Community Connections

I believe a school librarian’s first order of business is serving as a leader within the school building itself and then within the school district. The focus of Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy is librarian leadership that benefits students, other educators, administrators, and families within the school building and district.

That said, instructional leadership and advocacy are two areas in which school librarians’ leadership activities can extend into the community outside the school building. When the greater community is aware of the school library program, advocacy appeals for more resources, staffing, and other types of support will be supported by local businesses, non-profit and civic organizations, and by voters.

Instructional Community Connections
School librarians can be the connectors who bring the resources of the community into the school building. Human resources are often overlooked by busy educators. Bringing in guest speakers and experts in their fields builds bridges for learning and perhaps future career choices for students. School librarians can coordinate or work with a school community liaison to facilitate volunteer tutors and other services offered by individuals and non-profit groups.

Taking students and learning out into the community is another area for school librarian leadership. Field trips to public and academic libraries, museums, universities and colleges connect students to community resources that can support learning. Getting outside the school building and visiting parks and nature preserves or attending fine arts performances enriches students’ lives.

Off-campus student jobs and internships are other ways school librarians can support student learning. As a high school librarian, I wrote a number of reference letters for library aides and other students who were seeking employment or apprenticeships. Based on my experience of students’ work ethic and willingness to learn, I could confidently recommend them to business owners and community organizers.

Community Advocacy Connections
There is no question that the community outside the school building can provide powerful support in advocating for the school librarian’s position and the library program. The more students and educators are out in the community the greater the community’s knowledge of their talents and their needs. When students share their learning, musical or other talents at a school board meeting, parents, voters, and the press are there. In a small school district where I served in a combined junior high/high school library, I co-sponsored and sponsored two sets of student presentations. One was a classroom-library online literacy circles collaboration; the other was the library geek squad who researched and presented the need for computer upgrades.

Making sure the school district and local town/city press cover the contributions of the library program to student learning helps educate the community about the vital learning and teaching facilitated by the school librarian. This will take a strategic and concerted effort on the part of the school librarian and school/district administrators who understand the literacy and learning value added. If and when the school board decides to address a budget shortfall by eliminating school librarians, there should be a hue and cry.

Community and Sustainability
When the school and school library are positioned in the community as sites for literacy and learning opportunities, school library programs have a greater opportunity to survive in the ever-changing, ever-evolving education landscape. It is up to each and every school librarian to make the commitment to sustaining a program that is worthy of stakeholders. “Developing excellence in school library programs and a credible collective advocacy story is a path to sustaining the vitality, integrity, and the future of our profession” (Moreillon 2015, 26).

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What are the benefits of maximizing community connections?
  2. What connections are you making with resources, including human resources, to bridge school and community?

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2015. “Quick Remedies Column: Collaborative Library Stories. School Library Monthly 31 (8): 25-26.

 

Collegiality and Teamwork

Chapter 9 Podcast: Sustaining Connections in a Collaborative Culture

Collegiality and teamwork are essential for future ready educators. In a collegial work environment, coworkers see each other as “companions” or equals. They cooperate and share responsibility for their collective goals and objectives. Collegiality implies friendship, caring, and respect for work mates. Teamwork implies that colleagues work together in an effective and efficient way to accomplish a task or achieve a goal. Members of a team may make unique contributions to the success of the work but all will take “credit” for the outcome.

Peter Senge and his colleagues note that “schools that learn” are in a continual process growth and change. As such, educators in these schools must exhibit collegiality and engage in teamwork in an open and trusting environment. Through developing shared values and common agreements, formal and informal school leaders ensure that the environment remains conducive to collective work.

Competitive Collaboration
It may seem counter-intuitive but principal leader George Couros advocates for a bit of competition among colleagues. He promotes what he calls “competitive collaboration,” in which “educators push and help one another to become better” (Couros 2015, 73). “Competitive collaboration” can help ensure that faculty learn with and from one another, cheer for each other’s achievements, support each other as team members who take risks individually and collectively, fail forward, and grow.

“Competitive collaboration” requires a high level of trust. The willingness to risk and fail in front of one’s colleagues is not easy for most adults. When principals, as lead learners, are the first to demonstrate this level of openness and transparency, it will be easier for faculty members, including librarians, to follow suit. In an environment of trust and shared commitment to each other’s growth, the result of competitive collaboration can be improved student learning and continuous improvement in educators’ instructional practices.

Sharing Data
“Along the way, faculty will share their practices and student learning outcomes data more openly. They will coplan, coteach, and collectively reflect on practice. They will build deeper and more trusting relationships in a culture of continuous learning” (Moreillon 2018, 50). If educators are to succeed at solving individual instructional challenges and schoolwide issues, they must openly share data. Again, it is not easy to actually document a misstep or failure.

Still, sharing data can be a pathway to engaging colleagues in helping individual educators reflect on their practice in new ways. Others can “show” us our teaching from another perspective and suggest strategies for revising our instruction, changing up resources, or making other improvements that can better meet students’ needs. Principals and supervisors can take this role. When we break down the walls between our classrooms and libraries, coteachers can also offer new perspectives on thorny issues.

Building Capacity
Creating the conditions in which all members of the learning community can reach capacity is a primary function of the school principal. School librarians can colead alongside their principals in capacity building. They “can serve as models for continuous learning while they engage in professional development (PD) with colleagues. School librarians help all library stakeholders reach their capacity” (Moreillon 2018, xiii).

