Maximizing Leadership: Chapter 3

Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy will be published by ALA Editions in June, 2018. As a preview to the book, I am using one blog post a month to share a one-page summary of each of the nine chapters in the book.

Chapter 3: Inquiry Learning

“Curiosity is the tool that sparks creativity. Curiosity is the technique that gets to innovation” (Grazer and Fishman 2015, 62).

Inquiry learning can spark students’ curiosity and ignite their passions. Inquiry puts learners in the driver’s seat and leads them to invest in and care about the literacies, competencies, and dispositions they develop during the process. As students pursue the answers to personally meaningful questions and engage in real-world projects, they learn how to learn and build their confidence.  Hands-on, minds-on inquiry learning experiences help prepare young people to problem solve when confronted with the inevitable learning and living challenges that will characterize their futures.

Educators are responsible for creating the conditions in which inquiry learning can flourish. Inquiry doesn’t just happen; it must be expertly designed. Building connections between required curriculum and students’ interests is essential. When two or more educators plan for inquiry, they increase the resources and knowledge at the collaboration table. They push each other’s creativity and codevelop more engaging learning experiences for students.

When school librarians and classroom teachers coplan, coteach, and comonitor students’ inquiry learning process, they create opportunities for students to increase their content knowledge. They help students develop future-ready skills and strategies that are transferrable to other learning contexts—both in and outside of school.

In this chapter, I provide a rationale for applying a research-based model for inquiry learning. Guided Inquiry Design (GID) is based on the findings of Kuhlthau’s information-seeking process research. GID provides a structure in which a team of educators share responsibility for launching, guiding, monitoring, and assessing learning outcomes. During curriculum-connected inquiry, students take responsibility for and reflect on their own learning process and products.

What you will find in this chapter:

1. A Recipe for Inquiry Learning Graphic
2. Learning Phases in Various Inquiry Models
3. Guided Inquiry Design Process (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2012)
4. Inquiry Learning Subskills (*Tested on Standardized Tests)
5. Inquiry as a Strategy for Professional Learning

School librarians can be leaders in codeveloping, coimplementing, and sustaining a culture of inquiry in their schools. When school sites or entire districts adopt and practice a single inquiry model, students and educators can rely on multiple opportunities to experience deeper learning. When educators use an inquiry model to explore their own questions about teaching and learning, their understanding of the process and their confidence in their shared findings strengthen a culture of learning and improve teaching in their schools.

Works Cited

Grazer, Brian, and Charles Fishman. 2015. A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. 2012. Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Image credit: Word cloud created at Wordle.net

AASL Candidates’ Forum Speech

Yesterday, Eileen Kern graciously read the following speech at the AASL Candidates’ Forum at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Denver. I am reproducing it here and on my campaign wiki for those who, like me, were unable to attend.


Thank you for giving me the opportunity to run for AASL President-Elect. What motivates me to seek this position is our individual and collective capacity to step up our literacy leadership by engaging our passion, fulfilling our purpose, honing our expertise, and strengthening our partnerships.

Like you, I am passionate about the vital role literacy plays in the lives of individuals, communities, our nation, and our global society. Each school librarian’s passion for literacy can make a profound difference for the children, teens, and families whose lives they touch.

At the local level, each of us is THE representative of our profession. Through the daily practice of instructional partnerships, school librarians’ knowledge, skills, and expertise help transform teaching and learning. Our national association is stronger because of the work of each and every effective school librarian.

Our shared moral purpose is to help others reach their literacy goals. As a profession, we share an increasing sense of urgency regarding the need for today’s young people to be prepared for living and working in an ever-more rapidly changing world.

Students’ ability to ask meaningful questions and to find, comprehend, analyze, and use information, and create new knowledge and find solutions to the world’s pressing problems has never been put to higher a test. Our charge is to hone our expertise and co-facilitate empowered literacy opportunities for ALL students.

