Virtual Libraries for preK-12 Students, Educators, and Families

School Library Month, Part 2

During the pandemic when many students were and still are learning through hybrid and remote instruction, many school librarians and library organizations across the country stepped up to share resources and co-create resource portals.

All of them were intended to help students and educators identify online resources and tools without having to completely re-create the wheel for each lesson, unit, or project plan. Instead, they could tap into these portals, adapt them for their teaching and learning purposes, and share them with others.

Sharing resources is a cornerstone of school librarianship.

One of these state-level portals has been around for years; others were developed more recently in response to school closures in 2020. All provide resources specific information and resources that may require log-ins for their in-state users as well as resources generally applicable to users in other states.

None of these sites was intended to replace state-certified school librarians and collaborating classroom teachers who design and guide students in their learning process. In fact, the plethora of resources linked to these portals points to the critical need for educators who help students hone their purpose for and proficiency in searching, analyzing and using information, and creating new knowledge.

INFOhio
INFOhio began in 1989 when a group of school librarians developed a plan to “computerize” Ohio’s school libraries. Their vision:

“Each Ohio PreK-12 student has equal access to high quality digital resources for a successful education and future”

and mission:

“INFOhio transforms student learning by providing equitable access to quality resources and cost-effective instructional and technical support for each student, educator, and parent in Ohio” (https://www.infohio.org/about).

sum up the aims of all of these resource portals: equity of access to digital resources.

The site is organized around pre-K (ages 3-5), K-5, 6-8, 9-12, Parent Tools, and Educator Tools sections. The latter is organized by grade level, subject, item type, training and promotion, instructional trends, and Dimensions of Inquiry. Educators, including school librarians, can also receive various types of training and certifications using these resources.

Massachusetts Virtual School Librarian
Early on in the pandemic the Massachusetts Association of School Librarians (MSLA) collaborated with other state-level stakeholders to create their Virtual School Librarian. Organized in instructional levels, elementary, middle, and high school, the site also includes an educator support section. There are currently 133 Massachusetts Library System LibGuides on the site.

One especially exciting and high-impact service was MSLA’s commitment to answering questions posted to the site within 24 hours. Nineteen members volunteered and were organized to respond within three grade bands—elementary, middle, and high school.

To learn more, read about it in Georgina Trebbe and Deeth Ellis’s 6/1/20 Knowledge Quest blog post: “The Massachusetts School Library Association Launches Virtual School Librarian Website to Help Educators during School Closures.”

New Jersey: SchoolLibraryNJ
This project is newly completed. Led by Rutgers University School of Communication and Information, MI Program, the New Jersey Association of School Librarians, and supported by the State Library of New Jersey with the generous cooperation of Springshare, this site is as deep as it is wide.

Sections of the site include grade bands, resources for parents, educators, administrators, and librarians. I will be sharing the Elementary and the Middle School sections in an Arizona Library Association Teacher Librarian Division Professional Development meeting on Wednesday, April 14th. (Patty Jimenez will be sharing Sora-facilitated high school resources.)

I attended the 3/24/21 webinar in which Joyce Valenza, Grace McCusker, and Michelle Luhtala shared many features of the site. Of particular note, the Administrators section offers AASL and other resources to support you as you educate your administrators about your vital role in education. During the session, Joyce invited librarians to contribute to a Padlet to provide possible additions.

You can read more about the site in Steve Tetreault’s 2/5/21 Knowledge Quest blog post: “School Library NJ: Support for an Entire State – and Beyond!” Steve was responsible for the middle school resources on the site.

Or you can view the EdWeb video recording: The Ultimate Research Guide for All Learners (Including YOU!)

New York City School Libraries System: Connect, Create, Lead
Led by Melissa Jacobs, the NYC School Library System has been at the forefront of providing librarians with resources to support hybrid and remote learning. Their Translation of Practice document guides school librarians in making connections from in-person learning and teaching to remote practice, organized in these categories: Learning and Teaching, Information Access and Delivery, and Program Administration.

Washington (State) School Libraries Tools and Guides
The WA Digital TeachKit is designed to help K12 educators select, understand, and use commonly-adopted digital learning tools in Washington State. It was created by Washington teacher librarians and members of the Washington Library Association School Library Division and led by Shana Ferguson, Christie Kaaland, Hillary Marshall, and Mark Ray. The site is divided into two sections: Tools and Guides.

The Tools section includes frequently used digital tools with information organized by first steps, next steps, instructional design, management, differentiation and adaptation, and hybrid strategies. Some links include Wakelets and other collections of information and tips.

The Guides section is “designed to help educators understand different kinds of digital tools and services and how they can fit into your instruction. If you’re not sure which tool fits which need, these guides are designed to help you make the right choice.”

So, as to be redundant: None of these sites was intended to replace state-certified school librarians and collaborating classroom teachers who design and guide students in their learning process. In fact, the plethora of resources linked to these portals points to the critical need for educators who help students hone their purpose for and proficiency in searching, using and analyzing information, and creating with new knowledge.

Image Created with
kalhh. “Learn Media Internet.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/illustrations/learn-media-internet-medium-977543/

School Library Month and The Book of Abel

2020 School Library Month Promotion: Everyone Belongs @Your School LibraryApril is School Library Month. At this time each year, school librarians reach out into our school, local, state, and national communities to show how school libraries matter—to students, educators, families, and communities. School libraries provide access to print and digital books and resources and learning opportunities that invite students into the literacy club, shore up their reading and information literacy skills, and set them on the path to success in school and in life.

I have led and observed many school library programs over the course of my career as a school librarian and school librarian educator. In my experience, there is no such thing as an exemplary school library program without an exemplary state-certified school librarian at the helm.

