Leadership Shapes the Shore

My husband and I just returned from a two-week visit to England. During our trip, I took an almost complete technology-free sabbatical, answering only the most pressing email and not engaging with social media at all. My goal was to take a break from thinking about my book revisions (the result of the title change and plans to include the new AASL national standards) and my place in the great scheme of school librarianship. I wanted to know if other thoughts would occupy my mind.

Still, I seemed to find messages in the scenery that spoke to me about our profession. (I guess I have found my true “why”! Okay, so I didn’t give up reading on the trip. Read my take-aways from Simon Sinek’s Find Your Why in next week’s post.)

After we hiked the Jurassic Coast from the Chesil Beach in West Dorset (just one of the four gloriously sunny days we enjoyed during our travels), we drove to the seaside town of Seaton in East Devon.

This photograph shows one of two metal sculptures that demarcate the entrance to the boardwalk.

“The shore shapes the waves.”

A photograph of the other sculpture is below.

At first, these two complementary ideas spoke to me about how school librarians must respond to and interact with “the shore,” the ever-changing environment in which we live and work. Our actions within this environment are “the waves.”

There are positive aspects to being mindful of our school, district, state, and national trends and priorities. When we situate our work within those larger contexts, we align the library program with other people’s goals and may be able to reach our capacity to influence teaching and learning toward a future-ready direction.

This may be especially true for future ready librarians who are serving in school districts that have taken the Future Ready Pledge. A commitment to change, growth, and improvement in instruction presents leadership opportunities for these librarians. The waves they make land on a hospitable shore – an environment and school culture where they have support for enacting future-ready learning.

On the other hand, for far too many of school librarians, “the shore” can act as an impediment to such progress. Understaffing, fixed schedules that prevent school librarians and library resources from meeting the just-in-time learning needs of students and colleagues, the lack of collaborative planning time during contract hours, inconsistent or non-existent leadership at the district level, and more can create an undertow that limits our opportunities to make positive change. Such a shore can undermine our opportunities to change, grow, and lead.

“The waves shape the shore.”

To my mind, for most of us, this idea is a stronger metaphor for future-ready school librarian leadership. Rather than being at the effect of our environment, school librarians must be proactive in building a continuous learning environment and culture in our schools.

Through our work as leaders we must shape the shore. We must design library programs and guide our schools and districts as well as our state and national associations in shaping learning environments that “work for” students and educators.

Cohort 2 Lilead Fellows are engaged in the first of four leadership courses. In the current course, participants “identify an issue in their school or program that is important to their school, district, or state’s priorities, examining and planning practical and tangible ways the school library program can help address the issue. They will identify new ways of thinking about their library programs and how they can lead in change efforts at the building-, district-, and state-levels.”

This requires transformational change—not merely tinkering but targeting our “waves” to shape “the shore.” Our future leans more toward this message. We must use the force of our unique areas of expertise, our waves, to collaboratively create a receptive shore for change. This requires us to build connections between the library and the classroom, between curriculum and resources/tools, between and among educators, between school, home, and community.

School librarians must be proactive in offering ever more relevant, engaging school-based learning opportunities for future-ready students and in supporting the teaching and professional growth of our future-ready colleagues and administrators.

Image Credit:
Photographs from Judi Moreillon’s Personal Collection

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

While authoring my forthcoming book, Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy, I have read many professional books. This is the eighth in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

Although I had previously listened to his TEDTalks, I did not read Simon Sinek’s Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action until it was assigned to the Lilead Project fellows. As a Lilead mentor, I am reading and learning along with the fellows.

Beginning with the dedication, I have a deep appreciation for the message Simon Sinek communicates in this book (bold added).

“There are leaders and there are those who lead.
Leaders hold a position of power or influence.
Those who lead inspire us.

Whether individuals or organizations, we follow those
Who lead not because we have to, but because we want to.
We follow those who lead not for them, but for ourselves.

This is a book for those who want to inspire others and
for those who want to find someone to inspire them” (np).

There are many in education, yours truly included, who hope to inspire others, and I, too, am always on the lookout for others who inspire me. Simon Sinek is someone who inspires me. One reason he inspires me is that I often agree with him about the critical importance of “whys,” “whats,” and “hows.”