One of the on-going challenges for school librarians is that they are not necessarily working in contexts that allow them to achieve their capacity or help students, classroom teachers, and administrators reach theirs. In a fixed schedule library where school librarians are providing planning time for classroom teachers, school librarians cannot achieve their capacity as instructional partners. School librarians who lack library staff, especially a full-time library assistant, cannot fully serve their learning communities if they spend their days doing clerical work rather than teaching. School libraries without adequate budgets cannot provide students, educators, and families with up-to-date books and resources to meet their academic and personal learning needs.

As noted in Chapter 8, leadership and advocacy go hand in hand. School librarian leaders will continuously advocate and enlist stakeholders in advocating for the most effective library scheduling, staffing, and budgets. They will use their voices and influence to build and sustain effective library programs in which collegiality and teamwork can thrive.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What is your response to George Couros’s idea of “competitive collaboration”?
  2. What are your/your principal’s specific behaviors that build trust in your learning community?

 

Works Cited

Couros, George. 2015. The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead in a Culture of Creativity. San Diego, CA: Dave Burgess Consulting.

Moreillon, Judi. 2018. Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy. Chicago: ALA.

 

Continuous Learning, On-Going Assessment

Learners—of all ages—must “replace, modify, or eliminate established patterns of behavior, beliefs, or knowledge. Learning is not about reaching a specific target and then resting on one’s laurels. Rather, it is about a continuous process of building and tearing down and building up again. Transforming a learning culture requires change with a capital ‘C’” (Moreillon 2018, 19).

As centralized instructional partners, school librarians are perfectly positioned to model continuous learning. Along with administrators and teacher leaders, they can initiate, monitor, gather and analyze data, adjust, and propel any change initiative underway in their schools.

Principals’ and School Librarians’ Shared Roles
While changemaker school librarians can make a modicum of progress working with selected classroom teachers, they cannot achieve schoolwide success without the leadership and support of their principal(s). A school librarian’s relationship and communication with the school principal must be a primary focus if a change process is to succeed. School librarians who seek to open the library for additional hours, move to a flexible schedule, adopt a schoolwide inquiry process, improve school climate, culture, and more, must partner with their administrators.

“Together, they develop a culture of collaboration and continuous learning in their schools. While people have both fixed and growth mindsets in various contexts, principals can lead learning by modeling a continuous openness to growth” (Moreillon 2018, 12). Principals who position themselves a “lead learners” and practice distributed leadership may create the most conducive environment for school librarian leadership.

Principals and school librarians can then work together to nurture and sustain the supportive environment that Peter Senge and his colleagues call “schools that learn.” These schools are “places where everyone, young and old, would continuously develop and grow in each other’s company; they would be incubation sites for continuous change and growth. If we want the world to improve, in other words, then we need schools that learn” (Senge et al. 2012, 4–5).

Continuous Learning = Continuous Improvement
Maximizing School Librarian Leadership (MSLL) is intended to provide educators with instructional and cultural interventions that can “help create new norms that foster experimentation, collaboration, and continuous improvement” (Guskey 2000, x). As professional development, the information provided and strategies suggested in MSLL can serve to validate learning and teaching as currently practiced in readers’ schools.

For progressive school libraries, schools, and districts, MSLL may serve as confirmation that the transformation process currently underway is headed in the most effective direction to improve student learning and educator proficiency. For those readers, the book may also serve as a prompt to stretch themselves a bit further, to take another calculated risk, to gather and analyze additional data on their path to excellence.

For other school libraries, schools, and districts that are not as far along on their path to transformation, MSLL may provide targets, guideposts, or tools for self-assessment to further direct the change process. Using this book to clarify vision and mission or goals and objectives is a worthwhile outcome for a professional book study. Engaging in professional conversations around these topics can strengthen communication and relationships among faculty members. These conversations can provide a stronger foundation on which to build collegiality and common agreements.

Confidence
“School librarian leaders nurture, develop, and sustain relationships with all library stakeholders. They build their confidence by continuously improving their skill sets, including pedagogical strategies and technological innovations. School librarians develop their communication skills in order to listen and respond to the ever-evolving needs of learners—students and educators alike” (Moreillon 2019). Through relationships and communication, school librarians lead with confidence (Everhart and Johnston 2016).

School librarians, in particular, may find the information in MSLL will increase their confidence, their willingness, and their ability to lead. By increasing knowledge and improving skills, school librarians can shore up the necessary confidence to step out of their library-centered comfort zone and expand their influence throughout their school, their district, and beyond.

Schoolwide or districtwide goals will require collaboration with stakeholders and on-going assessment of the change process. School librarians who are armed with information and confidence can enlist their site and district administrators as strategic partners who ensure the central role of the school library program in the academic program of the school. They can ensure that state-certified highly qualified school librarians are leading through library programs across their district and their state. “Collaboration is an indispensable behavior of school librarian leaders who help all library stakeholders reach their capacity. Through leadership and collaboration, school librarians cocreate and colead future ready education” Moreillon 2019).

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What supports are in place in your school or district that make it possible for educators to engage in continuous learning?
  2. What is your role as a school librarian in promoting continuous learning and gathering and analyzing data for on-going assessment toward school/district outcomes?

Works Cited

Everhart, Nancy, and Melissa P. Johnston. 2016. “A Proposed Theory of School Librarian Leadership: A Meta-Ethnographic Approach.” School Library Research 19.

Guskey, Thomas. 2000. Evaluating Professional Development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Moreillon, Judi. 2018. Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy. Chicago: ALA.

