ON LIBRARIES: Confessions of a Conference Junkie

It’s true.  I admit it I am totally hooked on library conferences. On Wednesday afternoon I will be flying to Phoenix to attend the AASL Conference.  The following week I will be at my state library association’s conference.  I am already registered for ALA Midwinter in Denver (yes, winter in Denver) in February of 2018.

Those of you who haven’t attended any of these, particularly the ALA/AASL ones, may wonder how I got hooked and why I keep going.  It started innocently enough.  I went to my state conference. And one of the reasons I chose to go was because it was easy to get to the site.

It turned out to not only be familiar but a lot of fun. A number of my librarian friends were there and the vendor reps for the most part were the ones who called on me. I got to see several programs that were helpful, some of which were led by people I knew so I could follow up with them.  There were some nice freebies (now called swag), and I met more librarians from my state who I hadn’t known before.

I continued to attend and I became known by leadership people which led to my being asked to serve on committees.  Although it was a bit scary, I tried one.  It accelerated my learning curve, and I became a truly active member of the New Jersey Association of School Librarians (then called EMAnj).

Then in 1979, (yes, I have been a librarian for a long time), I attended my first ALA Annual Conference.  Along with Ruth Toor, I had written my first book – The School Librarian’s Almanac – and thought it was time to look at the larger scene.

That year the site was easy again. It was held in New York City. As a New Jersey resident who was born in New York, I was comfortable there. Lots of the New Jersey librarians I had come to know also attended.

It was somewhat overwhelming, but thrilling at the same time.  It was SO much bigger. As I walked to the Convention Center I saw so many people wearing conference badges and carrying the bags attendees were given.  I struggled a bit to choose among so many programs.  There were more vendors than I ever heard of, but I did see a quite a few familiar faces among the reps. And the swag was amazing. I came home with bags, books, bookmarks and other great things for my library.

One of my best memories from that conference was meeting Isaac Asimov.  I had loved his works since I discovered them while in high school.  He even kissed my cheek.  I didn’t want to wash it.

Sitting at the food courts and sharing tables I met so many librarians from all over the country. There even were some from countries around the world.   I was learning even when I wasn’t at a program or in the exhibit hall.  I was hooked.  I never looked back.  I couldn’t wait for the next conference.  Fair Warning—conference going is addictive.

Since that time I have never missed an ALA Conference. I remember going to Toronto, Canada in 2003 for the first joint conference with the Canadian Library Association.  It was made even more memorable because shortly before the conference, Canada experienced an outbreak of the SARS virus.  Those of us who didn’t decide to skip the conference were made extremely welcome.

After attending ALA Annual for several years, and taking volunteer positions in my state organization I became the president-elect of NJASL and was therefore a delegate to AASL’s Affiliate Assembly. Since it met at ALA Midwinter in addition to annual, I attended that.  And discovered it was the same and different from Annual.  Smaller in some ways, without as many programs, there were still committee meetings, great exhibits—and of course, swag.

In my new position I met our national leaders. I was surprised to discover how approachable they were. Before long I was serving on AASL committees.  In 1980, AASL had its first conference.  I didn’t the first or second (they are every other year), but I did go to the third held in Atlanta, GA. Aside from a family emergency that caused me to change plans at the last minute, I have attended every AASL Conference since then.

I had no choice but to be hooked. So many programs, so many vendors.  And all of them directed to school librarians.  It was perfect.  When AASL began holding its National Institutes, commonly known as the Fall Forum, I couldn’t wait to attend.  These were very small, and focused on a single topic/issue of importance to school librarians. It was the perfect setting for intense learning.

So here am I once again eagerly packing for an AASL Conference. (I will be skipping my blog next week as I will be in Phoenix.) What do I have to show for it?  Well, the swag does accumulate.  I will never need to buy a canvas bag.  I always have a huge supply of pens and post-it notes plus assorted helpful items from thumb drives to earphones.

More importantly, to a great extent, the leader I am today came about as a result of all my conference going.

