Library-Powered Students

Our_Library_Hands_Raised_crop_sizedAs my piece of the May 19th Building a Culture of Collaboration Webinar, I will share and invite you to share the many ways school librarians can collaborate to support powerful student learning in our schools. As a former school librarian at every instructional level, I have served in schools with as few as three hundred students and as many as eighteen hundred. Regardless, I always made relationships with students a top priority in my work in the place we called “our” library.

Student library aides, drop-in students, before school, lunchtime, and after school “regulars” may respond to the library’s welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. Student clubs, formal or informal, may choose library spaces for their meetings. School librarians have the opportunity to reach out to the students who frequent the library to build caring and supportive relationships with them.

Through coteaching with classroom teachers, we can show caring and support in other ways. We can advocate for real-world, relevant research and inquiry learning, for thoughtfully integrating technology tools and devices, for student choice in reading and topic selection. When we coplan, coimplement, and coassess student learning, we have a great deal to contribute to student success.

I invite BACC readers and Webinar attendees to conduct an environmental scan of the physical and virtual spaces of their school libraries. Here are some questions to consider:

1. What would a member of your community who hadn’t been in a school library in years see when she/he walks through the door or happens upon your school library Web site?

2. Where is student input reflected in various learning and social spaces in the library or on the library Web site?

3. Where is student learning evidenced in the library? Are final projects on display or linked to the Web site?

4. Are students participating in reader’s advisory by contributing book talks and trailers that are on display or accessible to schoolmates via QR codes, the library catalog, or the Web?

Bring your self-assessment to the Webinar on May 19th. Learn what others may be doing to build a culture of collaboration in their schools through their work with students.

Remix image from Thurston, Baratunde. “I Am A Community Organizer.” 7 Sept. 2008. Flickr. 29 Apr. 2015. <>.

School Librarians Are Connectors

collaboration_sizedThis month the BACC co-bloggers are previewing our upcoming (May 19th) Texas Library Association Webinar. See the end of this post for information. Along with our guest blogger, Melissa Johnston, each of us will be previewing our piece of the collaboration puzzle in our May blog posts. BACC co-blogger Karla Collins will offer the final contribution this month with a post-Webinar wrap-up.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Difference, notes that “connectors” have the “ability to span many different worlds,” which may be a “function of something intrinsic to their personality, some combination of curiosity, self-confidence, sociability, and energy” (47). Thanks to our big picture view of our school learning communities, school librarians are positioned to be connectors. (And hopefully we embody at least some, if not all, of the dispositions Gladwell associates with connectors.)

When we are engaged in building a culture of collaboration in our school learning communities, we determine the best ways to meet the needs of each of our library stakeholders. Through communication and collaboration and to use a construction metaphor, we build relationships that can help cement the foundation of a culture of learners—young and older—who strive to make school a joyful, relevant, and effective learning environment for all.

On Thursday, I will introduce collaboration with students as one of the pillars necessary for building a culture of collaboration.

Webinar Information:
May 19, 2-3pm Central Time: Building a Culture of Collaboration (Collaboration Series) – FREE
How can you increase collaboration in your school learning community? Building a Culture of Collaboration at Edublogs co-bloggers will share strategies for reaching out and developing collaborative relationships with four library stakeholder groups: administrators (Judy Kaplan), classroom teachers and specialists (Melissa Johnston), students (Judi Moreillon), and families and community members (Lucy Santos Green). Bring your commitment to building partnerships, your experiences, your ideas and your questions to the conversation.

Register at

All Webinars will be recorded. A link to the recording will be sent to all registrants (i.e. you may want to register even if you know you cannot attend the live event). All Webinars will carry Continuing Education credit.

Works Cited

Gladwell, Malcolm. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Difference. New York: Little, Brown, 2000. Print.

Maxwell, Scott. “Working Together Teamwork Puzzle Concept.” 2007. Web. 25 April 2015 <>.

Capture the Joy of Learning

edm 3.jeg


Advocacy should be a cause for celebration-viewed, not as a chore, but as a daily attitude described by Lucy Santos Green earlier this month. Advocacy is the narrative of the wonders of learning that happen every day in the school library learning space. The quiet moments of getting lost in a book, the boisterous interaction over a shared game or makerspace creation, the intentional researcher discovering a treasure trove of information, or the hum of conversation about ideas and opinions. This is the day to day evidence of the purpose for “the third place,” the library space where the all learners-students and adults- are welcome to access a variety of resources for pleasure and knowledge in a safe supportive environment. (Johnson, 2011)

Inquiry is encouraged and no question is “dumb.” It’s a space for collaborating, doing,  and connecting physically and virtually. It’s local and global.  It belongs to its users. They can tell the story in so many effective ways.  Teacher librarians are master facilitators, spinning the plates.  We  have to nurture our storytellers, and give them opportunities to shine a light on their learning through blogs, websites, videos, newsletters, interviews, podcasts, spotlights on projects and process, awesome reading and writing.  They can deliver an authentic message that has power beyond our words. We just have to provide the venues.

