Reaching Out to the ELA-R Department

ELAR_LibraryI asked Becky McKee, District Librarian, Mabank ISD, to share more details about a brief mention she posted to the Texas Library Connection distribution list about her initial efforts to reach out to teachers in a district where she is new this year. She has given me permission to share what she did when she had five minutes to talk with middle/junior high school (JHS) English language arts and reading (ELA-R) teachers where they were participating in another meeting.

First, Becky gave each teacher a copy of the “You Might Need a Librarian If” handout. (See BACC post from Monday, August 31st.) She followed that up with giving way four prizes. The first prize was a fancy spiral notebook to the first ELA-R teacher who could tell her about something that she/he wrote over the summer. Then she talked about the importance of students seeing adults compose. She volunteered to help develop some short opportunities for writing.

Next, she gave away a 2015 Texas Lone Star Reading List to the first teacher who volunteered to talk about a young adult novel she/he read over the summer. Then Becky talked about the importance of students seeing adults read, and previewed a Lone Star Contest that she plans to implement for JHS teachers.

Then she gave away a poster that said: “Today is a great day to learn something new” to the first person who could tell her something new they’d learned during the in-service that week. (Becky noted that her principal was lingering in the area and really liked this; she smiled when Becky asked the question. This was strategic on Becky’s part.)

Finally, Becky gave away a bag of snack mix to the person who had the closest birthday to hers. In this way, all of the teachers knew a little more about Becky, and Becky knew at least one other person’s birthday.

Becky reported that later that day she had a productive conversation with the JHS ELA-R department head about some writing ideas and a reading teacher followed her suggestion about a specific title for her remedial reading class and asked Becky to order a class set of the book.

Assessment: Success!

Get your school year off to a positive start. Reach out. Be warm, friendly, and ready to serve.

Thank you again to Becky for allowing me to share her marketing strategies and her success! You can reach Becky on Twitter @bsmartr_educatr or

Word Cloud created at

Making Connections at the Beginning of the School Year

This month the BACC cobloggers will share ideas about the various types of professional development opportunities school librarians can offer for  faculty, staff, and community members.

Unshelved_Quiet_LibraryFor librarians who are new to a school and for librarians reaching out to new faculty members or administrators, first impressions count! As this Unshelved cartoon so accurately (and yet so unfortunately) shows our profession continues to struggle with long-outdated stereotypes. (I began my career as a school librarian twenty-five years ago. We NEVER had a “quiet” sign or “shushing” in our library!)

The wise school librarian presents herself, her work as an instructional partner, and the resources of the library in an open, friendly, and upbeat manner. He will want to show his commitment to students’ and teachers’ success and follow through with actions that reinforce his words. She will want to show she is smart, flexible, and ever-ready with a bag of chocolates in her office drawer…

Len Bryan, School Program Coordinator, Library Development and Networking Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, recently posted this information to the Texas Library Connection distribution list: “Instead of reviewing rules, policies, and procedures with teachers and staff, why not present how the library can make their lives easier? This is a great opportunity to reach out and form friendly, collaborative relationships – the foundation of excellent library programs on every campus.” When he served as a school librarian, Len put a letter in every teacher’s mailbox. (He gives credit to retired librarian Lori Loranger, from whom he “stole” it.) This is the Google Drive doc link to Len’s “What Can the Library Do for You?

Experienced school librarian Becky McKee is now the District Librarian for Mabank Independent School District in Texas; she is new in this position. After reading Len’s post, Becky created the handout below to share with teachers at the intermediate, junior high, and high school campuses she will be serving this school year:

You might need a librarian when…

…you have a seed of an idea.
…you need curriculum resources as you develop a unit.
…you need an instructional design partner.
…you need library time for your class to do research.
… you need someone to assist small groups in research.
…you have a recommendation for our library.
…you need a new/different twist for a lesson.
… you need technology in your lesson.
… you need a read-aloud in your classroom.
… you need clarification on copyright laws.
… you need stories or book talks related to your lesson.
… you need personal or professional reading materials.
… you need someone to revel in your enthusiasm for your subject!

Becky gave her “you might need a librarian if” document to her colleagues along with some additional face-to-face outreach. Read about it on Thursday.