The greatest asset any library has is a librarian.
R. David Lankes

AND exemplary school librarians are collaborators who find like-minded passionate literacy learning advocates among their administrators, classroom educator colleagues, and families. If one of our essential goals is to lead a culture of reading, then we must form partnerships with others to maximize the impact of our knowledge of literature, curriculum resources, technology tools, and instructional strategies for the benefit of all students.

The greatest assets school librarians have are collaborating colleagues.
Judi Moreillon

With our collaborating colleagues, we can take action to ensure equity, diversity, and inclusion beyond library spaces into classrooms and out into the larger community. We can ensure students’ right to read and their intellectual freedoms of choice and voice. We can create school-based cultures of reading and learning that enrich the lives of all who are privileged to be members.

Literacy Champions
I trust all school librarians have had the experience of working with passionate literacy champions who share their responsibility to create and sustain vibrant cultures of reading. Like you, I am grateful for all educators, from all grade levels and disciplines, who take up this charge alongside us.

Although I didn’t have the pleasure of teaching with her, Daphne Russell is one of those standard bearer classroom teachers who knows that books and reading not only change lives; they also save lives. In April, 2019, I wrote a review of Daphne’s book Read or Die: A Story of Survival and Hope and How a Life Was Saved One Book. In that post, I noted how exemplary school librarians strive to find the “right” book for individual students and support classroom teachers in effective reading motivation and comprehension strategy instruction.

To quote from that post: “If school librarians at any instructional level hope to influence students’ enjoyment of reading, reading proficiency, and successful quest for accurate information, they must create opportunities for individualized reader’s advisory. They must acknowledge the greater influence of the classroom teacher on student learning. They must ‘let’ classroom teachers be the first to bring new books into the classroom to share with students. They must coplan and coteach with classroom teachers and specialists. School librarian leaders must collaborate” (Moreillon 2019).

Sadly, not all outstanding educators like Daphne have experienced school librarians as literacy partners who support the growth and development of individual readers and educators’ literacy-for-all aspirations for their students—non-readers, struggling and striving readers, and avid bookworms alike.

The Book of Abel
Daphne has written a screenplay based on her experiences as a book-pushing, life-changing literacy warrior classroom teacher. The Book of Abel follows a young man who, with the encouragement of his teacher, finds himself and his path forward in life through books.

In the video Daphne produced to promote her film, she includes testimonials from students. I believe many students (and adults) whose lives have been changed or saved through books would provide similar stories—stories that school librarians and classroom teachers could use to make the case for including diverse books in the classroom curriculum (see the 1:11 mark on the video).

At the end of the promotional video, Daphne gives us a sense of how the story will end when she describes how viewers will be moved, perhaps to tears, by the impact of reading on Abel’s life.

Shhhhh
Top secret… spoiler… but no surprise to the school librarians reading this blog post. At the end of the film, Abel will find a home for his reading soul…. in the library.

Please join me and consider contributing to Daphne’s GoFundMe effort to produce and distribute her short film The Book of Abel. (Note: Tuesday, April 6th is Arizona Giving Day.)

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2019. “Read or Die: A Book Review and a Call to Action.” School Librarian Leadership (blog), April 29. http://www.schoollibrarianleadership.com/2019/04/29/read-or-die-a-book-review-and-a-call-to-action/

 

Literacy Partners Become Advocates

Judi Moreillon Author Visit 2019 Louisville, KentuckyFor as long as I’ve been in the profession (30+ years), advocacy has been a hot topic in school librarianship. Unfortunately, far too often we start our advocacy efforts when school librarian positions are threatened, library budgets are slashed, or scheduling changes inhibit students’ access to the resources of the school library or the expertise of the school librarian.

To ward off these threats to a complete and equitable education for our students, school librarians must be in a continuous cycle of marketing, public relations, and advocacy.

Data Sources
Marketing involves listening to and learning from our library stakeholders. We must understand their needs as well as their perceptions of how the librarian and the library program can help them meet their needs. School librarians often engage stakeholders in surveys to collect these data. Once collected, we analyze the results and make the appropriate changes to our programs.

There are, however, other sources of data that can also guide our school library program decisions. The International Reading Association (ILA) conducts a biennial “What’s Hot in Literacy Survey.” Comparing this larger data set and national trends and initiatives in education to our own local data collection can further guide our program decisions.

The 2019 ILA survey results appeared in a 2020 report that points to three actions school librarians can take to demonstrate how their work helps elevate the literacy learning of students and positions them as literacy partners with classroom teacher colleagues, administrators, and families.

I wrote about these school librarian contributions in my hot-off-the-presses Literacy Today article “School Librarians as Literacy Partners: Taking Action on the What’s Hot in Literacy Report” (2021).

Early Literacy Skills Instruction
Elementary school librarians are in a position to influence outcomes for preschool children in their learning community. In many cities across the country, various governmental and non-governmental bodies are taking up the charge for high-quality early childhood education. Research has shown that children’s positive preschool learning experience put them on a path for academic and life success (U.S. Department of Education).

Here are three examples of supporting preschool children from my own practice as an elementary school librarian (two schools) and literacy coach (one school).

  • At Corbett Elementary (1994-1997), I offered preschool storytimes for the Head Start program that met on our campus. We also earned a grant to create literacy backpacks. Each backpack included at least one book, a journal, a toy or other prop, and literacy learning information for Head Start families.
  • At Gale Elementary (1997-2001), I was a half-time librarian with a full-time assistant. At first, she and I collaborated to plan a weekly storytime and book checkout for the developmental preschool program held on our campus. In a short time, our assistant offered this service on a day when I was not on campus.
  • At Van Buskirk Elementary (2001-2002), I served as the literacy coach. The Spanish-speaking community liaison and I offered a before-school family literacy program for parents. After they escorted their school-age children to their classrooms, we held a storytime and book-making, or other literacy learning experience for parents and preschool-age children.

