To be truly successful as school librarians, we need to collaborate with our colleagues. Yet, because we have full schedules and so do teachers, many of us have found this an insurmountable challenge. It’s easy to fall into existing patterns and not go beyond what we have always done.
Collaboration needs us to extend beyond regular projects or limited to what has been previously done. Our students need it and our programs are better because of it. And doing so is part of our national standards. Collaborate is the fourth of the Shared Foundations in AASL’s National School Library Standards for Learners, School Libraries and Librarians. How School Librarians are to implement it is best shown in the framework on pages 84-85 of the Standards. Here you find:
“Key Commitment: Work effectively with others to broaden perspectives and work toward common goals.”
“School Library Domains and Alignments: A. Think
The school library facilitates opportunities to integrate collaborative and shared learning by
- Partnering with other educators to scaffold learning and organize learner groups to broaden and deepen understanding.”
As a leader, grounded in your Vision and Mission, it’s part of your job to look for ways to connect with as many teachers as possible for the benefit of your students and the teachers. Finding the time won’t be easy, but you need to make the outreach a priority. Ken Blanchard in Playing Well with Others presents reasons why it is worth your extra effort.
When getting started at building relationships forming the basis for collaboration, I recommend reaching out to those with whom you already share a bond. But, as Blanchard points out, you can’t stop there. Playing well with others means finding places to form a connection. Those with different viewpoints are the very ones who can help us grow. In the process, you can form the start of a relationship leading to collaboration.
Blanchard discusses four benefits of working with others:
Learning–When we work with others, we learn: about them, ourselves, new ways to create. Like Blanchard, I have written a number of books with a co-author. We had some knowledge in common, but each of us had areas where we knew more than the other. Our combined strengths led to a better book and to me learning more than I expected during a venture where I was sharing what I knew.
Skill Building—One of the most vital skills in creating relationships is listening. You have to truly listen – and not just wait for your chance to talk—when you are working collaboratively. Related to Learning, there will always be skills where your partner is stronger and their knowledge will help you grow. Acknowledging what you each bring to the partnership strengthens it and leads to future collaboration.
Productivity—An obvious benefit. When work is divided, the load is lessened. While it seems at first that building relationships and creating collaboration increases in your work, ultimately you will be more productive and successful when you collaborate.
Networking – Creating a network of teachers who understand and support the library is vital for your ongoing success. In addition, collaboration can extend to working with other librarians in your district (if you have them), public librarian, or a librarian at a local college. The larger your PLN, the more you grow, and the more you have to offer your teachers and students.
It’s simpler to work by yourself. You know what needs to be done. You have your own style and approach for doing it. Working with others seems be a way to slow things down. But as the saying goes, “To go fast, go alone. To go far go with others.” Thinking about this, realistically, how many teachers can you target for a collaborative project before the holiday break? Even one is a start. How many can you target from January to the end of the school year? What you learn from the first will help you reach the new ones with whom you plan to work.