Are you a conference junkie?  Which ones do you attend?  What are some of your best memories? What would be a good first one for you – state, AASL, or national? Wanna join me in New Orleans next year?

 

 

 

 

 

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ON LIBRARIES: Leading Larger

You have taken on the challenge, and you are now a leader.  You look for ways to showcase the library program. Perhaps you have started a Makerspace or instituted a way to connect regularly with teachers and possibly parents. Teachers ask you for help because they have learned you are a resource for them.

These are all significant achievements.  But don’t rest on your laurels.  You need to continue to grow as a leader. Once again you have to step out of your comfort zone, and, if you haven’t done so yet, it is time to serve your state association.  Your first foray at that level may be to be on a committee or chair a small one. Once you volunteer you must participate fully.

And I can hear many of you saying, “I don’t have time for that.”  While there is a great measure of truth in that statement, it’s a story you are telling yourself.  In my blog on “The Stories We Tell Ourselves,” I wrote “Most of you are very busy, but the fact is in our world no one can find time.  You have to make time.  Which means look at what you are doing and determine priorities.”

Why should serving at the state level be a priority? Aside from the altruism and giving back to the profession, what do you get from fitting one more thing into your already busy schedule? Leaders keep learning. As a committee member, you meet with other librarians. Should you chair a committee, you will be attending board meetings. In both cases, you will have regular discussions with your colleagues, and if you have ever attended a conference, you know the conversations you have with your fellow librarians are usually as beneficial as the programs themselves.

If you are a committee chair, the board meetings will give you a larger picture of what is happening in your state. What are the big issues? What is the legislature doing that will impact library programs and schools? As the other chairs make reports and share their views, your perspective gets larger.

Your vocabulary increases as well. Not your everyday vocabulary, but the one that deals with libraries and education and policy.  In talking about these concerns and potentially challenging situations, you become more fluent when you speak with others, whether it’s teachers or administrators. You sound like the expert you are becoming, and your comments take on greater value.

In other words, you get a good return on your investment of time.

After you have seen the benefits of serving on the board of your state association, think about running for an office.  Yes, the time requirement will be larger, particularly if you run for president, which is normally a several year commitment depending on your state. Usually, it’s a progression from vice-president to president-elect, president, and then past-president.  Each with its own special duties. But with greater responsibilities comes greater learning. The quickest way to start this is to use the AASL website to Get Involved.

If you do choose to be on track to become president, you will learn the true meaning of leadership. The responsibility for what happens to the profession and your association will rest on you. But you get to listen to others (and it’s vital that you do). You may testify at your state legislature concerning issues of importance to school librarians. Reporters who need a comment about school libraries will come to you.

You can’t get that training anywhere else. You are definitely “out front” for all to see.  While that sounds scary, remember you have at least a year or two as vice-president and president-elect to get the experience.  When you become president, you probably will have moments of doubt. Everyone does. But your confidence and belief in yourself will have grown tremendously.  Back at your school, the administration will recognize and most often treat you like the leader you are.

There are still more steps for you to take.  As president, you will have opportunities to attend national conferences, usually ALA, and be a part of AASL’s Affiliate Assembly.  Now your perspective gets even larger as you view events on a national level.

It’s time to consider volunteering to serve at that level.  While my personal commitment is to AASL as the only organization that speaks solely for school librarians, you might choose ISTE or AECCT.  The idea is to keep leading larger.

For many years, I worked on and chaired AASL committees.  I often said I should have gotten CEU credit for each of them.  I learned so much.  Most recently I have been appointed to ALA committees.  I had to leave my comfort zone.  I knew AASL.  I had many friends there and people know me.   But leaders, including myself, need to keep learning and growing. Currently, I am on ALA’s Committee on Professional Ethics and the Information Literacy Committee.  While I see the issues as they impact librarianship as a whole, I bring the perspective of school librarians to my fellow committee members.

As in the past, I have learned far more than I expected.  I have widened my circle of friends at ALA. The expense—of time and money—has brought a valuable return. While some of you cannot afford to travel to distant conferences, be aware that most committee work is done on conference calls and there are virtual memberships.

