ON LIBRARIES: What’s Your Why

Being a school librarian is a demanding job.  We love it – until we don’t.  Too many added tasks.  Too little appreciation.  Fear of being eliminated.  All these contribute to losing our passion for what I think is the greatest job in the world.  Don’t let outside forces drain the love you have for being a librarian.  When times get tough, having a limited view of our purpose can cause us to give up.  You need to identify your “Why.” When you make this connection you’ll be able to tap into your passion and even bad days will go better.

I first learned about “Why” in Weight Watchers.  Everyone joins to lose weight.  That’s obvious.  Some people have more specific or focused reasons such as wanting to lose weight for a special event such as a wedding.  They achieve that limited goal being at or close to their desired weight for the event. Then what?  They go back to their old ways of eating and the weight comes back with interest. Or they find a bigger Why and keep going.

When I first joined fourteen years ago, I wanted to look better in clothes and pictures. What’s kept me going all this time, my bigger Why, is my continuing good health and being able to enjoy the foods I like and not put on pounds.  I don’t have to be perfect, and my Why keeps me on track.

So, when it comes to your work, what is your Why?  It is not the same thing as your Mission.  Your Mission is your purpose for being a librarian, but it’s not why you are doing it.

For example, here are two well-crafted Mission Statements:

  • The mission of the Blank School Library is to provide students with the opportunity to become lifelong users of information and 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.
  • The Mission of the Blank School Media Center Program is to create lifelong learners with critical thinking skills and an appreciation of literature by providing opportunities for all students to gain the self-confidence necessary to successfully learn in an information-rich world.

Is that Why you became a librarian or is that what you are committed to doing because of why you became a librarian?  Why speaks to the purpose for your life.

My Why is tied to who I am as a person.  I want to reflect back to people (students and teachers and everyone I connect with) the greatness I see in them and, when appropriate, help them manifest it in their lives so they see and believe it. I can carry out much of that in a library with either of those two Mission Statements – or many other equally good statements.  But when overwhelmed or having administration block my ability to carry out my Mission Statement, rather than feeling hopeless, I can go to my Why.

In a post on Goalcast, Scarlett Erin says, “Your ‘Why’ Matters” and gives 10 benefits for knowing your purpose in life.

  1. It helps you stay focused: Just as your library Mission Statement does, this gives you a larger and more personal perspective on what really matters.
  2. It makes you feel passionate about your goal: It’s more than doing a great job; it’s about making a difference.
  3. It gives your life clarity: Knowledge is power. When you know yourself, it’s easy to make choices.
  4. It makes you feel gratified: When you see you made a difference, you automatically feel great.
  5. It helps you live a value-based life: You recognize and embrace the values that represent who you are.
  6. It makes you live with integrity: When you know who you are and what matters to you, you realize these are core values that can’t be compromised. You can say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to requests more easily by staying aligned with your values.
  7. It encourages trust: Because you are confident with who you are, you are more open to others.
  8. It infuses an element of grace in your life: Your life is smoother, with fewer trips and stutters, because you act from a deeper place, aligned with what matters to you.
  9. It helps you find a flow in life: Fears are easier to manage because you trust yourself and accept whatever happens you can stay grounded and centered.
  10. It makes life even more fun: You are more likely to live in the moment and appreciate what is happening as it occurs.

During your break as you are taking time, I hope, to do the things you love and that fill you up (see last weeks blog on this), I hope you also take time to reflect and determine what your Why is. Having fun and being relaxed is the best time to connect with and be aware of the things that most matter to you.

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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: What Do You Project

We all send out and receive non-verbal messages.  It is why we make almost instantaneous decisions as to whether we like or dislike someone we just met.  Something may change our minds eventually, but part of that first assessment is almost always there.

If you want your administration to regard you as indispensable, you must project that.  It’s subtle and will affect all your interactions.  But first, you must honestly believe you are indispensable. The good news is, as with other aspects of leadership, you don’t have to be born with the ability to project strength, professionalism.  It can be learned. The hard part is learning to retrain your brain. 

What you project is all about your mindset.  Remember that old truism supposedly said by Henry Ford, “If you think you can, or you think you can’t—you are right.”  Our thoughts either limit us or set us free to grow.  A statistics professor I knew at a library school told a student who said she would take her “C” here (since she was limited to two C’s in order to graduate), she just guaranteed she wouldn’t do better than that.

