ON LIBRARIES: Expect the Unexpected

THIS WEEK GUEST BLOGGER: Rona Gofstein

Last Tuesday, Hilda went to the ER with stomach issues and before the day was out she needed emergency surgery. As of this morning, she’s still in the hospital but will soon be heading to a rehab facility before going home. Needless to say… this wasn’t on her to do list.

As the first person who reads her blogs and then edits them, I offered to write one for her this week, and in preparing to do so I thought about the things Hilda focuses on most often: leadership, community, and communication.  I can tell you all of those things played a part this last week.

When the word went out among her friends and family, people called, sent flowers and a few headed out to the hospital. Community came together. There were comments and posts throughout social media, hopes for a speedy recovery pouring in to Hilda and her husband. There is nothing like a sudden health issue to make you feel alone and isolated. I know Hilda felt the connection of her community who reached out in so many ways to help.

As for communication,  being able to communicate clearly with doctors and other care providers is very important.  Hilda has worked hard this past week, starting when she was arrived at the hospital, to be clear about what was wrong, how long the problem existed and, now that she’s in a patient room, what she needs to be comfortable and support her own recovery. This includes asking for the support she needs to take regular walks, get what she needs for pain management, and reaching out to family for things she needs them to bring (I can tell you, her Nook was at the hospital almost immediately).

Then there’s leadership. What to say about leadership?

I think John Allen Paulus said it best with, “Uncertainty is the only certainty there is.”  There is no way to avoid surprises whether that’s a class showing up in the library unexpectedly, a beloved principal retiring, or  your car not starting at the end of the day. It’s rarely fun; it’s frequently unsettling; and there’s no getting away from it.

As a leader, it’s important to use what skills you already have – and frequently these include communication and community – to make the situation into one which doesn’t take you away from your long term goals and mission. In fact, I think Hilda would be quick to remind us this is one of the marks of a strong leader, and one of the benefits of being clear on your mission and vision. If you know where you want to end up, then the unexpected won’t have the dramatic or long term results that they might other

I know you’ll join me in wishing Hilda a speedy recovery. And as we writers say, when life throws something unexpected at you, yell “PLOT TWIST” and keep moving forward!

 

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ON LIBRARIES: Connecting to the Community

How far does your reach extend beyond your school library?  I know you’re likely thinking – I have enough of a challenge getting my reach to extend where it needs to within the school – but it’s something librarians have to consider. I wrote about this several years ago, and while there are new methods for outreach, the reason for it is the same – if you ignore your community, your community will ignore you.  Here’s where leaders recognize opportunity and look for ways to show why libraries and librarians are indispensable.

For years, librarians did their jobs exclusively within their four walls.  Elementary librarians usually had a fixed schedule (and most still do) with teachers dropping off and picking up their students at assigned times. At middle and high school levels they waited for teachers to approach them about bringing their classes in throughout the year to do research.

Infographic from AASL webpage on Advocacy. Click image for link

This pattern created a library program seemingly unconnected with the rest of the school which led to the widespread elimination of librarians as tight budgets forced tough decisions. Since few administrators knew what value the librarian and library program brought to students and staff, it was a “logical” place to cut.  Although many librarians were developing inquiry-based projects in collaboration or collaboration with teachers, great numbers of them were also swept away in the carnage.

The good news is we are coming back. A combination of factors including advocacy initiatives from ALA/AASL, the concern over fake news, and a growing awareness that there is a place for librarians is reversing the trend.  However, the change is happening slowly and there is always the danger of the pendulum going back if we don’t widen the base of our advocates to prevent that from happening.

A reminder about what advocacy means. It is not about you campaigning to keep your job and program.  As defined by AASL, it is an “On-going process of building partnerships so that others will act for and with you, turning passive support into educated action for the library program.”  And why do they support you?  They support you because you consistently supply something of value to them. You and your program help them reach their goals.

You can see it clearly when you collaborate and cooperate with the teachers. Your assistance makes their jobs easier and their students more successful.  That’s what teachers need, and you provide it.  But other stakeholders have different needs you should be aware of.

