Advocacy Is Not Optional

Chapter 8 Advocacy by Kristin Fraga Sierra and TuesD Chambers
Blog post by Judi Moreillon

“Spreading the message for stakeholders to advocate for the program is an essential activity for today’s school librarian, particularly during school closures” (Sierra and Chambers 123).

Kristin and TuesD began their chapter with a note about the critical need for advocacy, particularly in times of stress and change such as the school closures that occurred while they were writing Chapter 8.

In their experience (and in my own), school librarians who are leaders must be intentional about communicating and building relationships with library stakeholders in order to develop a team of advocates who have first-hand experience with the value of working with a state-certified school librarian and providing students with access to the full range of resources available through the school library program.

Advocacy is not optional.

Creating the Welcoming Space
Before communicating the value of the library program, the librarian must create a space in the library that serves all students, educators, administrators, and families—all library stakeholders. These are some strategies for building a space for belonging:

  • Focus on students first;
  • Listen intently to library stakeholders when they express their needs;
  • Distribute marketing tools such as surveys to collect feedback.

In all cases, make changes to the policies, physical space, programs, and teaching and learning opportunities based on feedback from library stakeholders.

Communication Strategies
The coauthors provide many examples of public relations communication strategies that build library stakeholders knowledge of the value of the library program. These are some:

  • Newsletters with section tailored to the needs of specific stakeholders;
  • One-page infographics that summarize the influence and impact of the library program on learning and teaching;
  • Flyers and invitations to literacy events and teaching and learning opportunities offered in the library space;
  • Social media posts that promote books and share the learning experiences of students’ literacy-focused clubs;
  • And more.

Building Relationships
In every aspect of their work, school librarians must be intentional relationship builders. Putting people first is a leadership behavior.

Whether this focus is evidenced through policies such as late fees or lost materials, providing diverse resources to equitably meet the needs all educators and students, or teaching and learning activities that are inclusive of multiple perspectives, the focus on people means that school librarians will build a cadre of advocates as an organic aspect of their work. Others will have first-hand experiences of how the work of the school librarian and the resources and activities in the library program made a difference in their learning and teaching.

“Strong advocacy work is absolutely necessary to the survival of the school library and is a core, undeniable element to the position of the school librarian” (Sierra and Chambers 124). (Sierra and Chambers 124)

Responding to School- and District-level Priorities
While school librarians will have particular areas of expertise and interest, if they are to be successful, they must align their work with the perceived needs of the school and district. They must be able to tell a “library story” that matters to their decision-maker stakeholders

“We need to keep in mind that library numbers and statistics
are pretty meaningless to anyone else unless they are connected
to your school and/or district priorities”
(Len Bryan cited in Sierra and Chambers 129).

This does not mean stepping away from the work of school librarianship and serving as a reading intervention teacher or technology coach throughout the school day. Rather it means, showing administrators with those needs that the work school librarians do will help them reach their goals. In these cases, improve students’ reading proficiency and students’ and educators’ use of educational technology.

This means teaching and coteaching with classroom teachers to achieve student learning targets, assessing student learning outcomes, and determining how to improve instruction in order for more students or all students to reach standards-based learning goals.

With these data in hand, school librarians will demonstrate to administrators how their work matters, and administrators will understand and value school librarians’ impact on teaching and influence on student learning.

Reflection Question
“What types of advocacy efforts have you led or been a part of in your career or schooling experience and what were the outcomes?” (Sierra and Chambers 137).

Work Cited

Sierra, Kristin Fraga, and TuesD Chambers. 2021. “Advocacy.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 123-138. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Core Values Redux from the AASL Conference

Whether #AASL21 in Salt Lake City in October was your first or your tenth American Association of School Librarians National Conference, I suspect your schedule was something like mine. At every hour of the concurrent sessions, I found two and sometimes three sessions that I would have liked to have attended.

As an attendee who prefers to make a commitment to a speaker or panel rather than session hop, I missed a number of sessions that now, thanks to recordings made by AASL, I can listen to at my convenience.

If you registered for the conference or if you pay a fee, you can access the conference recordings at https://aasl.digitellinc.com/aasl

“Our values should be so crystallized in our minds, so infallible, so precise and clear, and unassailable, that they don’t feel like a choice…” Brené BrownCore Values at AASL
Many contributors to our book Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage shared outstanding presentations at the conference. I am grateful to them for sharing their knowledge and experience and when appropriate, making connections for participants to their chapters in our book.

Photograph of CVSL Presenters Plus Book Contributor Suzanne ShermanPhotograph of CVSL Contributors/Presenters:
Erika Long, Suzanne Sannwald, Julie Stivers, Judi Moreillon,
Suzanne Sherman, Meg Boisseau Allison, and Nancy Jo Lambert

The following is a menu of Core Values contributors’ recordings. The number in parentheses is the page on which each is found on the AASL Conference recordings site. Each presenter’s book chapter is referenced after their name. If they served on a panel, I did not include the names of their panel mates.

Evolving Practices in Creating a Reading Culture (1) panel with Erika Long (Chapter 1 Equity)

The Power of Manga + Anime in Our Libraries (1) by Julie Stivers (Chapter 2 Diversity)

Core Values Lighting Our Way: Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Intellectual Freedom panel with Erika Long, Julie Stivers, Meg Boisseau Allison, and Suzanne Sannwald (2) (Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 4)

Radical Inclusion in Every School (4) by Meg Boisseau Allison (Chapter 3 Inclusion)

The Social-Emotional Learning Commons (4) panel with Suzanne Sannwald (Chapter 4 Intellectual Freedom)

Inclusive Collections: A Frank Conversation about Diversity in Library Resources (6) by Nancy Jo Lambert (Chapter 2 Diversity)

Curate a Digital Library (8) by Nancy Jo Lambert (Chapter 2 Diversity)

Centering Our Values through Classroom-Library Collaboration: The Key to Enacting School Librarian Leadership (9) by Judi Moreillon (Chapter 9 Collaboration)

ABC-CLIO Special Offer
Our book is available through ABC-CLIO at a 20% discount through the month of December. This is the discount code to use at checkout: Q42120,

Core Values Book Study
In December, we will complete the Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage book study. Two blog posts will be devoted to Chapter 8: Advocacy and two will focus on Chapter 9: Collaboration.