Here’s an example from a young student in Harpswell, Maine:

Once we begin to think of advocacy as a total immersion activity, and not a once a year special event, we can begin to focus on the sustained impact of school libraries and programs in an educational community. If we think about advocacy as collecting the stories, (and not so much about “data/evidence,” even though that is the essence of it), we flip the narrative. Sharing the stories through a social media platform, such as Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, or a blog, can be a snapshot into the school library world. Keep a camera handy, and set aside a few minutes to upload and highlight the joys of learning that happen from week to week. Involve the students and teachers, and give them a chance to tell the stories.

Heidi Huestis, teacher librarian at Charlotte Central School in Charlotte, Vermont has a lively blog that is aimed at the home and  school connection, and she encourages students and families to talk about what goes on in the school library in a weekly blog post. Take a look at some of her recent “stories” for inspiration. BooksLiveOn:

How do you tell your stories?


Huestis, H. (2015). BooksLiveOn. Weblog. <>

Johnson, D. (2011). School libraries as a third place.  Doug Johnson: Writing Speaking and Consulting on School Library and Technology Issues. Web. <>

Koch, L. (2014) Bury Me in the Learning Commons. Video. <>


Judy Kaplan Collection


Students as Advocates

April is School Library Month. In Virginia, the governor makes an official proclamation every year acknowledging the importance of school librarians. The proclamation talks about the educational impact made by school librarians and the role of our profession in educating the students in the 21st Century. School librarians around the country spend this month advocating for their programs and espousing the significance of school libraries to the entire school. Who are the best advocates for the importance of school libraries? The students we serve. Truth – school librarians are important in developing 21st century learners. Truth – school librarians play a pivotal role in the school. Truth – school libraries should be the heart of the school. Truth – school libraries MUST be places of comfort and refuge for ALL of our students.
As I write, Congress is working on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and librarians are speaking out to get their voices heard. The NEA and AASL partnered to support a “Twitter Storm” just last week and library supporters tweeted about the impact and importance of school libraries. #GetESEARight Twitter lit up with comments about the importance of school libraries to the people that matter most – the students. Comments such as, “This is our library,” and “It’s a sanctuary,” showed what an effective school library program can mean to the students. Click here to watch a video about what one school library means to the school:

In a video clip posted by YALSA, one girl held up a sign that read in part, “When the world is harsh and unforgiving, I can escape to the sanctuary of a hardback novel, in a corner that is silent.”

When I was a high school librarian, a student leadership group at the school conducted a survey about bullying. We were delighted when they analyzed the results and discovered that the “safest” place in the school was the library! Students commented, “No one would dare bully anyone in the library. Everyone is welcome there!” Our students became our best advocates. They posted signs declaring the library was the safest spot in the school and announced it on the daily announcements. Their library was their safe haven no matter who you were, and they wanted everyone to know it. They wanted all students in the school to know that the library was a place of refuge, where all students mattered.

Watch this inspiring video from Fort Lauderdale Public Library Teens, “I Matter.”

What would your students say about your library? Put it to the test and ask them: Why does the school library matter? Share your video and let your students be your best advocates!

dog in the sun
I’m a dog person. I love to watch our dogs on a sunny day as they follow the sun spot streaming through the window. They can’t get enough and they get up and move as the sun moves. They are content, relaxed, and in their happy place.

The library should be the sun spot for our students. It should be the place they go when they need comfort. It should be the place they seek out for warmth and belonging because they matter, and so does the library – their sanctuary – their place of escape – their home. It’s where their heart is.

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Advocacy as a Daily Attitude

Advocacy is one of those terms we throw around in school librarianship, assuming everyone in the room knows exactly what we are talking about. Most of us can probably point to examples: promotional videos, events and programs such as School Library Month, Family Fun Night, Read Day etc. However, it can be easy to confuse advocacy with marketing. While the examples I just listed are extremely important, I believe these are only a slice of advocacy – not the entire cake.

Advocacy is typically defined as the act of speaking or writing in support of someone or something. MW defines it as “the act or process of supporting a cause.” I like the use of the word “process“. To me, this word reminds us that advocacy is comprised of daily actions, communication, instructional decisions, relationships nurtured, even budgetary choices. Advocacy is a daily attitude.

If this way of thinking about advocacy seems foreign, do not be surprised. Most school librarians come from content areas that did not expose them to the need for advocacy. How often have you heard an educator say: “I’m afraid they are going to cut the math program for lack of funding” or “The science teacher was so unpopular. None of the students enjoyed her class. Maybe we should get rid of the science program all together. We can simply replace it with class science experiment kits or videos.” What we DO hear are comments like: “Why do we need a library when we have Google?” or “That librarian is very unfriendly. None of the children or teachers enjoy going to the library. I am not even sure what he does in there all day!”