For example, the public library has also been hit with cuts in staff and budgets.  You are natural partners.  Reach out to the children’s or young adult librarian and talk about how you can help each other.  For example, September is Library Card Sign-Up Month. You can promote it on your website and in the library. At the beginning of the year, hand out and collect registration cards along with any promos the public library has created.

In return, have the public library publicize what is happening in your library.  See if you can do a bulletin board every so often with pictures of the kids at work.  Whether it’s Makerspaces or research, let the community know and see what goes on in school libraries. Maybe some of the students or teachers will join you to set up the bulletin board.

You can also “exchange” space on your websites. You can link to the public library’s site while they can link to yours.  Include it in a paragraph that will pique the community’s interest in going to your website.  This can be a place to use your Mission and/or Vision.  Or you may want to say something like, “See how tomorrow’s citizens are preparing today.”

Consider going even bigger by inviting community groups into the library.  Have the historical society do a display and use library resources to complement it.  Do the same with the garden club and any group that may be able to do something in the library. They will appreciate having the additional forum to promote what they do for the community. You might have the local cable station or newspaper cover it, especially if this becomes something you do regularly. Of course, put links to the groups you feature on your website.

The biggest reach is to the business community.  The Career counselor in my last school was a member of Rotary.  My principal was in Kiwanis.  Through them, and always with the permission of the administration, I was able to give a brief talk at one of their lunch meetings. Today, I would also be showing them my website and other online features. If you are in the high school, this is a great way to find out if these local businesses use interns. Working with the guidance department, you can promote the possibilities to your students, who are likely to let their parents know how they heard about it – thus reaching another group. It may even be possible to get some of these people help out in your Makerspace or other initiatives.

Think big.  Think bigger than your school library.  As you build relationships with the larger community, they will come to see how libraries have changed, what you bring to students and the school community and by extension the whole town (or neighborhood if you are in a more urban area).  Remember, the community votes on school budgets.  You want them to value the school library and support it.

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: The Rewards of Awards

CongratulationsThis past week I was thrilled and stunned to be informed that I was receiving the 2016 AASL Distinguished Service Award.  It took about 24 hours for it to sink in. Once it did, I began thinking about the other awards AASL gives and what an opportunity these present for school librarians.

Check out the Awards and Grants page on the AASL website. There are six awards listed in addition to the Distinguished Service Award. Each of them can bring attention to you and your library program. But you do need to submit an application.

Now is an excellent time to explore the possibilities.  Since most of the applications are due on February 1 you’ll have time to look them over, choose the best fit for you and then slowly begin filling out the forms. No pressure. It won’t be due for months.aasl awards

The National School Library Program of the Year award is the big one. Three different schools or districts can win the award in any one year, and some years only one or two get it.  The process for this one is arduous so an early start is vital.  Consider checking past winners and contacting them to see if they have any helpful advice.  You don’t have to be from a wealthy district. A few years ago, an inner city school won.

If you are among the finalists, the committee comes for an on-site visit. Imagine the excitement of this group coming to your town/city to see your school.  The whole school turns out to welcome them. And your library program is acknowledged for being considered as one of the year’s exemplary programs. Winning schools get $10,000 which will make any administrator take notice.

Want to start a bit smaller? Consider the Collaborative School Library Award.  If you and one or more teachers have developed a great collaborative program that had students excited about learning and gives them an opportunity be producers of information, making a contribution to the community, and using critical and creative thinking skills this award is for you.  In addition to the usual plaque, it also carries a $2,500 monetary prize,

Roald Dahl’s Miss Honey Social Justice Award “recognizes and encourages collaboration and partnerships between school librarians and teachers in teaching social justice through joint planning of a program, unit or event in support of social justice using school library resources.” Just reviewing the criteria and description might give you an idea of something you can plan with a teacher who likes to work with you. This one awards $2,000 to the librarian plus $1,000 for travel and housing at the ALA Conference and a donation $5,000 worth of books from Penguin Random House.

excellenceThe Intellectual Freedom Award is not one you would plan for.  It goes to a librarian who has stood up for the principles of Intellectual Freedom which usually means he/she stood fast in the face of a challenge to a book or other library material. Although state library associations and the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom offer support, the fact is the librarian is most often alone in the firestorm. It is an example of courage in upholding core principles of librarianship. Winners receive $2,000 plus $1,000 for their library. While you always hope nothing like this happens to you, if it does, do apply for the award. It’s important to get the word out, and it’s another validation for you in your school and district.

