ON LIBRARIES: Stressed Out?

The school year has just begun and many of you are already feeling stressed out. Some degree of chaos is normal when you get back to work, and even if you aren’t in a new job inevitably there are changes you need to incorporate into your workday.

First – it’s important to decide if you are experiencing stress or distress. We tend to confuse the two. Stress isn’t all bad as I will discuss a bit later.  Distress is something else.  To deal with the issue, determine whether you are stressed or distressed.

When you are distressed you can’t focus.  Your brain bounces from one idea, one task to another. You

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can’t decide what to do first.  You tend to feel irritable and anxious and everything becomes hard to do. In addition, you are exhausted because you don’t sleep well, and that exacerbates the problem. An element of fear frequently comes into play as you wonder if you will ever get your situation under control.  For newbies, worrying about being able to do the job only heightens the fear.  Experienced librarians who have been thrust into a heavier schedule often caused by being given an additional school or a change in grade level also undergo periods of anxiety.

If you are in a state of distress, you aren’t leading.  And as leading is critical to the success of your program, you need to move from distress to stress.  Yes, you need to move to stress.

Since feeling continually out of control is one of the key elements of distress, begin by writing down all the things that are causing the situation. This will immediately reduce the swirling and noise that’s going on in your head. Identify by numbers which are the most important/serious and which less so.  Put a star next to any that are in your control to change and a minus next to the ones that are out of your control. You can also consider an extra star for those items you know you can change somewhat quickly.

Next, come up with a plan to address the most serious situations that are also within your control and deal with it.  As you eliminate these “distressers’” your anxiety level will go down. Once you have dealt with the ones in your control, review the ones that are out of your control.

What has caused them?  Some can’t be changed this year.  Others are the result of factors outside the administrators’ control.  However, a few will be caused by erroneous perceptions of administrators or others. For these, develop a plan/strategy to change these views remembering to not be defensive or accusatory in your communication.  When you have a plan to follow, you will slowly distress.

By contrast, stress is a normal part of our lives. When we manage it well, it has us moving efficiently from task-to-task, from problem-to-problem. Sure, we’ll have rough days, but they’re a part of what can be normally expected. If we have too many stresses or too long without an abatement the stress can become distress. Be alert for the possibility so you can put the de-stress techniques into play early.

An article entitled 7 Ways Mentally Strong People Deal With Stress, Amy Morin is mainly talking about distress, but her techniques work at both ends of the scale. She says mentally strong people accept that life always has setbacks.  I find it calming to recognize I have had huge problems before and managed to deal with them.  I will do it again.  Look to your past successes.

Next, she says, They Keep Problems in Proper Perspective. Just because something goes wrong and you don’t immediately start a downward spiral.  For example, you have a lesson prepared and the internet is down. Unfortunate, yes, but you are creative and flexible. Revise your plan. It doesn’t mean the whole day – or even that lesson – will be a disaster.

Third, They Take Care of Their Physical HealthIf you don’t feel well everything is harder to deal with.  Make sure to incorporate healthy living as a priority in your life.  This includes eating well and finding an exercise plan that works for you.

Along with that one They Choose Healthy Coping Skills. Hobbies, meditation, bingeing on a favorite television series help.  So does “allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable emotions.”  Bingeing on chips and sweets? Not so healthy.

Number five is They Balance Social Activity with Solitude.  Socializing with friends and family puts us in a positive frame of mind.  We also need quiet downtime.  Our days are filled with talk. Sometimes you need silence. (I know we aren’t shushing librarians.  This is just for us.)

I particularly like They Acknowledge Their Choices.  I had a friend who stayed in a job she disliked because she chose to be near her ill mother.  She streamlined her job and stopped doing the “extras,” and accepted the conditions as part of her commitment to her mother.  We all make choices.  Sometimes we need to get out of a situation, but other times we need to recognize what got us here, what keeps us here, and what we plan to do about it.

Finally, They Look for The Silver LiningThis doesn’t mean pretending all is well. It means looking for what you can learn from it or what is good in the situation.  Has it helped you develop your coping skills?  Do you now have more empathy for others? Did it force you to learn new skills? Do you now prioritize better?