“The contributors to this book seek to provide colleagues with a ‘home.’ When we are connected to others who share our values, we are able to provide security for one another and our library stakeholders as we rise up to meet the opportunities and challenges of today and tomorrow” (Moreillon xii).

For me, attending #AASL21 face to face, live and in person, felt like coming “home.” Thank you to everyone who presented and attended for coming together for this outstanding learning opportunity.

Works Cited

Brown, Brené. 2018. Dare to Lead, Brave Work, Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. Vermillion: London.

Moreillon, Judi. 2021. “Introduction.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, ix-xiv. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Who Do You Trust?

Chapter 7 Leadership by Pam Harland and Anita Cellucci
Blog post by Pam Harland and Anita Cellucci

When reflecting on the ideas we shared in our Core Values in School Librarianship chapter on how confidence and vulnerability lead to leadership, we thought about how trust is another important aspect of leadership. We were recently struck by Charles Feltman’s definition of trust, “choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions” (2021). We thought about how important it is for leaders to be intentional about building trust in themselves and with others. This idea connects to the ideas of confidence and vulnerability we wrote about in our chapter.

Building Trust with Adults in the Learning Community
We felt that the easiest way to start thinking about the idea of trust is to ask ourselves: What makes people not trust a leader? Our initial thoughts are:

  • If their words and actions are inconsistent.
  • If they lack understanding of our shared functional goals.
  • If they deflect blame, especially at the expense of their direct reports.
  • If they are too uncomfortable with uncertainty (they are not willing to take a risk).
  • If they are unable to manage risk appropriately (either by taking too many risks or not enough).
  • If they are unable to manage emotions (either too robotic or explosive).
  • What else would you add to this list? [Leave your thoughts in the comments below.]

In order to avoid distrust and move towards trust, we must behave in ways that demonstrate our trustworthiness. We cannot control how other people think about us, but we can control our own actions and behaviors. For example, we can intentionally:

  • Always tell the truth and not over-commit ourselves or our resources.
  • Seek to understand school-wide goals and how our library goals align.
  • Publicly accept blame when we make a mistake and be transparent with our decisions.
  • Accept uncertainty in our practice. Understand that sometimes we will need to take risks in new situations in order to improve our library programs.
  • While we need to take risks, we must be cautious before taking too great a risk. We will communicate clearly about any risks, especially those risks that impact others.
  • Be willing to share emotions with the school community, but in a controlled way.
  • What other ways can we intentionally avoid distrust in our practice? [Please share your ideas in the comments below.]

Photo Credit: Glenn, Kyle. 2017. Awesome Stencil. Unsplash. Available at https://unsplash.com/photos/gcw_WWu_uBQ. Accessed November 17, 2021.

When we look for trust in our leaders, we are primarily looking for reliability and competence. Additionally, our leaders need to be able to trust the people who work with them. So, while we hope for a reliable and competent school administrator, we also need to be reliable and competent in our own practice. That means we are true to our word and able to perform all aspects of our own jobs. We do not overcommit or promise to do something that we are not willing or able to do. We are also willing to confidently take responsibility for all aspects of our roles as school librarian leaders.

“Leadership is about developing trust and having the tough conversations that strengthen the community of learners.” Pam Harland and Anita Cellucci(Harland and Cellucci 2021, 112)

Building Trust with Students
It is also vital that we act in ways that build trust with our students. “Students are much more likely to engage in discussion and try new things if they trust the librarian to look out for them” (Rinio 2018, 47). Intentionally building trusting relationships with students is another way to demonstrate true leadership in practice. Be true to your word, especially with your most vulnerable students, and you will gain great rewards.

Another way we build trust with students is to amplify their voices in situations where they have little or no power. Iris Eichenlaub, Librarian/Technology Integrator at Camden Hills Regional High School in Camden, Maine described how she created a student-centered library by listening to her students. She wrote that when freshmen first come into the library for orientation in the fall, she begins by saying, “Some of the best parts of this library are because of your great ideas, so please share them” (Eichenlaub 2018). She went on to write, “The library is a dynamic, living space, a space that the community co-constructs together, and a space that responds to the needs of the community” (Eichenlaub 2018). Because she listens to her students and is open to sharing new ideas, she has become the trusted person in her school who can influence ideas and people.

Creating a co-constructed space with students develops trust as students are made to feel comfortable sharing ideas and they have an understanding they have a voice in the decisions made about the library. By providing a platform for her students to share ideas, especially those individuals who do not necessarily possess the formal power to make and implement decisions, she has created a unique leadership opportunity for herself.

Having confidence in our practice and sharing vulnerability with our colleagues and students will help us build trust in all of our relationships. We titled this post by asking, “Who Do You Trust?” and we want to conclude it with: Be sure that the leader your school trusts is you.

Reflection Question
In what ways do you intentionally avoid feelings of mistrust in your school community? Please share in the comments section below.

Works Cited
Eichenlaub, Iris. 2018. “What’s A Student-Centered Library?” Knowledge Quest (blog). Available at https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/whats-a-student-centered-library/. Accessed November 17, 2021.

Feltman, Charles. 2021. Thin Book of Trust: An Essential Primer for Building Trust at Work. 2nd ed. Bend, OR: Thin Book Publishing.

Harland, Pam, and Anita Cellucci. 2021. “Leadership.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 107-122. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Rinio, Deborah. 2018. “How Understanding the Nature of Trust Can Help Address the Standards.” Knowledge Quest 46 (3): 44–48.

Photo Credit: Glenn, Kyle. 2017. Awesome Stencil. Unsplash. Available at https://unsplash.com/photos/gcw_WWu_uBQ. Accessed November 17, 2021.

Pam Harland, EdD, served as a librarian for 25 years. She is now a member of the faculty at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire where she directs the School Librarian and Digital Learning Specialist educator preparation programs. Most recently she earned her doctorate in Educational Leadership in 2019 in which she researched the leadership behaviors of school librarians. Connect with her on Twitter @pamlibrarian.