Partnerships are our pathway to literacy leadership. In order to engage our passion, fulfill our purpose, and hone our practice, school librarians and AASL must build connections…
• between curriculum and resources, standards and practice,
• between classrooms and libraries, schools and communities,
• and between our association and other educational organizations and initiatives.

AASL is tasked with strengthening partnerships to form coalitions with like-minded educators to transform teaching and learning. By working with partners that share our goals and concerns, we WILL shore up the literacy ecosystem so that ALL students, educators, and families have equitable opportunities to succeed.

As the African proverb states: To go fast, go alone. To go far, go together.

If elected, I will conscientiously facilitate AASL’s work and serve with passion and purpose in building and strengthening our practice and our partnerships to maximize the leadership capacity of school librarians and libraries.

I will work with YOU through the AASL staff, Board, and Affiliate Assembly to ensure that school librarians have an essential and enduring place at the education table.

Thank you for participating in our association’s electoral process, and please encourage your colleagues to vote as well.

***

Thank you, Eileen, for speaking in my stead at the Forum.

Note: Our grandson, and the reason I was not in Denver yesterday, was born on February 11, 2018 at 11:54 p.m.

Digital Literacy = Leadership Opportunity

While it is essential for school librarian leaders to stay abreast of new developments in our own field, it is also important to read the journals and magazines our administrators and classroom teacher colleagues read as well. I belong to the International Literacy Association (ILA), in large part, so I can receive their magazine Literacy Today. (In December, 2017, I wrote about the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Educational Leadership issue titled “Lifting School Leadership.”

The November/December issue of Literacy Today was titled “Critical Literacy in a Digital World.” The articles in this issue were written by English language arts (ELA) and other classroom teachers, reading specialists, literacy professors and doctoral students, and could have as easily been written by school librarians. In order to access this issue, you must be an ILA member.

From my perspective, school librarian leaders could benefit from reading every article in the issue. Here are three of the articles: “More than Bits and Bytes: Digital Literacies On, Behind, and Beyond the Screen” (Aguilera 2017, 12-13), “Plagiarism in the Digital Age: Using a Process Writing Model to Enhance Integrity in the Classroom” (Moorman and Pennell 2017, 14-15), and the cover story: “Assessing News Literacy in the 21st Century: A Year After the Election that Blurred Lines” (Jacobson 2017, 18-22). These are my comments on these three.

Earl Aguilera is a doctoral candidate and former high school ELA teacher and K-12 reading specialist. He poses these questions: “How often do we consider how search engines match us to certain results and hide us from others? How are websites, apps, and games built to accomplish different purposes? And how can these understandings empower us to remix digital tools for our own purposes?” (Aguilera 2017, 13). These are precisely the types of questions school librarians who teach digital literacy, including the ethical use of information, bring to the classroom-library collaboration table. We are taught to be aware of and teach these aspects of digital literacy while many classroom teachers are not.

In his article, Aguilera provided a resource with which I was previously unfamiliar. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to “defending digital privacy, free speech, and innovation. The website includes links to timely articles that can inform educators and students alike. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom could partner with this organization to increase librarians’ clout.

Whether or not your school uses tools such as Turnitin.com, the challenges of teaching students (and colleagues) various aspects of plagiarism is an on-going activity for school librarians. In their article, Professor Gary Moorman and doctoral student Ashley Pennell from Appalachian State University write this: “We strongly believe the root of today’s plagiarism problem is the lack of consistent and effective writing instruction and the failure of schools to create an environment that encourages students to write to learn” (2017, 15).

School librarians can step up their literacy leadership by honing their expertise in writing instruction and coteaching with classroom teachers in order to give students opportunities to learn strategies to help them avoid plagiarism, including making notes in their own words. In the conclusion of this article, the authors write when students have the opportunity to talk about and learn about plagiarism “both students and teachers come to acknowledge that writing is a powerful learning process, that original work is valued, and that plagiarism in unnecessary” (2017, 15). I agree.

