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: What’s Your Philosophy?

philosophersI’ve blogged about writing Mission and Vision Statements because I think they are vital for keeping grounded and focused in the hectic day-to-day life of a school librarian. However, I haven’t discussed the importance of a having a written philosophy.  It’s been included in several of the books I’ve written for ALA Editions, and I have students in my Management of the School Library course do one, so I think it’s time to put the need for one in the spotlight.

A philosophy is a statement of beliefs.  It identifies your core values. The AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner begins with nine “Common Beliefs” which in many ways constitutes the beliefs of the profession. These beliefs are a good place to begin framing your own philosophy.  What is it you hold dear?  What do you feel is essential to your personal definition of what a library is?  What are you willing to fight for?libraries-transform

I embrace all nine Common Beliefs but the one that means the most to me is “Equitable access is a key component for education.”  I couple it with another core value of mine,   “The library is a safe, welcoming place for all its users.”  The two don’t seem to be linked, but in many cases they are and I deeply believe that when the two come together, it can transform the life of a child.

“Equitable access is a key component for education” is a growing concern as the digital divide continues to increase.  Students who don’t have Internet or even a computer at home are at a serious disadvantage. We get stories of students who hang around the school where they can pick up free Wi-Fi for their phones so they can do searches for their classes.  But homework cannot be done on a phone.

As a librarian, I believe you have an obligation to do whatever you can to help those students.  It may mean getting a grant to have the library open after school to accommodate those without home computers.  It means making teachers and administrators aware of the problem.  Too often we take access to the Internet as a given.  The flipped classroom is a great idea.  But it doesn’t work for those who can’t go online.

my-new-philosophy

A basic truth is that schools and school libraries are not funded equably, sometimes even within the same district.  We always assume this is true in urban areas but rural communities are often in even worse shape. The lack of access to computers is only one aspect of the problem. The ones who need the resources the most are the very students whose schools have libraries with aging collections, if they have a library, and quite possibly no librarian.

ALA has recognized this lack of “equitable access” and is in the process of drafting a resolution on “Equity for All to School Libraries Community.”  It’s still be worked on, but the key points are to have ALA work to get certified librarians in all schools, equitable funding for all school libraries, and work with research committees to document the disproportionate cutting of resources affecting racial and economic populations.

Those are lofty goals. If and when it’s passed it won’t compel districts to hire librarians or fund libraries.  But by putting the weight and lobbying power of ALA behind the resolution, we can raise awareness. And as ESSA is being fleshed out, we have a good chance of making some significant changes. (Be sure you keep aware of what ALA/AASL is doing to keep librarians and libraries positioned to take advantage of all that is in ESSA.)

“Equitable access is a key component for education” is also about intellectual freedom.  I have blogged about Censorship and the lonely courage of a librarian who chooses to purchase a book, recognizing the subject matter is one that may raise challenges. We are all aware that a LGBTQ book will bring out censors in many communities.  But those are the very places where a LGBTQ child feels most vulnerable.

A book, fiction or nonfiction, can help those kids see they are not alone. They can even discover they are “normal.” It can direct them to sources for help and advice.  And this gets back to my other core value of the library being a safe, welcoming environment.

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We have heard from authors and others that the library was a sanctuary for them.  A place where they sometimes could hide and feel safe from whatever and whoever threatened them.  We know schools have anti-bullying codes, but much happens in a school that flies under adult radar.

As a librarian, keep a watchful eye for those who escape to your library.  Sometimes you can have them become “library assistants,” letting them avoid lunch in the cafeteria. You may find you become a confidante and then must travel a careful line between holding their confidentiality and knowing when to contact a guidance counselor or an administrator.  You once again are making lonely decisions.  I have made a few such in my career.  The student never knew how nervous I was, trying to do what was best for the child without violating school policies.

In making these tough decisions it pays to have a written philosophy. It’s longer than a Mission or a Vision, so you have room to include all the beliefs you have about what a library needs to be.  You can mention collaboration, and opening students’ minds to the world around them, helping them become independent learners and critical thinkers.

But you also must include how the library must feel for all its users, whether the child who is keeping his or her homelessness secret, a kid whose parent is  in prison, or one who is abused at home.  The library must be there for them, and so must you be.

As you write your philosophy, you will find out who you are at your core. You may eve revise your Mission or Vision as a result.

Do you have a philosophy?  What is the most important belief in it?

 

 

ON LIBRARIES – To Be Valued and Valuable

the-future-starts-todayThe libraries, librarians, students and teachers of tomorrow — need you NOW.