Anita Cellucci, MEd LMS, is a high school librarian, K-12 library leader, in Westborough, Massachusetts. She advises teens in a library advisory board and coaches a poetry spoken word team. As a teaching lecturer for Plymouth State University, New Hampshire, she teaches children’s and young adult literature with a focus on social justice and diversity. Connect with her on Twitter @anitacellucci.

Taking Action: A Top Priority

Chapter 7 Leadership by Pam Harland and Anita Cellucci
Blog post by Pam Harland and Anita Cellucci

Three Core Values in School Librarianship contributors Pam Harland, Anita Cellucci, and Judi Moreillon, completed a research investigation earlier this year about how school administrators understand and prioritize the roles and responsibilities of school librarians. We studied several AASL created videos featuring outstanding school administrator leaders from around the country.

Judi shared our research questions, purpose, and overview of our findings in last week’s blog post. In this post, we want to highlight the most significant finding from this study: Exemplary school administrators value the ability and willingness of school librarians who take action. Specifically, school librarians who take action when responding to challenges and opportunities to increase their effectiveness are appreciated by their administrators and considered leaders.

Photo Credit: Wash, R. (2018). Do Not Wait. [Photograph]. Unsplash. https://unsplash.com/photos/4lfrwRyHRYk“Don’t wait for leaders. Become them.” Rob Walsh

When you are faced with a challenge or opportunity, how do you respond?
For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, how did you respond? Did you create screencasts for teachers, students, and parents to use to access important digital information at your school? Did you work with collaborative partners to develop digital tools and lessons for all students? Did you reach out to colleagues and offer access to ebooks and digital information sources to embed within their classes?

One of the administrators in the Town Hall video said: “Our librarians haven’t been waiting for people to tell them what to do. They’ve been saying okay here’s the problem we need to solve and then here’s how we’re going to make it happen” (AASL 2020). The school administrators in our study highlighted many of these ideas as integral to the role of school librarian leaders.

Another example is when your school hires a new principal, how do you respond? Do you approach them over the summer to discuss shared goals and values? Do you share the National School Library Standards (AASL 2018) as a method for developing an understanding of your roles and responsibilities? Do you offer to help with understanding cross-curricular connections based on your collaborative efforts?

“If we are to create the necessary environment for today’s school librarians to lead...confidence and vulnerability are emerging imperatives.” Pam Harland and Anita Cellucci (Harland and Cellucci 2021, 121)

Collaborating with Principals and Superintendents
During the Town Hall video (AASL 2020), several school administrators featured anecdotes of how their school librarians were among the first members of the faculty to introduce themselves and offer to help meet their goals. As school librarians, we know the importance of working with principals to clearly describe how the library can play an important role in responding to current challenges. Through thoughtful and intentional trust-building and leadership, school librarians must take action.

We understand that taking action in these situations is not always easy- in fact, it’s frequently quite challenging. However, “when a school librarian understands the challenges confronting the community, has intentionally built relationships, and is willing to listen authentically, there is an opportunity to co-create a more positive culture within a school” (Harland and Cellucci 2021, 112). Taking action requires both vulnerability and confidence.

For more detailed research questions, methodology, and findings we have two forthcoming articles that go deeper into the study:

Harland, Pam, and Anita Cellucci. 2022. “Do You Know Your Administrators’ Priorities for the School Library?” Knowledge Quest, January/February.

Harland, Pam, Judi Moreillon, and Anita Cellucci, 2022. “Take Action: A Content Analysis of Administrators’ Understandings of and Advocacy for the Roles and Responsibilities of School Librarians.” School Library Research.

Reflection Question
“What difference have you made/hope to make in your school culture as a school librarian leader?” (Harland and Cellucci 2021, 121).

Works Cited
American Association of School Librarians. 2018. National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. Chicago: ALA Editions, an imprint of the American Library Association.

American Association of School Librarians. 2020. “AASL Town Hall: A Conversation with the AASL School Leader Collaborative.” AASL Learning Library (video), 1:02:32. Posted by AASL, Nov 18, 2020. Available at https://aasl.digitellinc.com/aasl/sessions/4159/view. Accessed November 10, 2021.

Harland, Pam, and Anita Cellucci. 2021. “Leadership.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 107-122. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Photo Credit: Walsh, Rob. 2018. Do Not Wait. [Photograph]. Unsplash. Available at https://unsplash.com/photos/4lfrwRyHRYk. Accessed November 10, 2021.

Pam Harland, EdD, served as a librarian for 25 years. She is now a member of the faculty at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire where she directs the School Librarian and Digital Learning Specialist educator preparation programs. Most recently she earned her doctorate in Educational Leadership in 2019 in which she researched the leadership behaviors of school librarians. Connect with her on Twitter @pamlibrarian.

Anita Cellucci, MEd LMS, is a high school librarian, K-12 library leader, in Westborough, Massachusetts. She advises teens in a library advisory board and coaches a poetry spoken word team. As a teaching lecturer for Plymouth State University, New Hampshire, she teaches children’s and young adult literature with a focus on social justice and diversity. Connect with her on Twitter @anitacellucci.

Strengthening Principal-School Librarian Partnerships

Chapter 6: Principal-School Librarian Partnerships
by Kelly Gustafson and M. E. Shenefiel
Blog post by Judi Moreillon

“School librarians must actively endeavor to understand their principal’s interests, needs and priorities both on a personal and professional level.” Kelly Gustafson and M.E. Shenefiel(Gustafson and Shenefiel, 99)

As M. E. noted in last week’s blog post “Principal Partnerships and Leader-Librarians,” when the librarian “can be proactive and offer solutions to building-level concerns, the principal can breathe a little sigh of relief. These small moments and actions build trust, and strong partnerships are the result.”