I don’t think I know anyone who is not stressed.  I also know many who are distressed.  You can’t afford to stay in the second group.  One of your new leadership skills will be showing how to move from distress to “healthy” stress.

 

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ON LIBRARIES – Beating Burnout

It happens to the best of us – in fact, the most invested in your job you are, the more likely it is to happen to you. Burnout. Your alarm goes off, and you don’t want to get out of bed.  It’s not just tiredness and lack of sleep, although that’s part of it.  You have given and given, worked and worked to make do with less and less, constantly striving to demonstrate the value of your library program and what you bring.  Now it feels there is nothing left.

Burnout is common to leaders –so take some comfort in knowing that as lousy as it feels, it’s a sign that you are acting as a leader. Going into work when you’ve been feeling this way for a while leads to little getting accomplished.  Worse, because you are not at your best, you are less likely to handle situations with your usual skill. This, in turn, will give you more work to do in repairing any damage to relationships and the last thing you need is more work.

Although the feelings of burnout are most likely to happen during the school year, vacation is a good time to prepare for the likely possibility of this condition. Knowing in advance how to deal with this challenge will help you get past it quickly.

Once again, I’m using advice from the business world to address this. The first suggestion Mark Ellis offers, in his article entitled What to Do When You Can’t Face Your Team, is to take some time off.  During the school year, that’s probably limited to one “mental health” day (personal or sick – your choice) but it’s vital that you use it if you truly need it. And when you do use it – do what you can to make the most of it. Since you’re reading this during vacation, make sure you currently are taking the opportunity to replenish yourself. It’s also a good time to stop and think about what makes you feel burned out and what most helps alleviate the stress. This way when “symptoms” appear, you have a plan.

Ellis’s next suggestion is to remind yourself why you do what you do.  In other words, connect with your Why.  Read last week’s blog as a reminder.  And if you still haven’t defined your Why, this should be a further incentive to do so.

For those of you who can, meditation is another one of Ellis’s methods for breaking out of burnout. There are not only shelves of books to help you with this, but videos and apps as well. If it works for you, you’ve got a great new tool to use whenever you need it.  I use walking to get out of my head and find an inner peace.  You deserve to find an equivalent that works for you.

If you have been beating yourself up because your library program doesn’t “look’ the way you want it to or you are comparing your library to someone else’s—give it up.  As Ellis says, “putting that much expectation on yourself as a leader will only leave you chasing something that doesn’t exist.”

Wendi Pillars, writing for ASCD, presents Eight Burnout-busting Self-care Strategies that can also help. The first is Monitor Connectivity.  We are far too attached to our digital devices and need to schedule unplugged time for ourselves.  I now shut my computer down for the day at supper time.  Watching some of my favorite television programs after dinner (I’m hooked on several British mystery series) is a great way to tune out and give my brain a time to rest.

Create is Pillars’ second recommendation (and – bonus! – it’s one of the four Domains of our new National School Library Standards). There are many ways to create. Knit, crochet, draw, doodle, take pictures, scrapbook, or put together a puzzle. Adult coloring books can bring out the artistic side of just about anyone. Is it any wonder they are so popular. Look to things that give you pleasure.  Even writing a snail mail thank you is a form of creativity.

Pillars follows that with Get Back to Nature which can mean camping, walking even simply going to a nearby park to sit on a bench and relax.

Review Your Diet and Sleep are her next two suggestions. When you are feeling burnt out you are likely not eating wisely.  Usually, that means too many sugars or carbohydrates which leads to worse eating and also affects your sleep.  Figure out how much sleep you need and do what you can to get those hours.  You deserve them and your career and relationships will benefit from it.

Choose Your Frame is about mindset. Negative self-talk makes everything worse.  Find a better way to see the situation.  What are you doing well despite the challenges?

Enjoy Friends and don’t say you haven’t time because you have too much to do.  You will always have too much to do.  Time lost with friends and family can never be recovered. And you will feel restored after being with them.

Finally, Practice Gratitude.  This is advice I love.  It also helps your mindset.  When you see how much you have to be grateful for, you are much less likely to indulge in negative self-talk. Keep a list, a journal, or even jot it down in your calendar at the end of each day. As the list grows you’ll find yourself feeling better.