The cover article by education writer and editor Linda Jacobson may be of particular interest to school librarians. Jacobson writes “In some schools, librarians take the lead on teaching news literacy, while in other schools, the lessons are integrated into social studies or English classes” (Jacobson 2017, 20). While we can be excited about this mention of the vital work of school librarians, this is not an either-or situation. To be effective, school librarians are coteaching these strategies and therefore “library lessons” are integrated into the content areas.

In the article, Jacobson highlights a tool with which I was unfamiliar. Checkology® is a virtual classroom designed to help students tell the difference between fact and fiction. The site features 12 core lessons and is free during the 2017-2018 school year so now is the time to check it out!

Perhaps most exciting of all since school librarians are rarely mentioned in Literacy Today, Jacobson spotlights the work of Charlottesville K-8 school librarian Sarah FitzHenry who serves at St. Anne’s-Belfield School. FitzHenry developed a news literacy course in collaboration with computer science coordinator Kim Wilkens. They use misleading images extensively in their course. Thank you to Linda Jacobson for including the work of a school librarian in her article.

Jacobson also cites the work of Dr. Renee Hobbs, professor of communications studies at the University of Rhode Island. “The changes occurring in the media sector, with new apps, games, platforms, and genres rapidly emerging, have contributed to the instability of meaning of the concept of media literacy and added to the measurement challenges” (Jacobson 2017, 20.) Dr. Hobbs notes that performance-based assessments for media literacy are the most effective because they can “capture dimensions of media literacy competencies using tasks that are highly similar to everyday practices of analyzing and creating media in the real world” (22).

School librarians have limitless opportunities to serve as instructional leaders in their schools.  We would all agree that students need to learn to navigate the “messy information environment” and practice using and creating media effectively. Readers of this blog might also agree that school librarians have a timely and critical leadership opportunity when it comes to digital/media/news/information literacy!

Note: The results of ILA’s annual international “What’s Hot in Literacy 2018” appears in the January/February issue of Literacy Today. It’s no surprise that “digital literacy” is the #1 hot topic.

References

Aguilera, Earl. 2017. “More than Bits and Bytes: Digital Literacies On, Behind, and Beyond the Screen.” Literacy Today 35 (3):12-13.

Jacobson, Linda. 2017. “Assessing News Literacy in the 21st Century: A Year After the Election that Blurred Lines.” Literacy Today 35 (3):18-22.

Moorman, Gary, and Ashley Pennell. 2017. “Plagiarism in the Digital Age: Using a Process Writing Model to Enhance Integrity in the Classroom. Literacy Today 35 (3):14-15.

Image Credit: Magazine Jacket Courtesy of ILA

2018 Resolution Message

In December, Carl Harvey, Topic Center Editor for School Library Connection (SLC), asked SLC Advisory Board members and SLC authors to share our “2018 resolutions for school libraries.” In response to Carl’s request, I decided to use my “WHY” (Sinek 2009, 2017), the 27-9-3 messaging strategy, and Angela Duckworth’s definition of “grit” to craft a 2018 resolution for my role in and contribution to the school library profession.

My WHY
At the Lilead Project meeting held just before the AASL Conference, I worked with Elissa Moritz to further refine my “WHY.” (See my previous posts about Simon Sinek’s work.) After sharing five professional stories with Elissa, she helped me clarify my purpose as it relates to my professional work. This is a revision of what we crafted together:

My purpose is to use my school librarianship experience, knowledge, skills, and service to share my passion and sense of urgency for the joy and power of school librarians to maximize teaching and learning in their schools through building partnerships.

Yes, it’s a bit wordy but it covers all the bases… It also implies several of my strengths from the Gallup StrengthsFinder activity we engaged in to prepare for the Lilead meeting. For me, it summarizes more than twenty-five years of commitment to our profession.

My 27-9-3 Message
At the Lilead Summer Institute in Norfolk, Virginia, last June, John Chrastka from EveryLibrary.org reminded us of or taught us a messaging strategy called “27-9-3.” This is a way to hone your message to twenty-seven words that can be spoken in 9 seconds—a message that includes just three main points.