Meeting the Needs of the Community
It is essential that school librarians help other people in the learning community solve problems. Whether responding to a student’s question, a colleague’s resource, technology, or instructional strategy need, a parent’s question about their student’s access to library materials, or the principal’s initiative to continuously improve literacy learning and teaching in the school, school librarians must be at the table and bring with them ideas for addressing the needs of others.

While all library stakeholders deserve our attention, meeting the needs of building-level and district-level administrators must be a top priority. Listening to and understanding those needs is essential if school librarians are to reach their capacity to influence teaching practices and student learning outcomes.

There is no substitute for having a mutually respectful, supportive, and beneficial relationship with one’s administrator.

Connection to Research
At the AASL conference in Salt Lake City last month, there were two concurrent sessions focused on research. One Research Empowering Practice session focused on collecting evidence of practice; the other focused on advocacy. In the advocacy session, I presented a recently completed study that focused on the influence of the 2018 National Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries (AASL Standards) on the understandings of the AASL School Leader Collaborative (Collaborative). Four members of Collaborative also presented an opening panel keynote at the conference, including principal Kelly Gustafson coauthor of Chapter 6.)

In May of 2019, AASL put out a call for school librarians to nominate their administrator to join the Collaborative in an effort to establish a network of administrators who could provide advocacy for school librarians. Three superintendents and four principals served for two years and it was announced at the conference that another cohort will be forming soon.

Pam Harland, Anita Cellucci (coauthors of Chapter 7), and I conducted a content analysis of videos produced by AASL with testimonials from the Collaborative gathered at the 2019 conference in Louisville (secondary sources) and the November, 2020, AASL Town Hall video, which was the primary source of data for our study.

Research Purpose and Questions
Our research inquiry was based on our belief that if administrators understood the roles and responsibilities of school librarians and school librarians were meeting administrators’ needs then there would be fewer school librarian positions eliminated. We believe that in sharing their perceptions and priorities, these exemplary administrators, who were selected based on their understanding and experience of school librarians as leaders in their schools and districts, can teach school librarians and librarian educators how to further develop as educational leaders.

We wanted to know if we could locate, within these artifacts, these administrators’ understandings of what school librarian leaders do in practice. We also wanted to learn whether or not the AASL Standards were prioritized in these artifacts. Did they mention the five roles of school librarians as defined by the Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Programs (AASL 2009) and cited in the 2018 AASL Standards? Did they refer to the six Shared Foundations as described in the AASL Standards? And finally, how did the content of these artifacts support the leader role of school librarians?

Research Findings
What we learned is that these administrators expect school librarians to take action to help them and others solve problems. The most noteworthy theme that emerged from the Town Hall data is that these administrators expect librarians to take action in response to challenges and opportunities in order to increase effectiveness.

Out of the 32 quotes by administrators in the town hall meeting artifact, 25 of them mentioned this leadership behavior for school librarians.

One of the administrators said: “Our librarians haven’t been waiting for people to tell them what to do. They’ve been saying okay here’s the problem we need to solve and then here’s how we’re going to make it happen” (Harland, Moreillon, and Cellucci 2021).

Another theme that emerged is that these administrators expect librarians to collaborate with principals in ways connected to the school’s mission, vision, and goals.

Out of the 32 quotes by administrators in the Town Hall video transcript, 14 of them mentioned this collaborative role for school librarians. These school leaders were asking librarians to share solutions with principals in response to school and district-wide initiatives.

Research and Practice
As noted in Chapter 6 and in last week’s blog post, school librarians must invest in their relationships with administrators. They must listen, learn, and act to help administrators be successful and thereby influence the success of every student and educator in the building or district.

Reflection Question
“How does your library program support the strategic goals of the building and district?” (Gustafson and Shenefiel, 105)

Works Cited

Gustafson, Kelly, and M. E. Shenefiel. 2021. “Principal-School Librarian Partnerships” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 91-106. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Harland, Pam, Judi Moreillon, and Anita Cellucci. 2021. “Research Empowering Practice: Advocacy. The Influence of Standards of School Administrators’ Priorities.” American Association of School Librarians Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

For more information about this research study, Anita Cellucci and Pam Harland will have an article published in the January/February, 2022, issue of Knowledge Quest that focuses on the study: “Do You Know Your Administrators’ Priorities for the School Library?” All three researchers have a research study report forthcoming in School Library Research: “Take Action: A Content Analysis of Administrators’ Understandings of and Advocacy for the Roles and Responsibilities of School Librarians.”

Principal Partnerships and Leader-Librarians

Chapter 6 Principal-School Librarian Partnerships by Kelly Gustafson and M. E. Shenefiel
Blog post by M. E. Shenefiel

Tempus Fugit (Time Flies)
We’ve just returned from the 2021 AASL National Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, where we had the honor of learning from our co-authors as they presented an overview of the core values embodied in our book. (Thanks to Suzanne Sannwald, Judi Moreillon, Erika Long, Julie Stivers, and Meg Boisseau Allison for sharing your ideas and passion. You are each inspirational role models for those who choose to embrace this work.) It’s been just about a year since we completed the final draft of Chapter 6 of Core Values in School Librarianship and we are grateful to have had the opportunity to participate. When we began the project, we couldn’t have imagined how pertinent this work would become.

Leader-Librarians
At the AASL conference, the Friday general session was a conversation with administrators (including the co-author of chapter 6, Kelly Gustafson.) The conversation focused on “what administrators need and expect from their school librarians and school libraries, and how administrators can empower a school librarian’s leadership role to impact all learners” (ALA, 2021.) Several times during the conversation the panel of exemplary administrators referred to the “mental model” of the school librarian, and how it does not match the actual role of the school librarian. The “mental model” refers to the antiquated role of the school librarian whose seemingly sole purpose was to protect the paper and shush the student. (The pivotal word being, “was.”) These administrators expressed high expectations for what a leader-librarian can and should be.

 “Principals who value school librarians have a high expectation for those librarians to be leaders within their school and district” (Gustafson and Shenefiel, 94).(Gustafson and Shenefiel, 94)

Question: What does a school leader-librarian look like?