I have written many times – being a leader is not an option.  It’s a job responsibility, and it’s a personal responsibility. Leadership brings positive attention to the library program which results in more respect for it and makes it more likely you and the library will not be eliminated.  It also is personal because you become a role model for other librarians who have yet to take on the challenge of becoming a leader. As business management author Tom Peters has said, “Leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders.”

ON LIBRARIES – The Highly Effective School Librarian

When school librarians are recognized as a leader they are called highly effective.”  Until now the best tool for evaluating this has been the Danielson Framework – Library Media Specialists, but thanks to ALA Past Presidents Sari Felman and Julie Todaro their ALA Initiative,  “Libraries Transform – The Expert in the Library has given us something more precise.  Now we can point to eleven competencies based on the National Policy Board for Educational Leaders’  Professional Standards for Education Leaders (PSEL).

Thanks go to Susan Ballard, Dorcas Hand, and Sara Kelly Johns who have created a way we can self-assess and determine our own route forward. The website for School Librarian PSEL Competencies – Building Our Expertise has directions and the host of resources you need to act on what might be the best PD you ever had.

To help you get started, I will unpack what is available for you on the website.

First, there are 11 Competencies they have identified along with the explanation for each:

  1. Mission, Vision and Core Values – Effective School Library leaders develop, advocate, and enact a shared mission, vision, and core values of high-quality education and academic and/or professional success and well-being of each learner.
  2. Ethical Principles and Professional Norms – Effective School Library leaders act ethically and according to professional norms to promote each learner’s academic success and well-being and/or practitioners’ professional success.
  3. Equity and Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness – Effective School Library leaders strive for equity and inclusivity of educational opportunity, and culturally and linguistically responsive practices to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being.
  4. Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment – Effective School Library leaders design, deliver and support intellectually rigorous and coherent systems of curriculum, instruction, and assessment to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being.
  5. Community of Care and Support for Students – Effective School Library Leaders cultivate an inclusive caring and supportive school community that promotes each learner’s academic and/or professional success, personal interests and well-being.
  6. Professional Capacity of School Personnel – Effective School Library leaders develop their personal professional capacity and practice to best support other school personnel in order to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being.
  7. Professional Community for Teachers and Staff – Effective School Library leaders foster the development of a professional community of teachers and other professional staff to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being.
  8. Meaningful Engagement of Families and Community – Effective School Library leaders engage families and the community in meaningful, reciprocal, and mutually beneficial ways to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being.
  9. Operations and Management – Effective School Library leaders manage resources and operations to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being by creating an inviting environment, providing a flexible program, developing the collection, curating and organizing the resources, integrating digital and technology access, managing appropriate funding and encouraging critical thinking to create a community of lifelong learners.
  10. School Improvement – Effective School Library leaders act as agents of continuous improvement to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being.
  11. Literacy and Reading – Effective School Library leaders promote reading for learning, personal growth, and enjoyment (and) are aware of major trends in children’s and young adult literature. They select reading materials in multiple formats to support reading for information, pleasure, and lifelong learning. They use a variety of strategies to reinforce classroom reading instruction to address the diverse needs and interests of all readers. Literacy takes many forms (EX: digital, information, cultural, etc.) that all rely on the foundational literacy of reading.

 

The list manages to be reassuring and daunting at the same time.  I would venture to guess most of you are at or close to the Highly Effective level with at least items 1 through 5 as well as 11. But then there are the other five.  How can you work on them when you have so much to do in your day?

The solution is on the website.  Follow these three steps:

  1. Choose the competency 1-11 that you want to work on.
  2. Identify in the rubric your level of Expertise.
  3. Move to the resources to read those recommended to support your growth to a higher level, as well as the AASL resources for all levels

Note that you only work on one at a time.  And it’s the competency of your choosing. Below the list of competencies are links to the rubric for each one.