Are you blessed with a wonderful administrator? Nominate him/her for the Distinguished School Administrator Award. Winners receive $2,000 and of course a plaque.  Our best advocates are often administrators. Give them a chance to talk about what they see as the importance of school librarians and school library programs.  As winners they may be asked to speak at their own state and national conference.  It also won’t hurt your standing that you brought this fame to him/her.

Just below the list of awards are the grants.  Don’t overlook these. ForRuth two reasons, my favorite is the Ruth Toor Grant for Strong Public School Libraries. First, and most personally, Ruth Toor was my co-author and friend for over 35 years.  She is no longer able to participate in library activities, but this is how her husband has chosen to honor her contributions.  My second reason is my own (and Ruth’s) recognition of the importance of librarians having advocacy programs to promote the library to the entire educational community—and sometimes the local community itself.

Look at the criteria for the award and its requirements.  If you can come up with a plan that can be replicated and/or adopted by others, put it together and apply for the award.  The winner gets $3,000 to carry out the program plus $2,000 for the librarian and the school official or volunteer to attend the AASL Conference or the ALA Conference.

The Innovative Reading Grant addresses a core belief of libraranship – the importance of reading. If you have (or can come up with) a unique and innovative plan to motivate readers particularly those who struggle, this is one to look at closely. It carries a monetary award of $2,500, and just think of the difference your program can make in the lives of students.

I know you are all very busy, and applying for these awards takes time. But the possible rewards are great, and I am not referring to the monetary prizes.  If you win a national award your district will take notice.  Your Board of Education is likely to honor you and it is likely to be covered in the local newspaper. You bring attention and acclaim to your library program and make people aware of the importance of what you do.

Get started on applying for one of these. Good luck – and keep us posted.

ON LIBRARIES: From Library to Learning Commons

learning commonsYou have heard the term Learning Commons.  You may have read an article or two about it and thought it sounded wonderful—in a distant way.  Your library can’t become a Learning Commons. Because:

  • It takes too much time.
  • It costs too much money.
  • The administration won’t go for it.

For the most part, all three reasons (and any more you can come up with) are true—and false. If you decide it can’t happen in your library, it won’t. But what if you could transform your library into a Learning Commons?  Would it be worth the time and the risk?  How would having a Learning Commons change the perception of your program in the eyes of students? Teachers? Administrators? Parents and the larger community?  It’s one more step, a big one but a step, in demonstrating your leadership.transformation2

Some Reasons to Consider

Let’s start with why you should want to make the transformation.  Years ago, school librarians added the word “media” to their title. The reason was to focus attention on how libraries had moved from just having print to incorporating technology into learning and research.  It was important to change perceptions to prevent libraries being regarded as dusty warehouses.

Once again it is time to change perceptions first and then change reality.  As with many businesses, the 21st century demands we reinvent ourselves.  Does your library look like one from the 1990’s?  Earlier?  The world has changed radically in the past quarter of a century, and it’s not just the technology.  It’s how our relationships, learning, and communications have been transformed by technology.

We are living in a participatory culture.  We rely on crowd-sourcing, curating, and 24/7 access to information—much of it from our smart phones.  Does your library reflect those changes?  If you were a students would you see the library as a place to learn, create, share, and grow? (Those are the shortcut phrases describing the four standards of the AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner.)

planCreating a Plan

As the great American philosopher Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up someplace else.” Fortunately, you don’t need to do this on your own.  In a Knowledge Quest article Carole Koechlin and David V. Loerstcher explain the elements needed in a Learning Commons and how to plan for them.

