen it listed in any article I have read, I believe gratitude is a quality of leadership. Strong leaders are aware of what is working in their programs as much as they are aware of where there is potential for growth. They are grateful for what they have in their lives and the people who work with or for them.  And good leaders are quick to express that gratitude.

From Richer Life Journey

The season is also a reminder to be generous.  There are so many ways we can and do give to our family, friends, and communities.  It may be money, as many of us contribute to various charities this time of year, but it may also be the gift of time or sharing our talents with the world.

Time is a very precious commodity in our world.  Do you volunteer at a soup kitchen?  Serve on your state library association or AASL?  There are countless ways to give back.  My daughter’s childhood friend “scarf-bombs” Detroit, leaving hand knitted scarves that she makes all year long in key spots around the city. Each scarf has a note which reads: If you’re cold you can keep me. If you know someone who’s cold, please take me to them. She’s made and delivered over 400 scarves in the past three years.

Children love knowing their time and efforts can make a difference. In some schools, the produce of gardening projects is donated to soup kitchens and food banks. Other districts do food and/or coat drives or even collect gently used books to give to those who don’t have them.  What other ways can students show generosity?

You could also create a Generosity Jar to encourage students and others to be mindful of giving back.  Using the same system as with the Gratitude Jar, people can write all the ways they have helped others in the past year.  Consider posting some questions to help students recognize how they can give back. Did they clean up their room or the dishes without being asked?  Did they help a friend with homework?

We all have much in our lives to be grateful for and most of us do find ways to give.  I truly believe when we become aware of Gratitude and Generosity in our lives, we make our own world a better place and positively affect the larger world as well.

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: Still Feeling Alone?

Image by © Monalyn Gracia/Corbis

Feeling alone on a daily basis is a common challenge for many librarians.  It’s bad enough being the sole librarian in the school –or possibly the district—but when teachers don’t see you as one of them, you feel isolated. Why does it happen?  What can you do about it?

I’m not going to suggest you build your PLN or join library-related Facebook groups.  I already did that in my May blog The Myth of the Lonely Librarian.  I am also assuming you now have contacts with your librarian colleagues across the country.

And yet you still feel lonely.

It’s how the job seems to you every day while you are at school that’s the problem, and a lot of librarians feel this way. So consider this a deeper look at the issue.

First a look at the why.  In far too many places, teachers (and administrators) have a very sketchy idea what school

librarians do.  Teachers see their schedules as overburdened and from their standpoint at the elementary level you just read to kids or at the middle and high schools watch them as they work.  No grading.  Maybe no lesson plans.  Easy job. Some of you have even heard teachers say this.  Those of you who have moved from the classroom to the library may have had a colleague say, “Are you enjoying your easier life?”  It rankles because you know how far from the truth that is.

Trying to explain the range of your job and how challenging it usually is isn’t effective. If you tell the truth and say you are working harder than ever, your teacher friends won’t believe you and probably won’t really hear if you try listing all your tasks and responsibilities.  It’s better to just say, “Not easier, as much as different,” and leave it at that.

Now let’s look at what to do.  Start by changing your mindset.  Right now you are feeling angry and frustrated—and isolated. While the emotions are understandable, they won’t change the situation and may make it worse.

Whether or not you express your feelings, they are communicated. As I have said before, and research bears this out, much of communication is non-verbal.  People read your attitude from your body language and the tone in your voice you can’t always control.

A helpful switch can be: “I can win them over, one teacher at a time.” To do this, you have to work on building relationships.  And you will have to do that one teacher at a time.

Do you eat at your desk because you are so busy or do you join the teachers for lunch at least a few times a week? Join the teachers. Trust me. I know it’s difficult to do, but much is at stake.  As you build relationships you also build the foundation for collaboration/cooperation.

At lunch, don’t push your way into conversations, particularly at the beginning.  Listen for any mention of units they are working on.  Then prepare a “gift package” of websites and other resources. Email them with what you have, saying “I heard your class is studying this topic and I thought this would help you.”  Add you also have some books waiting for them in the library.  If you included a tech website or app, let them know you can show them how to use it with their students.

Do your best to arrange to do a “show and tell” for a portion of their grade level or department meeting.  Bring books and check them out while there.  You can take their names and the title back to the library to put then into the system.  Present one or two great new websites or apps such as the ones on AASL’s Best Websites for Teaching & Learning and Best Apps for Teaching & Learning. No more than two. You don’t want to overwhelm them.

And let’s face it – food is always a lure, so keep snacks and coffee available for teachers in a separate room for when they are there. Don’t besiege them with ideas for collaborative projects when they first stop by. Wait until they become frequent visitors, then mention an idea.

Slowly the teachers’ connection to you will build.  They will begin to see you as a helpful and possibly vital resource who makes their life easier.  When they initiate the contact and come to you for help, you have succeeded.