For example, I find #10 to be very challenging.  To determine how close I come to being Highly Effective, I select this rubric:

10.  Rubric for School Improvement – Effective School Library leaders act as agents of continuous improvement to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being.  COMPETENCY 10 RESOURCES
HIGHLY EFFECTIVE School Library leaders create data such as action research to act as agents of continuous improvement to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being through an inquiry-based approach, utilizing a variety of instructional strategies to meet a diverse learning population, while collaborating with other all stakeholders to meet the mission core values and curricula of the school community.  RESOURCES
EFFECTIVE School Library leaders use data to act as agents of continuous improvement to promote each learner’s academic and/or professional success and well-being through an inquiry-based approach, utilizing a variety of instructional strategies to meet a diverse learning population, while collaborating with other teachers to meet the mission core values and curricula of the school community.  RESOURCES
EMERGING School Library leaders act as agents of improvement to promote some of the learners’ academic and/or professional success and well-being through an inquiry-based approach, utilizing a variety of instructional strategies to meet a diverse learning population; however,  in isolation from most other teachers.  RESOURCES
INEFFECTIVE School Library leaders do not promote academic and/or professional success and well-being because their program is devoid of any inquiry-based approach and in isolation from other teachers and curricula.  RESOURCES

I feel I am Effective but not Highly Effective at this so I click on the Resources and find:

Calhoun, Emily F. “Action Research for School Improvement.Educational Leadership, vol. 59, no. 6, Mar. 2002, pp. 18–24.

Loertscher, David V., and Ross J. Todd. We Boost Achievement!: Evidence-Based Practice for School Library Media Specialists. Salt Lake City UT, Hi Willow Research, 2003.
Todd, Ross J. “Evidence-based Practice and School Libraries: Interconnections of evidence, advocacy and actions. Knowledge Quest 43.3 (2015): 8.

And now I’m ready to go!

You are undoubtedly more than halfway there.  Start the process, and when you have attained Highly Effective in all (or almost all) 11, share the rubrics with your administrator.  We all need to know—and let others know—we are Highly Effective School Librarians.

How close are you to being Highly Effective at all 11 Competencies?  Which one are you going to start with?

 

 

ON LIBRARIES: Making Connections

 alamidwinterlogoWhen you read this I’ll be heading home from ALA Midwinter Conference in Atlanta.  As always, I am looking forward to it for many reasons, especially the opportunity to connect with my many friends and colleagues from across the country.  While the majority are school librarians, I also cherish my public and academic librarian friends.  Which got me thinking about the importance of making connections.

My writing and presentations are always for school librarians, and I regularly discuss what needs to be done so we are seen as vital and indispensable.  The subtext in some ways has been we must learn how to stop the cuts to school library programs.  This ignores the much larger issue which many of us don’t recognize – library programs have been facing cuts in all types of libraries. making-connections

To be successful we must work together and get out of our silo.

As a first step, become acquainted with your public library and the librarians there, both in your school district and where you live.  Discuss ways you can work together to reach a broader community and show the importance of all libraries.  Do the same at any community college or four-year institution in your area.

I first took in this message many years ago when the then ALA president, Jim Rettig, talked about the library ecosystem. We are connected.  Damage any one of our library types and all are affected.  Students who don’t have or use a school library are not likely to become public library patrons as adults.  They also add a burden to college librarians who must attempt to teach twelve years of research and information literacy skills to freshmen who are clueless.

love-my-library-2Kids who went to story hours as pre-schoolers have learned to love books and libraries.  They bring that attitude with them when they start elementary school. Their obvious enthusiasm is communicated to their fellow students. The more kids who have that background the easier it is for elementary librarians to get on with their instruction and creation of lifelong readers.

You should be using the ALA website for help on Advocacy and other related matters.  Of course, you should also check in AASL’s website as well your state association’s.  If your state has ta separate association for school librarians, do become familiar with what’s on the larger group’s website and consider joining it.

