ON LIBRARIES: Connecting With Administrators

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Over the years, too many librarians have told me their principal has no idea what they do. My reply is, “It’s your job to let them know.” A good part of the reason we have lost so many positions is because those in charge don’t know what a librarian does. It’s clear from what I’ve read on the School Librarian’s Workshop Facebook page that librarians have played an important part in keeping teachers and students going during this pandemic. Does your administrator know? 

Yes, keeping her/him in the loop is one more thing for you to do, but it may well be the most important thing. Administrators, both principals and superintendents, are under extreme pressure. When budget constraints are mandated, they are the ones making decisions that impair, reduce, or eliminate your program and possibly your job. It’s up to you to find an approach to forestall and/or alter those scenarios. It may mean stepping out of your comfort zone.  Your administrator will not seek you out if there has been no previous connection.  You have to create connection and that requires a plan.

Take it one step at a time. First, make a record of all you are doing and categorize it by the recipient. You can keep this general (students, teachers) or be more specific (grade, subject level, ELL, etc.) If you make it into a grid, you can also show what type of services you are providing: instruction, tech help, reading promotion, collaboration.  If you find yourself amazed to see how much you are doing and how many people you are reaching – think of how your principal will react.

Because administrators are swamped make certain anything you send to them is clear and to the point.  If you are wordy, they are less likely to respond. Try sending a message with the subject line, “One Good Thing” and then adding a specific reference such as, “One Good Thing: Teachers are successful with the Platform we are using.”  In the body of the email, explain what’s working and how it’s helping – briefly.  If all your messages are “One Good Thing,” it will tie them together, reminding your principal this all comes from you. They will recognize your emails and, hopefully, look forward to what you share.

You should also take time to consider and identify your administrator’s challenges.  Do you know her/his priorities? What are they trying to accomplish?  What difficulties are they facing? What is working? What isn’t? Once you know at least some answers think of how you might be able to help your administrator manage or mitigate any of these.  Because of how you interact with everyone, you have a big picture scan – just as your principal does.  You may not realize it, but you see things from a similar perspective.

After you’ve identified places where you can help, create one or two solutions and reach out. Again, use the subject line of the email to draw them in “How the library can support….” Diversity/Access/Test Success.  Whatever it is. Let them know you have an idea and ask for 5 minutes to speak – in person if possible, Zoom or other visual if not.  If you have no alternative, phone and email can work. Once you have your time, stick to it. Don’t go over. Your principal will appreciate you keeping your word and your focus. Lay out your plan, ask if he/she has questions and then follow up with an email or other documents as appropriate.

AASL also has support to help you make the connection with administrators. Past President Kathy Root’s  AASL School Leader Collaborative Administrators & School Librarians Transforming Teaching and Learning” is a 2-year initiative. From school librarian recommendations, it selected seven school administrators to serve and they have done a lot including creating YouTube videos and doing a Town Hall on Leading Learning.  I urge you to watch the free archived Town Hall. It’s inspiring to hear these administrators talk about how they rely on their school librarians. 

Repeat any and all of these steps so you build a lasting connection. This is cannot be a onetime thing. Once you have made it, continue to foster it.  Start building your own connection to your administrators. Not only will they know what you do, they will tell others about your program. Having a principal see you as a leader and collaborator will make you even more successful.

ON LIBRARIES: Staying Connected

From CNN

Social Distancing is hard. Humans are social organisms, and we need the connection with others. For years we have been using social media and found value in it, but now that we are restricted to it, we are more aware of its limitations.  On the other hand, it is a lifeline for us professionally and personally. At the moment, however, there’s so much information being put out it can be overwhelming. Just like we teach students the differences between a search and research, there are different ways to stay connected, some more helpful than others. For the sake of your sanity, you need to pick and choose what is giving the most valuable information for you as well as where you can make the greatest contribution.

Staying connected is important for our mental health which also affects our physical well being.  When the news seems all bad, we still need to be able to form a positive mindset as often as possible. Michael Lee Stallard and Katharine P. Stallard explain Why Relational Connection Is So Important During the Coronavirus Pandemic. After detailing why its important, they present these 12 actions to take while maintaining physical isolation.

  1. Cultivate a connection mindset – In addition to reaching out on social media, make phone calls to family and friends. I have found it has been a wonderful chance to speak to people rather than text or find out what’s happening to them via Facebook.
  2. Maintain an optimistic mindset – This is not easy, but do what you can to look for the good news. There is always something. Spread the good word.  This doesn’t mean become foolhardy and pretend this isn’t serious, but you won’t help yourself by plunging into depression. And by sharing positive information, you may help others.
  3. Take care of yourself – There’s nothing new in this advice. You can’t help anyone if you don’t take care of yourself.  As a long-time Weight Watcher, I am well aware of the dangers of emotional eating and how it never works.  Find ways to stay physically active and do the things that give you pleasure.
  4. Cultivate practices that produce contentment and avoid excitatory practices – This is the one I need to take to heart. I have to spend less time on social media. It’s an addiction  and habit that is not helping me.  Playing Klondike is a more helpful addiction at this time. It gives me pleasure and keeps me from thinking about the negative (see #2.)
  5. Get creative on how you might engage in activities with others – The Stallards point to the Italians who are singing together from their balconies. You can get a Zoom room for 45 minutes for free and have a “lunch meeting” with your friends or an evening chat if that works better.
  6. Pause to be grateful – This is one of my favorite suggestions. The Stallards recommend thinking of three things for which you are grateful. I have been keeping a gratitude journal for years, writing two things each day. I find that being grateful helps with my mindset by reminding me that it’s not all doom and gloom.
  7. Go for walks – As long as you are allowed to do this, get out there. You know how much I love it.  More people are out walking.  Don’t walk in groups unless it’s someone you live with.  When passing people, I step out into the street if necessary, to maintain six feet distance, but I do exchange greetings.  The most frequent one is, “stay healthy.”
  8. Play music – And dance to it if that’s your thing. I’m one of the rare people who doesn’t listen much to music, but everyone in my family finds it important to their well being. Spotify has a free limited service where there are thousands of hours of music and premium is no more than most music services.  There are podcasts there too!
  9. Learn something new – So many things have become available for free online as a result of COVID19, including tours of famous museums, courses, books, and theatrical productions. You can’t travel, but you can go to these famous locations virtually and learn so much.
  10. Set aside time each day for a quiet period – I have been counting my walking as a quiet time, but I think I will add it specifically. There is so much noise out there, more than usual. Giving yourself some down time can be very beneficial.
  11. Never worry alone! We can quickly go from concern to depression when we are doing this alone. I posted on Facebook that I was becoming a hypochondriac thinking every little bodily change was a sign I had the virus, even though it quickly passed.  It was amazing how many of my friends joined in to say it was happening to them, too. Saying it out loud and then laughing with others helped me get through it.
  12. Serve others – In addition to the two things I record in my gratitude journal each day, I also write down one way in which I give back.  Giving back reminds me that making a contribution enriches the giver and the receiver. It makes me feel good about myself. Lots of funds and benefits have been set up online. Look for your favorite things to support and you’ll probably find a (safe) way.

These are unprecedented times.  We will get it through it together.  I am grateful to you, my blog readers, and the many librarians I consider my friends.  Stay healthy.