Equity and Opportunity for All Learners
Equity continues to be a top five critical issue in the ILA survey, and it is a core value of school librarianship. Erika Long and Suzanne Sherman frame the equity chapter in Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage: “Equitable access is a matter of social justice” (Long and Sherman 2021, 3).

Making a commitment and taking courageous action to serve as equity partners to ensure equitable access to rich and relevant literacy learning experiences in our schools is a leadership role for school librarians. While school librarians have been keenly aware of the opportunity gaps that were exposed during school closures, all educators and education decision- and policy-makers have now gotten a wake-up call.

“School closures during the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the critical need to address equity in terms of access to digital resources and technology devices, which may or may not have been available in classrooms” and students’ homes (Moreillon 2021, 11). These learning tools should have been available through school library programs.

Providing Access to High-quality Diverse Books and Content
School librarians are charged with making access to high-quality diverse books and content universally accessible throughout the school. Librarians must curate a collection of resources that reflect the diversity of the students, educators, and families we serve. We must also expand the collection to include broader national and global perspectives on the human experience.

In our role as instructional partners, we can go the next and critical steps. “We then take our knowledge and commitment—our purpose—and use it to transform the collections throughout the school, including classroom collections and the books chosen as classroom texts. For our students, seeing themselves in the library is not enough—they need to see their rich and whole selves in the curriculum and school community, too” (Stivers, Powell, and Lambert 2021, 34).

Literacy Partners Become Advocates
When school librarians take action to meet the needs of our library stakeholders, we engender advocates for the library program and our role as literacy learning leaders. The relationships we build with our literacy partners combined with the evidence of impact we collect create the foundation for continuous advocacy efforts. Then, when and if there is a threat to educational equity that affects the school library program, our advocates and the data to support our cause will be at the ready.

Works Cited

Long, Erika, and Suzanne Sherman. 2021. “Equity: Equitable Access Is a Matter of Social Justice.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 3-18. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Moreillon, Judi. 2021. “School Librarians as Literacy Partners: Take Action on the What’s Hot in Literacy Report.” Literacy Today (March/April): 10-11. Available at http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/b46eaa78#/b46eaa78/12

Stivers, Julie, Stephanie Powell, and Nancy Jo Lambert. 2021. “Diversity: Diversity in Resources and Programming Is Not Optional.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 19-35. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

U.S. Department of Education. “Key Research Studies on Early Learning Effectiveness.” https://www.ed.gov/early-learning/research

March Is Reading Month

Although every day, every week, and every month of our school librarian work lives revolves around reading, March is “reading month,” and an excellent time to reconnect with a literacy habit and skill that is the foundation for all learning. Students at every grade level and when studying every discipline must have access to reading materials and the ability to apply their reading toolkits to enjoy and use texts.

Photographs of Ali Schilpp, Bridget Crossman, Kristin Fraga Sierra, Melissa Thom, and Stacey Rattner

If you were unable to attend on February 24th, ABC-CLIO/School Library Connection offered an OverDrive Education sponsored must-view webinar for any and all school librarians looking to inject collaboration, innovation, and power into their reading promotion activities.

How to Keep Reading Social during Hybrid Learning” will be available to all viewers until March 10, 2021. Please make time to learn from these outstanding school librarians.

These are my takeaways from their presentations, but for the full impact of this professional development opportunity, do not rely on my connections and reflections. I also encourage you to follow these school librarians on Twitter and continue to learn and share with them.

Bridget Crossman, Elementary School Librarian @bcrossm85
Bridget is the elementary school librarian in the Lake George School District, New York, and founder and director of the not-for-profit children’s literacy organization B.O.O.K.S. (Books Offer Opportunities, Kids Succeed). She shared three “joyful, engaging” literacy learning opportunities for the students and/or families at her school. Each one involved one or more partnerships with members of the school or local community. (Bridget is the author of Community Partnerships with School Libraries: Creating Innovative Learning Experiences, Libraries Unlimited, 2018).

Partners included a coffee shop in her community, the PTO, and the “specialists” in her building. The latter helped her offer a drive-thru book fair on the bus loop.

Books were part of these activities. In addition, Bridget gave a shout-out to Teaching Books for a choral reading and all of their resources.

Melissa Thom, Middle School Librarian @MsThomBookitis
Melissa is a middle school librarian at Bristow Middle School in West Hartford, Connecticut. Melissa shared ideas about how to maximize the impact of virtual author visits. She used Google Meet to invite students from across her district to take advantage of the visits. Melissa also offers a KidsLit Club every Monday where some authors drop in for twenty minutes to increase their outreach to and connections with readers.

With a keen eye and ability to find and buy multiples copies of books at reduced cost, Melissa also offers “Free Book Fridays.” Each week about half the books on her give-away cart are snatched up by readers. For more on Melissa work, see her School Librarians United Podcast “Virtual Culture of Reading.”

Kristin Fraga Sierra, High School Librarian @lincolnabesread
Kristin is the high school librarian at Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington. She is also the founder of Lincoln High’s Project Lit Book Club Chapter: Building a Community of Readers and Leaders at #AbeNation. Kristin began her part of the presentation by noting that before the pandemic resulted in school closures Lincoln High had a strong reading culture that focused on reading, leadership, and providing service in their community.

The racial unrest in the late spring and summer of 2020 motivated the club to focus their reading and service on books that dealt with racial injustice. They collaborated with an independent bookstore, developed a K-12 wish list, gained media attention, and successfully raised the funds to stock little free libraries in their community. In another project, they filled backpacks for a Boys & Girls Club.

Kristin noted that student leadership is an essential ingredient in this work. She noted that students are looking for connection to other students and opportunities to work as a team while having fun with their friends. Watch the video to learn more about the high-impact service projects and engaging events of the LincolnAbesRead Club.

Sidenote: Kristin is a co-author with TuesD Chambers of the advocacy chapter in the forthcoming book Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021).