You can read about this strategy on an advocacy planning site called Power Prism: Developing Your Persuasive Message: “The 27-9-3 Rule.”  (This page includes a downloadable graphic organizer.) Patrick Sweeny also has an article on it on the DEMCO Ideas and Inspiration Blog: “Library Advocacy, Part 2: Creating an Effective Message.”

This is my 27-9-3 message to school librarians.

Empowered school librarians:
1. maximize the impact of their teaching, expertise, and library resources;
2. by building connections, partnerships, and capacity;
3. on their joyful leadership journey.

Grit
For those of us who are familiar with Carol Dweck’s “growth mindset,” Angela Duckworth’s work with the concept of “grit” may be an additional way to view learning, teaching, and success. Dr. Duckworth’s research grew out of a reoccurring theme in her own upbringing. Her father was known to tell young Angela and her siblings: “You know, you’re no genius!” (Duckworth 2016, xiii).

Although “no genius” in her father’s eyes, it was Dr. Duckworth’s great honor to be awarded a 2013 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship. Her research centered on the relationships among talent, grit (the combination of interest/passion/purpose and perseverance), and success. In her study, Dr. Duckworth learned that highly successful people “were unusually resilient and hardworking” and they had determination and direction (Duckworth 2016, 8). You can access her “grit scale” on the Web site.


2018 Resolution

Combining my “WHY,” my 27-9-3 message, and my take on “grit,” I shared this resolution for my work with and for school libraries in 2018:

In 2018, I resolve to marshal a sense of urgency to support empowered school librarians and strengthen school librarianship by growing and sharing my passion, experience, knowledge, skills, and service to maximize our leadership and help our profession reach its capacity to transform teaching and learning in our schools.

Thank you for asking, Carl.

Thank you especially to the Lilead Project and Fellows and John Chrastka for supporting my professional learning in 2017. I am looking forward to continuing our learning journey in 2018.

Wishing all the best to the school librarians across the country and around the world who are doing critical work with administrators, classroom teachers, students, and families every day…

I invite you to share your #schoollibrarianleadership resolution in the comments below.

All the best in 2018,
Judi

References
Duckworth, Angela. 2016. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. New York: Scribner.

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

Sinek, Simon, David Mead, and Peter Docker. 2017. Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team. New York: Penguin.

Image Credit: Wordle.net

Instructional Leadership Opportunities

School librarian leaders belong to school library professional organizations. We read the journals and magazines focused on research and practice in our own profession. We participate in Facebook, Google, and Twitter chat groups and more to learn with and from each other to develop our craft.

While it is essential that school librarians stay abreast of new developments in our own field, it is also important to read the journals and magazines our administrators and classroom teacher colleagues read as well. In addition to library-focused organizations, I belong to two non-library organizations, the International Literacy Association and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) in large part to read their journals and access their online resources.

Last May, ASCD’s Educational Leadership published an issue titled “Lifting School Leaders.” Check out the table of contents. From my perspective, school librarian leaders could benefit from reading every article in the issue. These are my comments on four of them.

In her column, “One to Grow On,” Carol Ann Tomlinson notes four ways school leaders claim their authority: bureaucratic (hierarchy), psychological (expectations and rewards), professional (training and experience), or moral (values and norms). In schools where leaders with “moral authority” have invested in building relationships, reaching collective values, and establishing shared norms, they lead their colleagues in creating a collaborative culture based on interdependence and reciprocal mentorship. School librarians can be coleaders along with their principals in creating the conditions that make such a school culture possible.

Instructional coach Anne M. Beaton wrote an article called “Designing a Community of Shared Learning.” She cites the work of Roland Barth, one of the educational researchers who has greatly impacting my thinking about the community of school. Anne realized the richness of instructional expertise that classroom teachers in her school were missing by not being able to observe one another teaching. She set up a rotation and a protocol for educators to learn from visiting each other’s classrooms. For me, her article made a connection to the enormous benefit school librarians have to develop their craft through coplanning, coteaching, and coassessing student learning with every classroom teacher and specialist colleague in their building!