Positive self-talk is vital.  Stop focusing on where you are not doing well and celebrate your achievements – no matter how small.  I keep a Success Journal.  Every day I note where I have succeeded at something.  Some days I only list two successes.  Other days I might have five.  But I see where I succeed every day.

LaRae Quy lists Confidence, Persistence, Dedication, and Control in her article 4 Secrets of a Strong Mind and writes how these characteristics will take you far.  Here’s how they play out in our world.

You won’t be taken seriously if you are not projecting confidence.  This is not the same thing as being a know-it-all.  It does mean you know what your job is, believe you do it very well, and are prepared to demonstrate that.  I had a principal tell me, “You be the expert, or I will be the expert.”  I answered, “I am the expert.”

Quy says, “Confidence is a belief in yourself and your ability to meet your goals. Push out of your comfort zone and expose yourself to different situations. Learn how to push through the uncomfortable.” Remember, it’s what you believe about yourself and stepping out of your comfort zone.

Persistence means you don’t give up. You try another tactic. A superintendent once confided in me that her first answer was always, “No.” because most people went away and didn’t come back.  I always did which convinced her I was serious and knew what I wanted and why.  It also showed her I would carry the project through and not waste the money – which was a big factor in all her decisions.

Quy says, “Persistence is the tendency is to see life’s obstacles as challenges to be met, rather than as threats. Don’t whine, point fingers or blame others for your predicament. You can be the hero of your own life and choose your destiny.” Become creative.  Keep putting forward what your program needs.  Whatever it takes.

Dedication is an easy one for us.  We really care about what we do, and we show it. Many of you come in early and stay late. It’s about living your Philosophy of the library program and the values of our profession. They guide you in your decisions along with your Mission and Vision.

Quy says, “Strong-minded people have a dedication that comes from a purpose in alignment with their deepest values.” I think most of you do.  Now you have to see that in yourself which will help you project it.

Control is not a word I usually like, but Quy uses it to mean closing out negative thoughts. It’s back to a positive mindset.  Have a goal you work toward and record every small success you have in getting there. Don’t listen to nay-sayers—particularly the one in your brain.  You have achieved much.  You can and will achieve more. Quy says, “Control is having a certainty that you are able to shape your destiny and not passively accepting events as fate.”

I have added Quy’s words and ideas my ever-growing list of leadership qualities. And just to show you more how they manifest in my world, I am under 4’11’’ and yet my mail carrier commented recently, “You are one powerful lady.”  He doesn’t know anything about my professional life, but he “got” what I project. When I was still a high school librarian my principal and the curriculum supervisors responded to that, giving me the respect and attention necessary to carry out and grow the library program.

Everything we do is a choice.  Choose to see yourself as powerful and indispensable.  Remind yourself whenever you can it’s true. Believe it and others will see you that way.

ON LIBRARIES – You Are More Than A Leader

Yes, you are a leader – and you will be an even more effective and happy one if you open up to and are aware of all the other things which make you who and how are.  While being a leader is part you are this is not, nor should it be a complete description of you.

I have been known to say I am a leader everywhere in my life and that is mostly true.  But if I hold on to that statement, I can fail to see a larger picture of me.  One that is also important. In a recent article Ed Batista, an executive coach, speaks to CEO’s who are “profoundly lonely” despite interacting with many people during the day.  School librarians often feel the same. Yes, they speak with teachers and students all the time. But even when we use social media for professional connections, there is a disconnect.

See the bigger picture of your life

Batista’s first piece of advice is to Get out of the Role and cultivate different interests, and when you can with like-minded people.  He mentions rock climbing and ballroom dancing. Definitely not leadership “tasks.”

For example, I am a walker.  I certainly am not leading when I am walking.  Yet walking is important to me as a person.  It gets me out of my head.  It invigorates me.  I meet people.  Sometimes I see them repeatedly.  Most often they are brief encounters with merely a head nod in acknowledgment.  But each one fills me in a certain way.  Walking restores me. I miss it when weather or life interferes with me getting out three to five times a week.

I am also a reader, of course.  Reading is like breathing to me.  If I don’t have at least five titles waiting to be read, I get nervous.  Like walking, it takes me out of where I am now and lets me fly free. I have friends who are quilters and those who are knitters.  One is an avid practitioner of yoga.  Some are vegans.  Notice the word is “are” not “do.”  These are all part of our lives outside of being leaders and they are just as important as leading.  Indeed, by enriching our lives they make us better leaders.