Stacey Rattner, K-5 Librarian @staceybethr
Stacey is the librarian at Castleton Elementary School in Albany, New York. She collaborated with author Steve Sheinkin (@SteveSheinkin) to co-develop an exciting new YouTube project called Author Fan Face-Off (AFF). Wow!

I watched Author Fan Face-off Episode #5: Cece Bell/EL DEAFO. 6th-grade student Noa and Cece Bell tied at six points each after competing through the bonus round. Noa’s excitement (as well as her memory for details) was a wonder.

I have been thinking about how to answer Stacey’s question: How can educators use AFF in their work? If you have an idea, please message her on Twitter.

Be Inspired
Thank you to the presenters and also to Ali Schilpp (@AliSchilpp) school librarian at Northern Middle School, Garrett County, Maryland, for moderating this exciting panel.

If you’re looking for a March Is Reading Month PD opportunity focused on reading promotion, look no further! This is it!

And remember, tomorrow, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, is Read Across America Day. For more information, see the National Education Association’s website.

Advocacy During Times of Austerity

On Thursday, February 11, 2021, the Arizona Library Association (AzLA) and its Professional Development Committee hosted a webinar given by EveryLibrary executive director John Chrastka: “Advocacy During an Austerity Budget.” You can access the video recording of his presentation on the AzLA YouTube channel as well as John’s slide deck. John addressed the concerns and possible solutions to school and public library advocacy efforts during the post-pandemic budget cycle, a time of austerity (in terms of revenue).

I tweeted some of my take-aways during the session. I’ve added my school librarian and library connections after each one.

“Scarcity scares human beings!”

Important for #librarians to prepare for challenges: state/city/county/school district budgets will be negatively impacted by economic fallout from pandemic. “Watch out for austerity budgets! Scarcity scares human beings!” @MrChrastka @EveryLibrary @azlalib #aasl #libraries

Most states and local governments have projected general fund revenue declines as the result of the pandemic. At the same time, costs have gone up due to COVID expenditures. The situation will be dire for many unless there is a substantial federal relief remedy. (Please see John’s slides for data.)

Note: The loss of funds for public schools will be devastating, which is why Arizona Proposition 208, the Invest in Education Act, passed by voters in November, 2020, is so important. It provides dedicated funds for hiring educators, including school librarians.

School librarians can counter the fear and conservatism that decision-makers feel. We must position our work as the number one priority for the 2021- 2022 educational health of our students and our schools. That said, “Before educators and school stakeholders will advocate for (school librarian-led) transformation of teaching and learning, they must see how educational innovations align with their priorities” (Moreillon 2018, 130).

COVID-Slide

In austerity framework, most productive components or politician/administrator pet projects survive. Very few “nice-to-have” services post-pandemic. Must demonstrate to parents/school board/admins how #schoollibrarians can reverse COVID-slide for Ss. @MrChrastka @EveryLibrary @azlalib #aasl

Responding to the COVID-slide is the way we do so. We know that far too many students have lost ground during remote or hybrid learning. Progress in traditional and multiple literacies has been undermined for students who lack/lacked access to devices and resources, including support for learning in their homes. We know that classroom teachers, particularly those who have simultaneously taught groups of students in face-to-face and online classrooms, have been stretched and have needed and still need support.

Research in school librarianship has consistently affirmed that schools with state-certified, collaborating school librarians positively impact student achievement, especially in reading (Lance and Kachel 2018). School librarians whose literacy work impacts successful learning for all students and the effective teaching of all educators can be the number one priority for superintendents, principals, and school boards.

Gap-Fillers

Must address people’s post-pandemic concerns/fears. #schoollibrarians must be gap-filler rather than nostalgia restorer. Stories/data of success or failure w/path to improvement (integrity). @MrChrastka @EveryLibrary @azlalib What are #library high-impact solutions? #Lilead #aasl

This is the time for school librarians to share how we can continue to fill the gaps exposed during school closures. We must gather our advocates, principals, other educators, families, and students, to speak up for how school librarians provided and will continue to provide much needed instructional support, including technology support.

If schools that lack professional school librarians did not/do not have that support, then decision-makers must be made aware of what students, educators, and families have to gain by hiring school librarian literacy leaders for the ’21-’22 school year. School librarians are the educators who can help students, educators, and families reverse the COVID-slide and fill the gaps going forward.

Coalition Building

Who else cares about #literacy & K-12 Ss/Ts success? Coalitions are essential. There are many people who care about what we do! #schoollibrarians connect & reciprocate to support each other. Show how your work leads to prosperity. @MrChrastka @EveryLibrary @azlalib #aasl #Lilead

All education stakeholders care about the COVID-slide. Who else in your community cares about literacy learning loss? John Chrastka’s slide below lists questions to ask yourself regarding finding internal and external advocates at this point in time (published with permission).

Who Else Cares on Campus? Slide from John Chrastka

Defining the Negative
One of John’s comments that deeply resonated with me was about decision-makers who have eliminated school librarian positions in the past. In speaking to them, our job is the help them see the wisdom of correcting an error. John made the connection with the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Since that is our situation in Tucson Unified School District, I need to think more about this connection and how I can show understanding and compassion as we move forward with our efforts to restore school librarian positions in the district.

Highly Recommended
I highly recommend that all school librarians view this webinar recording and John’s slide deck. See also the SLIDE: The School Librarian Investigation: Decline or Evolution? research study data to compare your state with those around the country.

Gather your colleagues and form your coalitions. This is the time to demonstrate how school librarians are essential to reversing the COVID-slide and filling the gaps for students, other educators, and families in the ’21-’22 academic school year.