While the article is an excellent start, you also need an incentive to keep you going. You are all highly capable researchers. Look for images of Learning Commons and more articles detailing how others have made the transformation.  Not only will this inspire you, it will be useful later when you present your plan. Limit your search by grade level.  While the concept stays the same, you may want to know what an elementary Learning Commons looks like.

Don’t be intimidated by the pictures.  Just look at the message the different spaces convey.  It’s all about participating, sharing, creating, doing. Where in the Learning Commons do these different activities happen?  You want to demonstrate the library is not just a place for finding things.  It’s a place for making things – and more.  It promotes inquiry learning just by the environment it creates.

The conversion to a Learning Commons does not have to be done in one year.  In fact, it might be better if it were stretched out to at least three years.  This way you can see what is working, what needs tweaking, and where you need to add or delete ideas you had for the next stage.

Finding the Moneyfind the money

Your space will need to change.  Fresh paint on walls, green screens, signs, and new furniture cost money. Most of you have been struggling with small or no budgets.  How can you pay for this?  Time to get creative.

What parts of the transformation are DIY – or DIY with volunteer help? What can be done cheaply? For example tables and chairs need to be moveable to allow maximum flexibility.  How much would it cost to put what you have on casters?  What outside sources of funds are available?  Most districts have a local education foundation that gives grants.  Are there other grants you could apply for?  Could the parent teacher organization help in any way?

talkConvincing the Administrators

Nothing is going to happen without the support of the administration.  Once you have you plan put together and have collected a file of pictures, prepare a pitch for your principal. Be sure to include pictures of libraries from the 1950s, the 1990 and your current library.

What is the key message you want to deliver?  If possible, tie it to your Vision and the Mission of the school. Keep it brief.  Show the work you have done and your cost analysis.

You may get shot down, but listen carefully to what you’re told.  I had a superintendent who told me she saved a lot of time by responding with a “no” to almost every suggestion.  Most people would just go away disappointed.  I would come back with an alternative.  And then another alternative.  By this time she knew I was serious and that I would work hard to see the project accomplished.

Are you up for the challenge?  Isn’t it worth it to try?

ON LIBRARIES: We Make Connections

Two weeks ago I blogged on how we transform our facility.  Last week I discussed the first impression people get when they enter our facility and meet us.  Then they get to discover what we do, and in the process we transform learning and our school community.

connectionsWe make connections.  We connect people to ideas, ideas to ideas, and we connect people to people.  You may not have focused on this core behavior, but it’s there in every librarian.

People to ideas – This form of connection is obvious.  Our patrons come to the library, physically or virtually, and are connected to the information they seek. When we are doing our job well, they find more than facts. It’s usable information.

I had the opportunity to have a very long discussion with several bright high school students the other day. We weren’t in a library, but as a librarian, no matter my location I am still functioning as one.  The first thing I did was challenge them to begin thinking by asking their views on Apple defying a warrant and refusing to create a program to get past the encryption on iPhones in order for the government to access information on the cell phone of one of the accused terrorists in the San Bernardino massacre.

As I expected, among the five there were instantaneous opinions, with the students taking different sides.  I didn’t support either side but pointed out this was an emotional response either to their feelings about dealing with terrorists or how strongly they felt about their right to privacy. The common element was their emotion.  While this was a natural response and would always be present, once they recognized its existence, they needed to move on to finding evidence to either refute or support their gut reaction.  This would not eliminate their emotions but would allow them to see, that just as with websites and other information sources, bias is almost always present.  It’s not wrong. It’s just there and needs to be recognized in order for it to be factored into decision making.  This is teaching critical thinking on a visceral level.idea to idea

Ideas to ideas – One of the best parts of our job is helping students make the leap from an initial idea to another, making a new connection.  The original idea is a single piece of information. Seeing how another idea is related and may further illuminate the first is how new understandings and knowledge are created.  For me, making those connections are the “highs” one experiences in research.

