Can you believe it’s the new year? Vacation has, once again, flown by, and I almost hate to say it but if you have given no thought about what the rest of the school year will bring, now is the time. Ask yourself where do you want to be at the end of the school year? I often quote Yogi Berra’s sage advice, “If you don’t know where you are going, you are going to wind up someplace else.” Nothing will change, certainly not for the better, unless you have a plan.
Whatever job you tackle, it should connect to your Mission Statement, your Vision, and your Philosophy. No matter what you choose to do, it will take effort so it is a waste of your time unless it takes you where you want to go.
To begin, list your ideas. Which are the biggest jobs? Which are relatively easy? And then ask the big question — Why do I want to do it? How does it connect? Don’t just pick a project you have heard of because it sounded like a good idea. It might have been great for another school librarian and library, but it may not be the best choice for you. Before plunging in, first ask yourself, “What do I want to do?
Most Mission Statements are broad enough to give you room to go in many directions, but knowing that your plan connects to it will give it a greater focus. For example, here is one Mission Statement.
- The mission of the Blank School Library is to provide students with the opportunity to become not only lifelong users of information but also creators of information. The library strengthens the curriculum by collaborating with teachers, developing a collection that is representative of the community, and implementing literacy instruction for students.
The first sentence of that statement can lead to creating a Makerspace. But if you are thinking of a plan, you want to think bigger. Perhaps your purpose for the Makerspace is to have students developing products that might help others. If creating information is part of your Mission, then how else can you use this Makerspace?
The second sentence is about developing more collaborative projects with teachers. Are there teachers you haven’t reached as yet? Are there subject areas that could benefit from working with you that haven’t come into the library as yet? And if a Makerspace is still what you want – which teachers would be best to contact for collaboration?
The second half of that sentence is about diversity. Is your collection truly diverse? Does it go beyond race, ethnicity, and gender? What percentage of the authors of your diverse titles are members of the community they are writing about? Is there a way to blend students acting as users and creators of information with diversity? That links it more tightly to your mission.
So, you know what you want in your plan. Next step—How?
Let’s return to the Makerspace. HOW can you do this? Whether you have one or want to expand an existing one, you’ll want to start by gathering information. Who is already doing this? Who is doing this with resources that match yours? Ask your PLN for help and search on topics such as project-based learning and design thinking. (I’m guessing members of the School Librarians Workshop Facebook group would offer support!).
Knowing WHO is also an important part of the second plan–collaboration. The Who are the teachers you want to reach. Why have they not collaborated with you before? What do they need? How can you help with that? How can you quickly build a relationship with them? Who will you start with? Then there are two more questions: Why? (Why this teacher?) When? (When will you reach out and share your idea?)
The third project requires a diversity audit to assess your collection. Again – How, What, Who, Why, When. Do you know anyone who has done this? Can they send you their templates for doing this? Who can help you in compiling it? What are sources you use to increase the diversity of your collection. What resources do ALA and AASL provide? When are you going to seek the initial information? When will you begin the project?
Put all of your plans in writing. Name the projects, list your steps, and create manageable deadlines. Whether you use a spreadsheet or a Google doc doesn’t matter. What matters is having it recorded and making a commitment to it.
The last and a very important part of your planning is knowing what you will do with the results. How will you use it to promote your library program?
You can record the Makerspace project in photos and videos. Capture students working on their designs, Showcase their final creations. Share with your administrators and contact local news outlets.
You should display projects from collaborations with teachers, possibly on the library’s or school’s website. Send information to the principal on what the students achieved and commend the teachers involved. This will eventually lead to further collaboration.
Share the results of your diversity audit with the principal. Discuss how you plan to build a collection that will promote students’ feelings of safety and belonging in the school and beyond. Perhaps you can get a one-time funding to purchase books you have put on a list to acquire. Again, consider grants and GoFundMe for help. Look also into the possibility of getting speakers in for the teachers and/or students. But that’s another plan.
With a well-constructed plan, you will reach the end of the school year with a sense of accomplishment. The important part is to get started now and let your plan guide your success.