Works Cited

Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra E. Kachel. 2018. “Why School Librarians Matter: What Years of Research Tell Us.” Phi Delta Kappan 99 (7): 15-20. Available at http://www.kappanonline.org/lance-kachel-school-librarians-matter-years-research/

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

Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action February 1–5, 2021

Wage justice. Wage Peace. Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action: February 1-5, 2021Dear Colleagues,
Considering historical as well as events of the past year and most shockingly this past week, I believe it behooves all school librarians to collaborate with classroom educators to confront racial injustice. The Black Lives Matter at School Week is being held the first week of Black History Month, February 1-5, 2021. This is an opportune time to co-design curriculum for the unique students in your school.

Black Lives Matter at School
#BLMatSchool is a national coalition of “educators, students, parents, families, community members fighting for racial justice in school!” You can follow them on Twitter or access their website. You can contribute to the network by posting what you’re doing in your school/community to achieve racial justice.

Founded in 2016, #BLMatSchool has designated the first week of February as their week of action. On their website, educators, students, and supporters will find a “starter kit,” 13 principles, “The Demands,” and curriculum resources.

The 13 guiding principles are described on the site. “The Demands” are intended to ensure safety and equity in schools:

  1. End “zero tolerance” discipline, and implement restorative justice
  2. Hire more Black teachers
  3. Mandate Black history and ethnic studies in K-12 curriculum
  4. Fund counselors not cops

Allyship
Since our education and library professions are predominately White, Black educators, students, families, and administrators need White allies who will work alongside them to achieve these demands. As allies, we must have a mindset that doing this work is not for our Black colleagues and students but is an essential part of our own liberation from White privilege and racial injustice.

To learn more about allyship, please read the “How to Be an Ally” article on the Teaching Tolerance.org website.

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development has published another helpful set of resources for educators leading discussions with students about politics, civic engagement, and uncertainty.

These articles may be a place to begin your curriculum conversation with your instructional partners, grade-level or disciplinary teams, or at the whole-school level.

Curriculum Resources for Your Consideration from #BLMatSchool
Freedom Reads is a video series designed to help parents and teachers select children’s books through a multicultural, social justice lens at SocialJusticeBooks.org.

They have published lessons for online use from their Second Annual Teach Central America Week and the Civil Rights Teaching website.

The Zinn Education Project (with Rethinking Schools)  hosted an online teaching series on Teaching the Black Freedom Struggle.

Additional Resources
As librarians and educators, we know that responding to children’s and young adult literature can create a context for exploring deeply personal as well as universal themes. Skilled educators, who listen, ask thought-provoking questions, and display empathy can create the necessary open and safe spaces for these conversations. Combined with the participation of trustworthy peers, students can explore essential truths about our nation’s history and current culture and express their hopes and willingness to work for a just and peaceful future.

On my wiki, I have organized resources to support your curriculum development: https://tinyurl.com/jmBLMatSchool

  1. Virtual Book Discussions and Programming

2. Downloadable Book Head Heart Literature Circle Discussion Guide (adapted from Beers and Probst, 2017).

3. Links to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Books and Resources

In addition, the American Library Association offers Black History Month Graphics, including bookmarks and posters with messages and quotes to frame your curriculum.

Hard Conversations
School librarians can be leaders when we create spaces for students and educators to engage in difficult conversations. I hope you and one or more of your colleagues will make time to design a thoughtful, respectful, and unifying curriculum to involve students in taking action during Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action. I also hope you will share your work on their website.

Wage justice. Wage peace.

Innovation and Leadership During Challenging Times

In writing an op-ed on the topic of the Invest in Education Act (Arizona ballot initiative Prop. 208) “Our Opportunity to Repair (Arizona) Public Education,” I wanted to be sure that I was accurately representing the work of Arizona school librarians during closures or hybrid teaching.

I connected with several Arizona school librarians and compared their testimonials to the Back-to-School Survey data collected by the American Association of School Librarians and to my conversation with North Carolina School Library Media Association (NCSLMA) Leadership Academy members.

I am proud to report that school librarians across the country have been and continue to be innovative leaders during remote and hybrid teaching and learning.

Last month, I had the opportunity to think and share with NCSLMA Leadership Academy members during an hour-long Zoom meeting. They had spent several months reading Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (ALA 2018).

Our September conversation focused on the challenges they have faced as librarians delivering library services outside the physical spaces of libraries. We framed our conversation with quotes from George Couros’s The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead in a Culture of Creativity (2015).

These are some of my takeaways from our conversation organized around the quotes that guided our discussion.

Leadership: “Leaders, whatever their role, will more easily change if they allow others to see them taking risks, failing, recovering, and risking all over again” (Couros 2015, 59).

When we were classroom teachers, we took daily risks with our students. While students are still the primary “audience” for our teaching, school librarians work in fishbowls. When we take risks, we have witnesses: students, classroom teachers, student and adult library aides and volunteers, and administrators, too.

Remote teaching and learning during the pandemic have upped the ante. With libraries closed or in a hybrid model, we often have parents and caregivers who are supporting their children in the (Zoom) “room” just like today’s classroom teachers do. This may test our willingness to take risks, fail, recover, and risk all over again.

The NCSLMA school librarians shared their experiences with taking risks during school closures. They realize that their ability to be vulnerable has been tested in these challenging times. Those who shared expressed that their confidence has grown as they have tried new strategies for serving their learning communities remotely.

Innovation: “Innovation is not about changing everything; sometimes you only need change one thing” (Couros 2015, 60).

Striving for equity can lead to innovation. Spring semester 2020 required thinking outside the box, especially when technology devices and access to broadband were unequally distributed among our students and families. We talked briefly about how the Washington (D.C.) School District, led by Washington Teachers Union President Elizabeth Davis delivered 100% teaching via TV when they learned that 38% of students had no devices or connectivity.

One elementary NCSLMA school librarian talked about collaborating with art, music, and PE teachers to develop televised presentations that could reach all their students. This powerful experience with collaboration could provide the experience these educators need to continue offering topical or thematic connections among their disciplines into the future.