None of these ideas are earth-shattering. You probably could have come up with many of them yourself, but now you have them laid out. As Ellis concludes in his article, don’t consider burnout as a failure. “Leadership is tough, and we all have to go through these difficult periods if we are to grow and thrive.”

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: 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.

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.

 

 

ON LIBRARIES: Are You Getting Full Value from Your Library Associations?

 

Ivalue1 thought this would be a short blog.  I was wrong. This is important to your future as a librarian and the future of the programs for which we are responsible.

Most of you are members of your state association. A good number of you, although it should be much more, are members of ALA/AASL but only a small percentage of you are getting all you can from your membership.

Are you using the resources our state and national associations provide?  How often to you check their websites?  AASL has a wealth of information and resources—and for most you don’t even need to be a member.

Become an active member. Although AASL has paid staff, and your state association may have some paid positions, the organizations direction an accomplishments are powered by volunteers.  Even if for some reason you don’t feel ready to participate at the national level (and they welcome newbies), do contact your state association to find out how you can be of service.

I can hear you saying, “I agree those are great resources and I would really love to be more active, but I haven’t the time.”  That’s our favorite response to almost everything.  And as I said last week with the stories we tell ourselves, it’s grounded in truth.  You don’t have time, but when you recognize it’s a priority in your life, you are willing to make time.

I keep hearing librarians complain about irrelevant PD offered by their district.  Although I believe you can always get something from these offerings, AASL has webinars geared specifically to areas you need. Do you sign up for them?  AASL also offers e-Academy asynchronous courses lasting only a few weeks on topics of concern to school librarians. I give two six-week e-courses for ALA editions, one based on Being Indispensable and the other on New on the Job. You can’t take advantage of them if you don’t know they exist.aasl

Are you on your state’s listserv?  Their Facebook page if they have one? If you are an AASL member you can be on the AASLForum electronic discussion list.  It’s a great source for getting and sharing information you need every day on your job.  You will also get to recognize the leaders, those who know and use the latest in technology.  Because of my presence on my state’s listserv I had a librarian contact me and ask me to mentor her.  Of course I did so.  Although she is now well on her way to being a leader in her own right, every now and then she still checks in with a question.

Fall conference season is upon us. Several state library associations have already had theirs. In my state, the New Jersey Association of School Librarians will be holding its annual conference from November 15-17, and before that AASL will have its biennial conference November 6-8 in Columbus, Ohio.  I will be at both of these.  Will you be attending any?

Even if you can’t take professional days to attend the AASL and/or your state conference, it’s worth it to take personal days.  When you do, write up a brief report letting your administrator know what you learned and how it will affect what you are doing with students.  It shows you are a professional, and what you receive from your time at conference will inspire and rejuvenate you.  It’s the best PD you can get.

Looking further down the road, and registration has been open for some time, ALA’s Midwinter conference is in Boston this year from January 8-12. Book now since rates go up after November 12.  You needn’t attend the whole conference.  Arrive Friday after work and leave on Sunday in time to be back on the job on Monday.  There is no official programs at Midwinter, but the exhibits are far more extensive than all but the very largest state conferences. (I am thinking of Texas.)

While there you can sit in during AASL’s All-Committee meeting, which I believe will be on Saturday. Round tables are set up in a very large room for the various AASL committees to meet and conduct business.  Guests are welcome.  It’s an excellent opportunity to see whether you would like to serve on one.  If you find one to your liking, let the chair know to recommend you be appointed to it.  You needn’t get to every ALA Annual and Midwinter to serve on a committee.  Most of them have virtual members and a lot of business gets done in conference calls and through ALA Connect which is onlne.

ala midwinterI learned to be a leader thanks to my participation in my state association and ALA/AASL.  I was nervous when I was asked many years ago to run for president-elect of my state association. When I won, I had to figure out how to plan and run our annual conference.  Beyond that, I had to deal with budgets, agendas for meetings, dealing with conflicting views of board members and more.  In AASL I learned about long range planning, advocacy, and strategic planning.  The latter I also did at the state level.  I have been and am on ALA Committees and developed a deeper understanding of how all types of libraries connect and need to support each other.

Each committee, each task taught me more than I ever learned in library school or at my district’s PD offerings.  I became a much better librarian and one whom administrators and teachers respected for what I knew and brought to them and students.