Kenneth Baum and David Krulwich wrote about “The Artisan Teaching Model” as a way to develop instructional expertise. In their article “A New Approach to PD—and Growing Leaders,” they describe the importance of writing, practicing, and delivering engaging lessons as the “defining work” of educators. I could not agree more! The Artisan Teaching Model involves co-creating quality instruction in grade-level, content-area teams facilitated by a team leader. After writing high-quality plans, a teammate observes a colleague teaching and provides feedback. Again, my connection is to the opportunity school librarians have to learn with and from their colleagues through instructional design, delivery, and assessment.

In “Building a Schoolwide Leadership Mindset,” Sarah E. Fiarman, a former school principal, shares how principals can support educators who think in terms of how their actions will benefit the entire school. Rather than focusing their work at the classroom (or library) level, educators with a whole-school perspective can influence the practices of their colleagues. Principals create opportunities for educators, including librarians, to share responsibility for improving teaching and learning by “getting out of their way” and giving them tasks they have never done before. Supporting educators in taking risks helps them grow as leaders in a culture of professional learning.

School librarians have limitless opportunities to serve as instructional leaders in their schools. (Sadly, but it seems all too common, I did not note that a school librarian was mentioned in any of the articles in the “Lifting School Leaders” issue.)

If you do not have access to the May, 2017 issue of Educational Leadership, ask your principal to share her/his copy. Make time to read the articles and note how you are serving and can grow in your instructional leader role. Follow up with an appointment with your principal to discuss what you learned and how she/he can help you further build your leadership capacity.

As Google’s Educational Evangelist Jaime Casap proclaimed in his keynote at the American Association of School Librarians’ conference in Phoenix last month, it’s time for educators to step up our work. Jaime said, “Take the best ideas we have (in education) and bring them to the next level.”

Let’s make sure our administrators and colleagues experience how school librarians are coleading as we build on the best ideas in teaching and learning. In collaboration with our principals and classroom teacher colleagues, we can best serve our students by taking those ideas to the next level.

Image Credit: Educational Leadership Cover courtesy of ASCD

#AASL17 Conference Takeaways

The release of the new AASL National School Library Standards created an extra buzz to the energy at the conference. As always, it was wonderful to see long-time friends and colleagues and make new school librarian colleagues from across the country.

I had the added pleasure of reconnecting face to face with one of my former high school principals (@AZHSPRIN), who is a rock star school librarian advocate. I also reconnected with Cecilia Barber, one of my former graduate students from the University of Arizona, who is serving as a school librarian in her tribal community in Shiprock, New Mexico; it’s gratifying to know the positive impact she is making. I also met Dr. Karen Reed who used my coteaching reading comprehension work in her dissertation and presented a session on Friday that included that work.

These are just a few of my conference takeaways.

Jaime Casap’s keynote on Thursday was one of the highlights of my professional learning. Jaime (@jcasap) is the Chief Education Evangelist at Google, Inc. If you were unable to attend Jaime’s keynote or did not attend the conference, check out his YouTube and TEDx Talk videos.

Jaime shared his passion for the potential of digital technologies and Google tools to improve pedagogy and enable powerful learning. Andy Plemmons (@plemmonsa) wrote a Knowledge Quest blog post about Jaime’s talk: “Shifting Our Culture: An Opening Keynote with Jaime Casap.”

In addition to Andy’s report, there were two comments that Jaime made that really struck a chord with me. He noted that it is essential that we change the paradigm of teaching from a “solo sport” to a collaborative one. We know it takes teams of educators working together to keep schooling relevant and dynamic for today’s students. I totally agree and understand that in many ways, it is easier to work with students than with our adult colleagues.

This presents a leadership opportunity for school librarians. I believe that we have a key role to play in creating a high-impact collaborative culture in our schools through coplanning, coteaching, and coassessing learning.