Don’t overlook going to conferences.  I know it can be an economic challenge and many of you find it difficult to get release time, but the investment is worth it for the learning and the connections you will make.  Explain to your supervisor what you will be able to bring back to benefit students and teachers.libraries-transform-box

Beyond that, I strongly recommend you check out Libraries Transform the current initiative from ALA and has wonderful resources you can use.  There are two tabs in particular you should check out. “Trends” has twenty-three colorful circles each with a trend from Aging Advances to Urbanization.  In addition to Gamification, Maker Movement, and Sharing Economy you will find some less familiar ones such as Haptic Technology and Fast Casual.  Not all are part of libraries – but they could be.

The second tab to look at is Toolkit.  For that you have to register but it will give you access to how to reach target audiences, launch your campaign, and some ideas on how to collect stories. Graphics has a number of items you can print, post, and/or distribute.

future-readyFinally, I want to be sure you are aware of Future Ready Librarians and the Facebook page.  This is for school librarians and it’s about how to be an active part of Future Ready Schools. You want to be a building leader in that movement.  And you might also look at the School Library Advocacy website. They have a wonderful blog that is another source of ideas and possibilities.

You are only alone in your library if you choose to be.  To be a leader and bring to your students, teachers and educational community what they need, you must get connected.connect2

How are you connected?  Where else should you go?  How can your fellow librarians help? If you’re on the School Librarian’s Workshop Facebook page, share your questions, concerns, and successes.

ON LIBRARIES: ESSA and You

essaThe start of the school year is imminent for some of you and not too far away for the rest of you.  Before your vacation is over, you need to become knowledgeable about ESSA and how to make it work for your program.  Fortunately AASL and hopefully your state association has information and resources for you to tap into as you advocate for library funds.

Ever since President Obama signed ESSA into law AASL has been working to ensure that this hard-one replacement of NCLB would get school libraries the recognition and funding they need.  Since ESSA calls for “Effective School Library Programs” in Title I, II and IV of the act, it was necessary to define what such a program is. They have done so with a recently released position statement.

The statement is brief and yet succinctly explains the contribution an “effective school library program” makes to students and the educational community. When you review this document, highlight where your library meets the requirements and where it still falls short.  Bring it to your principal along with your recommendations as to how you can attain the level required so your school and district will qualify for federal funds under the act. President_Barack_Obama_signs_Every_Student_Succeeds_Act_(ESSA)

The discussion opens the door for you to share what you can bring in the way of technology integration, lifelong reading, and the 21st century skills of critical thinking, creating new knowledge, and sharing it widely. Since the position statement refers to the research supporting the contribution of school library programs on student learning and achievement. Also bring your downloaded copy of School Libraries Work -2016 ed. from Scholastic to support that claim.

In a previous blog I mentioned the “landing site” AASL has set-up as a one-stop shopping for ESSA information. All information whether from AASL, ALA, or other sources can be found here.  In addition to a link to the position statement, under Rule Making and Guidance it has an extremely helpful PDF from ALA’s Washington Office on Opportunities for School Librarians as a result of ESSA.

The information from the Washington Office focuses on Title I, II, and IV of ESSA.  In each case it explains the area covered by that title and part. Under Background it explains what states and school districts must do under the provisos of the Act.  Next it lets you know the Library Provisions so you don’t have to read through the legalese of the actual ESSA.  Then it details under Next Steps what need to be done to apprise school districts of what they can do under the Act and where it is necessary to contact state officials.  The latter will probably best be done by your state library association.

Title I Part AImproving Basic Programs Operated by State and Local Educational Agencies will be the most challenging since it authorizes but doesn’t require how these agencies will assist schools in developing effective school library programs.  A lot of work is needed to contact and work with these agencies. It would seem for the most part you will need a lot of assistance from your state association unless AASL can develop an action plan to help.

Title II Part A -Supporting Effective Instruction is much more promising, as are subsequent relevant parts of the Act since it authorizes states to use grant funds to “support instructional services provided by effective school library programs.”  Under NCLB these funds were listed as solely for teachers. Now these can be used to support your professional development.  Note it says “can be.”  Whether they will, depends a great deal on you.

