ON LIBRARIES: There’s a Toolkit For That

Everyone nhelp2eeds help sometime.  Whether you are a recognized leader in your building and district, just taking the first steps into leadership, or feeling not quite ready to do so, situations occur that cause stress, anxiety, or fear.  In addition, none of us are experts at everything.

ALA and AASL are very often your backup but first you need to know what they have for you. And while I strongly believe all school librarians should be members of ALA/AASL this help available to you even if you aren’t a member. Did you know about the many toolkits available on the website?

Promote Your Program

Want help in promoting your school library program?  There is a toolkit for that. The 77-page downloadable PDF discusses Leadership, Advocacy, Communication, and L4L (Learning for Life). Leadership gives practical advice on how to reach stakeholders at building, district, community, and state levels. It explains what works and what gets in the way.  Success Stories encourage you and offer some ideas on what else you can do – including one from me on Elevator Speeches with Strangers. You can even see videos on Dispositions, Communications, and Visions of the Future.

Advocacy also has suggestions for reaching out to your stakeholders from students to the community. More Success Stories follow and answers are provided for the Tough Questions people are likely to throw at you. Want to know how to get the word out?  The Communications chapter will guide you. Learn how to market your program inside and outside the school. Again find Success Stories.L4L_revisions2

In case you didn’t know, L4L is the AASL brand for implementing our national standards. Find out more about it, what resources it offers, and how to use what they have developed in your school and district. Finally, there is a long list of clickable resources for you to use such as samples of an annual report and key points to include, a template for a newsletter, four downloadable infographics and posters, and talking points on various subjects.  In other words, everything you need to figure out how you can best promote your program.  And you are on vacation now (or almost), so this is the perfect time for you to go over this and plan for next school year.


In order to be successful advocacy needs to be ongoing as you build support from all your stakeholders.  The Health and Wellness Toolkit takes you through five steps, identifying each group of stakeholders’ agendas. Next you learn to design and market your program targeting he specific goals of stakeholders. Assess how well your advocacy plan is working and use the many resources- most with links – to keep you going.

How about what to do when library positions are up for elimination.  Although you have an easier task if you have been putting the Health and Wellness Toolkit in place, if you haven’t all is not lost.  The School Library Crisis Toolkit walks you through Crisis Planning and helps you to create a communication link so your supporters stay informed, you reach those stakeholders who might help, and design a powerful message.  AASL needs to be informed of the threat and there are directions for contacting them and your state association. Again, you have a long list of resources you can access.

Parents can be your biggest supporters. They need to know why school libraries and librarians are important in their children’s education. The Parent Advocate Toolkit is for parents to use in order to learn more about today’s school libraries. Become familiar with it and promote it on your website and on any Open House or Back to School Night.  Let parents know you are more than willing to discuss any questions they may have when they read it and check out the links.

toolkitYou can find all the AASL toolkits on their website and you might look at others available from ALA. Keep checking for new ones.  Once more information is known there will probably be one on ESSA.  Right now you can find the latest information here.

Are there other topics you think need to have a toolkit?  Let your state’s AAS Affiliate Assembly delegate know.  If it is submitted 6 weeks before ALA Annual Conference it can be a Concern which is brought to the AASL Board.  What would you like to see?




ON LIBRARIES: You and Your Professional Development


professional dev1If you want to be the best possible librarian you can be, you must take responsibility for your own professional development. You might feel it isn’t fair, since teachers don’t have to do this, but fair is not the issue. The only way you will get what you need is to seek it out yourself.

To stay current with constant changing world and learning how to integrate the latest trends and technology into your program, help teachers, and continue to prepare students for their future, you need to pursue relevant professional development. “Relevant” is the key term since most districts provide professional development several times a year. While these are helpful in understanding what is being required of teachers, they rarely are directly helpful to you and your program.

Free PD

Your first concern is likely to be cost.  Teacher PD is usually paid for by the district, but this isn’t true for librarians. However, you don’t have to let this stop you. We just have to be more creative.  And the long term and professional cost of not finding ways to include this is potentially very high.costs

Your colleagues can often be a source of highly relevant, useful information.  There are numerous Twitter Chats you can join with different themes and days and times when they are held.  This Piktochart infographic has several excellent ones.   For an explanation of how the chats work and brief descriptions of some (including a few from the Piktochart infographic) go to Top Twitter Hashtags for Librarians.

Library magazines such as School Library Journal frequently host webinars. They are normally held in the afternoon so may be impossible for you to attend live, but most make the archive available to listen to at a more convenient time. You can pick and choose which ones are of greatest interest to you.  Since these are free, you can’t always find exactly what you want, but you may discover something you hadn’t considered.

aasl ecollabAASL offers some free webinars through their eC0LLAB page.   For example you can choose “A 21st-Century Approach to School Librarian Evaluation” or A School Librarian’s Role in Preventing Sexting & Cyberbullying.”  Two excellent possibilities are the ones on the 2015 “Best Apps for Teaching & Learning”, and “Best Websites for Teaching & Learning.” The webinars discuss some of the winners for the year and give you great ideas to use with your teachers and students.

