ON LIBRARIES: Tell and Sell Your Story

This week’s blog is another entry in the ongoing discussion of the art of communication in an age of too much information.  It’s a reminder that data—even the beloved “big data” – is not what will carry the day.  For your message to be received you first must connect in some way with the receiver. Being able to make this connection depends on Emotional Intelligence (EI). EI is now recognized as a major factor in success in school and beyond, which is why so many schools have incorporated Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) into the curriculum.  The Core SEL Competencies are the same as those used to define EI.

Although you are probably incorporating SEL into your instruction, you may have not integrated it into your own advocacy program.  Emotions underlie all our decisions whether we are aware they are at work or not.  The more conscious you are of your emotions and those of the people you are speaking with, the more likely you are not only to be heard but to inspire action.

If your words have not yet penetrated the wall your listeners have built, Lisa Rabasca Roepe gathered These Techniques from Professional Speechwriters That Will Help You Get Your Point Across.  She presents seven ideas which are highly applicable to what you need.

Personify Your Data – Generalities contain no emotion. People hear them and can’t repeat them five minutes later.  If you want to discuss the problem of aging resources, don’t lead with a Titlewise collection analysis. Talk about a student who used out-of-date or incorrect information because the book she chose was twenty-years-old.  Or you can take one of those aging books and say, “Imagine what would happen if David (use a name to make the example more personal) was doing research on planets and found this book discussing Pluto.  If he researches what is known about Pluto from this book and other sources, he never discovers that Pluto is no longer considered a planet until after he turns in his assignment.” The story, focused on a single individual, captures attention.  You can then follow up with your collection analysis.

Know Your Listener – Be mindful of your listener’s attention span.  In my experience, principals have so much on their plate, they have a very limited amount of time to hear you out.  Get to the point quickly.  If they want more details, they will ask. When I would set up an appointment with my principal’s secretary, I asked for ten minutes and was prepared to finish in five – and leaving the data at the conclusion of the meeting. It made it much easier to continue getting appointments as I needed them.

Be Personal But Not Confessional – It’s always easier to connect with someone you feel you know.  Include some relevant stories of your experience. The most important word here is “relevant.”  The story about yourself should connect to and reinforce what you are discussing (such as my principal story above). Try to avoid topics such as politics, religion or others that lead to heated, not connected, dialogue.  It’s also best to steer clear of serious personal issues such as illness or loss, lest it seem like a bid for sympathy.

Be Specific – My husband reminds of this all the time.  He asks me, “Why are you telling me this?”  “What do you want me to do about it?”  We tend to slowly edge up to our request.  By the time we get there, our listener has tuned out. Don’t say, “I know you have seen our Makerspace and liked what the students are doing.”  Go right to what you want. “It is time to take our Makerspace to the next level.”

Aim for a Home Run – Play big.  Go for what you really want. The big idea captures attention.  Having done that, your back-up plan is likely to be approved, possibly with additional modifications.  If the issue of money is raised, you can offer ways to do your idea in stages or cut back somewhat. And your principal will know that you have big ideas that may well be used to showcase the school.

Re-enact Your Story, Don’t Just Tell It – Suppose you are trying to convince a teacher or administrator that books in the library shouldn’t be leveled. Don’t cite articles on the subject.  Make it personal by putting a face on the issue. Talk, for example, about Darrin, a boy who has hated reading. Last week he found a book in the library on his favorite baseball team, but it was below his reading level. You decided to break the rules and let him take it out.  Now he is reading so much more, and although he still wants books below his Lexile level, he’s more likely to improve because of this change.

Build a Story Bank – Be aware of the power of story and the emotions they carry. Keep track of incidents and moments that happen in the library which you can use at some later date. This may seem odd at first, but the more stories you collect, the more you will notice.

You can tell teachers, administrators, and others how important the library is, but, as you well know, that doesn’t mean they will hear you.  Bring story and the techniques of speechwriters to grab your listener’s attention, hold it, and get them to take action.

 

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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.

Advocacy

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: Makerspace Magic

makerspace wordleThe Makerspace phenomenon is exploding in libraries everywhere and they are an easy platform to use to reach what seemed a difficult goal – library advocacy.

The popularity of Makerspace programs  slowly at first with public libraries acquiring 3-D printers and letting patrons use them.  Soon it spread to first-adopter school libraries and librarians who also managed to get 3-D printers for their libraries.  Now more and more libraries are offering these programs –with or without 3-D printers. The programs are as varied as the librarians and the populations they serve.

In addition to encouraging and developing students’ problem solving skills and imagination, Makerspaces are giving librarians a great platform for advocacy.  When a well thought out program is presented to administrators they often are quick to approve it.  Librarians are amazed to find they have strong administrative support for their program for the first time.

Why are Makerspaces embraced by administrators?  It’s not the library connection.  It’s STEM and often STEAM (including arts) or even STREAM (research and/or reading).  Reacting to the nation-wide push for STEM-related learning, principals and superintendents welcome a tested idea for infusing it into the school program.  And library programs reap the benefit.