Moreillon, Judi. 2019. “Leadership through Collaboration: Memes with Meaning.” School Library Connection Online. https://schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2193152?topicCenterId=1955261&tab=1

Senge, Peter, Nelda Cambron-McCabe, Timothy Lucas, Bryan Smith, Janis Dutton, and Art Kleiner. 2012. Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education. New York: Crown Business.

 

Read or Die: A Book Review and a Call to Action

It seems appropriate to wrap up 2019 School Library Month with a book review. I met author Daphne Russell on Twitter and in an article printed in the Arizona Daily Star: “This Tucson educator is changing lives by giving students books they love.” When we met face to face, Daphne presented me with a copy of her memoir Read or Die: A Story of Survival, Hope, and How a Life Was Saved One Book at a Time. A retired middle-school reading teacher, Daphne attributes Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief with her epiphany—she needed to “teach as though books save lives.” She changed her reading curriculum from whole class text sets to individual, targeted books to motivate, inspire, and meet the literacy needs of each student.

Individualizing Reading Promotion
All educators know that trust is the basis for authentic relationships. This is especially true for students who have been marginalized in the school system (and society). By the time they reach middle school, students who are non-readers face enormous learning obstacles. In her memoir, Daphne makes a compelling case for individualizing reader’s advisory. Read or Die is a no-holds-barred sometimes gritty, sometimes irreverent depiction of everyday life for students, educators, and administrators in an urban middle school. In her gripping story, Daphne shares how the one-on-one connection between a student and an educator (her) made the difference in growing students’ confidence and self-perception as readers.

Daphne thinks of her students as “bookthreads” – baby worms who, in the past, have been unsuccessful with books. She describes her job: “to coax, prod, goad, cheer, push, shove, and beg my bookthreads to become bookworms” (83). Most students at Mission Heights Middle School (all names in the book are pseudonyms) live at or below the poverty level. They do not have books in their homes. The students in Daphne’s classes have never read an entire book. They get “behind” in school because they can’t or don’t read, do homework, or manage in-school learning and their outside-of-school lives. They skip school or ditch class. Many will dropout before high school graduation.

Student Choice
When the book opens, Abel has just joined the class. He can read, but chooses not to. He is failing his classes. “Abel is twenty-eight days behind everyone else, and I (Daphne) need to get enough books inside him to get his lungs to work again, mend his shattered heart, and kick the shit out of apathy” (7). With compassion and a take-no-prisoners plan, Daphne guides Abel one book at a time until he is reading (breathing) on his own—until he can say of an author: “Every sentence he writes it like poetry. The book speaks to me” (208).

With student choice as the answer to the question of how she can help students chart a positive life future, Daphne performs daily triage. She invites students to sit on the stool next to her desk for individual reading conferences during which they convince her they have read and understood the books she dispenses. She references what peers are reading and encourages students to recommend books to one another.

Under Daphne’s tutelage, students in her classes come to recognize how reading books changes them. They learn they have to do the work—make the commitment to read—in order for books to work their magic. Daphne celebrates their successes and yet, “a teacher’s heart is a delicate thing, tiny pieces allotted for so many kids over so many years. People ask me how I can possibly retire, but this is why. I cannot do this forever. Abel just took a giant chunk, and it is too much for a heart to take” (209).

Sad but True
Daphne taught in a school district where I served as a school librarian for ten of my thirteen years in K-12 practice. When she and I met, I described how school librarians also strive to find the “right” book for individual students and support classroom teachers in effective reading motivation and comprehension strategy instruction. She replied, “In all my (28!) years teaching, I never had a librarian like that.”

I know for a fact that for some of those years, Daphne’s schools were not staffed by professional state-certified school librarians. While paraprofessional library assistants can be excellent at getting books into the hands of kids, others do not have the knowledge or skills to do so. In fact, it’s not in their job description. I also know that for some of those years, she served in schools with professional school librarians who must not have reached out to Daphne and her students—who missed the opportunity to maximize their influence in their schools.

Promoting books and reading and providing reader’s advisory is most certainly in the school librarian’s job description. It deeply concerns me that Daphne never had a warm, friendly book-pushing, collaborating school librarian who helped her and her students succeed.

The Math
Elementary school librarians who work in a fixed schedule library “see” students regularly for approximately 40 minutes per week. If there are 36 weeks in a 180-day school year, fixed schedule school librarians see students about 24 hours for “library time” over the course of an academic year. How much individual reader’s advisory do they have time to do when, all at once at whole-class book checkout time, an entire class of students could benefit from her/his guidance? Even if students are using self-checkout… and the classroom teacher is not present to offer reader’s advisory alongside the librarian, what kind of quality time do librarians have to spend with individual students?

Elementary classroom teachers, on the other hand, teach students up to 30 hours per week (minus other “specials”), or 1,080 hours (minus specials and testing) a year. Elementary school librarians who work on a flexible schedule with open library for book checkout will teach students for in-depth periods of learning but may go weeks between classroom-library cotaught lessons or units of instruction. The number of hours these school librarians teach students will vary widely. In my experience with an open library that allows students to access library materials throughout the day, school librarians have more time to provide high-quality individualized reader’s advisory.

At middle and high schools, classroom teachers teach students up to one hour per day for 180 days per year, or 180 hours (minus testing). Like elementary school librarians on flexible schedules, secondary school librarians will teach students for in-depth periods of learning but may go weeks between classroom-library cotaught lessons or units of instruction. The number of hours these school librarians teach students will vary widely and again; with open library the opportunities are there for individualized reader’s advisory.

My takeaway from the math: Classroom teachers and school librarians do not have a great deal of time to develop students as readers, thinkers, and people who take action to create a better world.