As a former school librarian, librarian and classroom teacher educator, and now as a consultant, I truly believe that each individual must start with her or his own “why.” That said, my experience tells me that arriving at a “shared” why is a challenging proposition in many (professional) organizations and for preK-12 school faculty cultures, in particular. After reading Sinek’s book, I believe more fervently than ever that school librarians must arrive at a shared “why” in their learning communities at the site-, district- and national levels as well. I believe our profession must come to consensus on a shared “why.”

Since the school library profession does not have one single charismatic leader with an immutable sense of “why” (backed up by a flexible menu of “whats” and “hows”), arriving at a single “why” is more challenging in our organization(s).  I would like to believe our profession could come to a shared understanding – a shared “why” – a shared value that aligns with the values of other educators, administrators, and educational decision-makers and stakeholders. That “why” could speak to potential advocates and would encourage them to act on our behalf.

One of the tensions I feel is that the “what” (description of what we do) and “how” we do it different (or as Sinek says “better”) from classroom teachers is not shared by all members of our profession. There are those who are still printed books and reading promotion only school librarians. There are those who are technology above all else school librarians. The “hybrids” are growing in number but expectations in various schools and districts may contribute to this polarization that muddies our identity and the perception of others regarding our “whats” and “hows.” From my perspective, our “why” has to be larger than the resources and tools we use.

My “why” for school librarianship was born during my M.L.S. program and was crystallized during the heady days of the National Library Power Project in Tucson Unified School District (1993-97). For me, school librarians’ purpose is to colead with principals to ensure that their school communities are dynamic environments for nurturing continuous development and growth in order to improve teaching and learning.

For me, school librarians’ instructional partnership role is the most direct, assured, and documentable path to leadership. It is “how” we achieve our “why.” School librarians lead when our commitment to improving our own and our colleagues’ instructional practices builds a culture of collaboration and continuous learning in our schools. “What” we do is develop expertise and mastery with our colleagues in order to improve student learning outcomes. Why do we do this? Because “teaching is too difficult to do alone!” (from a Library Power poster, circa 1994).

With a global view of the learning community and a flexibly scheduled program based on access at the point of need, the resources of the library and the instructional expertise in their toolkits, school librarians occupy a unique niche on a school faculty. They must embody the behaviors of risk-takers and continuous learners. They must serve as models because they have the potential and responsibility to impact the learning of every member of their school learning communities—students, educators, administrators, families, and external stakeholders. They must help other reach their capacity.

I totally agree with Sinek: “Passion may need structure to survive, but for structure to grow, it needs passion” (184). I believe there is a great deal of passion in our profession, but I’m not sure we have yet developed the structure we need to help it grow. I think the Lilead Project (and Library Power before it) provide some of that structure. I think Project Connect and Future Ready Librarians are promising initiatives that provide structure. The new AASL standards and guidelines that are set to be rolled out next fall also have that potential. (I would like to think that the book I am authoring could provide some structure as well.)

As Sinek writes: “It’s the decision to never veer from your cause, to hold yourself accountable to HOW you do things; that’s the hardest part” (65). In my experience, collaborating with adults is a thousand times harder than collaborating with students. If we want to hold each other accountable for forming effective instructional partnerships that build an effective teaching force and improve student learning, we have set the bar high.

Many in our ranks continue to work in isolation from their classroom teacher and administrator colleagues. I believe what Sinek writes is true: “The only way people will know what you believe is by the things you say and do, and if you’re not consistent in the things you say or do, no one will know what you believe” (67). School librarians cannot say they are instructional partners if they still prefer to work alone—if they still refer to the library as “my” library, the collection as “my” collection, the instruction they provide as “library lesson plans.”

“A WHY is just a belief; HOWs are the actions we take to realize that belief; and WHATs are the results of those actions. When all three are in balance, trust is built and value is perceived” (85). I aspire to lead a professional life where all three are in balance. I aspire to be a part of a profession where all three are in balance—where there is a shared why and trust among the members and our value as leaders is widely perceived in the education field and beyond. I want to be part of a profession that “walks its talk.” And I will do my part to stay the course.

I am indebted to Sinek for a way I used his framework to organize Building a Culture of Collaboration: School Librarian Leadership and Advocacy. I begin every chapter in my forthcoming book with “why” that topic is essential in building a culture of collaboration. In each chapter, I specify the “what” and “how.” Although the “whats” and “hows” were always there, I strengthened the “whys” after reading Sinek’s book.

What is your “why?” How does it align with that of your site- and district-level administrators’ “whys”? How does it align with those of your classroom teacher colleagues, families, and community? Does your shared “why” make effective “whats” and “hows” possible?