It helps if teachers are open to allowing students to take those side trips off an assigned research project into an area of personal interest, sparked by making an idea-to-idea connection. The project takes on deeper meaning.  It becomes something that lasts long after the assignment is completed. This is when Enduring Understandings are made and students get the purpose of learning.

Librarians know that research is a messy process.  Students and far too many teachers think of it as a linear progression. This is far from the truth, but often it’s the way research projects are done. Even the best students grab for an argument, line up the sources they will use, determine an outline to present their information, check that they have completed all the steps, and heave a sigh of relief.  But when you can lead them to the connection that excites their mind, the back-tracking and shifts of directions make sense as they seek to put together something they can proudly share with others. Something that matters to them –personally.

people to peoplePeople to people – Making these connections is not as widely recognized an aspect of what we do, but it’s becoming an increasingly important part of our job.  In creating digital citizens, a number of librarians are connecting students beyond the walls of the library.  I know one librarian who worked with a science teacher and had students discovering how to deal with epidemics and pandemics (and why they show up regularly in the headlines).  In creating the best way to alert a population and cope with the crisis, students worked with scientists at the CDC.

On a very different level, we use our extensive networks to bring people together who otherwise might never know each other. Through my daughter, I learned her childhood friend is living in an inner city and knits and donates numerous scarfs to the homeless by “scarf bombing” different areas and facilities in the city. A librarian friend of mine works in a school in that city.  She was fascinated by the project and thought it was one many of her students would want to do.  The connection was made and her students are eagerly involved in a community service project.collaborative learning

Don’t overlook the people-to-people connection you need to have with other librarians.  It’s one my grad students are discovering.  Librarians are inclined to think of themselves as being isolated in their building. Some are the only librarian in their district. Who can answer their questions?  Where can they go for help?  The answer is other librarians.  I have blogged about PLNs and you need to be continually expanding yours.  Belonging to your state library association (and hopefully participating) and joining and being a part of AASL and/or other national library associations connects you to a wealth of knowledge with a few strokes on your keyboard or a text on your phone.  LM_NET is a long-standing resource many use.  The School Librarian’s Workshop Facebook group is another one that’s growing.

Are you making these connections for your students and teachers?  Are you making connections for yourself?  Welcome to the connected 21st century –and we are the expert connectors.

ON LIBRARIES – Sending Mixed Messages

mixed messagesAs librarians we try to create a warm, welcoming safe environment for our libraries. We also want our students to become lifelong readers and learners. But often there is a disconnect between these desires and what our students perceive. Most of us are so busy we end up on auto-pilot, doing things without thinking, not realizing our actions are sending a very different message.

Years ago, I was hired to consult for a district hoping to improve its library program (Unfortunately, we don’t see that anymore).  I walked into one elementary library with the intention of seeing how its arrangement helped or hindered creating an inviting atmosphere.  I didn’t have to look far.  On several walls, there were large posters proclaiming library rules.  No loud voices – speak in whispers.  Wash your hands before reading a book. Sit properly in your chair. Raise your hand before speaking. Only two books may be checked out.

I wanted to leave.  The library was neat and orderly and completely cold. It was about rules, not about reading, not about discovering exciting new things. I am sure the librarian never intended students to feel what I was feeling. She probably had her hands full many days with students who found the environment so repressive they acted out.  I hope she didn’t punish them by not letting them take out a book.Library rules

At a high school I visited, I was also struck by how a beautifully designed facility could be a turn-off. The rules weren’t posted in the same way, but there was no indication that this was a place for kids. The few posters were formal purchased ones.  The walls had no added color. There was no student art. No bulletin board showcased student accomplishment. The message was, “This is a place run by adults and you are not to disrupt it.” Not surprisingly there were almost no students working individually, and I discovered teachers rarely brought their classes in.