I have been writing for school librarians since 1979.  I have been speaking and presenting to them for almost as long. Many would say those first years –1980’s and 1990’s – were a golden age for school librarians.  Certainly we weren’t seeing librarians being eliminated, but the times weren’t perfect and many of the seeds of today’s challenges were planted then.

While this look at the past may seem laden with doom and gloom, hang on.  There is light at the end of the tunnel.  You can and must be part of the change. Yes, you are part of that light.

Articles in the early issues of School Librarian’s Workshop dealt with budget constraints.  Libraries still got money, but it was often cut.  Principals saw that large chunk of funds as a source for some of their pet projects.  And how did the librarians respond?  They complained to their fellow librarians.  “Woe is me. My principal doesn’t see the importance of the library program.”library-closed

Sound familiar? I would give a workshop at a state conference—usually my home state—and invariably one or more librarians would tell me, “My principal has no idea what I do.”  There is a connection between an administrator having no idea of what you do and not recognizing the importance of the library program. But too many librarians didn’t want to undertake more work to change perceptions.

Time and again, I was told by elementary librarians, “I am needed because I provide teachers with their contractual duty-free period.” The unsaid message was, “my position is secure.”  I would respond that times change and so do contracts.  The answer mostly fell on deaf ears.  These same librarians would also complain that teachers dropped their class off and came back to pick students up without caring about what happened during the “library period.”  “They think of me as a babysitter.”  Yet, the librarians did nothing pro-active to raise teacher awareness.

perceptionAt the high school level, more librarians had staff and reasonable budgets, but these were cut on occasion as well.  Teachers who liked libraries and had a project would bring their classes in. Some of them worked with the librarian.  So in a typical high school, English and History classes were likely to be the only ones who ever used the library.

High school librarians had rules.  I know of one situation where the two librarians would not schedule all the sections a teacher had for the same day. Too much work.  They only permitted teachers who gave them a copy of the students’ assignment to be sure the period wouldn’t be used to give the teacher a break.  Students were allowed in the library at lunch only if they had work to do.

This is not what school libraries are like to today, but this is what they were like for a long time and what teachers saw.  Librarians had a cushy job. A number of those teachers went on to be administrators.  They took their perceptions of the librarian and the school library program with them.

In 1997, Gary Hartzell wrote a two-part article for School Library Journal on “The Invisible Librarian.”  He pointed to the omission of the role of librarians in teacher training, the absence of librarians in many professional organizations, and the difficulty in measuring the value of librarians contributions. There was general agreement with Hartzell’s views.  Librarians saw it as confirmation that they were ignored and one positive result emerged.  Library researchers began investigating the contributions of a library program and developed ways to measure them. Those studies continue being made today. steve-martin

Unfortunately, most administrators and lawmakers don’t seem to care—or even know about them. They remember the librarians from their early career.  Sure they would have continued library programs and kept librarians, but then the economic crisis hit.  School budgets were slashed.  Time to cut the expendable and not vital. Library programs were a logical place to begin.

In the slashing of programs, many wonderful librarians with outstanding programs were eliminated.  We are all still reeling from how quickly we lost so much.  But bemoaning the past doesn’t get us anywhere. We need to learn from it and use the current scene as an opportunity to emerge better than ever.

The big lesson is, if the school community doesn’t know who you are, what you do, and why it is unique, they won’t value you.  If your principal doesn’t know what you do, how can he or she be expected to see you as vital to student learning and helping teachers teach their students critical thinking and the host of other information literacy skills which are integral to what we do?  You must always find creative ways to let your administrators know about student projects and activities you developed in collaboration, cooperation, or conjunction with teachers.

because-of-youYou must make your presence known.  It’s imperative that you step out of your comfort zone and become a leader in your building.  By working with teachers, helping make their jobs easier, showing them how to integrate tech into their lessons, you become invaluable to them.  They know what you do and want more of it.

Serve on building and district communities to show how you contribute. And finally, you must help other librarians in your district be leaders as well.  The past has shown us it’s not enough for one of you to be great.  The broom sweeps out everything at once.

You must do whatever you can to build that advocacy program.  Get ideas from the AASL Health and Wellness Toolkit. Look for programs on leadership and advocacy at your state association’s conference.  Re-read the blog from two weeks ago on mentorship—and become one.

And if you need an incentive, think of Elizabeth Warren’s quote: “If you aren’t at the table, you are probably on the menu.”

How are you demonstrating leadership? How are you building more leaders? How are you contributing to the future of school libraries?

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.