NCSLMA school librarians who were experimenting with curbside pick-up for students expresses the age-old concern of all librarians: will the books come back?

One NCSLMA high school librarian solved the equity problem at her school. She gathered all of the computers that remained in the building and set up an appropriately distanced Internet café in the auditorium. Students who lack/lacked devices or connectivity in their homes signed up to use these workstations to continue their learning.

Technology: “Technology invites us to move from engaged to empowered. It provides opportunities to go deeper into our learning by giving us the ability to consume, and, more importantly, create” (Couros 2015, 140).

The NCSLMA school librarians discussed the problem posed by an emphasis on consumption over creation in face-to-face or remote teaching and learning.

One NCSLMA school librarian mentioned a professional development plan she created in conjunction with her new principal. Their goal is to engage students in inquiry learning using “Applied Digital Skills with Google.”  The outcome and deliverable she has proposed is for 4th/5th grade students to create tech-enabled learning products.

One challenge NCSLMA school librarians identified is that when learning went remote last spring many devices were sent to students’ homes. With the return to hybrid or in-person learning, the resources that were previously in school are now dispersed.

As a result, we asked these questions: What do teaching and classroom-library collaboration look like when all the tech is in students’ homes? Could this be a return to “slow” hands-on learning? How will students respond to using pens and pencils to physically write and to use tactile materials to create learning products?

We talked about the potential of real “hands-on” learning and students working in collaborative small group pods as strategies for helping them rebuild social skills they may have lost when they had little or no face-to-face contact with their peers. We talked about how engaging small groups of students in projects such as writing and performing scripts and music could benefit the whole child/student.

We also mentioned the idea of an “emotional café,” a physical or virtual space, where school librarians can help classroom teachers stay grounded in today’s reality with its current affordances and constraints. We all agreed that leading the social-emotional health of our learning communities is important work for school librarians and other school leaders.

Collaboration: “To truly integrate new learning, it is critical to carve out time for exploration, collaboration, and reflection to allow educators to apply what they are learning. It is the application of learning that breeds innovative ideas and practices that work for your unique context and begin to make an impact for the learners across schools and classrooms” (Couros 2015, 182).

In meeting other people’s needs, school librarians are in a position to build strong collegial relationships that lead to collaboration and build advocates for the contributions we make to the learning community. Through learning with our colleagues, we will be able to apply innovative ideas and practices. We will be able to analyze the results, modify our practices, and engage in continuous improvement as we explore and integrate our own professional development.

Leadership and Vulnerability
I just finished reading Senator Kamala Harris’s autobiography, The Truths We Hold: An American Journey (2019). While I highly recommend the entire book, the “Test the Hypothesis” section near the end connected with the NCSLMA Leadership Academy conversation and with other school librarians navigating these challenging times for teaching and learning.

“Innovation is the pursuit of what can be, unburdened by what has been. And we pursue innovation not because we’re bored but because we want to make things faster, more efficient, more effective, more accurate… We expect mistakes; we just don’t want to make the same mistake twice. We expect imperfections; it’s basic for us… We know that the more we test something, the clearer we’ll understand what works and what doesn’t, and the better the final product or process will be” (Harris 2019, 253).

Thank you to the NCSLMA Leadership Academy school librarians for sharing your experiences, questions, and plans with each other and with me. I leave you with a parting quote: “Leadership requires confidence and vulnerability” (Harland and Cellucci forthcoming). You will be able to achieve a high-level of leadership if you continue to take risks, remain vulnerable, and continually increase your confidence through practice and reflection as you lead students, colleagues, and families through this challenging time.

References

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

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

Harris, Kamala. 2019. The Truths We Hold: An American Journey. New York: Penguin.

Image Credit

Pixabay. “Abstract Blackboard Bulb Chalk.” Pexels.com, https://www.pexels.com/photo/abstract-blackboard-bulb-chalk-355948.

School Librarian Advocacy in the Time of the Coronavirus

These are uncertain times for many school librarians across the U.S. This summer, some are fighting to keep their positions even though they went the extra mile to support students, classroom teachers, administrators, and parents during the COVID-19 spring school closures. Others are fighting to restore school librarian positions because some decision-makers have come to the understanding that the pandemic and equity/social justice require all hands on deck and that school librarians have an essential role to play in education whether learning and teaching are conducted face to face or remotely this fall.

Megaphone with School Librarian Advocacy Text

It is in this climate that advocacy for our profession is most especially welcome. And this past week, we had Virginia Spatz from CommunityUnderCovid.com (Community thru Covid) to thank for that.

Ms. Spatz conducted an interview with Elizabeth Davis, President of the Washington, D.C. Teachers Union and Kathy Carroll, President of the American Association of School Librarians. These three leaders discussed the role of school librarians on “Wednesday Act Radio.”

This is the link to the entire broadcast and this is the link to the piece with the exchange between Elizabeth Davis and Kathy Carroll (with thanks to K.C. Boyd and Debra Kachel for sharing this information on ALA Connect.)

Take-Aways
I listened to the latter and these were a few of my take-aways:

Ms. Davis gave a huge shout-out to D.C. school librarians for stepping up to the plate to help the Washington Teachers Union make the case for restoring and maintaining school librarian positions. All school librarians should have steadfast advocates like Ms. Davis. See background information below.

Ms. Davis also noted that when every D.C. school faculty includes a librarian, they must be allowed to focus on professional work; they must not be asked to do odd jobs like custodial work or “duties as assigned.”

The D.C. school librarians were proactive in aligning their work with district priorities and with standards. By advocating for school libraries and their positions, they were had a seat at the table and were able to garner advocates among the union leaders.

AASL President Kathy Carroll is an articulate and effective spokesperson for AASL’s support for professional school librarians. (AASL has supported this effort by the D.C. librarians.)