For years I have been an advocacy advocate (Isn’t that a great phrase?).  I have written and given workshops on why it is important for librarians to know how to develop advocates for their program.  Because it requires ongoing work, it is a hard sell, but Makerspaces have transformed the atmosphere. makerspace1

As with any advocacy program, you need to make stakeholders aware of what you offer. So promote the existence of your Makerspace widely. Put it on your website.  See if you can announce it in the public library.  Write and send out a press release to your local paper.

You also have a great opportunity to involve others.  When they are a part of it, they become ardent supporters. Which teachers (or possibly administrators) have hobbies or interests which lend themselves to Makerspaces? Would they like to lead a program?

With administrative approval, reach out to parents and others in the community to do the same. Chances are you have untapped volunteers who would love to contribute time, skills or tools. The more people involved, the wider reach your library program has.  Participants are natural supporters. Bring in the media – local newspapers and cable to do a feature.  Have them interview students to talk about why they like the program and what they are learning.

And don’t forget books.  For each Makerspace program have a display of books on the topic.  It always helps to have a quick resource for students– other than watching a YouTube video, which may be blocked. You want to show how hands-on work leads to research which the library facilitates.

make itThis can be a great place for you to get creative too.  Find fun ways to publicize and share your new program and involve as many students as you can. Consider putting together some mini-Makerspace ideas which can be borrowed by students.  Some of the items would be consumable, just as with any Makerspace project while other parts would have to be returned.  List the non-consumable inside the box with the materials so it can be checked in.  Put a library promo piece in each box. You would need approval for this, but it’s one more way to show parents and others how the library program promotes student learning. (NOTE: This idea comes from when, many years ago, my former co-author Ruth Toor circulated “Science in a Shoebox,” each with a different science project, including directions and list or what was contained in the box.)

Do you have a Makerspace program in your library?  Not sure how to get started?  There’s lots of information out there to help you – or you can ask for specific advice on the School Librarian’s Workshop Facebook group.

I am off to ALA Midwinter in Boston this coming week so I won’t be blogging next Monday.  If you are going, I hope to meet you there.

ON LIBRARIES: Advocacy – Results and Next Steps

signingOn December 10, President Obama signed the ESSA (Every Child Succeeds Act) into law. It was an historic moment, years in the making.  We have come close many times, with different variations but at the last moment Congress would keep the bill from coming to the floor.  It has finally happened and it took a lot of work to achieve.

A quick review is needed first so you can appreciate how we reached this stage.  You are probably familiar with previous laws such as ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) the first manifestation of which occurred in the early 1970s. NCLB (No Child Left Behind) which replaced the different version of ESEA soon was called No Child Left Untested, and most of you have been dealing with Common Core and the extreme testing which resulted.  We now move into a new phase.ala - ola

In addition to NEA working for a re-authorization of ESEA (which is what the first target was), ALA’s Washington Office, specifically its Office for Library Advocacy has been lobbying to get a bill through that would recognized the importance of school libraries and librarians, trying more than once to get what was then called the SKILLS Act Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries) passed, without much success.

This was partly our own fault.  I kept hearing from people in the Washington Office that Congress pays little attention to our lobbyists unless the message is supported by a strong outpouring of support from voters –like us.  Unfortunately, despite sending delegates to Legislative Day in Washington, D.C. and some attending virtually, there really weren’t rousing responses to calls for action.

This time, working along with NEA, and many, many librarians on social networks exhorting others to make calls, and Tweet or email legislators, the message got heard.  I suspect in part this was due to the widespread frustrations with Common Core.  So, in addition to sending thanks to the Washington Office for a job well-done, and to your legislators if they support the bill, give yourself a pat on the back if you were among those who responded to the call to action.  This took more than a village.  It took a country.

advocacy heartAs with any bill, it isn’t perfect.  Compromise is part of the process so you never get everything you want. But we did get libraries written into it. As Washington Dispatch explains the bill includes the Innovative Approaches to Literacy program allowing the Secretary of Education  “award grants, contracts, or cooperative agreements, on a competitive basis” to promote literacy programs in low-income areas, including “developing and enhancing effective school library programs.”  The money can be used both for purchasing library materials and for giving school librarians PD.

Moreover, Title II funds can now be used for “supporting the instructional services provided by effective school library programs.”  The part I really like is that the bill “encourages local education agencies to assist schools in developing effective school library programs, in part to help students gain digital skills.”  In an Education Week article on the bill, AASL President Leslie Preddy noted that school libraries and librarians as “critical educational partners.”

In essence it means the ball is now in your court. It is now up to you do advocacy work on the building and district level to ensure you have an effective library program.  What do you need? Why? What will you be doing?  How can the change be measured?

So take time to celebrate an achievement ten years in the making.  Then get down to work.  If you need it, look to your colleagues in your state association or in your district.  Reach out to your PLM for ideas if you need them.  Don’t waste this great opportunity.  Your students need it.