At the end of his talk, Jaime said this (and this is a direct quote to the best of my memory): “At the end of the day, the most important person in the classroom (or maybe he said ‘school’) is…” He then he paused.

While I “heard” 90% (or more) of the school librarians in the room thinking “the student,” I immediately thought of Ken Haycock’s words related to this perspective.

Then Jaime broke the silence and said, “the teacher.” And I “heard” almost everyone in the room think, “Yes! I am the teacher.”

But that is not what I heard. I heard the classroom teacher. I heard yet another call to action for school librarians to be leaders who build capacity by collaborating with our colleagues to improve classroom teachers’ and our own craft of teaching.

Here’s what Ken Haycock said, “Whom do you serve? Most (school librarians) would answer students, yet the primary clientele in terms of power, impact, and effect would be teachers” (2017, 3).

School librarians who were fortunate to attend #AASL17 in Phoenix and learn with and from colleagues have an obligation to take their learning home. Share what you learned with your administrators, classroom teachers, and school librarian colleagues. Discuss the ideas and strategies that were part of your conference learning.

Which leads me to thank the participants in the “Leadership: Many Roles for School Librarians” and “Investing in Social Capital Counts” concurrent sessions. In both, I made a plea for school librarians to step up their leadership by collaborating with colleagues in every aspect of their work from reading promotion, reading comprehension and writing strategy instruction, inquiry learning, and technology-enabled learning. Any one or all of these could be the “problems” we are helping our colleagues solve. Or as Kristin Fontichiaro (@active learning) vividly described them in the “Leadership” session: our colleagues’ “pain points.”

School librarians demonstrate leadership and added value when we work collaboratively with other educators to help them solve their instructional challenges and when we work together to help students meet their learning needs.  For school librarians, “collaboration is the single professional behavior that most affects student achievement” (2007, 32).

What did you take away from the conference? I invite you to share here on the School Librarian Leadership blog.

Note: I have uploaded the slides and handout from “Investing in Social Capital Counts” on the session wiki.

References

Haycock, Ken. 2007. Collaboration: Critical Success Factors for Student Learning. School Libraries Worldwide 13 (1): 25-35.

_____. 2017. Leadership from the Middle: Building Influence for Change. In The Many Faces of School Library Leadership, 2nd ed., ed. Sharon Coatney and Violet H. Harada, 1-12. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Image Credit: Created at Wordle.net

AASL National Conference

is coming to Phoenix! The AASL National Conference & Exhibition is held every other year in locations around the U.S. This year the conference will be held from November 9th – 11th. It will bring about 4,000 members of our profession, authors, vendors, and school library advocates to the Grand Canyon State.

AASL conferences are exemplary professional learning opportunities for school librarians, school librarian supervisors, school administrators, and others who are committed to preparing preK-12 students for their future.

School librarianship has always been a dynamic profession. But with more pressure on educators to prepare future-ready students, the increasing spread of information and misinformation, and the proliferation of technology resources and devices, school librarians and effective school library programs are needed now more than ever.

One-hour concurrent sessions are the backbone of AASL conferences. Check out the schedule of opportunities to learn from colleagues from across the country and link to “concurrent sessions” at various times throughout the conference.

On Friday, November 10th, from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m., I will be part of a panel presentation: “Leadership: Many Roles for School Librarians.” The presenters are the editors and five of the chapter authors from The Many Faces of School Library Leadership (ABC-CLIO 2017): Sharon Coatney, Vi Harada, Debbie Abilock, Helen Adams, Kristin Fontichiaro, Deb Levitov, and yours truly. We will share further ideas from the book in room North 125A.

On Saturday, November 11th, from 3:10 to 4:10 p.m., I will share “Investing in Social Capital Counts.” My session focuses on strategies to make connections and build the relationships (the social capital) school librarians need to diffuse innovations throughout their learning communities. Building instructional partnerships is an essential way school librarians enact leadership and maximize their impact on learning and teaching. The session will be held in 132AB

If you are attending the conference, please consider joining me at either one or both of these sessions. If you are unable to attend Saturday’s session, you can find out more information on the Web at: Investing In Social Capital Counts.