Ms. Carroll also noted the many ways school librarians supported remote learning during the spring 2020 school closures. She emphasized how the work of school librarians helps educators, administrators, and families reach their goals for youth.

Both Kathy and Elizabeth noted that listeners must vote for decision-makers who support equity in public education and library services, and school librarians for all, in particular.

The Best for Last – Gratitude and the ASK
Ms. Carroll was genuinely appreciative of Ms. Spatz for conducting the interview and for Ms. Davis’s understanding of the critical need for D.C. school librarians and her exemplary advocacy on their behalf. Kathy’s sincere gratitude was a positive way to conclude the conversation…

But Ms. Davis squeezed in the last word. She did what all advocacy campaigns must do. She made the “ask.”

She gave listeners the phone number of the Washington, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson. She asked that everyone phone Mr. Mendelson and ask him for the necessary funds to adequately address the needs of D.C. students and schools, including providing funding for school librarians.

Chairman Mendelson’s number is: 202.724.8032

I made that call this morning. What about you?

Image Credit

Tumisu. “Megaphone Loud Scream,” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/illustrations/megaphone-loud-scream-loudspeaker-911858/

Background information: EveryLibrary.org through SaveSchoolLibrarians.org worked with the D.C. school librarians to advocate by collecting signatures on an online petition. This effort was part of the political pressure placed on D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser who increased the 2020-21 public education budget 3% or $70M, creating an opportunity for the Washington Teachers Union to seek restoring and maintaining school librarian positions as part of their negotiations. Read the Washington Post article.

School Librarianship in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 2

Image: Equity spelled out in Scrabble letters.I believe a high-quality education is a human right, and literacy is the foundation for all learning. From my perspective, every student and educator in every school across the country and around the globe deserves to have a literacy learning leader in the person of a certified school librarian. However, lack of funding and misplaced priorities at the state-, district-, and school-site levels have resulted in fewer and fewer professional school librarians and a loss of equitable education for all.

Over the past decade, and in some cases longer, many state legislatures have chipped away at district public school funding. (For the unconscionable situation in my state, see the Arizona Center for Economic Progress’s 5/27/20 “K12 Budget Webinar.”) With ever-shrinking funds, school districts have been put in the position of making difficult choices and far too many times school librarian positions have been seen as “extras” and have been eliminated.

In addition, and as unfortunate, our local reliance on property tax-based funding for public schools undermines an equitable education for all. This perpetuates a system that results in “have” and “have not” districts. Districts with less tax revenue struggle to provide complete academic programs, including well-resourced, fully-staffed school libraries, up-to-date technology tools, art, music, and more.

Site-based hiring practices have also negatively impacted school librarian positions. Without leadership from district-level leaders, far too many site-level administrators fail to understand the value of having a professional educator guiding the literacy learning that takes place through the largest, most well-equipped classroom in the school—the school library. If cutting librarians is based on their poor job performance, then the appropriate response would be to put them on plans of improvement or replace them rather than depriving students, educators, and families of professional library services.

What Is a Librarian to Do?
The school closures of spring 2020 created an opportunity for school librarians to demonstrate to administrators, colleagues, and families their many contributions to student learning outcomes whether or not anyone had access to the physical space of the library.

It is in that context that I share indicators that demonstrate the roles effective school librarians fill in their learning communities as leaders, instructional partners, teachers, information specialists, and program administrators. In these five roles, they:

Leader
Culture of Learning

  • Create a sense of belonging, ownership, and inclusion in the physical and virtual spaces of the library.
  • Design a welcoming and universally accessible online library presence.
  • Provide and advocate for equitable access to diverse resources representing all cultures/identities and divergent points of view in multiple genres and formats.

Library Advocacy & Support

  • Collaborate with administrators to assess students’ and classroom teachers’ needs and develop and implement plans to address them.
  • Communicate clearly and frequently with library stakeholders (students, other educators, administrators, families, and greater community) in order to share the impact of school library resources and the library program on student learning.
  • Seek learning community support for library initiatives to improve student learning.

Instructional Partner and Teacher
Collaborative Planning

  • Reach out to teaching teams and attend face-to-face and virtual team meetings to support colleagues’ teaching goals.
  • Reach out to classroom teachers and specialists to coplan and integrate the resources of the library into the classroom curriculum.

Integrated, Collaborative Teaching

  • Coteach with other educators whether face to face or online to engage students in critical thinking, deep learning, and the ethical use of ideas and information.
  • Co-assess student learning outcomes with other educators to improve instructional strategies and resources and ensure continuous improvement for students and educators.

Reading and Information Literacy Instruction

  • Promote reading for information and for personal enjoyment.
  • Coteach how to locate, find, analyze, and use information.
  • Coteach making meaning from texts in all formats (reading comprehension).

Information Specialist
Information Access and Delivery

  • Reach out to colleagues to support educators’ and students’ use of digital devices and tools and electronic resources.
  • Integrate the paper print and virtual resources of the library into the school’s face-to-face and remote academic learning program.
  • Provide instruction to support students and educators in using electronic resources ethically and safely whether from home or from school.
  • Provide online tutorials to support students and educators in using electronic resources effectively.

Program Administrator
Library Management

  • Align the library vision, mission, and goals with those of the school and the district.
  • Use library management software to generate reports and use data to improve library services.

In-School and Remote Collection Aligned to Curriculum, Classroom Teacher, and Student Needs

  • Assess and develop the paper print and electronic library collection to meet the instructional needs of colleagues.
  • Assess and develop the library collection to meet the academic and personal reading needs of students.

Funding & Budget Management

  • Write grants and seek funding to provide students and other educators with resources, including technology devices and tools.
  • Manage the library budget responsibly and help guide district-level purchases to meet the academic program and personal learning needs of students, educators, and families.