Work Cited
Sinek, Simon. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. New York: Penguin, 2009.

Additional Resources
Sinek, Simon. “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” TEDTalk. September 2009, https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action

Sinek, Simon. “First Why, and Then Trust.” TEDxMaastricht. 6 April 2011. https://youtu.be/4VdO7LuoBzM

 

Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today

While authoring my forthcoming book, Building a Culture of Collaboration: School Librarian Leadership and Advocacy, I have read many professional books. This is the seventh in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

On June 12, 2017, I attended an ASCD Webinar presented by authors Eric C. Sheninger and Thomas C. Murray. (If you missed it, I highly recommend the webinar archive.) Their presentation was centered on their hot-off-the-presses book Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today. After the webinar, I preordered a copy of their book and read it as I was completing my own manuscript.

This book focuses on creating a culture of innovation and leading change. In reviewing their table of contents, I found so many parallels between their book and mine that I was, at first, reluctant to read it… until after I had submitted my manuscript. However, my curiosity won out. And I am glad it did. Reading their work at the 11th hour in my process gave me an opportunity to further develop my thinking, reflect, and include some quotes from their book in mine.

In Learning Transformed, Sheninger and Murray identify “eight keys for intentional design.” They are:
1. Leadership and school culture lay the foundation.
2. The learning experience must be redesigned and made personal.
3. Decisions must be grounded in evidence and driven by Return on Instruction.
4. Learning spaces must become learner-centered.
5. Professional learning must be relevant, engaging, ongoing, and made personal.
6. Technology must be leveraged and used as an accelerant for student learning.
7. Community collaboration and engagement must be woven into the fabric of a school’s culture.
8. Schools that transform learning are built to last as financial, political, and pedagogical sustainability ensure long-term success (24-27).

I could not agree more about the importance of leadership and culture in creating the context for educational transformation. I believe future-ready librarians are positioned to be leaders and culture-builders in their schools.

For those of us in the school library profession, “inquiry” is the process that we promote for redesigning learner-centered/personalized learning. Sheninger and Murray offer thoughtful strategies for leaders to make student agency a reality in their schools. Among them are standards-aligned learning activities and assessments, student mastery of selecting the right tool for the task, portfolios as authentic assessments, student involvement in rule making, and participation in feedback loops—choice and voice (76-77).

Decision-making based on evidence also resonates with school librarians who develop library programs using evidence-based practice. One term that Sheninger and Murray use with which I was previously unfamiliar was Return on Instruction (ROI). They used this term in relationship to the funds and time spent on the latest technology tools and devices and ROI, evidence of improved student learning outcomes.

I found the parallel between ROI and Return on Investment an important one. School librarians who serve as technology stewards evaluate and field-test digital resources and tools based on sound pedagogical practices and learning goals can be leaders in their schools in ensuring a positive ROI. School librarians also provide formal professional development and job-embedded personalized learning for colleagues through coplanning and coteaching.

School librarians who have developed a learning commons model in their school libraries may be particularly interested in the chapter entitled “Designing Learner-Centered Spaces.” I suspect they will echo the authors’ contention that flexible spaces that “provide areas for movement, and promote collaboration and inquiry” (25) are needed if students are to explore creativity and reach for innovation.

As a reader, I found the format friendly, quotes thoughtful, and examples from the field compelling. I suspect many readers will compare their teaching and learning environments to those described in the book. It would be important to find as many similar assets with these sites and explore how your own school could further expand its areas of strength.

As an author, I was impressed by the endorsements Sheninger and Murray received for this book. Sir Ken Robinson, Linda Darling-Hammond, Daniel H. Pink, Robert Marzano, Michael Fullan, and many more education thought leaders have high praise for Learning Transformed.

If you are in a formal or informal leadership position in your school or district (e.g. future-ready librarians and school library supervisors), then you will want to read this book and discuss it with the decision-makers in your school and district.

Work Cited
Sheninger, Eric C., and Thomas C. Murray. Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2017.

#AASL Social Media Superstars

As part of School Library Month, the American Association of School Librarians sponsored a “Social Media Superstars Recognition Program.” The goal of the inaugural program was to acknowledge “the role social media plays in school library promotion” and to recognize “school library professionals who enrich the profession and its work on behalf of students by sharing information, expertise, ideas, encouragement, dialog and inspiration widely via a variety of social media channels” (Habley).