Next, he says, Treat Family Like Family. It’s advice I whole-heartedly embrace.  I can remember when I had a challenging principal and brought home my frustration and anger on a daily basis. Not only was my home no longer a way to refresh myself, I was also having a negative effect on my relationship with my husband.

Yes, you can bring work home (sometimes physically), but set a time limit on it. We need our family and they need us. Be open to hearing what is going on in the lives of the people you love.  And use the same active listening techniques you practice on the job.

Treat Friends Like Treasures. The friendships we build outside of work are special.  Give them the time

they deserve. It took me a while to learn the value of having lunch with a friend despite a hectic schedule.  Even if I took two hours for lunch (after retirement), the tasks and responsibilities were waiting for me and still got done. The bonus was that I handled them in a more positive way because I was feeling good and more energized.

Beware the Wolves.  Batista is referring to people who profess connection in the corporate world but who have other often opposing agendas.  For those of us in education, it’s the complainers, those who always have a grievance against the administration or other teachers. Even when they are right, they are wrong for you.  You don’t want them to bring you down. It’s not about being a Pollyanna and only seeing good; it’s about accepting what you can’t change (or find another job) and working towards what you can change.

Finally, he says, Start Now, which is the reason for my writing this blog for you today.  It’s hard to implement new behavior patterns during the frenetic pace of the school year. With your schedule (hopefully) a little more flexible, do what you can to notice these things in your life and enhance the ones that will most fill you up. Then when the next semester starts, be sure to schedule the time you need for you, family, and friendship and continue to steer clear of the wolves.

Take stock of who you are and who you want to be – besides a leader. And cultivate your new behaviors now.

 

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: Regarding Guarding Privacy

With the recent uproar over privacy on Facebook and so many other breaches of privacy, including a password breach last week at Twitter, it sometimes feels as though privacy no longer exists. Certainly, it’s much harder to protect.  And yet, as educators we need to do all that is possible to protect our students’ privacy and to teach them what they can do to guard it. Today, I’d like to discuss the former.

ALA through its Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) is a resource you can turn to for help. Choose Privacy Week is held annually on May 1-7 (yes, today’s the last day).  The OIF “works with other privacy advocates to highlight current privacy practices and guidelines”. ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee, Privacy Subcommittee, is one of the sponsors of the week and helps in creating and providing resources.   But how does this play out in your library and school? In too many places, there isn’t a Privacy Policy or even guidelines to raise awareness and take the precautions needed to protect students. To get an overview of what is needed, I recommend reviewing the Library Privacy Guidelines for Students in K-12 Schools.

Most school libraries have set their automation system to not keep records of what students have borrowed (it usually is the default setting.) which is an extremely important part of guarding student privacy.  Yet there are other practices that erode that privacy. For example, notifying students of overdue books is invariably done through the classroom or homeroom teacher depending on grade level. If the teacher receives a list of the outstanding loans/books for each student that’s a violation of the student’s privacy. It’s not the teacher’s business what the students are reading. What should be done, is to create individual notes for each student. Staple the notices closed and put the student’s name on the outside.  This can then be sent to the teachers.

I have no solution for the common practice of generating a list of overdues (and fines) at the end of the year.  In these situations, it may be the school’s policy that students do not get their report card or next year’s schedule until the books are returned and any fines paid.  What should never be done, and I have seen it, is to post the list on the windowed walls of the office, allowing anyone passing by to see who had taken out what book.

Gossip is another issue that infringes on student privacy.  There are still a number of you who have volunteers in your library.  I have often said they are your program’s eyes and ears to the community. They can be your biggest supporters and spread the good word about you and your program. The problem is they are also the mouths.  They see different students whom they know from other settings.  Without guidelines to inform the volunteers, or, better yet, a Board approved Privacy Policy, they may share their opinion of the behavior of different students and what books they have checked out.

If a parent group runs the book fair and it is held in the library, the same thing has a tendency to happen.  You have a responsibility to do your best to eliminate or minimize these violations of student privacy.  With your volunteers, share a written privacy policy, including the Library Privacy Guidelines for Students in K-12 Schools. Explain to them why it’s important.