If school librarians at any instructional level hope to influence students’ enjoyment of reading, reading proficiency, and successful quest for accurate information, they must create opportunities for individualized reader’s advisory. They must acknowledge the greater influence of the classroom teacher on student learning. They must “let” classroom teachers be the first to bring new books into the classroom to share with students. They must coplan and coteach with classroom teachers and specialists. School librarian leaders must collaborate.

National School Library Month
The theme of this year’s National School Library Month is Everybody Belongs @Your School Library. As we come to the end of the month and this annual spotlight on school libraries, it is essential that all school librarians reflect on how their work is perceived in their school learning community.

  • Are students, classroom teachers, administrators, and families comfortable when they walk through the library doors?
  • Do school library stakeholders feel ownership in “our” library?
  • Do library policies, such as those for overdue books and library fines, set up barriers to library use?
  • Do library rules, such as those regarding food, drinks, and technology use, create the impression that youth are not welcome in the library?
  • Do classroom teachers and specialists reach out for partnerships with the school librarian?

Every school librarian must commit to meeting with their School Library Advisory Committee composed of students, colleagues, administrators, and families or commit to starting such a committee. By meeting with, listening to, and taking direction from the people we serve, school libraries and librarians may go a long way toward building the relationships and developing the policies that can propel the library into the center of the learning culture in our schools.

Bottom line: Daphne Russell made independent reading the focal point of her classroom curriculum. She also taught students reading comprehension strategies to help them become more successful independent and lifelong readers. I wonder what could have happened for the students she served if she had collaborated with one or more school librarians to share her commitment to creating a culture of reading in her classroom. I suspect that by aligning their goals, pooling their resources, and acting in concert, more lifelong readers might have been made—more students may have been saved in a school-wide culture of reading.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What is your commitment to reader’s advisory for individual students through the library program?
  2. How do you support classroom teachers as they engage in reader’s advisory with students?

Work Cited

Russell, Daphne. 2018. Read or Die: A Story of Survival, Hope, and How a Life Was Saved One Book at a Time. Tucson, AZ: Wheatmark.

For more information, follow Daphne Russel on Twitter: @gtwybookpusher or visit her non-profit Books Save Lives website: https://www.bookssavelives.org/

 

 

 

Advocate for What Students Need to Succeed

While it is all educators’ responsibility to advocate for what students need to succeed in their futures, school librarians can use their leadership and instructional partner roles to advocate for authentic, relevant, and challenging curricula. They can colead and advocate for initiatives that result in transforming teaching and learning.

School librarians’ overarching goal is to prepare students for lifelong learning. It could be said that preK-12 educators have always prepared the next generation for their lives after high school. But the speed of technological and other change in today’s society make it more difficult to predict those needs. Education organizations have suggested various skills and competencies for educators to consider as they guide future ready students’ learning. (Competencies are applied skills; all of the standards cited in this post are intended to be applied in authentic learning experiences.)

Among those skills are the Partnership for 21st Century Learning’s 4Cs (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity), the International Society for Technology in Education’s Student Standards, NextGen Science Standards, National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies, and more including the National Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries (AASL 2018).

In Chapter 8 in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership, I draw connections between leadership and advocacy. Both are essential behaviors of school librarians if we are indeed positioning our work at the forefront of innovation, change, and reform in education.

Leadership
“Leaders maintain an understanding of what the mission and goals of an organization are and how these can be fulfilled” (Riggs 2001). Leaders inspire and influence the thinking and behaviors of others. From the global view provided by the library—the largest classroom in the school—school librarians are stewards of the widest range and variety of resources. Their job is to develop a collection of resources that meet the needs of the learning community.

In their daily work, school librarians connect books and other resources with students in order to help them develop as strategic readers, who enjoy and choose to read for pleasure. Strategic readers use comprehension strategies to think critically, to understand an author’s purpose, separate fact from fiction, news from propaganda. They also ask probing questions, seek credible answers, and develop new knowledge that helps them make sense of the world.

School librarians connect books and other resources to the curriculum by working with classroom teachers and specialists. They help other educators extend student learning beyond the textbook and offer resources on curricular topics at multiple reading proficiency levels to help all students build their reading skills. School librarians advocate for learning experiences that give students voice and choice and set them on the path of lifelong learning.

School librarians are on the constant lookout for resources that will spark students’ curiosity while supporting classroom teachers’ required student learning objectives. In many schools, school librarians are stewards of the most up-to-date technology tools and have expertise in marshaling the power of technology to improve student learning. They have expertise with digital information, including databases. They teach digital citizenship and help students understand the implications of the digital footprint they are creating today and how it may affect their futures.

Advocacy
“Collaborating school librarians have the potential to influence teaching and learning for every classroom teacher and every student in their building. To embrace a leadership role is an opportunity to co-create a collaborative school culture of learning that truly transforms education” (Moreillon 2019). Through coplanning, coteaching, and coassessing student learning alongside classroom teacher colleagues, school librarians have the opportunity to advocate for effective instruction, relevant learning tasks, and meaningful inquiry-based learning experiences that improve student learning outcomes. This work supports administrators’ goals for their schools and their district.

“Advocacy in all its forms seeks to ensure that people, particularly those who are most vulnerable in society, are able to: Have their voice heard on issues that are important to them. Defend and safeguard their rights. Have their views and wishes genuinely considered when decisions are being made about their lives” (SAEP n.d.). When school librarians advocate for future ready students, they are advocating for students’ voices and agency, their rights, and their empowerment to pursue learning that will make a long-term impact on their readiness for college, career, and community life.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. In your way of thinking, how are leadership and advocacy linked?
  2. Describe how your passion for school librarianship, your role as a school librarian, and the role of the library in future ready learning has led you to advocating for future ready students.

