ON LIBRARIES: A Different Approach Changes Outcomes

Many of you have tried multiple approaches to get your message through but making progress is still slower than you’d like. Sometimes you make headway with one or two teachers, and that’s a big gain.  Rather than focus on your frustrations, it’s important to look at what you can do to change your situation. Some self-reflection on how you present yourself might give you a few more tactics you can use to reach more of the faculty and possibly the principal.

In 10 Behaviors for Better Results, John R. Stoker reviews how we sometimes get in our own way and then offers ways to change the dynamic. There is an important theme throughout these behaviors – we can’t let our passion stop us from hearing the same passion and needs in our associates. He frames his ideas as responses to these ten questions:

  1. Are you so entrenched in your perspective that you don’t hear what others are saying? We know about active listening, but when we are passionate about what we believe, it is not always easy to practice. What is the other person’s perspective? Why do they see it that way?  Why are they passionate? Speak first to that.
  2. Do you really listen when others are speaking? Another reference to the importance of active listening. Because of our own beliefs, often nurtured by experience, we listen to hear the arguments, the negative, and overlook the possible areas of agreement. Instinctively, you prepare your defense and at that moment you tune out.  Without realizing it you’ve set up an immediate barrier.  You’ve probably been on the other side of this as well. No one likes to be ignored. Listen first.
  3. Do you push too hard to get the thing that you want? This is probably one of our biggest mistakes.  We finally have someone’s ear.  We have our message out – fast.  In the process, we overwhelm our listeners and they retreat.  Watch the other person’s body language for signs they are disengaging.  Be prepared to modify your request. If a teacher says s/he is too busy to come to the library, offer to send a cart with materials and an emailed list of apps and web resources. The same is true when proposing a project to your administrator. If you are asking for funds (and that is always difficult) consider spreading the project over several years. Would it work to just get approval for the project along with funding from alternate sources such as DonorsChoose?
  4. Do you assume that you know better or that you are always right? Even if you do, that can’t be where you start. My motto for years has been, “Do you want to be right, or do you want it to work? If you want to be right, it probably won’t work.” You need to be prepared for a solution that won’t be exactly how you envisioned it but will get you closer.  And in the discussion, you might get some new ideas which will be an improvement over your original plan. Plus, being seeing as a collaborator paves the way for your next success.
  5. Do you allow your negative emotions to determine what you say, do or think in the moment? When we talked with a teacher who has always shut us down, we tend to anticipate the negative and follow suit.  Your body language and your tone of voice communicate your negative feelings. This is when you must consciously must your mindset because this time could be your longed-for yes.
  6. Does your desire to play it safe or to be comfortably secure hinder your ability to be vulnerable and connect with others? This speaks to how we are as leaders.  The “don’t rock the boat” attitude keeps us from trying new ideas.  We worry about the possibility of failure and hide in our library.  After all, you have a ridiculously full schedule, why add to the stresses of your day by trying to add working with teachers to the mix?  Remember, we are in the relationship business, and if we are not building relationships, we will soon be out of business.
  7. Do you avoid heartfelt expressions of appreciation or gratitude? It pays to go further than just saying thank you. Handwritten notes make a big impression in the world of text, email, and emojis. Making sure you have informed your principal when a teacher has worked with you is another way to express your appreciation and one that the teacher will value.
  8. Do you take the time to reflect and focus on what matters most? Reflecting and focusing are two key components to success. Our days are so full we frequently don’t reflect on what we are doing or why we are doing it.  Throughout the National School Library Standards, we are encouraged to reflect. It’s an important habit to develop.  This question is also a reminder to prioritize.  This means not only our tasks but our relationships with family, friends, our colleagues, and our students.  When we become “human doings” rather than “human beings” we lose an important component of our life.  Being focused only on the next task makes us less approachable and keeps us from building vital relationships. (See question 6.)
  9. Are you empathetic and understanding of others? When you are a “human doing,” you are not likely to be alert to signals from others. It’s imperative that you be attuned to what is going on with your colleagues as well as your administrator (and your family).  If you want to build collaboration, you start with what they need, and they aren’t likely to tell you immediately.  You will often have to figure it out for yourself by staying connected.   
  10. Are you blind to your own behavior?   In his poem,To A Louse, On Seeing One on a Lady’s Bonnet at Church,” Robert Burns said, “Oh would some Power the gift give us, to see ourselves as others see us.”   We rarely know how we are perceived by others.  We make assumptions based primarily on our view of ourselves, positive or negative. You can get some idea by watching the body language of those with whom you are speaking. Do they move closer to you or move away?  Do they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and views with you? If you’re having challenges, return to the first few questions and look at how you can really listen, hear what others are saying and not push to get your own view out first.

