ON LIBRARIES: Make Your Presence Known

we-are-here-whosToo many librarians still think if they work hard and do a great job, their teachers and principal will recognize their value.  It doesn’t work like that.  If you don’t start self-promoting you might find yourself ignored and possibly eliminated. My daughter tells me the same thing about selling books – if you write well there’s still a very good chance you won’t make the royalties you want. You have to connect with your audience first.

Self-promotion smacks of bragging and most of us shy away from anything resembling it.  It just isn’t “nice.”  Instead of thinking of self-promotion as self-praise regard it as positioning your program. self-promotion

How many people in your building are aware of all you do?  What does central administration know about your contribution to student achievement, integration of technology, and the host of other ways your program transforms the learning community?  How are they going to find out unless you tell them?

Saskia Lefertnk in an OCLC post references Ranganathan, known as the founder of modern library science.  He said, ““If you want to be a reference librarian, you must learn to overcome not only your shyness but also the shyness of others.” While he was speaking specifically of reference librarians, there is much in that quote for school librarians.

shyness-quoteRanganathan wanted to encourage librarians to transition from being preservers of books to actively serving users.  While we have been doing this for decades, how we do it has undergone a change as drastic as the one Ranganathan was advocating.  Shyness or reticence doesn’t work when the playing field has altered so dramatically.

It is easier to promote yourself and your program in writing rather than speaking or conversation.  So your first step is actively informing your stakeholders of what the library program is doing and achieving. Document visually what is occurring in your library.  Show students at work. If you video them, have them talk about what they are doing and learning.

Consider who needs to see this.  If you aren’t doing at least quarterly reports to your principal, start now. Use the writers’ mantra, “Show, don’t tell.”  It carries a greater impact. Do make mention of the teachers who you worked with collaboratively or cooperatively.

There are several web resources such as Piktochart that make telling your story easy. Your principal might like it enough to share with the Superintendent or even include it with a report to the Board of Education. Depending on what you have pictured and district’s rules for posting pictures of students show the activities on your website.  You can always have photos without kids and have them do a voice over.

When you are planning a lesson that demonstrates what you contribute to student learning, invite your principal or supervisor to see it.  Send the plan in advance.  Although there is no guarantee he or she will come, it is still self-promotion for your program and you. Let any teacher you are working with know there is a possibility an administrator will be present.look

Did you attend a conference or a workshop?  Whether it was an official professional day or something you did on your own time, send a brief report to your principal specifically explaining how you will integrate what you learned into working with students and teachers. This sends the message that you are transforming learning and are actively involved professionally.

Volunteer to serve on a committee.  Select one such as technology where you can demonstrate your expertise. If a subject or grade is working on curriculum, try to become a part of it in order to inform them about resources, but also to show how you can work with the teachers in creating units that engage learners and build critical thinking and other skills.

Offer to give a professional development workshop for teachers (or if you are willing to really step out of your comfort zone) with administrators.  Consider showing teachers AASL’s Best Websites for Teaching and Learning or Best Apps for Teaching and Learning. Particularly at elementary and middle schools you might offer to give a talk to parents.  What they should know about digital footprints or the latest social media their kids are on are possible topics.

Apply for a grant.  Start small with your local education foundation.  Let your principal know if and when the grant is approved. Getting free stuff is always appealing to administrators. Once you have some practice with grant-writing, try going for a larger grant.

Check out AASL’s Grants and Awards.  The deadline for most of them is February 1, so you have time over the Christmas break to work on it.  The PR that results from winning one, will showcase you and your program.  If all your efforts are resulting in your principal becoming a supporter of your library program, propose him/her for AASL’s Distinguished School Administrator Award.

If your community has a “day” when vendors and businesses exhibit, see if your school/district is part of it. Find out if you can be there to inform everyone about what school libraries are like today.  AASL has brochures and a great infographic on their Advocacy page.  You can find others by searching the Internet.

get-noticedUse your tagline on whatever you distribute.  Keep looking for ways to bring your program front and center.  Leaders know how to self-promote successfully.  And they aren’t bragging. They are telling it like it is.