Title II Part B Subpart B Literacy Education for All includes a new K-12 literacy program.  School librarians can now apply for grant funds to support this. It also has funding to provide time for teachers and librarians to meet, plan and collaborate on comprehensive literacy instruction. Subgrants awarded must include professional development for teachers AND librarians. Again, you may very well have to bring all this to the attention of your administration. Another section of this subpart deals with the Innovative Approaches to Literacy and specifically authorizes funds to be used for developing and enhancing effective school library programs.  It will take advocacy at the federal level to ensure this is fully funded.  Expect ALA and AASL to work through the Washington Office to accomplish this – but when asked, be sure to do your part and contact your legislators.

Title IV Part A – Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (Block Grants) this is a continuation of what was in NCLB but now librarians have a presence.  The grants are tied to poverty levels and include funding for personnel to learn the knowledge and skills needed for technology integration to improve instruction and student achievement. In preparing the grant, school officials must consult with teachers, principals, and other stakeholders who include school librarians.

aasl essa pageOnce you are grounded in these two documents, check out the other resources on the AASL ESSA landing page.  Review the various AASL Position Statements relevant to ESSA. Make it a point to regularly check the link under Resources & Information to ESSA Updates on Knowledge Quest. Look over the material from the ALA program on Unpacking ESSA for the School Librarian.

ESSA is both an opportunity and a challenge.  You can move your school library program forward and demonstrate your leadership to your administrators or you can cross your fingers and hope someone does the work for you and you will get some of the funding.  Which type of librarian do you want to be?  This is the time to step up.  Have you done anything so far?

 

ON LIBRARIES: Embracing Standards

Standards have several definitions among them, according to Merriam Webster, are “ideas about morally standardscorrect and acceptable behavior,” “something that is very good and that is used to make judgments about the quality of other things,” and “a level of quality, achievement, etc., that is considered acceptable or desirable.” The first definition is a personal one that guides our actions and choices in life.  We deal with the next two in our professional lives.

We have always had curricular standards, but Common Core pushed that into high gear.  It became tied to high stake tests, which in many places were use in the evaluations of teachers and librarians, affecting their future.  While this has been moderated somewhat, the underlying truth is that none of us can ignore national and state standards.

Common Core is in the process of disappearing as ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) takes its place.  We are still learning how it will be applied and how it will impact school library programs. While the Act includes libraries in funding, obtaining it is not automatic.  Librarians on the national, state, and local level need to be prepared in order to participate in the funding.essa

AASL has a “landing site” for information about ESSA.  It include a PDF from ALA’s Washington Office on Opportunities for School Librarians which is a good place to start. There is also a link to District Dispatch’s ESSA Updates and to Updates on Knowledge Quest. (Dorcas Hand’s posts from what the Texas Library Association is doing are particularly helpful.) Be sure to check both of these links regularly. Your own state library association is probably gathering information for you as well, and will undoubtedly be putting on programs at their annual conferences. You need to be aware of what they have on their website and to make attending the conference a priority.

In addition to these national standards, our teaching needs to be aligned with our own library standards. ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) has just updated its Standards for Students, replacing the 2007 ones. Standards for Teachers and another for Administrators will follow, along with standards for computer science educators and coaches. Based on the past, these will reflect the Standards for Students.

The changes between the old and the new are highly significant and highlight what has happened in the intervening nine years. The areas covered in the 2007 standards are:

  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts

At first glance they seem quite appropriate for today’s students—until you see the new areas which are:

  • Empowered Learner
  • Digital Citizen
  • Knowledge Constructor
  • Innovative Designer
  • Computational Thinker
  • Creative Communicator
  • Global Collaborator

A short paragraph explains the meaning and context of these areas and then gives four indicators for each.  We are putting much more demands on students being able to produce and contribute in new ways in order to succeed in the global society.

measuringThe ISTE Standards are available as a free download and you should start integrating them into your teaching.  Share them with your teachers and administrators.  Possibly because ISTE throws a wider net than just school librarians, administrators are often more interested in them.

The AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner were also published in 2007, and like the ISTE ones need to be updated.  The process began in March 2015 and the new standards will be released in the fall of 2017 along with implementation tools to help you incorporate them into your teaching.  The roll-out will coincide with AASL’s 18th National Conference and Exhibition to be held from November 9 to 12 in Phoenix, Arizona.  Start planning now to attend.

The links and list of standards seems overwhelming, but when you look more closely, you can see how many are the same just stated differently and/or from a slightly different perspective.  Work on including as many as you can into your teaching to demonstrate how you transform student learning and help them achieve on high stakes tests –and life.

Which standards are you now using?  Which challenge you? Which do you want to add?

 

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: 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: The Challenge of Collaboration – Part One

NOTE: This is the first of a several week series on collaboration

collaboration 2“School librarians transform student learning.”  Easy to say.  Important to do.  Accomplishing it… is more complicated.  While we can do much when dealing with students one-to-one, and certainly work toward that end when we have a scheduled class, the transformation is best achieved when working in collaboration with teachers. Some of you are doing so on a regular basis, but from my contacts with school librarians coping with day-to-day pressures, fixed schedules, and unwilling teachers, collaboration is at best a distant goal.

The first Guideline under “Teaching for Learning” in AASL’s Empowering Learners states:

The school library program promotes collaboration among members of the learning community and encourages learners to be independent, lifelong users and producers of ideas and information. (p. 20)

The actions supporting the Guideline expect the librarian to:

  • “collaborate with a core team of classroom teachers and specialists to design, implement, and evaluate inquiry lessons and units
  • collaborate with an extended team including parents, community members, … museums, academic and public libraries… to include their expertise and assistance in inquiry lessons and units
  • work with administrators to actively promote, support, and implement collaboration
  • seek input from students on the learning process.”

That’s a tall order and very few are doing all of this. The Guidelines offer no direction on how you are to develop this level of collaboration and instructional partnership.  Where do you start?Hello

You can’t focus on all four actions at once.  The last is the easiest to accomplish by way of formative assessments during a class and regular brief surveys or exit tickets at the end of a unit. The first action is your main target to implement the Guideline into your program.

At the middle and high school levels, you normally have a flex schedule which means some teachers bring their classes frequently, some do it rarely, and others you never see.  Work initially with those accustomed to using their library as part of their instruction.  At what point do you enter the process right now?  Is the teacher using only your facility but not your expertise or does h/she expect you to do an introduction to the resources to be used? You want to reach the stage where you are develop the unit together, each making a design contribution.

If the teacher is only using your facility, observe what students are working on.  Come up with one or two resources that would improve their results and share with the teacher.  If you are thanked, suggest the teacher give you a heads-up in the future so you can provide relevant sources.  If your recommendatiknockingon is ignored, repeat the process the next time.

In the case where you informed in advance what students will be doing and can offer recommended direction, add possibilities for making the project inquiry-based, one where the end product has meaning beyond the due date.  You want to create learning opportunities for students to be producers of information and not just regurgitating existing facts they collect and turn into a pretty presentation.

In all cases, follow up with a brief assessment with the teacher.  Did this help?  What would work better next time?  Frame your questions so teachers are willing to make negative comments. If you only hear positives you can’t improve what you are doing.

Elementary librarians who mostly have fixed schedules have a greater challenge. If you are in that situation, your first aim is to cooperate with teachers. To do that you need to find out what they are working on in class to give students a deeper connection with the topic by working with you when they come in at their scheduled time.collaborative learning

Start with the teachers with whom you have a good relationship.  When they give tell you what they are doing (or you have a curriculum map to guide you), let them know what you are doing with their students.  As with flex time librarians, follow up when the unit is complete to find out what the teacher thought. What if anything did he/she not like?  What worked? Was there anything you can do differently next time?

Next week, meeting the challenges of other Actions in the Guidline.

 

 

 

 

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.