Taking Action
Serving as an effective school librarian is a complex job. It requires a passion for learning and literacy and a steadfast commitment to serve the entire learning community. There are exemplary librarians serving at this high level across the U.S. and around the globe. For two examples, see last week’s post School Librarianship in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 1.

If you are an effective school librarian or other educator, please share with me what I missed. If you are a school administrator or school librarian educator, consider how we can shore up the school librarian profession to ensure that all students, educators, and families have equitable, high-quality library services.

Image Credit

Wokandapix. “Equity Fairness Equitable Letters.” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/photos/equity-fairness-equitable-letters-2355700/

School Librarianship in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 1

Perhaps like me, you are an educator who believes that part of achieving restorative social justice in the U.S. involves creating and supporting a high-quality public school system that is equitable and relevant for all preK-12 students regardless of where they live. Such a system would require at least one state-certified school librarian in every public school across this country.

It is in this context that school librarians and our state-level organizations and national association have conducted surveys, held meetings, and worked to develop flyers, posters, and other marketing tools to share how school librarians support student learning—even when the physical space of the library is shuttered and its paper print resources are, for the most part, inaccessible to students, classroom teachers, specialists, and families.

In times such as these, it is important that we look for the bright spots of success that flourish across the U.S. and around the globe as we describe school librarianship in the time of coronavirus and adapt exemplary practices to our own teaching and learning situations.

Two Brilliantly Bright Spots
Last Friday, I attended “Building Strong Partnerships with School and District Leaders,” a webinar sponsored by Future Ready Librarians®. The teacher librarians and administrators from two distinctly different districts shared how they met the challenge of school closures.

Van Meter Community School District (VMCSD) (IA) Superintendent Deron Durflinger and Shannon McClintock Miller, Future Ready Librarians® spokesperson and VMCSD K–12 district teacher librarian shared how their digital learning efforts align with the district’s vision, mission, and culture. Shannon noted that the district was able to build on the communication and collaboration practices that began when they implemented a 1:1 program eleven years ago and fine-tuned in the last few years. In VMCSD, they attribute their success to a focus on empathy and “being there” for their classroom teachers, students, and families. They also noted that having confidence in the support they would receive and “being in it together” gave educators the essential right to fail, learn, and grow.

Vancouver Public Schools (VPS) (WA) teacher librarian Traci Chun and Jeremy Tortora, Associate Principal and Athletic Director, shared how they partnered with one another and their faculty, staff, students, and families to meet the needs of their learning community during the shutdown. Although VPS has had a modified 1:1 program for ten years, it wasn’t the devices alone that Mr. Tortora attributed to their success. He noted that the district and the schools in the district focus on sustaining a culture of collaboration supported by teacher librarians. As Mr. Tortora noted, librarians know the strengths of individual educators and what they need. In addition to tech support, this knowledge helped Traci and other school leaders provide social emotional support for educators.

Both Shannon and Traci shared how the curation tools they had developed with classroom teachers and used with students prior to the pandemic were instrumental in ensuring that students, educators, and families had access to resources and were comfortable using these pathways. In both districts, teacher librarians and administrators were careful not to overwhelm classroom teachers. They provided information and support but enacted the “less is more” concept in terms of covering curriculum and implementing new digital tools.

Reoccurring Themes
As readers of this blog know, I listen and light up when I hear the words “collaboration” and “coteaching.” This webinar did not disappoint. The focus on communication and listening in both districts provided a foundation on which to build their collaborative work. At the building level and at the district level, Shannon, Traci, and all teacher librarians can share their global perspective of the learning community to support educators transitioning to remote learning as well as guide district-level tech tool purchases.

Communication was another reoccurring theme. In both districts, teacher librarians and administrators listened to other educators’ needs and responded promptly and with sensitivity for where the teachers “were at.” They monitored the frequency of their communications and carefully considered the level of support they offered based on individual educators’ needs and capacity to utilize new strategies and tools.

The emphasis on relationship building in a culture of collaboration and clear communication in both districts were in evidence throughout the webinar.

Adapting Practices
Clearly, school closures highlighted the grave injustice created by the inequitable distribution of technology devices and resources needed for students to conduct learning from their homes. In the webinar, moderator Mark Ray noted that some librarians and others listening to this webinar would be thinking about how to adapt the practices in VPS and VMCSD to their own learning environments. I was one of those.

When schools closed in Arizona, 100,000 or more students were without the necessary devices to engage in remote learning. In Tucson Unified School District (TUSD), 18,000 lacked these tools. With about 40,000 students, TUSD, the second largest district in the state, serves an urban, high-needs student population. The district scrambled to provide devices to all students and families. For more on the specifics of the situation in our state, see my 5/15/20 op-ed in the Arizona Daily Star: “What the pandemic has taught us about K-12 schooling in Arizona.”

In light of this situation, my big take-away from the FRL webinar was how many years VMCSD and VPS had been (unknowingly?) “preparing” for the pandemic. While they were ramping up their 1:1 programs and their technology tools support for students and educators, they were focused on the big picture—their districts’ vision and mission and developing a culture of learning and collaboration that carried them through this spring’s school closures.

Bottom Line
It was in this network of communication, caring, and sharing that their efforts succeeded. It was collaboration at all levels—among students, educators and teacher librarians, administrators, and families—that made their move to fully online teaching and learning a success.

Collaboration is the difference we can make… with the support of our administrators. Shannon McClintock Miller

Say, yes! and “be brave before perfect.” Traci Chun

Thank you, Shannon and Superintendent Deron Durflinger, Traci and Associate Principal Tortora for sharing your exemplary work. Thank you, Mark Ray, for moderating this webinar. I highly recommend that all school librarians view this webinar and reflect on their capacity for leadership as they plan and go forward into the 2020-21 academic year.

Image Credit: From the personal collection of Judi Moreillon