What are you doing to make your presence known? Where do you need help, support or recommendations?







essaThe start of the school year is imminent for some of you and not too far away for the rest of you.  Before your vacation is over, you need to become knowledgeable about ESSA and how to make it work for your program.  Fortunately AASL and hopefully your state association has information and resources for you to tap into as you advocate for library funds.

Ever since President Obama signed ESSA into law AASL has been working to ensure that this hard-one replacement of NCLB would get school libraries the recognition and funding they need.  Since ESSA calls for “Effective School Library Programs” in Title I, II and IV of the act, it was necessary to define what such a program is. They have done so with a recently released position statement.

The statement is brief and yet succinctly explains the contribution an “effective school library program” makes to students and the educational community. When you review this document, highlight where your library meets the requirements and where it still falls short.  Bring it to your principal along with your recommendations as to how you can attain the level required so your school and district will qualify for federal funds under the act. President_Barack_Obama_signs_Every_Student_Succeeds_Act_(ESSA)

The discussion opens the door for you to share what you can bring in the way of technology integration, lifelong reading, and the 21st century skills of critical thinking, creating new knowledge, and sharing it widely. Since the position statement refers to the research supporting the contribution of school library programs on student learning and achievement. Also bring your downloaded copy of School Libraries Work -2016 ed. from Scholastic to support that claim.

In a previous blog I mentioned the “landing site” AASL has set-up as a one-stop shopping for ESSA information. All information whether from AASL, ALA, or other sources can be found here.  In addition to a link to the position statement, under Rule Making and Guidance it has an extremely helpful PDF from ALA’s Washington Office on Opportunities for School Librarians as a result of ESSA.

The information from the Washington Office focuses on Title I, II, and IV of ESSA.  In each case it explains the area covered by that title and part. Under Background it explains what states and school districts must do under the provisos of the Act.  Next it lets you know the Library Provisions so you don’t have to read through the legalese of the actual ESSA.  Then it details under Next Steps what need to be done to apprise school districts of what they can do under the Act and where it is necessary to contact state officials.  The latter will probably best be done by your state library association.

Title I Part AImproving Basic Programs Operated by State and Local Educational Agencies will be the most challenging since it authorizes but doesn’t require how these agencies will assist schools in developing effective school library programs.  A lot of work is needed to contact and work with these agencies. It would seem for the most part you will need a lot of assistance from your state association unless AASL can develop an action plan to help.

Title II Part A -Supporting Effective Instruction is much more promising, as are subsequent relevant parts of the Act since it authorizes states to use grant funds to “support instructional services provided by effective school library programs.”  Under NCLB these funds were listed as solely for teachers. Now these can be used to support your professional development.  Note it says “can be.”  Whether they will, depends a great deal on you.

Title II Part B Subpart B Literacy Education for All includes a new K-12 literacy program.  School librarians can now apply for grant funds to support this. It also has funding to provide time for teachers and librarians to meet, plan and collaborate on comprehensive literacy instruction. Subgrants awarded must include professional development for teachers AND librarians. Again, you may very well have to bring all this to the attention of your administration. Another section of this subpart deals with the Innovative Approaches to Literacy and specifically authorizes funds to be used for developing and enhancing effective school library programs.  It will take advocacy at the federal level to ensure this is fully funded.  Expect ALA and AASL to work through the Washington Office to accomplish this – but when asked, be sure to do your part and contact your legislators.

Title IV Part A – Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (Block Grants) this is a continuation of what was in NCLB but now librarians have a presence.  The grants are tied to poverty levels and include funding for personnel to learn the knowledge and skills needed for technology integration to improve instruction and student achievement. In preparing the grant, school officials must consult with teachers, principals, and other stakeholders who include school librarians.

aasl essa pageOnce you are grounded in these two documents, check out the other resources on the AASL ESSA landing page.  Review the various AASL Position Statements relevant to ESSA. Make it a point to regularly check the link under Resources & Information to ESSA Updates on Knowledge Quest. Look over the material from the ALA program on Unpacking ESSA for the School Librarian.

ESSA is both an opportunity and a challenge.  You can move your school library program forward and demonstrate your leadership to your administrators or you can cross your fingers and hope someone does the work for you and you will get some of the funding.  Which type of librarian do you want to be?  This is the time to step up.  Have you done anything so far?