Thank you to Len Bryan and Becky McKee for giving me permission to share their work. You can reach Len at: and Becky at:

Unshelved cartoon used with permission

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.

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

April is School Library Month

kids_plus_libraries_sizedApril is School Library Month (SLM). The BACC co-bloggers will join this effort this month and share information and perspectives on advocating for the essential role of school librarians and libraries in education.

The American Association of School Librarians has a Web site devoted to providing marketing and promotional materials for SLM.  Actress Julianne Moore provided a public service announcement to kick off this annual advocacy campaign. What I especially appreciate about AASL’s SLM effort is that it supports three premises of advocacy that I have been reminded of in an advocacy course in which I have been participating this spring. (See end of this post.)

  1. Advocacy is not an emergency response.
  2. Advocacy is a planned and deliberate strategy.
  3. To be successful, it must be sustained effort over time.

Through this annual national effort, our association supports the on-going advocacy work of site-level librarians. To be effective and sustained, advocacy must be simultaneously local and global. To this national campaign, building-level librarians are called upon to provide site-specific examples of how their work positively impacts teachers’ teaching and students’ learning and contributes to strengthening literacy in our communities.

Another example of a more global advocacy campaign is “Principals Know: School Librarians Are the Heart of the School,” a crowd-sourced video funded by a grant from Demco in which principals share their first-hand experiences of the work of exemplary school librarians. This effort shows how important it is to consider the authority of advocates and who they have the power to influence. The intended decision-maker audience must be able to listen to and act on messages from “influencers” who have their respect – in the case of this video, principals.

Research shows that “Kids + School Libraries = Learning.” The image above is a license plate from an advocacy campaign in which I participated more than a decade ago. The simplicity of the message was one of its strengths. Today, I wonder if the school librarians who engaged in this campaign could have done something more to prevail against the economic downturn that ended up undermining the health of school librarianship in that state.

For the past seven weeks, I have been participating in a MOOC called “Library Advocacy Unshushed: Values, Evidence, Action.” The course was sponsored by the University of Toronto iSchool, the Canadian Library Association, and the American Library Association. Participants from both countries and from around the world have been meeting online to listen to video presentations by experts in the field of advocacy, review resources, and discuss the course content. Our final assignment was to write 500 to 600 words about how we will use our course learning in the real world of our library work. I will share my assignment on Thursday.

Image: School Library License Plate, Marketing Tool, Arizona, circa 2000

School Librarians in the News, Part 2

newspaperLast week, many of us had the pleasure of attending the Library Journal/School Library Journal The Digital Shift: Libraries @the Center Virtual Conference keynote speech by Daniel Levitin. I tuned in along with three colleagues, two of whom also teach preservice school librarians, and one who has young children of his own. Dr. Levitin’s speech “Libraries, Archives, and Museums at the Intersection of History and Technology” was a wonder.

It is not often when a New York Times best-selling author shares the essential 21st-century role of librarians “who are trained in the art and science of identifying and sharing valuable information.” He described the Web as the “Wild West” and noted it is important to have “a class of people who are information specialists… who will not degrade authority.”

In his speech, Dr. Levitin recalled the day when his elementary school librarian took him from World Book to Encyclopedia Britannica. Later, she told him he was old enough to use encyclopedias as gateways but that he was ready to branch out and investigate primary and other secondary sources to answer his questions. In the information overload developed world of today, Dr. Levitin says the “primary mission of educating children should be to teach information literacy skills.” He recommends beginning at age 8 and notes that is when children should learn to interrogate sources for authority, accuracy, and bias. Bravo!

Dr. Levitin the author of The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload (Dutton 2014) is on a speaking tour to promote his new book. My hope is that he will continue to advocate for the library profession as he travels around the country.

So far I have only skimmed most parts of the book, but I believe Dr. Levitin provides useful strategies to help 21st-century technology-connected people manage information overload and ask the right questions of the information sources that affect our understandings and decision-making—in short, our lives. (Confession: I started by reading the last chapter “Everything Else: The Power of the Junk Drawer” due to the long-time different worldviews of my dear “piler” husband and my “filer” self.)