The Social Media Recognition Task Force announced three finalists in seven categories:

1. Sensational Student Voice
2. Advocacy Ambassador
3. Tech Troubadour
4. Program Pioneer
5. Curriculum Champion
6. Leadership Luminary
7. Social Justice Defender

The Task Force will review the comments made in support of the finalists and announce the overall Superstar in each category on Thursday, April 27th at 6:00 p.m. Central.

I was honored to be nominated in the Leadership Luminary category along with Jonathan Werner and Joyce Valenza.

I have followed Jonathan on Twitter for several years. He frequently shares his involvement with the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). In addition to the outstanding teaching and learning in his own school library, Jonathan fills me in on the activities of an organization to which I do not belong. It is vital for our profession to be well represented in highly influential technology and education organizations like ISTE. I especially appreciate Jonathan’s commitment to making sure school librarians are at the table when educational technology is being discussed and exemplary practices are being shared.

There is no doubt in my mind that Joyce deserves the Superstar designation in this category. For over a decade, Joyce’s Neverending Search blog has been a go-to source for so many (everyone?) in the school librarian profession. Joyce generously shares her thinking about issues and practices related to teaching and learning in school libraries. She also writes for a wide audience about her own learning and application of technology tools and digital resources. Joyce’s influence extends far beyond the school librarian community. Her expertise is recognized nationally and internationally. Her blog’s placement on the School Library Journal site ensures her expansive reach. For many school administrators, educational leaders and decision-makers “Joyce Valenza” is synonymous with “extraordinary school librarian.” Joyce shines a positively luminous light on our profession. She is most deserving of this recognition.

As a “Leadership Luminary” nominee, it was informative to me that by far this category received the fewest comments. I believe that members of the profession who commented understood the specificity of the other six categories. Perhaps it was more straight-forward for them to note how finalists in other categories influenced their practice. I suspect that for many the “Leadership Luminary” category lacked that clarity.

To my way of thinking, all of the Social Media Superstars finalists are leaders. In fact, there are many, many additional school librarian leaders who use social media to “enrich the profession and its work on behalf of students by sharing information, expertise, ideas, encouragement, dialog and inspiration widely via a variety of social media channels” (Habley).

As the subtitle of Hilda Weisburg’s Leading for Librarians book proclaims: “There is no other option!”

Through their work, which they promote via social media, these social media superstars have positively influenced their colleagues’ practice of school librarianship. They have promoted our profession and educated others on the essential work that school librarians do every day.

In his 2009 Ted Talk, Simon Sinek said this: “We follow those who lead not for them but for ourselves.”

This recognition program has helped me identify school librarians whose work was not as well known to me as it should have been. I look forward to following and continuing to learn from all of the finalists.

Thank you for your passion and dynamic contributions that promote our profession and help us all grow more knowledgeable and become more recognized for our vital work.

Works Cited

Habley, Jen. “AASL Social Media Superstar Finalists Announced!” Knowledge Quest, American Association of School Librarians, 22 Mar. 2017, knowledgequest.aasl.org/superstar-finalists/. Accessed 17 Apr. 2017.

Sinek, Simon. “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” Ted Talk. Ted.com. Sept. 2009, https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action?utm_source=tedcomshare&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=tedspread Accessed 1 Apr. 2017.

Weisburg, Hilda K. Leading for School Librarians: There Is No Other Option. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2017.

Image Credit: Super Librarian by Becca
Used with permission (and with apologies to the men who serve admirably in our profession)

P.S. If AASL and the Social Media Recognition Task Force are seeking feedback on this inaugural program, I would ask them to consider that all of the Superstars in the other six categories are leaders and that the “Leadership Luminary” category may not be necessary in the next round.

Unleash Your Passion for School Library Programs

April is School Library Month. This is a time of year when school librarians across the country spotlight the transformational learning and teaching that is happening through school library programs.

School librarians who continually improve their expertise and collaborative skills build effective school library programs. Their exemplary programs are the foundation they need for advocacy. In her chapter entitled “Becoming an Expert Teacher,” Hilda Weisburg writes this: “Many librarians have struggled with getting teachers to work with them but you (school librarian) will never be regarded as a leader if you work alone in the library” (47).

From my personal experience, students’ learning experiences can be especially empowered when they are cotaught in collaboration with classroom teachers and specialists. When educators coteach, they learn from one another and provide more feedback to students, more timely interventions, and support student success. In all ways, two heads and four hands are better than one! (And working with a trio—or more—of educators increases student support exponentially.)