Making the case for your program is not easy in our stress-filled environment. Learning more about leadership and advocacy is never-ending. Adding new techniques and skills is an ongoing and empowering part of our jobs. The more we can be a “human being” the more we’re likely to enjoy the journey.

ON LIBRARIES: The School Libraries of the Future

With so much change, it is natural to wonder what the future will hold.  Some look on the possibilities with excitement, others with trepidation.  Many of you have become members of the Future Ready Librarians Facebook group.  Not wanting to be left out, I decided it was time for me to trot out my crystal ball.

I have done no research for this beyond what I see and read each day.  I am sure much of what I predict will be wrong which is true of every future caster.  But I think the basics of my predictions will happen.

It doesn’t take much clairvoyance to state there will be many more changes and technology will lead the way.  Social media will evolve or disappear while new ones will come on the scene. Adults will bemoan that kids are so wrapped up in the latest digital format (or whatever) that they are losing out on what is important.  And this includes the new adults who are attached to their smartphones today.

Makerspaces will change and may be replaced by something we haven’t foreseen as yet. Augmented Reality (AR) is already having an impact which will continue to grow. If you haven’t dealt with it, here’s how it works. I know there are librarians out there already using Aurasma.

Virtual Reality (VR) is another technology that will grow as more is available.  There will definitely be complaints about kids so connected to an artificial reality they don’t know what’s going on around them. Think about the Pokémon Go craze.  That is considered either AR or VR or maybe Mixed Reality (there is an ongoing dispute about it).

Despite our growing reliance on communicating electronically, we will recognize the value of working face-to-face.  While we will be doing more distance collaboration, we can’t ignore the fact that humans are social animals.  Anyone who has served on a committee which has met by phone, even using Zoom or Skype, knows when you get together in-person there is a synergy that accelerates the process.

The need for social interaction is why I believe the Library Commons approach will be adopted in more schools, no matter what it’s called in the future.  Library furniture is already becoming more flexible to meet whatever users’ needs are in the moment. Students and teachers need a welcoming space to meet and collaborate as they create new knowledge. The resources of the library and the expertise of the librarian make it possible.

I’m convinced Google will continue to find an endless variety of ways to integrate their products into education and our personal lives.  I also believe many vendors we deal with today will be absorbed by other larger ones (I’ve seen that happen too often over the years not to think it will continue).  But at the same time there will be new services and companies who find more flexible approaches to meet our needs, and we should be on the lookout for them.

Check out the link to this AMAZING library in France – https://ebookfriendly.com/a-futuristic-public-library-thionville-france/

The look of libraries will alter as the new tech becomes integrated into teaching and learning.  Some librarians will struggle to cope with giving up tools they now depend on and love. More will adapt and adopt at varying speeds. Others will lead the way, embracing the new, holding on to what is still valuable and helping their colleagues move into the future.

What does this really mean for you as school librarians and for your program? First and foremost, you and our profession will survive.  And if we are wise and prepared we will thrive.

A quote often attributed to Darwin but which seems to have come from a management text states, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor is it the most intelligent that survives.  It is the one most adaptable to change.”  This is how successful businesses thrive, and we either are in business or we are out of business.

To be adaptable to change, you need to be on guard against decisions coming from your paradigm. The Oxford English Dictionary defines paradigm as “A world view underlying the theories and methodology of a particular scientific subject.” What this means is we interpret the world based on what we have learned as we grew up.  It’s hard breaking through the model we hold.

One of the most well-known examples of this is the tale is of Xerox who became concerned in 1970 about the potential impact the new computers would have on their copying business.  They set up the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), hired many of the leading computer scientists, gave them virtually unlimited funds, and told them to create the future.  They did.  They came up with a graphic user interface (which all computers now use but Steve Jobs saw early), local area networks, laser printers, and more.  But Xerox, was locked into its paradigm, and couldn’t recognize the potential and did nothing with what was created for them.

Despite the need to be ready to make changes, it’s imperative you don’t act too fast or too drastically.  Some things are important and core to libraries. I believe libraries that have gone bookless made a mistake.  Someday print may disappear but studies show even the young prefer print for their recreational reading.