Dr. Levitin’s speech and his book reaffirm what many Building a Culture of Collaboration blog readers know: School librarians are needed to help students, educators, and families begin learning about information when children are in the early grades and continue to develop and refine their skills throughout their education and lives. School librarians can model and guide others in taking a lifelong stance of questioning information to ensure it is reliable and meets our information needs.

Thank you, Dr. Levitin.

Works Cited

Levitin, Daniel. “Libraries, Archives, and Museums at the Intersection of History and Technology.” Library Journal/School Library Journal The Digital Shift: Libraries @the Center Virtual Conference. 1 Oct. 2014. Web. 9 Oct. 2014. <>.

Levitin, Daniel. The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload. New York: Dutton, 2014. Print.

Newspaper Clipping Image created at

School Librarians in the News, Part I

hands1For many years, the Southern Poverty Law Center has been providing information and resources to educators that will help them guide students in exploring and enacting social justice in the classroom, school, community, and world. As a long-time supporter of their work, I was so pleased to open the Fall issue of Teaching Tolerance Magazine to find an article featuring the role of librarians in “boosting cultural responsiveness” in schools.

In the article, Joe Hansen talks about the need for diversity in children’s literature. He cites librarian educator Jamie Naidoo and concludes what the research shows. Children and youth who never see themselves/their culture in print suffer emotionally and developmentally (20). Wisconsin school librarian Crystal Brunelle shares how she met her community’s needs for books that portray diverse cultures and are written in non-English languages. She describes the benefit of diversity to everyone in the school community.

Mr. Hansen notes: “Some librarians also take on instructional roles, working closely with teachers to incorporate culturally responsive materials into the curriculum” (22). This level of collaboration helps ensure that the diverse resources of the library are integrated into teachers’ teaching and students’ learning and are not only an add-on to core curriculum.

Classroom teacher – school/public librarian instructional partnerships can also help librarians contribute to a whole school/community culture of social justice. This helps students, educators, and families affirm the rights and responsibilities to practice cultural competence and make it central to the social and academic program of the school. (Of course, this begins with librarians’ and educators’ self-knowledge about the biases and stereotypes they hold and increasing their own cultural competence.)

Changing the perception of what librarians bring to the teaching, learning, and social justice table is also addressed in the article. This article and the accompanying toolkit is a call to action and great news for school and public librarians. I hope you will make time to read the article and use the “Check It Out! Toolkit,” which is designed to help students increase their understanding of what libraries and librarians can contribute to their learning.

Speaking of librarians in the news, on Thursday I will share my response to author Daniel Levitin’s keynote at Library Journal/School Library Journal The Digital Shift: Libraries @the Center Virtual Conference. Come back for more good news about librarianship!

Works Cited

Hansen, Joe. Check It Out!  Fall 2014. Teaching Tolerance Magazine. Web. 6 Oct. 2014. <> .

Image from Judi Moreillon’s Personal Collection

Southern Poverty Law Center. Check It Out Toolkit. Web. 6 Oct. 2014. <>.

Beyond the Choir


Are we just preaching to the choir?  Collaboration, co-teaching, information and digital literacy, technology integration, deep Web… ideas we have explored from month to month here in the BaCC Blog. Social media provides an opportunity to reach audiences who have similar interests, but it also opens opportunities to connect with folks who may not know what they don’t know.  For those of us who have been immersed in the education world, specifically from a library POV, we tend to communicate in terms and concepts that make sense to us, but maybe not to others.   Dare I say that we are a bit insular…  and maybe we need to rethink how we can frame our conversations in real world vocabulary that demystifies the work we do.

This epiphany moment occurred to me as I was collaborating with a group of school, public, and academic librarians who were grappling with the wording of a proclamation to send to the governor of Vermont to sign about Information Literacy Awareness Month in October. The NFIL (National Forum on Information Literacy) is organizing and encouraging all states to join the parade and focus on information literacy as a critical component for lifelong learning and digital citizenship.  We know that this is true, but in the general public, who has information literacy on the radar?  And what the heck is digital citizenship?