 

ON LIBRARIES – Be a Transformer

Back in February I blogged on how school librarians transform student learning. The idea came from an initiative ALA was developing. It has now blossomed into a campaign.  The new website focusing on it, Librarians Transform should be one you check regularly. Also sign up to receive updates.

libraries transform videoThe campaign, in the words of the website is, “Designed to increase public awareness of the value, impact and services provided by libraries and library professionals, the Libraries Transform campaign will ensure there is one clear, energetic voice for our profession. Showcasing the transformative nature of today’s libraries and elevating the critical role libraries play in the digital age.”  Note the emphasis on “one clear … voice.”  This means no matter what type of library you are in, you should be using the wording of the campaign. It ensures that people recognize the value of all libraries and come to value what we bring.

I particularly like the large statement on the home page, “Because Transformation is Essential to the Communities We Serve.” Although AASL first focused on how we transform student learning, it’s important to recognize our role in transforming the entire school community.  It is a big job, but we are the ones most aware of areas rooted in the past that no longer serve the present.  Through our understanding of tech resources we can gently guide others into making changes that will impact everyone within our school and potentially our district.library_word_cloud

Immediately below that opening statement is wonderful short video showing, “The ways in which libraries transform are as nuanced and varied as the people they serve. Physical transformations are easy to spot. Transformations in service and scope can be less apparent, but are ever changing. This video is the first of many sharable tools created to spark conversation on the transformed library and library professional.”  After you have seen that one, you can look at two others.

If you scroll down, you come to boxes explaining Why Libraries Are Transforming including: Because the World is at Their Fingertips and the World Can Be a Scary Place, Because More Than One-Quarter of U.S. Households Don’t Have an Internet Connection, and Because Employers Want Candidates Who Know the Difference Between Search and Research. (Colleges do as well.)

At the top of the page there are three tabs: Because, Trends, and Toolkit. What I just described is part of Because.  If you click on Trends, you see twenty colorful circles each with a trend identified by The Center for the Future of Libraries.  Among the ones most related to school librarians are: Digital Natives, Flipped Classroom, Gamification, Maker Movement, and Connected Learning.  You might also want to explore Drones, Robots, Unplugged, Sharing Economy, and Privacy Shifting.  Or look at all of them.

Each Trend opens with a statement defining what it is. How It’s Developing explores the factors that have combined to make it a trend and how it is evolving. Why It Matters explains what problems it may cause for some people and what librarians can do to help. Since we are librarians, below each trend are links to Notes and Resources.

becauseThe last tab, Toolkit, seems to still be under development.  However, you can download The Top Ten Ways (and One Bonus!) to Engage with the American Library Association’s Libraries Transform Campaign. You can also download web banners and posters of the opening Because boxes in a variety of sizes.

Watch this video of ALA President Sari Feldman and her “Transform” tour in four Washing D.C. locations http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/blogs/the-scoop/libraries-transform-across-dc/

This is a great resource.  Do become part of the campaign and enlist the other librarians in your district and state associations to join as well.

Reach Out – Find Your Larger Community

libraries transform learning
From ALA – click image for article

More and more of you recognize that no matter how busy you are in the library, the vital advocacy work that has administrators supporting your program happens outside it. While showing your own tech skills is a critical part of demonstrating how libraries have transformed over time, you still need to add a personal touch to make a true impact.

You know—or should know—your own town or city best.  Start thinking about ways you can reach beyond the educational community to send the message about how school librarians transform learning, boost student achievement, and prepare students for college, career, and lifelong learning in a constantly changing world.

In a world where so much communication is asynchronous, being with someone in person, in real-time adds much more meaning.  What this means, is that you have to get out of your library – and it’s on your own time. Up until now, your outreach for the most part is only directed to the school community including parents.  But you need to communicate with the much larger community.  They are voters and their attitudes toward school libraries is likely to be far more dated and entrenched than those of parents.facetime

Start by reaching out to your natural partners. Visit the public library. Introduce yourself to the children’s or YA librarian depending on the grade level of your school. Checking in advance with your principal to insure it is OK to do so, invite him or her to come to your library.  At the elementary level, you can work together on a story time with one or more classes.  At the middle and high school levels, you can get a cooperative English teacher to bring a class to the library and have your guest discuss upcoming programs at the public library.

Offer to promote public library programs in your library – and on your website.  See if the children’s or YA librarian is open to have you share student work in a display case or bulletin board at the public library.  This will reach community library users who don’t have children in the schools.

If you are a high school librarian, consider connecting with librarians in any college in your area.  An after school visit from a college librarian discussing college-level research with students (and possibly parents) will draw interest.  Try to get coverage from local press or cable TV station. High schools with TV stations can report on it as well.

special eventSome communities have a special day with various merchants contributing money and/or merchandise and food to bring out people.  The high school football field is often one of the venues for the day. Other places with a town green use that.  See if you can have a booth or table for the day.  Have flyers to hand out.  Display work by students and pictures you have taken showing library activity.  If possible, have students spend some time at the book talking with passers-by about what they love to do in the library.

Alternatively, or in addition, consider inviting community members into your library for special events.  Read Across America is a time when you can invite local officials to come and read to students. (Prepare them well –and prepare your students.)  Guests from Kiwanis or Rotary can talk to high school students about what they want to see and hear from those seeking part-time or summer work.

Your school library is part of a larger community that you need to be a part of. Get creative and have fun with these audiences you’ll find new resources and connections for your indispensable program.