This is where I am going to bring up my pesky musical past again. Music educators and programs know that advocacy is a crucial component of their daily professional lives. In fact, read how the National Association for Music Educators discusses advocacy:

“One of the best forms of preventative advocacy is a strong, vital, quality music education program. Music educators become advocates for their programs at concerts and public performances by relating to the audience the musical content of the music being performed and the musical challenges students have met and mastered. This informal form of advocacy can yield significant benefits by building support for the program and demonstrating in a very real way the unique educational value of a music education to students. Inviting an administrator into the music classroom or rehearsal to see students engaged in active learning is another of many informal forms of advocacy that can build beneficial and even essential support when a crisis situation arises.”

Here is another, especially meaningful section:

“What prompts any advocacy efforts are the welfare and education of the students and the right of every student to a quality music education. Although developing and maintaining a career is important, as a music educator you are advocating for a higher cause than continued employment—you are advocating for a quality music education for every child.”

Re-read those statements and replace the words music program with school library program. Aren’t the efforts the same? The purpose equal? Are we not advocating for a quality “school library education for every child”?

I encourage you to read through the rest of NAfME’s advocacy statement – it lists concrete examples of advocacy that foster a daily attitude of support and program promotion (including good ideas for dealing with potential program cuts).  Of course, AASL and ALA have wonderful advocacy kits and resources, as well as a treasure trove of articles and columns on the subject. However, I find that exploring issues from a different profession’s perspective sometimes helps to clarify our own, introducing us to a new way of considering our existing challenges.

I also encourage you to think through your daily professional practice in light of that list. What are ways that you can advocate for your program locally, throughout the day? Do you make a point of sharing curated resources with teachers, parents and administrators? Do you actively pursue relationships with parents, administrators, board members, and the community, always sharing how the school library academically benefits students? Is your school library an open and welcoming place? Do teachers perceive you to be open and supportive of their classroom goals? As you celebrate School Library Month, remember that the process of advocacy is a daily one.

Suggested Reading:

Green, L. (2014). School librarians and music educators: A concert for student successLibrary Media Connection, 33(3), 20-23.

Advocating for Instructional Partnerships

Teaching_too_difficultI am a passionate advocate for school librarians’ instructional partner role. Research and my own experience suggest that classroom-library collaboration is a best practice and results in improved student learning outcomes.

While building relationships with classroom teachers, it is critical for school librarians to build relationships with influencers and decision-makers. Principals and school superintendents who understand the impact of coteaching on student learning can help create the ideal environment for this practice: a state-certified professional school librarian, a flexibly scheduled libraries with sufficient support staff and a budget that affords engaging resources and technology tools.

Principals and superintendents can advocate for vibrant school library programs. School librarians can collect and share stories designed to meet these decision-makers’ priorities as well as touch their emotions. There is a growing consensus about the importance of educators’ expertise to impact student learning. School librarians can collect advocacy stories from classroom teachers who can tell the stories of improvements in both their teaching and students’ learning as the result of classroom-library collaboration for instruction. Here are some examples.

I appreciated the three things we were told to consider when “Communicating the Story”: What libraries and librarians really do that’s unique and valuable; why it matters in terms of their values and their priorities; and why it is urgent. Classroom-library coteaching answers all three of these questions for the administrators we seek to influence.

School librarians are in a unique position. Similar to principals, we have a global view of the learning community. We know the entire curriculum; we work with all students and teachers in all disciplines. We know the resources that can help our teachers and students succeed. This global perspective is valuable to the learning community in determining what students must know and be able to do. We can help teachers plan across grade levels and content areas because we see the big picture.

Principals and superintendents are focused on teacher improvement. When two educators—a classroom teacher and a school librarian—coplan, coteach, and coassess a lesson or unit of instruction, they learn from one another. This kind of job-embedded professional development can be part of the daily work of educators; it doesn’t cost anything (except as noted above in terms of scheduling, staffing, and resources). Coteaching happens in real time with real students. The results are observable by these decision-makers; the results in terms of student learning can be tangible. A culture of collaboration can transform a school or district.

The urgency of improving teachers’ teaching and students’ learning will be clear to these administrators who are held accountable for student achievement by parents, school boards, and state- and federal-level education agencies. We cannot let students fall behind in reading comprehension, applying information-seeking processes, or using technology tools. These are basic and recognized 21st-century skills that can help our students be competitive in a global society and economy. Teachers must be up to date with strategies to meet these objectives.

Finally, I want to borrow a slogan from a national school library advocacy campaign from the Dewitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Library Power Project from 1990s. I believe it frames the message school librarians want/need to share in order to influence today’s decision-makers. “Teaching is too difficult to do alone. Collaborate with your school librarian.” This was true at the dawn of the Information Age and it is even truer now. Framing our message in terms of what teachers need is a way to show principals and superintendents that they have a partner in the school librarian—a partner who can help them meet their goal of an effective teaching force in our schools.

Image: Remix of Library Power Slogan. Dewitt Wallace-Reader’s Digest Library Power Project