Answer: Whatever your administrator needs it to be. It could be something as small as having a few moments during each staff meeting to highlight new resources. It could mean collaborating with another department to help curate resources for a grade-level curricular project. It could mean organizing literacy events for the school community. It could be presenting professional development within the district or at the local, state, or national level.

Leader-librarians observe and listen, attuned to the needs of the students, staff, and school community. When resources and opportunities to address these needs come to light, leader-librarians share proactively. Committed to finding opportunities to serve, they are curious about school-wide and district-wide initiatives and seek out information to understand these initiatives. They ask for a seat at the table, whether it be a small focus group to provide input for a prospective grant, a standing social studies department meeting, or an expanded advisory committee focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Leader-librarians are confident in their ability to advocate for all students and will take risks to challenge the status quo if that challenge is in the best interest of the students.

Building the Partnership

“Trust is built on very small moments.” – Brené Brown

Librarians tend to have their finger on the pulse of what’s happening in a school or a school district. Principals are responsible for guiding the programs and making decisions in the best interest of the school community. Each time the librarian can be proactive and offer solutions to building-level concerns, the principal can breathe a little sigh of relief. These small moments and actions build trust, and strong partnerships are the result.

As a leader-librarian you need to be alert and take advantage of opportunities to show that you are connected to the goals of the school and district. These opportunities don’t require grand gestures or complicated plans.

For example, my building principal is facilitating a year-long book study of When You Wonder, You’re Learning: Mister Rogers’ Enduring Lessons for Raising Creative, Curious, Caring Kids by Gregg Behr and Ryan Rydzewski. A few weeks ago, the authors were speaking at a local independent bookstore, and I was able to share this event with my principal, so he could, in turn, share it with others. This tiny action is just one of many small moments where I’m proactive and step up to support the goals of my principal.

As a result, the principal will always listen when I have a question or suggestion, and when possible, will defer to my judgment when it comes to decisions about the library.

Collaborative Leadership in Our District
The partnership that Kelly and I have has evolved into an interesting collaborative leadership opportunity. Kelly has used her voice to elevate the role of the school librarians across the district. She has been strategic about finding opportunities to advocate and as such, the other principals and administrators are recognizing the value of a leader-librarians. As a result of this work, for the first time, the library department is working in tandem with the ELA department to update our core novel list with a focus on including diverse texts.

Reflection Question
“What opportunities exist for you to be a leader in your school or district?” (Gustafson and Shenefiel, 105).

Works Cited
American Library Association (ALA). 2021. “Friday General Session.” AASL Salt Lake City. Available at https://national.aasl.org/general/. Accessed October 27, 2021.

Behr, Gregg and Ryan Rydzewski. 2021. When You Wonder, You’re Learning: Mister Rogers’ Enduring Lessons for Raising Creative, Curious, Caring Kids. New York, NY: Hachette Book Group.

Brown, Brené. 2019. “The Anatomy of Trust,” recorded April 15, 2019 for Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations, podcast, 24:28, Available at https://super-soul.simplecast.com/episodes/dr-brene-brown-the-anatomy-of-trust-FfsQ0Y_C. Accessed October 27, 2021.

Gustafson, Kelly, and M. E. Shenefiel. 2021. “Principal-School Librarian Partnerships” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 91-106. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Kelly Gustafson, MEd, serves as the Wexford Elementary School principal in the Pine-Richland School District in Pennsylvania. Kelly’s passion for school library partnerships fueled her active role in AASL’s School Leader Collaborative. She champions the value of librarians as a member of AASL and Pennsylvania School Librarians Association. Connect with her on Twitter @GustafsonkKelly.

M. E. Shenefiel, MLIS, (she/her) is the librarian at Eden Hall Upper Elementary School in the Pine-Richland School District (Gibsonia, Pennsylvania), where she also serves as the library department chairperson and a Building Level Technology Coach. She was a contributor to both the Guidelines for Pennsylvania School Library Programs (2019) and The Model Curriculum for Learners in Pennsylvania School Libraries (2019). Connect with her on Twitter @bookbird.

Building Relationships Through the Environment, Your PLN, and a Smile

Chapter 5: Relationships by Jennifer Sturge with Stacy Allen and Sandy Walker
Blog post by Stacy Allen, Jennifer Sturge, and Sandy Walker

“The act of making a connection, feeling and being connected is something humans strive for whether it is a relationship with a place, pet, parent, colleague, or student.”Stacy Allen, Jennifer Sturge, Sandy Walker (2021, 76)

Building Relationships Through the Environment|
As part of the chapter on relationships, we focused on relationships between librarians and students, librarians and teachers, librarians and the broader community. As we set out to write this blog post, we wanted to focus on how we can build relationships by creating spaces that are welcoming, spaces where our students want to spend time and feel empowered to be themselves.  We can build positive relationships in our virtual school libraries and in our physical libraries through many of the same steps.

Create a Welcoming Environment
This might seem like something you already do, but take a close look around you. Go ahead, scan your library. Let’s consider deeply – what is on the walls, in the displays, and how is furniture arranged?

Do you see:

  • Representation from diverse groups of people?
  • Do posters of books and authors include BIOPIC representation?
  • Do your walls welcome those who are differently abled?
  • Persons or books representing the LGBTQ+ community?
  • Do your displays include a wide variety of books and materials that represent your school community, the outside world, and multiple views?
  • Do you have areas where students can work as a group, solo, or relax?
  • Can students who use mobility aids access all areas?

It may feel like a small step to take, but when your library decorations and displays include everyone, students are more likely to want to spend time in the library and thus, you are more likely to be able to build that connection with your students. Every student needs to feel both welcomed and seen.

Focus on Accessibility
As we talk more about the library environment, we wanted to go a little deeper into building relationships through accessibility. When we think about accessibility and relationships,it is essential that we provide an environment where everyone belongs.

Here are a few steps you can take quickly.