As we struggled with the wordsmithing, we realized that we could not assume that our target audience (everyone in the state) had any idea what we were talking about.  So we went back to square one-a definition of information literacy, and we articulated it in commonsense language-what it is and what allows learners to do.  Of course, we added how libraries were  involved as physical and virtual spaces for promoting information literacy, too. Speak plainly-this is how we can move the needle on a common understanding of the big ideas that all citizens can embrace and support.

Not only do we have to define our terms and concepts, but we have to show and model what we mean.  That’s another strong suit for social media platforms such as flickr, googlesites, Pinterest, Scoopit!, Twitter, YouTube, and so many others. In Vermont, we want to show examples of information and digital literacy in action, so the Vermont Department of Libraries is curating a site that will showcase what is happening in schools and libraries throughout the state as a public awareness campaign. Instagram @your library! What is happening in your state?

October is also Connected Educator Month-for several years running. “Helping Educators Survive in a Connected World,” is the tag line.  Here is another opportunity to connect with an expanded choir, if you have not discovered this valuable resource already.  What is a connected educator, you might ask? How can you be a connected educator, if you are not already? Are you talking the connected educator talk and walking the connected educator walk? Check out the website to learn more.  Organizations that support the ideas and goals of the Connected Educator crowd source professional development  ideas and best practices for connected learning across all content areas and the world. There’s an impressive list of contributors and supporters from a range of organizations-both business and professional. (I was surprised to note the absence of AASL, though.)  Each day during the month of October there are opportunities to network and participate with others who are finding new ways to embrace the potential for technology innovations to impact personal learning and teaching.  Spend some time exploring the website and especially the Connected Educator Starter Kit (free pdf download).   Here is a forum to find people and experiences that will expand your own toolbox of ideas, and opportunities to lend your voice from the library media world.

October is a time for choir practice in a connected world. What shall we sing about today? Loud and strong!


Connected Educators. Website.

National Forum on Information Literacy. Website.

Image: Microsoft ClipArt




Success Starts Here

success_rock“To thine own self be true” (Hamlet, Act I, Scene III).

Shakespeare’s Polonius had it right. We should be “loyal” to our own best interests. In order to achieve that piece of advice, we must know ourselves and be able to clearly articulate our values and beliefs. For me this is not a “new age” interpretation of the Bard’s wisdom. Living a life aligned with our values and beliefs is in our own best interest.

This fall at Texas Woman’s University, our campus is trying out the “one book” or “common book” concept. All faculty received a copy of This I Believe II: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman. All first-year students will be reading the book for class and all faculty are invited to use this text in their courses.

When I heard Mr. Gediman speak at our back-to-school faculty luncheon, I was reminded of an article I coauthored with co-guest editor Ann Ewbank for the “Advocacy: A Test of Character” issue of Knowledge Quest: “Is There a Teacher-Librarian Worldview? This We Believe…”

For me, our beliefs are as true today as they were seven years ago.

  • All schools should have a full-time state-certified school librarian (with graduate-level course work) on their faculty.
  • All school  librarians should be the champions in their schools for the First Amendment, intellectual freedom, and the right to read. (See the “Library Bill of Rights.”)
  • All school librarians should be advocates for all school library stakeholders (students, teachers, administrators, and families) to have unfettered equitable physical access to ideas and information throughout the school day and beyond.
  • All school librarians should be dedicated to helping students achieve intellectual access to ideas and information so they can be knowledgeable participants in a democratic society.

These are just some of my beliefs, honed through my library science education, that have guided my work as a practicing librarian and my preK-20 teaching. For me, success starts here. Knowing what I believe and why I believe it. Being an advocate for school librarianship from my core beliefs and values helps me stay true to myself and to align my life work with my “best interests.” Working in concert with colleagues, such as Dr. Ewbank, who share my beliefs strengthens our advocacy work.

As you begin the new school year, what do you believe? Why do you believe it? How do your actions align with your beliefs?

Works Cited

Allison, Jay, and Dan Gediman. This I Believe II: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women. New York: Holt, 2008. Print.

Ewbank, Ann Dutton, and Judi Moreillon. “Is There a Teacher-Librarian Worldview? This We Believe Knowledge Quest 36.1 (2007): 12-15. Print.

kseriphyn. Success Rock. Digital Image. Morguefile. Web. 1 Sept. 2014. <>.