Numerous elementary librarians, intending to instill a sense of responsibility in students, have a strict overdue policy.  If they don’t return their books on time, they can’t take out any.  The message being is “returning books on time is more important that having something new to read.”  While overdues can problem since the books can go astray and parents are expected to pay for lost books, there are other ways to handle it. You can have slips ready to insert into a book pocket or even taped to the cover informing parents to please search for books not returned. If it’s the school that has set the rule, make sure students is directed to some books to read while their classmates are selecting theirs and checking them out.  Send home a note about the missing titles and allow the student to borrow books as soon as the overdue ones are returned even if it’s not the class’s day in the library. Make it about getting books to read in the hands of students.

empty libraryCreating lifelong readers is being hampered in many places by the emphasis on Lexile scores. It’s fine for instructional purposes but not for recreational reading.  The idea is to make reading fun not challenging, hard work. Leisure reading levels are usually below instructional levels.  This builds fluency and enjoyment which then allows students to take on more difficult texts in class. I dislike the “five finger” rule.  If I had to look up five words on every page of a book, I wouldn’t want to read it.  I prefer a “no-finger” rule. This would mean there might be a few words in the book which would be new, but mostly the students could zip along and enjoy the story.

Some students want to read a book that’s well above their Lexile level. Frequently it’s on a subject they are interested in, such as a sport.  Or it could be a popular title.  Even now, you might get a third grader who wants to read a Harry Potter story and is really not up to the task. The tendency is to not let the child borrow the book.  I would let it go out, suggest sharing the reading with a parent or older sibling, and recommend another easier book also be borrowed.  The stretch in trying to read the harder text will only improve the student’s reading skills.  This is different from forcing a child to read a harder book to match a Lexile level.  This is personal choice.

Do your policies and practices reinforce or conflict with the message you want to send?  Rethink now and plan to make changes when you get back from the holiday break.

 

ON LIBRARIES – Reach Out To Collaborate

collaborationCollaboration is an important word in librarianship.  We all accept that it’s vital in giving students the best possible learning opportunities.  Most often, the word is used when we talk about collaborating with teachers. It’s time to think past the school building when developing collaboration.

The easiest bridge to build is with your local public librarians.  Are you aware of what programs they are offering?  Do they know what you are doing?  Is there a way you can work together?  In many places the children’s librarian visits the public school to promote a summer reading program, but you can invite them to come in during September for Library Card Sign-up Month.  It’s sometimes surprising to discover how many students don’t go to the public library. Talk with the librarian about creating a joint program, possibly a Makerspace and alternate venues.  Have the librarian showcase some of your programs and events on their bulletin board and/or website and do the same in return.

If at all possible, try to schedule a field trip to the public library.  Even middle and some high school students might be interested to see the “back rooms” to find out how materials get processed and get a chance to speak with the different levels of librarians as well as the clerks.  Most public libraries now have a teen section and, of course, they circulate DVDs audio books, and video games. Since their collection is larger than yours, it is good for students to know what’s available.  Their online databases also tend to be more extensive and those with library cards can access them from home.  The more students become aware of the existence and value of all types of libraries, the more likely they are to become lifelong learners and library advocates.public library

You can also collaborate with other schools in your district. Some of you run district-wide Battle of the Books contests, but you can also do joint projects with your students working the students from another school using Skype, Google Docs, or other tech to connect.  Perhaps their final product can be displayed one night at the public library.

Visits by older students to lower grades can be beneficial to both groups.  On Read-Across-America Day, some high school students go to elementary schools to read books to younger ones. I once had a U.S. History project where students had to take a topic, such as the Great Depression, and create a picture book.  First we borrowed historical fiction picture books from an elementary school library and discussed how the authors made a complex idea comprehensible to young children.  What background knowledge would they lack and need to be informed about in order for the book to make sense? With that understanding, they went to work. They field tested their results by reading their creations to kids in the elementary school.

Consider collaborating with 2 and 4 year colleges in your area.  The latest issue of Knowledge Quest, the magazine from AASL has numerous articles dealing with different ways to do this.  Field trips, again, acquaint students of the huge jump from a high school to a college library including the size, number of databases, and Library of Congress replacing the familiar Dewey Decimal System.