  1. Be sure your tables and areas of instruction include tables at which a student with a wheelchair can sit without having to wait for someone to move a chair out of the way. Provide a self-checkout station that is low enough that someone in a wheelchair can access it, and that has enough space around it that a person who has limited mobility can maneuver. If possible, provide the option of a touch screen for someone who may have difficulty using a mouse.
  2. Add core language communication boards to your school libraries. Core language communication boards allow a person to communicate with you and those around them in a non-verbal way. There are many school library core boards available to print and provide in your library.  Susan Berkowitz provides a free one here. However, many are available with a quick web search, or work with your assistive technology team to create a custom one.
  3. Purchase the audio version of your books. One thing that we have started doing as we purchase new titles for the library is adding the audio book on our Sora platform. This allows students who may need access to the audio version to be able to check it out without having to put in a special request for the book to be in an audio version and makes it accessible to all. Your students with vision or reading disabilities may also have access to Bookshare.org, a free online resource with 500,000+ books readily accessible through text-to speech.

Look Up, Smile, and Respond
As we were thinking about this blog post, we started sharing stories of how we feel like we have formed relationships with others that are not the traditional relationship, but ones we enjoy the interaction with just the same.

Jen shared about her favorite cashiers at the local Safeway. Typically, when Jen did her grocery shopping it was around the same time and she enjoyed getting into Jeri’s line. Jeri would chat during the checkout process and share stories about funny things that had happened or about their kids or pets.  Even though Jen never saw her outside of the grocery store, she always made it a point to say hello if she was going through the express line, or to get in her line. Just two weeks ago, Jeri retired. Without that interaction, Jen’s going to need to find a new favorite cashier at her local grocery store — a small relationship, but a relationship nonetheless.

The point of the previous paragraph is not that Jen is missing her cashier, but rather that, as librarians, we serve in a role where we often see hundreds of students in a day, week, or month.  It’s difficult to really dig down and know every single one of the people in our amazing school community. We can be like the Jeri’s of this world – we can converse, give a smile, and make the student or faculty member feel special while they are in our library.

You can also build relationships by displaying your interests. Have an About Me poster that kids can see, display a picture of you in your softball uniform or dance costume, or wear a button showing the instrument you play. Stacy shared that she recently built a new friendship with a teacher who wore a shirt with an ukulele on it. She never would have guessed they had that interest in common!

There is power in the smaller relationships. How you make someone feel sticks with them for a long time. Sharing a small interaction, a smile, and a kind word goes a long way.  Kindness can build trust, and trust is the foundation for a mutually respectful and beneficial relationship.

Relationships with your Professional Learning Network
As some of you reading this blog post will have just returned home after attending the #AASL21 conference in Salt Lake City, we wanted to remind you to nourish the relationships you invested in as you met new people and engaged with those you see only periodically. The school library community is a vibrant community and by continuing to connect with those you spent your time with in Salt Lake City, you will continue to grow and nourish your school librarian toolbox. Reach out to the person on Twitter that you sat next to in a session on Friday morning. Share an idea with the group of people you exchanged emails with at the Rock Out Celebration on Saturday night.

Above all, revisit your relationship with the notes you took, the pamphlets you picked up, and the boxes of books you shipped home! Share what you learned with students, other educators, and administrators. Share important information, effective strategies, and exciting resources that can improve teaching and learning in your school community.

You’ll be glad you did.

Reflection Question
“In your role as a school librarian, what are some of the greatest responsibilities you have in terms of relationships with library stakeholders?” (89).

Work Cited

Sturge, Jennifer with Stacy Allen and Sandy Walker. 2021. “Relationships.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 75-90. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

About the Bloggers

Stacy Allen, MA, serves as Assistive Technology Specialist for Calvert County Public Schools in Maryland. She has worked in Special Education for 25 years. Her current position allows her to focus on equity and access for students with disabilities through work with teachers, students, and families. Connect with her on Twitter @artisfood

Jennifer Sturge, EdD, (she/hers) is the specialist for the library media programs coordinating the professional development and library media programs for Calvert’s schools. She is a 2017-2018 Lilead Fellow, the Maryland Technology Leader of the Year for 2019, and was the 2020-2021 Maryland Association of School Librarians President. Connect with her on Twitter @sturgej

Sandy Walker, MA, serves as the Supervisor of Equity and School Improvement for Calvert County Public Schools. He works with school administration, staff, and students to establish an identity-safe learning and working environment where success is not predetermined by income, zip code, or race. Connect with him on Twitter @Real_EquityCCPS

 

Relationships Matter

Chapter 5: Relationships by Jennifer Sturge with Stacy Allen and Sandy Walker|
Blog post by Stacy Allen, Jennifer Sturge, and Sandy Walker

“Inside of a school library and outside of the school library, relationships are everything.” Stacy Allen, Jennifer Sturge, and Sandy WalkerCore Values in School Librarianship:
Responding with Commitment and Courage 
(2021, 76)

As we set out to write this first blog post, a pesky little tune popped into Jen’s head and seemed to stay there for the duration of our writing. “Relationships, we all want ‘em, we all got ‘em, what do we do with them?” This quote can be attributed to the great Jimmy Buffett and his song Fruitcakes. It may be a lighthearted and fun song, but there is a lot of unpacking that can be done in that last part of the line: “what do we do with ‘em?” In school libraries, the short and sweet answer is, we build ‘em! This blog post features a story from one of Stacy’s friends, Yesenia and the relationship she formed with her elementary school librarian which continues to this day.

Conversations about Books
At the start of our journey in writing this chapter, Stacy reached out to Yesenia, curious to compare their experiences with books and libraries as children. Yesenia attended elementary school at PS 16 in Brooklyn, New York. Stacy was a student at Anne Arundel County Public Schools in Maryland. Stacy’s elementary school library memories were unremarkable, yet her access to books in childhood was undeniable. Between school and family weekend trips to Annapolis Public Library on West Street, she always had stacks of books she was longing to read. Books like the Nancy Drew mysteries even featured strong female protagonists who looked like her. When Stacy reached out to her friend, she didn’t know what she would hear during their conversation.  She didn’t expect it would not be as much about books, but more about the relationships that formed because of books!