Is that enough of a priority for you to consider becoming active?

 

 

When Being Right Is Wrong

two sidesIn the past few days I have gotten e-mails from two librarians from different states with very different responsibilities but a similar challenge. Each is now coping with big challenges with their superiors stemming from the administrators’ strong belief that they are right. What should you do in a situation like this?  Cave in?  Accept an incorrect assessment?  Ignore being disrespected? Definitely not.  But it’s obvious that insisting on being right is not going to lead to the outcome you want.

In the first case, the librarian worked with one department in a large educational consortium. A relatively new administrator instituted procedures that worked against what the librarian was trying to accomplish and seemed unaware of the dynamics in coordinating practices and interests of the different members of this department.  A job performance review highlighted this disparate view and hinted at the administrator’s correct perception that the librarian disliked her. In the other case, an elementary librarian was copied on an email to a teacher (and hadn’t read it), telling her to bring her class to the library as part of schedule changes caused by testing.  The administrator had sent it without checking to see if any classes were already in the library, and the librarian felt disrespected.Relationship over ego

Having heard the details of what occurred, there is no question that both of the librarians are right—and therein lies the problem. We are in a relationship business, and in relationships, unlike with tasks, being committed to being right can create trouble.  When a librarian is critical of a directive or approach taken by an administrator, he or she invariably reacts negatively deciding, correctly, that the librarian is not a team player and is possibly a threat to what the administrator is trying to achieve—rightly or wrongly.

Consider this, “Do you want to right, or do you want to make it work?”  Because, if you focus on being right, it most certainly won’t work.  As I noted earlier, we are in a relationship business and maintaining your position will destroy not build relationships.

Here’s an example of how this works.  You are a middle or high school librarian and a teacher schedules his class for an upcoming research project.  You work on the lesson, find websites and apps, pull relevant print material and are fully prepared but the class doesn’t show.  You are angry with the teacher—and rightly so.  Do you go to the teacher and let him see you are furious? If you do, what will the results be?  Your ultimate goal is to reach the students.  Being right will prevent you from achieving this – and harm your working relationship with this teacher.

right or what worksIf you go to the teacher instead and say “I probably should have sent you a reminder, but your class was scheduled to come to the library.  Do you want to reschedule or should we cancel the project?”  The teacher will likely be contrite and the two of you can come up with a workable revision. You also have not alienated the teacher who will be glad to work with you in the future.

Letting go of being right is not easy.  It’s natural to guard our territory—and our emotions.  However, we are also big picture people.  When dealing with a situation where you know you are right, step back before you speak or email in response.  Consider whether being right will get you where you want to go.  Remember, “Do you want to be right, or do you want it to work?”

 

Shush?

stereotypeThe classic stereotype of a librarian is a plain female with hair in a bun and wearing a dowdy dress who shushes anyone speaking above a whisper.  This dated view of librarians is still very much with us, to a great extent because, sadly, it still occurs in many places.  Should libraries be silent?  Do you like it quiet?  Do your students?  I associate a hushed library environment with those large libraries with vast expanses of books visible on multi-levels with aging researchers buried over huge tomes.  Certainly not the picture of a modern school (or public library).

A 21st century library is a bee-hive of collaborative activity, with students moving seamlessly from electronic to print resources using multiple devices to access them.  True, not every library approaches this level, but it should be what we are aiming to achieve.  Students are comfortable learning from each other and sharing what they know.  In fact – they love it. It’s how they develop skills in video games and discover new tricks and apps on their smartphones.what society thinks

They are accustomed to a world of continuous information feeds whether audio or text. We need to capitalize on that inclination to learn by teaching them how to become global citizens, creating content, and building knowledge which they share in a participatory culture.  And that means, silent libraries are part of the past (or exist only in research libraries).

I am not advocating for a loud, out-of-control environment.  You should be able to be heard if you raise your voice just above normal speaking level. That’s a safety issue.  I am also not talking about a library where kids are horsing around.  On the other hand, all talk does not need to be work-related. Some socialization is acceptable and even important if they are to move from casual conversation to exploring their ideas, interests, and academic pursuits.