In support of preservice school librarians’ understanding of and commitment to the power of classroom-library coteaching, I curated a collection of video testimonials of classroom teachers and specialists talking about their positive experiences collaborating or coteaching with their school librarian.

Along with Teresa Starrett, preservice principal educator colleague at Texas Woman’s University, I crowdsourced a video of principal testimonials about the essential work of their exemplary school librarians: “Principals Know: School Librarians Are the Heart of the School.”

While it is ideal for students, classroom teachers, principals, parents, and other library stakeholders to advocate for school librarians and school library programs, it behooves school librarians themselves to unleash their passion for the difference their work and the resources and environment of the school library make in empowering students’ learning and teachers’ teaching.

At the invitation of Jennifer LaGarde, school librarians from across the country are providing testimonials about their understanding of future-ready school librarianship. Reedy High School (Frisco, Texas) librarian Nancy Jo Lambert submitted a video response to the question: “What is a future ready librarian?” I believe that Nancy Jo’s response is brilliant because she confirms her focus on curriculum and classroom-library collaboration in order to positively empower student achievement. Brava, Nancy Jo.

Please view Jennifer’s crowdsourced flipgrid and get an idea of how your future-ready colleagues express their future-ready roles.

Here’s to all the school librarians who shout out about the privilege of learning with and from awesome students and collegial educators. Here’s to the librarians whose stakeholders shout out about the indispensable role school librarians and school library programs play in the education of future-ready students.

Happy School Library Month!

Work Cited

Weisburg, Hilda K. Leading for School Librarians: There Is No Other Option. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2017.

Image credit:

Howard Lake. “Speak Up, Make Your Voice Heard.” n.d. Flickr.com, https://c1.staticflickr.com/6/5260/5540462170_d5297d9ce8_b.jpg

Logo courtesy of the American Association of School Librarians

School Librarian Leaders

This quote by American writer on business management Tom Peters has been a guiding principle (and caution) throughout my career as a school librarian. I firmly believe that all school librarians can/must/will/should aspire to leadership in their schools—and in the profession. Through instructional partnerships, curriculum design, collection development, resource curation, and participation in our national association, there are limitless opportunities for leading.

When I taught at Texas Woman’s University, graduate students who participated in a course called “Librarians as Instructional Partners” developed a Web 2.0 portrait of themselves as a collaborator. As an exercise in getting to know their styles, students took the Jung typology test (Myers-Briggs). They also took the (Gary) Hartzell Needs Assessment that focuses on the relative strength of one’s need for achievement, affiliation, and power.

I taught 12 sections of the course over a period of 7 years. In all but one section of this course, the “introverts” far outnumbered the “extroverts.” In terms of percentages, 60 to 80% of the students taking this course identified as “introverts.” Barbara Shultz-Jones, associate professor at the University of North Texas, and I compared notes on this phenomenon more than once. Likewise, she found that a majority of her students also identified as introverts.

Yes! to introverts. I married one; my son is one… And I don’t believe those designations are black and white. People who are introverted in some situations may behave as extroverts in other situations and vice versa. The same can be true of risk-takers, innovators, and leaders, too.

Long-time school librarian, librarian educator, and leader Hilda Weisburg titled her hot-off-the-presses book Leading for School Librarians: There is No Other Option (ALA Editions 2017). I am in total agreement with Hilda. As she notes, school librarians’ “ultimate survival rests on their ability to be recognized as a leader in their building” (xvi). There is NO other option.

Can introverts be leaders?

Absolutely! Rather than can they, the question may actually be will they. Will the members of a predominantly introverted profession connect their passions for literacy, literature, and libraries in such a way as to step out of their comfort zones to lead? I believe they can and will, and as Hilda says, I believe they must.

In October, 2016, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) released a study conducted by KRC Research: “AASL Member and Stakeholder Consultation Process on the Learning Standards and Program Guides” (2016). The study involved 1,919 respondents involved in school librarianship who took an online survey. Approximately 40 people participated in six focus groups conducted at the 2015 AASL conference, and 110 participated in focus groups held around the country at state conferences.

Of the core values most frequently mentioned by participants in the focus groups, fostering “leadership and collaboration” was 9th out of ten values (9).