But a library isn’t simply a room full of books, is it? Books were not even close to the center of the conversation for Stacy and Yesenia. The conversation centered around relationships. Yesenia spoke of a transformative relationship with her elementary school librarian, one that continues to this day. At PS 16, in the second-floor library, Yesenia first became an award-winning author — and she credits her relationship with librarian Muriel Feldshuh for the push.

During the conversation with Stacy, Yesenia was pulling out memory books with newspaper articles highlighting her win of the Ezra Jack Keats Award and the Brooklyn Literacy Contest as a third grader, and a letter of appreciation she received from then First Lady Barbara Bush. She also shared that she has novels Ms. Feldshuh sent her from contemporary writers like Margarita Engle and Judith Ortiz. “I owe her so much in my life,” Yesenia said, “I moved there in second grade, and she encouraged me beyond books. To this day she sends me emails and news clippings, on books, on mothering. She is my eternal pen pal.”

Access to Literacy Guides
Like the three of us, Yesenia grew up to love books and reading, but, “There wasn’t a Meg Medina picture book for me,” she says. “I remember Strega Nona, Babysitter’s Club, Judy Blume books, and Nancy Drew. But what I remember most is that she [Mrs. Feldshuh] created a safe space for me in the library. She is a very influential person in my life.”

“The school librarian has the power to suggest, discuss, and recommend something that is often very needed in students’ lives–literature and information” (Sturge, Allen, and Walker 2021, 79). The relationship that Yesenia and Mrs. Feldshuh shared, and still share, is one in which the school librarian nurtures a love of reading, takes the time to learn what their students are looking for in a book, and ensures that she sees the whole child, not just the surface.

Relationships are the foundation on which all else is built – and without those relationships we cannot provide what our students need the most – to be seen, heard, feel valued, and find their own success. The school librarians of the world, like Mrs. Feldshuh, make a difference one relationship at a time and one child at a time.

Building Relationships with School Librarian Colleagues
As many school librarians will be embarking on the journey to the American Association of School Librarians Conference in Salt Lake City in the coming days, we want to encourage you to think about relationships there as well. Jen serves on the planning committee for the 2021 conference and wanted to share a quick story about how relationships can develop across the country between school librarians who have never met before in person.

Two members of the planning committee met in person for the first time at an AASL conference several years ago.  Prior to that, they had only followed each other on Twitter and other social media platforms.  In our planning meetings, the friendship between the two is visible – despite the physical geography that separates them in their daily lives. When they finally met in person, it was like meeting a long-lost friend; we’re told there were squeals, screams of happiness, and hugging!

As you set out to enjoy all the conference has to offer, be sure to say hello to people that you have never met in person before. You never know – that social media relationship may blossom into a beautiful friendship!  As we strengthen our professional relationships, we can strengthen our network for learning, support, and growth.

Remember, Jimmy Buffett said it best, “Relationships, we all want ‘em, we all got ‘em, what do we do with them?” The answer simply is: build them.

Reflection Question
As you move through the 2021-2022 school year, what steps are you taking to build lasting relationships with your students, faculty, and school community?

Works Cited

Buffett, Jimmy. 1994. “Fruitcakes.” Margaritaville Records.

Sturge, Jennifer with Stacy Allen and Sandy Walker. 2021. “Relationships.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 75-90. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

About the Bloggers
Stacy Allen, MA, serves as Assistive Technology Specialist for Calvert County Public Schools in Maryland. She has worked in Special Education for 25 years. Her current position allows her to focus on equity and access for students with disabilities through work with teachers, students, and families. Connect with her on Twitter @artisfood

Jennifer Sturge, EdD, (she/hers) is the specialist for the library media programs coordinating the professional development and library media programs for Calvert’s schools. She is a 2017-2018 Lilead Fellow, the Maryland Technology Leader of the Year for 2019, and was the 2020-2021 Maryland Association of School Librarians President. Connect with her on Twitter @sturgej

Sandy Walker, MA, serves as the Supervisor of Equity and School Improvement for Calvert County Public Schools. He works with school administration, staff, and students to establish an identity-safe learning and working environment where success is not predetermined by income, zip code, or race. Connect with him on Twitter @Real_EquityCCPS

 

Opening Our Educational Practices for Intellectual Freedom

Chapter 4: Intellectual Freedom by Suzanne Sannwald
and Dan McDowell|
Blog post by Suzanne

Although I was a co-author for the chapter on Intellectual Freedom for Core Values in School Librarianship, I am quite self-admittedly far from being an expert on intellectual freedom. My approach with writing was instead from the perspective of an ordinary school librarian, and the chapter that unfolded shared information that anyone can find by doing some research on the topic.

At the same time, the framing of the chapter was very personal. My hope was to share the thought journey that I went through in making sense of this very theoretical sounding concept and seeing how it affects my very concrete daily practices.

“Intellectual freedom, including access and choices, privacy
and confidentiality, is the right of every library stakeholder” (Sannwald and McDowell 2021, 55).

As often happens when you learn about something, you start to see the term or idea show up all over the place, and that has definitely been the case for me since I co-wrote the chapter on intellectual freedom. For instance, as I shared in a previous post, I cannot hear discussions about challenges to curriculum related Critical Race Theory (CRT) without thinking about how this threatens the intellectual freedom of students. The fact that educators may through intimidation and/or legislation be discouraged from sharing marginalized voices and factual experiences is clear and present censorship.

I have also been thinking about the way misinformation with COVID-19 has also endangered intellectual freedom since intellectual freedom is not just a matter of what information is allowed or not allowed to be shared. Intellectual freedom is also about our capacity to be mentally free, to be able to think critically.

When thinking about building students’ “capacity to be mentally free, I now see how every instructional choice is really tied to intellectual freedom. Suzanne SannwaldWith the pandemic, another trend that I tracked was the increased use of digital resources as students engaged in online-based distance learning. I work in a district that has been working for years now as a #GoOpen Ambassador District implementing Open Educational Resources (OER), but I feel like movement and motivation in this direction was certainly accelerated during the pandemic.