Works Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2019. “Leadership Requires Collaboration: Memes Have Meaning.” School Library Connection Online: https://schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2193152?topicCenterId=1955261&tab=1

Riggs, Donald E. 2001. “The Crisis and Opportunities in Library Leadership.” Journal of Library Administration 32 (3/4): 5-17.

seAp.org. “What Is Advocacy?” https://www.seap.org.uk/im-looking-for-help-or-support/what-is-advocacy.html

 

 

 

 

 

Advocacy: A Long-term, On-going Process

Chapter 8: Leadership and Advocacy Podcast: Virtual Interview with Dr. Ann Ewbank

When advocacy becomes a regular part of a school librarian’s daily practice, then the long-term, on-going nature this work becomes clear. School librarians must always serve stakeholders in such a way as to engender their support for the professional work and leadership of the school librarian and the role of the library program in student learning. The history of school librarianship is clear. School librarians can never rest on their laurels and assume that their positions, library budgets, and programs are safe from cuts when budgets get tight, district deficits loom, or national trends in education shift.

Readers of Ann Dutton Ewbank’s book Political Advocacy for School Librarians: Leveraging Your Influence (2019) can find additional support for stepping out of one’s comfort zone and developing persuasive messages. School librarians can also use the American Library Association’s Library Advocate’s Handbook (2008), which includes guidelines for telling the library story, successful speaking tips, including a speaker’s checklist, and tips for talking with the media and dealing with tough questions.

Advocating for the Program
When school librarians have formed a solid base of support for the contributions of the library program to the school community, they are able to mobilize support from stakeholders when the need arises. Keeping the library program in the spotlight through consistent services and public relations are essential. The school or library website and social media, the school or library newsletter, principals’ communications to families, and local broadcast media outlets are all venues to share the library story.

In her article “Tales of the Crypt,” elementary and middle school librarian Kelly Klober from Danville (AR) shares an exciting Living History project and event that involved students in researching the lives of people buried in the town cemetery. Adult participants in the project included classroom teachers, family members, and other volunteers from the community. Kelly included this as one of her tips for success: “Make friends with the press. We always have incredible coverage from our local newspaper, and our high school’s senior seminar class has always been kind enough to video the event” (Klober 2019, 20).

Advocating for the Position
While some argue that school librarians should not advocate for their own positions, I whole-heartedly disagree. If there were a proposal on the table in your district to eliminate all kindergarten teachers, you can bet that kinder teachers (and their first-grade colleagues, families, and more) would be frontline advocates who could clearly state the need to retain these positions. State-certified school librarian positions are no different. There is research-based evidence that supports the value of having a state-certified school librarian on every school faculty. School librarians should know this research. The following examples are from an article published in Phi Delta Kappan Online by Keith Curry Lance and Debra Kachel (2018).

Given the emphasis on literacy and reading in many schools and districts, it makes intuitive sense that students’ reading and writing scores would be better in schools with a strong library program. In a Washington state study, graduation rates and test scores in reading and math were significantly higher in schools with high-quality libraries and certified librarians, even after controlling for school size and poverty (Coker 2015). Reading and writing scores tend to be higher for all students who have a full-time certified librarian. The Pennsylvania study (2012) found that reading scores for Black students (5.5%), Latino students (5.2%), and students with disabilities (4.6%) where higher when the school had a full-time librarian. Even higher academic gains were evident among student subgroups if their schools had more library staff, larger library collections, and greater access to technology, databases, and the library itself. The 4th-grade NAEP reading data supported the Pennsylvania findings. In states that gained librarians between 2004-05 and 2008-09, average reading scores for poor students, Black students, and Latino students improved more than in states that lost librarians. In states that lost librarians, English language learners’ scores dropped by almost 3% (Lance and Schwartz 2012).

School librarians must advocate for their own positions based on research, on their own practice, and on locally collected student learning data.

Advocacy-at-Large
Inviting print and broadcast media to library program events and writing letters to the editor and op-ed pieces for local newspapers are ways to take the school library story out into the community. School librarians and their advocates can keep school libraries in the minds of the general public as preparation for advocacy appeals and initiatives that will require the support of school boards, families, and voters.

Here are two recently published op-eds that I wrote on behalf of Tucson’s school librarians, libraries, students, educators, administrators, and families.

Missing School Librarians Means Lost Literacy Learning,” Arizona Daily Star, November 3, 2017.

Literacy Matters Every Day,” Arizona Daily Star, March 6, 2019.

And as part of a School Librarian Restoration Project in Tucson Unified School District, TUSD board liaison Kristen Bury of the School Community Partnership Council and I were briefly interviewed by a local news station KGUN9.

Restoration Project Aims to Employ More Librarians for TUSD,” KGUN9 video interview and article.

This letter to the editor was published on April 18, 2019 during School Library Month. “The Library Ecosystem.”

Strategic school librarians engage and enlist others in long-term, on-going advocacy efforts to ensure that school library stakeholders will have equitable access to the resources, instructional and other services, professional expertise, and leadership school librarians and libraries provide. Keeping the public informed is essential when the time comes to seek their support for specific advocacy appeals.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. How are you engaged in long-term, on-going advocacy?
  2. Who do you need to ask to join you in this effort?