For me, this was an uncomfortable finding. Since “leader” was one of the five roles identified by AASL in Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Programs (2009), I would have expected (hoped?) to see leadership (and collaboration?) closer to the top of the list. In fact, when prioritizing the roles, some (including Hilda and me) would have listed leader as role #1…

A recent Forbes blog post by Ekaterina Walter may well be worth reading for all school librarians. In her post, Ms. Walter identified and dispelled five myths of leadership:

1. Leaders work smarter, not harder.
2. Leaders have all of the answers.
3. Great leaders are always in the spotlight.
4. Leaders are always “on.”
5. Leaders are born, not made (Walter).

Now is an important time in the history of our profession to marshal our courage to lead. Yes, we will need to work hard. Yes, it’s a relief to know that we don’t have to have all of the answers, be always in the spotlight, or always be “on.” And most importantly of all, leaders can be made. We can become the leaders our students, colleagues, and profession need to be instrumental in transforming teaching and learning. We can be future ready librarian leaders serving our learning communities through future ready school libraries.

And through collaboration, we can help create leaders among our students, colleagues, and in the larger school librarian and education communities!

Since I began this post with a quote, I will end it with another that resonates with me. This one is by Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu. “A leader is best when people barely know he (she) exists, when his (her) work is done, his (her) aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

With special thanks to Ekaterina Walter for reminding me of these two quotes. (Side note: Hilda also includes this quote from Tom Peters in her book.)

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians. “AASL Member and Stakeholder Consultation Process on the Learning Standards and Program Guides.” American Library Association, Oct. 2016, http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/guidelinesandstandards/AASL_SG_ResearchFindings_ExecSummary_FINAL_101116.pdf Accessed 24 Mar. 2017.

_____. Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Programs. Chicago: AASL, 2009.

Walter, Ekaterina. “5 Myths Of Leadership.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 8 Oct. 2013, www.forbes.com/sites/ekaterinawalter/2013/10/08/5-myths-of-leadership/#ddeb989314ed. Accessed 24 Mar. 2017.

Weisburg, Hilda K. Leading for School Librarians: There Is No Other Option. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2017.

Image Credit: Microsoft PowerPoint Slide

Technology Stewardship

This week is Young Adult Library Services Association’s Teen Tech Week (March 5 – 11, 2017).  Just as Digital Learning Day is a snapshot of what should be happening in school libraries every day so are the learning activities that are being spotlighted this week.

One thing that continually surprises me is that some people, new and practicing school librarians included, think that engaging students and supporting classroom teachers with Web-based resources and technology-infused learning experiences is something new in our profession. It’s not!

Ever since the Internet entered schools, effective school librarians and progressive school libraries have been at the center of providing digital resources and services (in addition to reading instruction and literature-focused events and activities).

New technology tools were a central feature in the school libraries where I served in the 1990s. Like many school librarian colleagues, I wrote grants to fund increasing technology tool access through the school library program. Also, similar to many colleagues, I convinced my principals that the central location of the library as the hub of learning in our schools was the appropriate place to provide equal access to all students, classroom teachers, specialists, and families.

In 1992, our elementary school library was the first in the district to have a stand-alone and dedicated CD-ROM computer station. In 1994, I secured grant funding at another elementary school library in another district in order to provide the most “sophisticated” access to CD-ROM reference resources using a then “cutting-edge” server tower. In the summer of 1994, I facilitated a two-week summer technology camp for first through fifth-grade students to utilize the new software (HyperStudio) we had purchased for the library with grant funds. Fourth-, and fifth-grade students mentored first-, second-, and third-grade students and co-created exciting multimedia projects that would serve as samples for classroom teachers and other students during the following school year.

In 1995, our school library facilitated the first student-designed elementary school website in Arizona. In 2000, when I served at another Tucson Unified School District elementary school, our school library website earned an Arizona Technology in Education Award (AzTEA) for the Best School Website; at that time, ours was the only site in the entire state designed, created, and managed by students.

While I took a leadership role in all of these technology-centered initiatives, I most certainly did not do them alone.

Business partners provided grant funding for soft- and hardware. The computer lab teacher I worked with in 1994 taught me most of what he knew about educational technology. He helped me select HyperStudio and an adaptor that transferred the computer screen to the TV screen; these tools literally transformed students’ learning and students’ and educators’ presentations. In 1995, a master’s in library science student intern taught me how to use website software and a bit about .html code; together we facilitated third-grade students’ design of our school’s site. Building on that experience in 1998 at a different elementary school, I formed a website advisory committee comprised of fourth-grade students, classroom teachers, a parent, and our principal and together we planned our school library website. Our goal was to put students in charge of the site. In 2000, we earned the AzTEA award mentioned above.