My libraries, both elementary and high school, were always a hubbub of activity – and the busy sounds – and energy – it entails.  A visiting superintendent was so impressed to see how engaged students were and how crowded the library was.  This was during lunch period (we were on block scheduling and managed a one-hour lunch for all 1,500 students simultaneously).  It was not a quiet place.  But learning was happening everywhere.

busy library 3Many of you already have this level of activity – and “noise” in your library.  Kids love coming there.  You have made your library the warm, friendly, environment that encourages questions, accepts diverse ideas and opinions, and promotes the desire to learn.

Elementary librarians are more inclined to keep noise levels down.  I suspect it’s caused by the fear that students would quickly become unruly and hard to rein in.  The answer is to change the culture of the library with their cooperation.

Students need to be a part of setting the rules and guidelines.  Talk about the difference between noise in the classroom and noise in the library.  What is good noise?  When does it become too much? What needs to be done if students become too loud?  I have found it best to talk to those students individually or the small group causing the disturbance rather than loudly addressing everyone.

Consider couching these guidelines under the heading of Respect.  Respect for yourself, respect for others, and respect for the library.  If at all possible provide a quiet area (much like trains today with their quiet cars) for those who need more silence to get work done.  Most often it’s the teachers who need it.

What do you think is the optimum level of noise vs. silence?  Is your library too quiet?  Too noisy?  What do your students think?   What do you want to change?  And what help do you need to get to this new level?

How Large is Your PLN?

pln wordleYour PLN.

This acronym has two versions and both are important.  PLN can be either a Professional Learning Network or a Personal Learning Network. While it may seem to have arisen along with social networks, the concept has been in use long before the Internet, although the term didn’t exist.

Connecting with colleagues to seek their advice or help on a professional issue has always existed. At first it was within an office or school.  I can remember reaching out to a school librarian when I was planning to automate my library in 1993.  The telephone was my link.  I had already begun building a large Professional Learning Network by becoming an active member first in my state’s school library association and soon after in AASL.

Social networks have made extended these connections. Numerous library associations have Facebook pages.  National and state organizations also have listservs, and, of course, there’s LM_NET which has been a vital listserv for many school librarians who know how to manage the large amount of email messages.  Have a problem? A question? Just put it out on one or more of these and advice and help from experience practitioners will soon help you resolve it.

Sometimes you aren’t looking for anything, but a post gives you an idea.  I was just on the NYLA/SSL Facebook page and there was an illustration of Barbara Stripling’s inquiry model.  I will be teaching a course in the fall which will discuss inquiry-based learning.  I asked the person who posted, if she would send it to me for this purpose. She did, and I will be using it with attribution to her and Barbara Stripling.pln types

Members of Google+ TL Chat share what they are doing with software and other resources you may not have heard of.  Just click on the post and find out more. If necessary, post a question.  Twitter and LinkedIn groups offer other sources of information to grow your PLN.

Personal Learning Networks are a mix.  The greatest number of people in my personal learning network are fellow librarians who are also my friends.  I know them well even if I only see many of them at conferences.  We are always available for each other.  They are my friends on Facebook so I am always keeping up with their lives—professional and personal.

In person and online, we can get involved in discussions about issues arising in the profession.  Occasionally this leads to developing a project together or creating a workshop or presentation for a conference.  We know each other well enough to make drawing on each other’s specific area of expertise a natural part of the collaboration.

The remainder of the people in my Personal Learning Network are non-librarian friends.  Recently, I became interested in yoga for people with limited mobility.  I am a good librarian and researcher.  I could have spent time investigating this on my own.  Instead, I reached out to a friend who has been attending yoga classes for years.  She loved exploring this.  Soon she was sending me information about programs on television and chair yoga classes at a local Y and through the local park service.

yogaBecause she had a yoga PLN, she was able to let me know which had good teachers and the pros and cons of each option.  She also sent me illustrated directions for doing chair yoga at home. I now have a number of options without expending much of my own time.

Knowledge and information keep expanding at a rapid pace. You can’t do it all by yourself. Remember this is a two-way street.  Often you are able to respond to someone else’s query.  You are continually getting and giving in our participatory culture. Being a school librarian today requires you to keep up with the constantly changing technology landscape. PLNs – both professional and personal, are the way you can do it without feeling lost.  How big is your PLN?  How are you going to make it bigger?