A visit from a college librarian talking about research projects at the college level is an eye-opener for students.  Years ago, a colleague of mine, arranged with a college professor to grade research papers that had already been graded by their teacher.  They were stunned when the college grade was returned as it was a full grade lower on average. Check Knowledge Quest for more ideas.

build bridgesOnce you start thinking outside the box—and outside your school—look for ways to involve the community.  Is there a Historical Society in your town? Could you come up with a project to collaborate with them?  Check to see what is out there, reach out to their contact person (with the knowledge and approval of your administrator) and see what projects you can create together.

Go worldwide. A number of librarians are connecting their students with students in another country. In the August/ September 2014 issue of School Librarian’s Workshop Shannon McClintock Miller explained how she devised a project that had her students making Rainbow Looms and sharing them first with students in an orphanage in India. She found the location in India by tweeting about her project and posting it on her Facebook page.

She and her students created a Banding Together Facebook and Tumblr on the project called Banding.  You can find out more about it at Banding Together” project on her Smore

Besides your teachers, with whom can you collaborate?  Start thinking.

 

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.

ON LIBRARIES: Grassroots Advocacy

library_word_cloudYour biggest supporters are right in front of you.

Many of you are uncertain about advocacy, feeling you don’t have the time and/or it’s too big a job. But doing it in a grass roots way – person-to-person – is quick, easy, and you get better the more you do it. Advocacy is a responsibility of all of us. You don’t have to do it every day, but you do need to get it into the habit. The future of our students is at stake.

Administrators and many teachers often don’t realize what you do; the general public is even more clueless. You can begin to educate them.

Start with your friends. Do they know what you do?  Yes, they are aware you are a school librarian, but do they have any idea what your job entails?  Make a point of sharing a story about a student (not giving names) and how you made a difference for the child that day. Or a project in which minds were stretched, curiosity nurtured, and a more sophisticated approach to searching online was learned.busy library 4

Some recommendations:

  • Always be positive. Focus on what is great about your job and why you love it. If you mention job cuts discuss how that will impact students, not you.
  • Don’t go on and on about your job. One story at a time is sufficient. You want to plant a seed and help it grow, not inundate and bore your listener.
  • Do include the public library in your conversations. I was recently talking with a friend from another state and mentioned how all libraries are being affected by budget cuts. I pointed out the services the public library provided from free internet to help with finding jobs. My friend was stunned. She had no idea, and shared that her boyfriend was out of work and becoming frustrated. Now, she is sending him to the public library. The two of them are likely to become strong library advocates.

And then there’s your elevator speech. Always be prepared for a quick library promotion. I usually focus mine on school libraries. Someone mentions local budget cutbacks and I say something like, “The cost to students has been drastic and it is will have a negative impact on their success on high stakes tests as well as their readiness for college and careers.”  With that bold statement, I usually get their attention and follow it up with, “Countless research studies have shown the relationship between student achievement and a school library with a certified school librarian.”  These days I close with, “Eliminating a classroom teacher is bad enough since it increases class size, but getting rid of a librarian eliminates the entire library program.”  When I still worked in a school I would also invite the person to come in and see a school library program in action.

Click for blog: Partnering for student success
Click for blog: Partnering for student success

One more way to build grassroots advocacy is by going to District Dispatch from ALA’s Washington Office. Sign up for their Legislative Alerts so you are aware of any pending legislation which will affect school and/or public libraries. You will be able to quickly contact your legislators to ask them to support important acts. It takes under a minute to complete. Your state association’s legislative chair will also send out messages about it on your association’s listserv. If you have parents or friends who have become library supporters, give them the link for when you want them to reach out to legislators. Legislators listen very closely to people who are not in the profession as they logically see us as having a vested (read: biased) interest.

One-on-one advocacy can be the most impactful, particularly if a relationship already exists between you and the other person, but even with a stranger it’s a great way to get the message out about libraries.