Works Cited

American Library Association. 2008. Library Advocate’s Handbook. 3rd ed. http://www.ala.org/advocacy/advocacy-university/library-advocates-handbook

Coker, Elizabeth. 2015. The Washington State School Library Study: Certified Teacher-librarians, Library Quality and Student Achievement in Washington State Public Schools. Seattle: Washington Library Media Association.

Ewbank, Ann. 2019. Political Advocacy for School Librarians: Leveraging Your Influence. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Klober, Kelly. 2019. “Tales from the Crypt.” Knowledge Quest 47 (4): 16-20.

Lance, Keith Curry, and Bill Schwarz. 2012. How Pennsylvania School Libraries Pay Off: Investments in Student Achievement and Academic Standards. PA School Library Project. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED543418.pdf

Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra Kachel. 2018. “Why School Librarians Matter: What Years of Research Tell Us.” Phi Delta Kappan Online. http://www.kappanonline.org/lance-kachel-school-librarians-matter-years-research/

Advocacy: An Essential Component of Daily Practice

Every time school librarians greet a student, family member, classroom teacher or specialist, administrator, prospective student/family, or visiting dignitary in the school library, they show the learning community that the library is a welcoming environment. Following up a warm smile with an offer of help is the first step in establishing the library as a place where a friendly staff helps others solve their problems or get their needs met. Through signage, book and resource displays, technology access and tools, the physical space of the library communicates a great deal about the values and quality of the program—and by extension the work of the school librarian.

“Our” Library
One of the most important messages the physical (and virtual) space of the library must communicate is this: the school library is an “our” place. The resources of the library and the activities that occur via the library program belong to the entire learning community. In addition to always referring to the library as “our library” and its resources as “our resources,” school librarians make a concerted effort to involve students, families, classroom teachers and specialists, and administrators in guiding the library program. The “our” should be understood by all.

Student work is an essential feature of the physical as well as the virtual library. Evidence of student learning should be front and center and obvious to anyone visiting the library or accessing the library’s website. Spotlighting and curating learning outcomes shows how the librarian contributes to the academic program of the school. In addition, the contributions of library student aides should also be evident in physical and virtual spaces.

When library stakeholders know they have ownership of the library, they are more likely to understand what makes the library program successful. As contributors to the library’s success, they have a vested interest in its smooth and effective functioning. As beneficiaries of the quality of the program, it is in their self-interest to help the librarian lead in an exciting learning environment. Involved stakeholders are more likely to support an advocacy appeal—whether it is launched by the librarian or another member of the learning community—because they have a stake in the outcome.

The Library Fishbowl
The school library is a fishbowl. Anyone in the school or community (with proper credentials) can walk into the library at any time and observe the work of the school librarian. For librarians who began their careers as classroom teachers, this can be a bit unnerving at first. A classroom teacher who appears at the library to check out some resources may sit down and watch her colleagues (a school librarian and another classroom teacher) coteach. Administrators who conduct classroom walk-throughs will also observe in the library and will often bring district-level administrators, prospective parents, and community members along with them, particularly in a state-of-the-art library.

Adult volunteers in the library have a bird’s eye view of students’ and classroom teachers’ interactions with the librarian and the library assistant. Volunteers are often students’ family members who share their observations at the Friday night football game or the Little League game on Saturday. Involving adult volunteers in the Library Advisory Committee increases their ownership in the program and will likely lead to positive public relations for the librarian and the program.

Advocacy as a Story
Advocacy is a story that is created, developed, and told in the everyday practices of the school librarian and the library staff. Involving others stakeholders as co-authors of the library story is an essential and strategic component of effective advocacy. By building connections and through collaborative partnerships, school librarians lay the foundation on which the learning community can and will come together to advocate for the library when there is a need. Every member of the community will be able to tell and retell an authentic and convincing story that illustrates the values, practices, and needs of the school library program.

The library advocacy story is not only important for an individual school community. An authentic and effective story reaches out to other schools, across districts, and out into the greater community. It can also reach across the state and around the country or the world. Together, all of our individual advocacy stories can change hearts and minds and make a difference for school librarianship as a profession. “Developing excellence in school library programs and a credible collective advocacy story is a path to sustaining the vitality, integrity, and the future of our profession” (Moreillon 2015, 26).

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. For what specific support, project, resources, or tools would you launch an advocacy appeal today?
  2. How would you frame that appeal in terms of benefits to students, classroom teachers, specialists, and/or administrators?

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2015. “Quick Remedies Column: Collaborative Library Stories.” School Library Monthly 31 (8): 25-26.

Leading Successful Advocacy Appeals

April is School Library Month: Everyone Belongs @Your School Library

When you read Chapter 8 in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership, you will clearly make the connection between leadership and advocacy. Effective school librarians lead advocacy initiatives in order to spotlight the needs of students, classroom teachers, and administrators in relationship to the library program. Such advocacy efforts are made in light of the positive impact the program and school librarians’ teaching/coteaching have on student learning and classroom teachers’ teaching as well as in support of administrators reaching school goals.

School librarians’ own advocacy efforts can lead to increasing all library stakeholders understanding of the critical role libraries and librarians play in future ready education. In a study of school library advocacy literature published between 2001 and 2011, researchers Ann Dutton Ewbank and Ja Youn Kwon found that 83% of advocacy activities were initiated by school librarians themselves or by an individual in the school library field (2015, 240). Only 5% of the advocates mentioned in the literature were parents and just 3% were school administrators.

Advocacy Appeals Supported by Stakeholders
The “Spokane Moms” are one of the shining examples of parent advocates who have spoken up for school librarians and libraries. In 2008, they launched a website, maintained a blog, cited research and testimonials, and provided advocates with ways to support their cause. Working together, they effectively advocated to save professional school librarian positions first in their own city and then throughout the state of Washington.