And if you are not able to make the trip to Phoenix, follow the conference on Twitter: #AASL17.

The fact that this year’s conference is being held in Arizona hones a spotlight on the state of the profession in Arizona. Tragically, the vast majority of Arizona students and classroom teachers lack the support of state-certified school librarians. Please read my op ed that appeared in the November 3rd issue of the AZ Daily Star: Missing school librarians means lost literacy learning.”

If you are a national colleague, join me in my commitment to continually improve my practice of librarianship. In addition, if you live in Arizona, please work with me to restore school library programs in our state. Both commitments are for the benefit of our students, educators, families, communities, and nation.

Image Credit: Provided by AASL

Find Your Why, Part 2

Last week, I posted Part 1 of a professional book review for Simon Sinek, David Mead, and Peter Docker’s Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team. The information in last week’s post focused on the first sections of the book. I found “discovering your personal why” valuable, but the information below was why I was eager to read this book.

Co-creating, nurturing, and sustaining a shared “why” is a theme running throughout my forthcoming book, Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (ALA, June, 2018). I believe school librarians can be leaders in this process. As Sinek, Mead, and Docker write: “The why is a tool that can bring clarity to what which is fuzzy and make tangible what is abstract… The WHY can help set a vision and inspire people. The WHY can guide us to act with purpose, on purpose” (26).

Nested WHYs
Sinek, Mead, and Docker compare organizations to trees—with roots, trunk, and branches that form various subcultures. If the organization and the subcultures within it must be clear about their why in order to attract the “right” birds (new employees and leaders). Groups that pay attention to purpose and beliefs “tend to have the highest morale, are the most productive and innovative, have the best retention rates and over time are some of the highest performing groups in the company (school or district)” (87).

One reflective exercise related to embracing a nested why is for an employee (educator) to think about to the time when she/he joined the organization (or school). “What inspired you most? What inspires you to remain in the organization?” Another is to tell a specific story about a time when you were proud to work for this organization (school/district). How did this action better the lives of others?

The Tribe Approach
The authors offer a strategy for discovering a nested why. This strategy involves inviting an outside facilitator who is known and trusted by members of the “tribe.” A facilitator must be objective and a superior workshop leader.

The authors note that people should work for companies (schools) where they “fit the culture.” If an employee (faculty member) shares the values, believes in the vision, and the shared purpose of the organization, then their individual why will serve the company’s (the school’s) overarching why.

“The opportunity is not to discover the perfect company (school) for ourselves. The opportunity is to build the perfect company for each other” (19). For most of us in education, we will not have the luxury of hand-picking our coworkers. In K-12 schools, principals and colleagues will come and go.

But if we have a strong school culture with a shared purpose, we will help our new colleagues nest their whys into our learning community. They will choose to join our faculty because they share our values and seek to further their own why alongside us. I believe school librarian leaders have an essential role to play in discovering, developing, and sustaining (collaborative) school cultures.

Using Hows to Achieve Our Best Work
Sharing core values makes colleagues part of a team. Expressing those values in terms of how we achieve our values helps our teams consistently do our best work. “Hows” can help us become a “tribe.” For example, as a school culture, we may value “collaboration,” but why and how we act on that value is equally important.

Rather than a “Collaborate!” sign in our faculty lounge, we might want to post: “We coteach with one another in order to meet the needs of future-ready students while we continually improve our own instructional expertise.”

Now that’s a culture where my personal why will fit comfortably, and I will be able to contribute to the purpose of such a school. It is also a culture that is focused on growth. “If every member of a team doesn’t grow together they will grow apart” (195).

As the AASL National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries motto, Think, Create, Share, Grow, suggests, school librarians will accomplish our whys and create joyful, sharing learning communities when we grow together alongside our colleagues, administrators, students, and families.

Work Cited

Sinek, Simon, David Mead, and Peter Docker. Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team. New York: Penguin, 2017.

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