All of these experiences taught me that collaboration and co-learning are essential in effectively integrating new technology tools into teaching and learning. Learning from and working with more proficient peers gave me the skills I needed and the confidence to take risks. I believe my own willingness to experiment helped classroom teacher colleagues stretch themselves and take risks alongside me. Being an adult learner myself, I was sensitive to their needs and characteristics as adult learners.

Even more than the particular tool or project, it was my role as an instructional partner that helped us effectively integrate technology tools and instructional strategies into our shared curriculum. It was through coplanning and coteaching that I was able to serve as a change agent and helped diffuse technology and other innovations throughout our learning community.

Technology stewardship has long been a responsibility of school librarians, and through classroom-library collaboration school librarians are positioned to serve as technology stewards who facilitate learning with technology in a future ready learning environment.

Image created using Microsoft PowerPoint

Future Ready Librarians Build Instructional Partnerships

“Future ready” is catching fire. In the education landscape, “future ready” denotes students, educators, and school districts that are being effectively prepared or are preparing learners of today for the challenges of tomorrow. The emphasis on digital learning is at the core of this movement. Fortunately, many educational decision-makers are recognizing that school librarians and libraries are important components in future ready teaching and learning as the image from Follett’s Project Connect attests.

A growing number of school districts across the country are joining Future Ready Schools® (FRS). According the FRS About page, the FRS goal is “to help school districts develop comprehensive plans to achieve successful student learning outcomes by (1) transforming instructional pedagogy and practice while (2) simultaneously leveraging technology to personalize learning in the classroom.”

Launched in 2014 with the Future Ready Pledge, the Alliance for Excellence in Education has collected more than 3,100 school superintendents’ signatures. According to the Future Ready Web site, this means that the learning of 19.2 million students and their teachers’ teaching are being impacted by the framework for this initiative.

In June, 2016, FRS announced the Future Ready Librarians piece of their effort. (Note the links on this page to additional articles that spotlight the work of school librarians.) This movement toward the transformation of teaching and learning is inspiring many school librarians to self-assess their own future readiness and prepare themselves for partnering with administrators and teaching colleagues to implement the eight principles of the Future Ready Librarians (FRL) Framework.

For me, one of the most exciting FRL principles involves school librarians in building instructional partnerships in order to directly impact curriculum, instruction and assessment. The FRL “partners with educators to design and implement evidence-based curricula and assessments that integrate elements of deeper learning, critical thinking, information literacy, digital citizenship, creativity, innovation and the active use of technology.” (See the FRL Fact Sheet.)

The Future Ready Librarians Facebook Page is one source of professional development for school librarians. This is a closed group and participants must request access. Searching Twitter with the #futureready and #FutureReadyLibs hashtags are additional ways to be connected.

This groundswell of support for the role of FRL and school libraries should energize the school librarian community. It should prompt and inspire professional development. School librarian Michelle Luhtala, Vancouver Public Schools library administrator Mark Ray, and Sara Trettin from the U.S. Department of Education provided a FRL Webinar via edWeb last October. You can view the archive.

On February 14, the Alliance is hosting another Webinar focused on FRL: “What’s Not to Love?” This time, Shannon McClintock Miller will join Mark RAy and Sara Trettin. Check it out!

Image Courtesy of Follett’s Project Connect

Re-commitment to Collaboration

Like many of you, I reflected on my most satisfying accomplishments and my incomplete projects of 2016 before settling on my 2017 New Year’s Resolutions. Although I am big on setting short-term achievable (daily/weekly) goals, it’s helpful for me to have a year-long big picture plan as well.

This year, I will re-commitment my professional work to collaboration within school learning communities and outward into the larger local, state, national, and international communities as well. As they have for more than twenty-five years, my resolutions focus on the literacy work of school librarians and school library programs.