Each year during April, School Library Month, the American Association of School Librarians seeks an advocate who will record a public service announcement (PSA) to promote the importance of school libraries and librarians. Author and illustrator Dav Pilkey provided this year’s PSA. His heartfelt personal story of being a child with learning challenges and parents who encouraged him to read whatever he wanted provides a powerful testimonial for librarians and librarians. School librarians and school library advocates are encouraged to download it and share it widely in their learning communities and online.

Advocacy Appeals Launched by School Librarians
We all wish our communities had the advantages of a dedicated group of advocates such as the Spokane Moms. While we can count on support from our national association and authors who are generous in making appeals for our profession, school librarians must face the reality of everyday advocacy. School librarians themselves must speak out and be their own first advocates.

Chapter 8 includes an example of a school librarian-led advocacy appeal to hire library assistants in every school—assistants who make it possible for school librarians and the program to reach their capacity to lead, teach, and provide professional development. The example guides readers through a step-by-step process that can be applied to other types librarian-led advocacy efforts.

Advocacy Goal
School librarians may launch an advocacy appeal, but our ultimate goal is for stakeholders to become knowledgeable, vocal spokespersons for the program. When stakeholders speak up on behalf of school librarians and libraries, many policy- and decision-makers will sit up and listen. And when the initiative takes on a life of its own, school librarians can help ensure the success of such efforts by leading from behind the scenes to keep the messaging strong, clear, and productive in reaching the intended outcomes.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. For what specific support, project, resources, or tools would you launch an advocacy appeal today?
  2. How would you frame that appeal in terms of benefits to students, classroom teachers, specialists, and/or administrators?

Work Cited

Ewbank, Ann Dutton, and Ja Youn Kwon. 2015. “School Library Advocacy Literature in the United States: An Exploratory Content Analysis.” Library & Information Science Research 37: 236-243.

 

Educator Reflection

Just as students benefit from reflecting throughout the inquiry process, so, too, do educators. Metacognition, or thinking about one’s thinking, is an essential aspect of learning. Thinking about how we plan for instruction, monitor student progress, provide interventions, and assess our instructional expertise helps coteachers transfer prior learning to their next teaching (and learning) experience.

School librarians can engage in various types of reflection. They can reflect as individual educators. They can also reflect along with their administrator(s) or supervisor(s). They may reflect in small groups such as Professional Learning Communities or along with a cadre of job-alike colleagues. One of the most effective reflection practices in terms of its impact on student learning may be reflecting with coteaching colleagues during the planning process, during lesson/unit implementation, and post-implementation.

School Librarian Self-Assessment
The AASL National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries includes a “School Library Checklist” that covers a range of school librarian behaviors and responsibilities (2018, 174-180) I hope that it is no accident that collaborating with other educators is the first criterion on that list.

Figure 7.3 School Librarian Self-Assessment Criteria shows the keywords used by four organizations that school librarians can use to guide their reflection: AASL, Follett Project Connect, Future Ready Librarians, and International Society for Technology in Education (Educators).

“Collaborate,” “instructional partnership,” “collaborative leadership,” and “collaborator” are various terms used across these four sets of criteria on which school librarians can base one aspect of their self-assessment. Reflecting on one’s ability to lead through collaboration is an essential behavior of effective school librarians (see Leadership Requires Collaboration: Memes Have Meaning).

Different Planning/Thinking Styles
Being aware of how we think and learn can help school librarians, in particular, to be more effective in their roles as instructional partners. Perhaps, you, the librarian, are a sequential planner/thinker who is building a collaborative relationship with a random planner/thinker colleague. You will need to give up some measure of control in order to accommodate the preferences of such a coteacher. It is likely you will need to be flexible enough to think on your feet and approach planning or teaching at a different speed, via a different path or take learning in a different direction all together.

When we demonstrate our flexibility by accommodating the thinking styles of our colleagues and administrators/supervisors, we further show our readiness for future ready education. In order to meet the needs of today’s students, we must be flexible, responsive, and collaborative educators.

Strategies for Reflecting
Ensuring that reflection is a component of learning is difficult to achieve in practice. It seems that reflecting on any learning process has not yet become standard practice in many classrooms and libraries. Perhaps by including reflection time on planning forms and on lesson plans, educators can remind one another of the importance of metacognition.

For coteachers, including reflection before, during, and after an instructional intervention can help educators think, create, share, and grow. Educators may choose to write/draw/record their individual reflections. While reflecting individually is a useful strategy, reflecting together as trusting partners may be even more effective. (Sharing individual reflection documents is one way to do that.) Shared reflection can be a time for educators to express gratitude for what they are learning with and from one another. It can also be a time for coteachers to identify areas for improvement and recommit to growing together as instructional partners.

Reflection is also an important component on semi-annual or annual self-assessment or formal assessment/evaluation instruments. Keeping a journal throughout the year can help school librarians prepare to compose a comprehensive semi-annual or annual reflection. As instructional leaders in schools, administrators will want to know what educators themselves perceive as their areas of greatest strength, areas for improvement, and next steps for future learning.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What are your strategies for ensuring that you make time to reflect on your teaching and learning?
  2. What are the advantages of reflecting with an instructional partner?

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians. 2018. National Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. Chicago: ALA.

Moreillon, Judi. 2019. “Leadership Requires Collaboration: Memes Have Meaning.” School Library Connection Online.