Whatever happens, students and teachers will need librarians to guide them through what will only be an increasing flood of information.  And students will need the safe, welcoming environment of the library to find their path academically as well as personally.

What does your crystal ball tell you? Do you agree with my predictions?

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: It Begins With Relationships

build bridgesWhy is one librarian successful and another isn’t?  They can both work in the same district.  Their training and years on the job can be about the same.  The successful librarian might even be a newbie with lots to learn and the other with many years of experience.  Somehow the library program of one continues to grow and flourish while the other languishes.  Teachers resist using it, and when they do prefer to handle their students without any help from the librarian.  At the elementary level, the closest they come to the library is when they drop their students off and pick them up.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  I have seen this favorite quote of mine attributed to a number of different sources, but the oldest citing I have gives Theodore Roosevelt the credit. What is important is that it is true.

I have said it many times, in the books I have written and the presentations I have given, “We are in the relationship business.” What I haven’t said is that if you don’t know how to build relationships you will be out business.

Librarians don’t have the luxury of not liking someone on the staff.  The job responsibility requires you to get along with everyone.  Not an always simple task when there are people who grate on your nerves and never have a nice word to say.  Yet it can and must be done. Let’s begin with some easy relationship building.

Relationships with Studentsworking with kids

You don’t grade them. They are not “yours.”  If they don’t like you, they will not only make it obvious, they will make your life miserable. Discipline problems grow and from your principal’s perspective you cannot manage your “classroom.”

While any kid can act out on a bad day, that should not be the norm.   Start by giving respect and you will get it back. Many librarians don’t realize how often they disrespect a student.  An adult comes in, and they break off any conversation, making it obvious to the student that you consider adults more important and worthy of your time. You help teachers find information, but you direct students where to go or give them a mini-lesson. Yes, you are there to teach them, but are you following up to see if they found what they needed?  Wouldn’t the lesson work just as well if you gave it and modeled the steps with them?

Do you make an effort to get to know students, particularly those who come to the library frequently? Do you know their interests? The books, authors, and activities they like?  Have you ever said to one of them, “I’m so glad you came in. We just got some new books, and I have one I am sure you will like. Do you want to see it?”  Students, like everyone else, appreciate when you show you know who they really are.

Parents-orientationRelationship with Teachers

The first rule in building relationships with teachers is to respect their confidences.  The grapevine and gossip is alive and well in every school. You cannot be a contributor. Relationships are based on trust and repeating what you are told is the quickest way to destroy any trust you built up.

A core of teachers everywhere are chronic complainers.  They complain about the administration, their fellow teachers, and their students. Don’t get sucked in.  You can say, “I understand how you feel,” or “I get how angry you are.” But never agree with those sentiments.  You can be sure it will be broadcast throughout the school. With PARCC testing more teachers than ever are complaining, and you undoubtedly have the same sentiments.  Saying, “I know hard everyone has been working. It’s been stressful,” is perfectly OK. Notice, you don’t add, how difficult it has been for you.  That comes off as whining, and it never works.

Slowly get to know teachers’ personal interests, hobbies, and whatever they care about.  If you find a website or a Pinterest board you think they would like, share it with them. The more communications and connections you have, the more likely they will be open to collaborating with you.

Administrators and Board Membersbuild-realtionships

This group is probably the most challenging for you to develop relationships, and yet as power stakeholders, they are the most important.  Begin with your principal.  Listen to what he/she says at faculty meetings and in other communications.  What seems to be of most importance to him/her?  High stakes test? Integrating technology?  Community outreach? How can the library program help attain it?  Figure out how to present that information in under five minutes (they are always heavily pressed for time), and show what a team player you are and how vital the library program is.  You can also find out about personal interests, just as you did with teachers.

Unless you know them personally, the best way to get to know Board members is to go to Board meetings.  See if you can get the other librarians in your district to take turns attending meetings.  Which Board member seems to be most likely to support libraries?  Perhaps you can send that person, with your principal’s approval, a quarterly or annual report.  Be sure it is visual and shows students at work.  Keep the information channel open.  Issue invitations, and learn more about their interests.

Remember, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Build relationships first, and everything else will follow.

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 – 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: 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.

When Being Right Is Wrong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Reach Out – Find Your Larger Community

libraries transform learning
From ALA – click image for article

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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