In 2017, I will:

  • complete my forthcoming book Building a Culture of Collaboration: School Librarian Leadership and Advocacy. In the book, due to my editor in mid-June and scheduled to be published at the end of 2017, I will make the case with all library stakeholders for adopting a systems thinking approach to classroom-library coplanning and coteaching;
  • write, blog, make presentations, and generally shout out about the inquiry learning and reading comprehension foundations of the book and the potential of these responsibilities and a systems perspective to create opportunities for future ready school librarians to increase their impact on teaching and learning;
  • continue to work with the Arizona Library Association and the Teacher Librarian Division to advocate for inclusion of the essential roles of school librarians and libraries in the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Plan. Once in place, I will advocate for the return of school librarian positions across Arizona, focusing first on districts in and around my home in Tucson;
  • continue to serve on committees of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) and promote and support the worthy work of the association (including the celebration of AASL’s 65th anniversary);
  • work with practicing school librarians to support their collaborative work within their schools and in their collaborative work with community agencies and organizations. I will write about and promote their success; (See my 12/30/16 ALSC blog post “Gimme a C (For Collaboration!) that features a school-library public-library collaboration for summer reading.)
  • expand my thinking about how school librarians and school library programs can make a difference in family literacy, particularly for babies and preschool children. Helping our communities prepare children for formal schooling is an investment in each individual’s long-term life choices and in the health of our neighborhoods and cities;
  • continue to honor and promote the work of public library and healthcare providers who are making a difference for families through books for babies programs. Yesterday, in Tarrant County, Texas, the Fort Worth Public Library and the JPS Health Network began their 2017 initiative to give a copy of my book Vamos a leer/Read to Me to every new mother. In 2017, the Friends of the Dallas Public Library and Parkland Health Systems are continuing their program “Books for Dallas Babies,” which began on January 1st, 2016;
  • and I will enact my library values in my professional and civic life.

There is much work to be done to promote equity and justice.

With a huge thank-you to author-illustrator Melissa Sweet for Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White, my pick for the most outstanding 2016 information book for children, I set my resolve with an excerpt from a letter E.B. White wrote in 1973:

“Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.
Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day” (White, cited in Sweet 132).

And I would add: Let’s work together for equity, social justice, and the betterment of all!

Work Cited
Sweet, Melissa. Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.

Twibbon courtesy of the American Association of School Librarians’ “It’s in Our Hands” 65th-anniversary Celebration

Harmony in Difference

tt54-coverSaturday, December 10th, was the United Nations’ Human Rights Day. Making the connection between human rights and finding “harmony in difference” feels like a timely post for me.

In 1992, when I was serving in my first school librarian position, my father-in-law gave me a copy of the Southern Poverty Law Center magazine Teaching Tolerance.  Founded in 1971, SPLC is a U.S. non-profit organization monitors the activities of domestic hate groups and other extremists.

Shortly after reading my first issue of Teaching Tolerance, I became a card-carrying SPLC member and have religiously renewed my membership every year since. Over the years, Teaching Tolerance has given me inspiration, encouragement, and teaching tips to make social justice a central component of my service as a school librarian and school librarian educator.

On their “about” page, Teaching Tolerance notes that their definition of “tolerance” aligns closely with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Declaration of Principles on Tolerance: “Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. Tolerance is harmony in difference” (UNESCO).

The Fall 2016 issue of the magazine (cover above) was published before the election. (It is downloadable.)  Read or review this issue and think about the fact that SPLC counted 867 incidents of hateful harassment in the ten days after the U.S. election. How can educators, and school librarians in particular, teach young people to find “harmony in difference?”

Read the latest from Teaching Tolerance: “New Report: School Climate Worsens in Wake of Election.” More than 10,000 educators took the survey; 90% of respondents reported that their school climate has been negatively affected by the election.

These are some tips for school librarians who serve as information specialists, instructional partners, and leaders in their schools:

1.    If you don’t already have a free Teaching Tolerance subscription, sign up for one or read the magazine online. Sign up for the weekly newsletter.
2.    If you receive a print copy of the magazine, share it among your colleagues or send the link to the .pdf version to them. Encourage your colleagues to subscribe to the magazine and newsletter.
3.    Engage students and colleagues in discussions related to the articles in the magazine and newsletter.
4.    Reflect on your own practice of teaching tolerance.
5.    Reach out to colleagues to coteach lessons and units of instruction that affirm diversity.
6.    Consider following Teaching Tolerance on Twitter and Facebook.

As we approach the winter holiday season, it is especially important that our nation’s “public spaces,” including our school libraries, honor the traditions of all of our citizens and library users. Even in homogeneous communities, and maybe most especially in religiously homogeneous schools, the season for caring and giving is a time to acknowledge that diversity is, thankfully, an essential and laudable aspect of U.S. society.

Cover art by Nigel Buchanan
Magazine cover reprinted with permission of Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. www.tolerance.org