School Librarian Evaluation

Episode 7: Assessment (Evidence-based Practice) Virtual Podcast Interview with Kelly MillerIf school librarians are to achieve their capacity as leaders in their schools, it is their charge to influence the practices of their colleagues. As noted in Chapter 2: Job-Embedded Professional Development, coteaching is an ideal context in which educators organically practice reciprocal mentorship. Coteachers learn with and from one another as they guide, monitor, and assess student learning outcomes.

If school librarians are to collect direct measures, “they must be proactive in creating the conditions in which they can collect, analyze, and use evidence of their impact on student learning” (Moreillon 2016, 30). In short, in order to maximize their leadership, school librarians must seek out instructional partnerships, and they must coplan, coteach, and coassess student learning outcomes.

And in the best of all possible worlds, school librarian evaluators would observe them and provide actionable feedback in the context of coteaching. I was fortunate in my career to have site-level administrators who, with the classroom teacher’s permission, observed me during cotaught lessons. In several cases, our pre-evaluation conferences were conducted with the other educator present. In all cases, the post-evaluation conferences were one-on-one conversations between my evaluators and me.

Readiness for Coteaching
Jennifer Sturge, the Teacher Specialist for School Libraries and Instructional Technology for Calvert County (MD) Public Schools published an article in the January/February issue of Knowledge Quest (KQ). In the article, Jen shares how she provided collaboration training to help classroom teachers and school librarians prepare for classroom-library coteaching. She also worked with administrators to help them overcome possible barriers to coteaching such as library scheduling, collaboration time, and library staffing.

Jen found that 83% of the classroom teachers she surveyed believed that collaborating with school librarians would benefit students. Of course, there were challenges along the way, but can-do collaborators found solutions to address them. As Jen notes at the end of her article, “I was hoping to succeed but was also prepared to fail. After all, how could this project take off without funding? Through the sheer determination of everyone who has recognized the benefits to students and worked along with way with me, we’re moving slowly but surely to a more collaborative approach in our elementary school libraries” (Sturge 2019, 31).

Evaluating Coplanning
Using a coplanning form is one way to assess you and your colleague’s readiness to coteach. In the January/February KQ article “Co-Planning and Co-Implementing Assessment and Evaluation for Inquiry Learning,” I provided sample planning forms that include standards, learning objectives, and student outcomes evaluation criteria (Moreillon 2019, 42-43).

Effective collaborative planning creates a framework for measurable student success; it addresses the Understanding by Design (UbD) approach (Wiggins and McTighe 2005) to planning instruction. School librarian evaluators will benefit from observing, participating in, or reviewing educators’ evidence of collaborative planning.

Evaluating Coteaching
Evidence-based practice (EBP) suggests that educators base their instruction on published research, apply research-based interventions in their practice, and measure the success of their efforts in terms of the targeted student outcomes. UbD and EBP are aligned and can assist educators in determining the effectiveness of their teaching.

In the same issue of KQ, the literacy coordinator for Bismarck Public Schools Misti Werle shared her leadership in implementing and evaluating instructional partnerships in her district. Writing along with middle school librarian Kat Berg and English language arts teacher Jenni Kramer, Misti shared a “Levels of Library Services and Instructional Partnerships” document that guided Bismarck school librarians in serving as equal instructional partners. The document assisted them in stretching their collaborative practices and helped them assess their progress as well (Berg, Kramer, and Werle 2019, 35).

Evaluating the Outcomes of Classroom-Library Collaboration
In her podcast interview, Kelly Miller, Coordinator of Library Media Services for Virginia Beach (VA) Public Schools, provides school librarians with a pathway to leadership through evidence-based practice. When school librarians collaborate with others to develop an action research project, they can demonstrate their professionalism, collect and analyze data, and document how they are improving teaching and learning in their schools.

This tweet was cited in a recent issue of ASCD’s Education Update: “Have a dream or vision and struggling to get there? If so, let go of perfection, bring as many people together as you can, and focus on continuous improvement rather than a destination point of ‘success’” (@PrincipalPaul 2019, 3). Collaborative relationships can be challenging. Codesigning and coimplementing an action research project can be imperfect at times and collaborators must be able to self-assess and regroup.

Just as educators help students strive for continuous development, wise administrators and school librarian supervisors support educators in continually improving their practice. Approaching school librarian evaluation as providing feedback for learning means that librarians will have the necessary guidance to move their practice forward. Success is in the journey rather than reaching some static target for “perfection.”

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. Why is it essential for school librarians to have a different evaluation instrument than classroom teachers?
  2. Think of a time you had an effective coteaching experience. What would an evaluator have noticed during this teaching and learning event?

For Fun!
Effective classroom-library collaboration can flourish in a positive school climate and a collaborative school culture. Figure 7.4 in this chapter (also available as a free download) shows a possible way to involve one’s administrators and colleagues in suggesting criteria for assessing the school librarian’s effectiveness.

Works Cited

@PrincipalPaul. 2019. ASCD Education Update 61 (1): 3.

Berg, Kat, Jenni Kramer, and Misti Werle. 2019. “Implementing & Evaluating Instructional Partnerships.” Knowledge Quest 47 (3): 32-38.

Moreillon, Judi. 2019. “Co-Planning and Co-Implementing Assessment and Evaluation for Inquiry Learning,” Knowledge Quest 47 (3): 40-47.

Sturge, Jennifer. 2019. “Assessing Readiness for School Library Collaboration.” Knowledge Quest 47 (3): 24-31.

Wiggins, Grant, and Jay McTighe. 2005. Understanding by Design, 2nd ed. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.