When parents are in the library to run a book fair, you won’t be able to go into detail, but you might want to try a quick rundown of your guidelines.  You cannot guarantee it will help, but you will know you have made every effort.  We know when students are concerned that people are “watching” what they read, it has an inhibiting effect.  And that is counter to the Open Access and Freedom to Read values so important to most of us. Safeguarding our students’ privacy is a part of making and keeping the library a safe place for all.

Don’t worry that the first week in May is up. It’s never a bad time to look at what you are doing to safeguard your students’ privacy and helping them to understand the value that privacy has for us all.

 

 

 

 

ON LIBRARIES: Dealing With Difficult People

 Difficult people are everywhere.  Although they are in the minority by far, when they show up they add stress to your life.  The stress is even greater when you are confronted by them on the job.  Students, teachers, and administrators can all potentially prove difficult. If this happens you want to have the skills to manage your emotions, sometimes deal with their emotions, and keep things on an even keel. When you encounter difficult people it’s important not to react or you will get sucked in and the confrontation will escalate.

Students are the ones who are most frequently difficult. Every place has some so the idea is to be able to reduce the numbers. Take a proactive position with those students who are misbehaving upon entering the library.  The likelihood is that something set them off before they arrived.  Saying things like “Calm down, you’re in the library” don’t work. Has anyone ever calmed down because they were told to do so?  They might not know how to get themselves under control from the place they’re in.  Instead, you might say, “I can see you are very upset. Did something happen? Can I do something to help?” Speaking in a friendly tone can interrupt what is boiling inside. If you can reduce their anger level to a simmer you have a much better chance of things going better moving forward.  Will it work every time? Definitely not, but it’s a tool to keep in your arsenal.

Disruptions in the middle of the period (or class) are usually caused by one student aggravating another. If you don’t respond quickly, a fight can ensue and then you have a major problem to deal with. Identify both “culprits” and move to separate them.  If possible give them different tasks to do to keep them occupied with something more positive.

Exiting the library is another point when students can get out of hand. Having a standard procedure in place minimizes these occurrences.  Using exit tickets is one strategy that helps. Asking a few quick questions related to what they did in the library is another.

Having the library be a safe, welcoming environment for all is a core part of your responsibilities. While I know some schools are more volatile than others, keeping the number of confrontations down, will help you achieve that goal.

Teachers and administration present a different type of challenge.  You need to strive to have at least a professional relationship with them.  The library is for everyone, and you don’t want to create distance between you, the library program and them. That being said, there will be some teachers who are known for being confrontational.  When you feel you are being attacked, the natural response is defense. Once you go there, the exchange usually gets more heated.

Many years ago, I started a new position in a high school library with a good-sized staff, including a co-librarian, 12-month secretary, 10-month clerk, and a circulation clerk. (It sounds unbelievable today.) It was in the early days of automation and, at the time, you could only use numbers on barcodes.

I was in my office when this teacher comes barreling in and starts haranguing the circulation clerk.  I immediately went to see what was happening.  The clerk certainly didn’t deserve to be harassed that way.  The teacher quickly turned on me.  She had just learned that not only was her barcode her social security number, but the information was on a Rolodex behind the circulation desk, “where any student could access it.”

My first thought was, “How is this my fault?  I am here only a few months.  This has been in place for years.”  Instead, I responded, “I understand your reasons for being upset.”  I said we would immediately change her barcode to the last five digits of her social security number, “return” all her books (she had quite a lot in her classroom) and recheck them out.  We would change the other teachers’ barcodes at the end of the year.

Had I said what I was initially thinking, the situation would have become worse, and I expect the principal would have become involved. By validating her anger, I defused much of it. She was mollified and eventually became one of the biggest library supporters.

I handled a similar but, in some ways, a more challenging incident with an assistant superintendent. He was highly intelligent and known for “shooting from the hip.”  He never pulled his punches. As the leader of the district librarians, I was speaking to him about trying to pilot a flexible schedule in the elementary schools. He angrily said he had observed one librarian showing a filmstrip (and it was on the way out even then) about how books were made starting from a tree.  It seemed to him that a teacher could have done the same thing and what would be different about making the schedule flexible.

To calm things down, I responded to his message, not this method of delivery.  I told him I recognized his point. My solution was to talk about effective lessons at the monthly librarian meetings I led. While I never got the flex schedule for that level, I did earn his respect and overall value for the work we did.

If you’re having trouble with someone, take a breath before responding. Focus on how you can help the situation not on how you need to fix the person. Hopefully, some of your more difficult people will eventually become allies of your program.