By not defending yourself and trying to tell teachers that your job is at least as challenging as theirs, you achieve your ultimate goal.  Instead, you’ll create a relationship where you work together cooperatively or collaboratively on projects, and you will no longer feel they are treating you as someone less than or not connected to them.

Initially, most teachers don’t have a good idea of what you do and what you can do for them.  But in actuality, unless you taught that grade level, you don’t know exactly what the teachers’ day looks like either. You certainly don’t know what your principal’s day is like.  When you build these relationships, you earn their respect and have them value you as a colleague.

What have you done to foster collegiality with teachers or administration?  Are you regarded as one of them?  Do you always say “we” when talking about you and the teachers? What challenges are you still facing? What support do you need?

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 – Know Your Value

Value. According to the dictionary: (1) the regard that something is held to deserve; (2) the importance, worth or usefulness of something; (3) a person’s principles or standards of behavior.  We use the word a lot, too often to bemoan the fact we and our programs are not valued. But there are other ways this word comes into play.

We are committed to our professional values as stated in ALA’s Code of Ethics and the Library Bill of Rights. In addition, some of you have your own professional values encapsulated in a Philosophy Statement which I discussed in a blog last January on the Value of Values.

What I have been calling a Philosophy Statement is closely aligned to what the business world refers to as a Values Statement.  Sounds more important somehow.  The Business Dictionary defines it as:

“A declaration that informs the customers and staff of a business about the firm’s top priorities and what its core beliefs are. Companies often use a value statement to help them identify with and connect to targeted consumers, as well as to remind employees about its priorities and goals.”

Translating this into the education world is relatively easy.  The “core beliefs” are your philosophy.  If you haven’t written one yet, you can base yours on the Common Beliefs of the new AASL Standards. The “top priorities” are what’s new.

Do you know your top priorities?  Those who are working from a strategic plan have at least two or three identified in their goals.  But to what extent do those goals help you “identify with and connect to targeted customers?”  In the case of the library, your customers are your students, the teachers, and the administration.

Crafting a Values Statement is a new way to look at how you focus your program. The Free Management Library: Online Integrated Library for Personal, Professional, and Organizational Development has a web page on the Basics of Developing Mission, Vision, and Values Statements. Review what they have on Mission and Vision Statements, but once you have them, go on to the five steps that describe how to construct a Values Statement.

The terminology may be a bit difficult to wade through at first but you will get the idea.  One of which is that Mission, Vision, and Values Statements are the foundation of strategic planning. And you all need a strategic plan so you are always working toward achieving meaningful goals.

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

In 7 Ways Not to Screw Up Your Value Proposition, Mark Caronna states, “a value proposition is a powerful summary of who you are and what you offer.  It defines what is distinct and valuable for those prospects and customers that you want to reach.”  He goes on to say:

“Your value proposition needs to be solidly founded on your distinctive competencies.  Value propositions aren’t aspirational (that’s the role of a Vision Statement).  They translate what is unique about your business into something unique … and of value to your customers.”

In other words, what does your program provide that no one else in the school does?  And more importantly, what makes it of value to administrators, teachers, and students.  Be sure you frame the statement in words your stakeholders understand.  The simpler the better.

Here is a Values Statement from a public library:

Tompkins Public Library (Ithaca, NY) Core Values

  • A welcoming environment to enjoy the written and spoken word, cultural programs, and the arts
  • A well-maintained and safe facility
  • Lifelong learning
  • A vibrant community and the library’s role in as an active community citizen
  • The importance of continuously evolving to meet changing community needs
  • Privacy and confidentiality in patron use of library resources
  • Intellectual freedom and the freedom to read

And here’s another:

The Haverhill Public Library (MA) – its Board of Trustees, staff and volunteers – is committed to the following values.

  • We value the library as a public forum: it is a community facility for open communication of ideas and information; its collection, displays, programs and services reflect an array of opinions and viewpoints.
  • We value our customers by responding to them with equal, respectful, accurate and friendly service to all.
  • We value reading and learning and promote both for all ages.
  • We value full and equal access to information, the building, its services and its programs.
  • We value the collection of and accessibility to information in all formats: print, electronic, audio and video.
  • We value the community by being active participants in it, endeavoring to enhance the quality of community life.
  • We value the privacy of our users by keeping their transactions strictly confidential.

Note that some statements are about professional values while others are of value to the community. Your Values Statement – best done in a bulleted list as these are—should have a similar mix.

I have long recommended that Mission and Vision Statements be framed and hung where anyone using the library can see them. Your Value Statement belongs on your website, but it’s a bit too long to do that.  Instead, create a word cloud to display your Values.  It will definitely catch the eyes of your users.

What would you include in your Values Statement?  Which ones are of value to your stakeholders?