Occasionally a publisher hosts a webinar. These are always free, but obviously they have a product to sell.  It doesn’t mean the webinar isn’t worthwhile.  If you are curious about the product, it’s no different from seeing a presentation at a conference.

Quality PD at a Range of Prices

The best source for relevant professional development comes from your state and national library associations.  In addition to the free webinars AASL offers, they also have online asynchronous e-courses. The AASL e-Academy offers a number of options.  A four-week course is $119 for members, $245 for non-members, and $95 for student AASL members. Courses are offered on a rotating basis, so if one you are interested in is not being offered in the near future, you can contact Jennifer Habley at AASL and she will let you know when it will be scheduled again.

Have an idea
Get creative about your PD!

ALA editions offers e-learning in the following areas: Computing, Technology, & Web Design; Copyright; Management; Programming, Outreach, Marketing and Customer Service; Personal Development; Reference; Cataloging and Metadata; Collection Development; and Information Literacy and Library Instruction.  These are all connected to books published by ALA and part of the cost is for an e-book that goes along with the course.  For example under Personal Development you can see a course I am teaching “Being Indispensable: A School Librarian’s Guide to Proving Your Value and Keeping Your Job” which is a 6-week asynchronous course and will start on July 18.  Prices vary from one to the other, but this course is $195.  I am currently teaching one on New on the Job and it is $245.




ON LIBRARIES: Stand Up for Privacy

digital privacyBenjamin Franklin said, “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”

Time and again in these years since 9/11 our right to privacy has been challenged in the name of security.  I am proud of ALA, our national organization, for its ongoing efforts to protect the privacy of patrons despite being accused of being unpatriotic. This is an important part of making certain our libraries are safe places for everyone who uses them.

ALA, through the Office for Intellectual Freedom, works to safeguard the reading history of library users. Individual librarians have had resisted warrants demanding those records.  As with dealing with challenged materials, it is a lonely fight and many don’t understand the importance of holding onto these principles when they feel the nation is being threatened by terrorists.

Re-read the Benjamin Franklin quote.  In giving up a freedom we give those who seek to destroy our way of life what they want. We become more like them.  It’s easy to think you have principles you believe in when no one challenges them.  Standing up for them in the face of so many opposing you is when you discover what you are made of.ala privacy week

We have just concluded Choose Privacy Week, an annual initiative of ALA.  Its purpose is to involve library users in a discussion of “privacy in a digital age.”  It is increasingly difficult to have any degree of privacy in today’s world.  Security cameras are everywhere and while I, too, recognize it is a protection against criminal behavior, sometimes in my head I hear the words of George Orwell, “Big Brother is watching you.” Our phones can be used to track us. We choose to use (and I do) E-Z pass, or whatever it’s called where you are to go through tolls without stopping, which records our actions. Ads on the side of my Facebook page remind me of where I just shopped and thanks to countless searches on my computer, Google “knows” a great deal about me and my preferences.

In this world of surveillance, at least what we choose to read should be our own business.  As school librarians, we also have the responsibility of keeping what students are reading private. If asked, we must tell a parent or guardian. They are still minors.  Be sure your automation system has been disabled so it does not maintain a record.  Most ILS systems don’t keep the record as a default, but you should check.  Once an item has been returned it should disappear from the student’s reading history.

Sending out overdue notices can be an easy way to violate student privacy. Teachers should not get a list of what their students’ overdue books.  Although it takes more time, either put them in envelopes or only give the name of the student and the number of overdues.

privacyEnd-of-the-year notices present a more difficult problem.  Where students can’t get their report cards until they complete their library obligations, it is customary to hand a list of student names with outstanding items to the school secretary who deals with returns, late fees, and lost book charges during the summer. There isn’t much you can do about that, but make a point of informing the secretary that what students have borrowed is private, and as with other information she learns throughout the year, it is to be kept confidential.

All school libraries should have a Privacy Policy spelling out how student and teacher information is to be kept private. ALA has information on Privacy and Confidentiality with resources including a toolkit.  Check it out if you don’t have a Privacy Policy or want to know more about your responsibilities in this area as a librarian.

The website for Choose Privacy Week had a highly informative blog with ideas for what to do to inform users about their privacy rights and how to safeguard it.  The post on Resources for Teaching Privacy offered information on How to Teach Internet Safety in Primary School and a Teen Privacy Guide.

ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee issued new Library Privacy Guidelines for Students in K-12 Schools.  Download it and share it with your administrators. Incorporate it into your current Privacy Policy. And if you have any volunteers in your library, make sure they are aware of it, and recognize they are not free to discuss outside the library what students borrow.

School librarians strive to make the library a safe, welcoming environment.  Protecting the privacy of our users is one way we ensure they feel safe – and welcomed.


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?