This past summer, my ideas around OER were deepened when I had the fortunate opportunity to talk with Susan D. Ballard, Dr. Pamela C. Harland. and Dr. Gerard L. Hanley for School Library Connection. Although I had originally sought them out based on their involvement and expertise with OER, my favorite takeaway was learning about OEP: Open Educational Practices/Pedagogy. I realized that OER may, of course, have benefits when it comes to ensuring equitable access to learning resources.

However, if it is always teachers and librarians doing all of the curation with OER, then is there really that fundamental a shift in the learning experience for students?

With OEP, the idea is that we don’t just look for ways to open up resource access. We go further by looking at ways to open up learning so that students share ownership in constructing their own learning. This, again, made me think again about intellectual freedom and fostering student capacity to be mentally free. It ties to the idea that we, as school librarians, must go beyond simply opposing censorship and securing access to resources for students. We, in collaboration with all educators, must open learning experiences to students so that they are enabled and encouraged to think and engage critically.

Only by creating these opportunities for participatory practice may we truly ensure students’ intellectual freedom.

Reflection Question
“What practices are you already doing to support the intellectual freedom of students and staff members in your school community, including ones that you may not have previously identified as relating to intellectual freedom?” (70).

To learn and reflect more about how intellectual freedom can drive your professional practice, make sure to check out Chapter 4 in Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage.

Work Cited

Sannwald, Suzanne, and Dan McDowell. 2021. “Intellectual Freedom.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 55-72. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

About the Blogger
Suzanne Sannwald, MLIS, (she/her) has worked as a high school teacher librarian since 2014. She builds upon her previous education-related roles from middle school to higher education levels, serving as a certificated classroom teacher, classified library technician, district library supervisor, and student affairs technology manager. Suzanne earned both an MA in Teaching and Learning with Technology and an MLIS. She was a 2015-16 ALA Spectrum Scholar, 2016 California School Library Association Leadership for Diversity Scholar, 2017 school site Golden Apple Teacher of the Year, 2018-19 AASL Induction Program member, San José State University iSchool lecturer starting Fall 2020, and School Library Connection contributor. Suzanne has published articles and presented on topics including user experience, information literacy, collaboration, advocacy, and affirming students’ reading and larger lives. Connect with her on Twitter @suzannesannwald.

Anxiety as an Impetus to Act Courageously for Intellectual Freedom

Chapter 4: Intellectual Freedom by Suzanne Sannwald
and Dan McDowell|
Blog post by Suzanne

I’ve had a lot of anxiety entering the 2021-22 school year. I’ve felt concerned about COVID-19 with all of its variants, as well as with the uncertainty of being fully back on campus with students and staff who may or may not be vaccinated and may or may not be required to wear masks or follow other safety protocols.

I have also anticipated possible challenges we educators may face in opposition to what is perceived as related to “Critical Race Theory” (CRT). But, all of this has inspired me to reflect even more deeply on the importance of intellectual freedom as a core value of school librarianship that we must embrace always, and especially now.

Regarding attempts to legislate and control what historical and social curriculum can or cannot be taught, we are seeing how censorship is alive and well. And, we are having the opportunity to truly wrestle with the complexities of intellectual freedom when we consider how the same constituents who aim to censor teaching that is considered CRT-aligned have also asserted their own rights to freedom of speech in the face of what they have deemed to be “cancel culture.”

How is intellectual freedom defended only when considered convenient? "As school librarians, we must think carefully about how we may consistently uphold intellectual freedom with integrity as we serve community members who hold polarized points of view." Suzanne SannwaldHow do we create spaces and opportunities for our communities to share their voices when some voices infringe on the experienced safety of others in our communities?

After all, if someone does not feel safe, are they able to truly experience and enact their own intellectual freedom?

With regard to the misinformation that has been rampant with COVID-19, we have also been reminded that intellectual freedom is not just a matter of what information is allowed or not allowed to be shared. Intellectual freedom is also about our capacity to be mentally free, to be able to think critically.

How can we help our students develop this capacity to think critically, especially when they (and their families) may hold contrary (at least to you) beliefs about what mental freedom looks like?

Just as I remind our students whenever they are working on research related to controversial issues, if these issues were easy to solve, then they wouldn’t be issues any longer and there wouldn’t be controversy.

So, I’m not claiming to have easy answers – or any answers at all for that matter – to the questions I have posed above. I share them so you may serve as my witnesses to this very real current struggle and so that you might join in conversation about what our work looks like as we act in the service of intellectual freedom.

Regardless of whether or not you or I end up experiencing a formal book or curriculum challenge during this next year, intellectual freedom is always at stake. This is a realization that became clear to me when researching and co-writing the chapter on Intellectual Freedom for Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage.

In the many day-to-day decisions that we make for our school library programs, whether regarding cataloging and circulation or curriculum and instruction, we are either intentionally or unintentionally advancing intellectual freedom… or not.

Having acknowledged my anxiety about this school year, I choose to sit with the anxious feelings and embrace them as my impetus for intentionality. I can’t guarantee that every decision I make will be correct, but I do hope that overall, my mindful efforts will have a net positive impact when it comes to honoring the intellectual freedom of those I serve.

Reflection Question
What intention are you acting from? What impact will you have?

To learn and reflect more about core values that drive your professional practice, make sure to check out Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021).

Work Cited

Sannwald, Suzanne, and Dan McDowell. 2021. “Intellectual Freedom.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 55-72. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

About the Blogger
Suzanne Sannwald, MLIS, (she/her) has worked as a high school teacher librarian since 2014. She builds upon her previous education-related roles from middle school to higher education levels, serving as a certificated classroom teacher, classified library technician, district library supervisor, and student affairs technology manager. Suzanne earned both an MA in Teaching and Learning with Technology and an MLIS. She was a 2015-16 ALA Spectrum Scholar, 2016 California School Library Association Leadership for Diversity Scholar, 2017 school site Golden Apple Teacher of the Year, 2018-19 AASL Induction Program member, San José State University iSchool lecturer starting Fall 2020, and School Library Connection contributor. Suzanne has published articles and presented on topics including user experience, information literacy, collaboration, advocacy, and affirming students’ reading and larger lives. Connect with her on Twitter @suzannesannwald.