Next Steps

Dear Maximizing School Librarianship Readers and Blog Post Followers,

We/I have come to the conclusion of a ten-month cycle of book study blog posts to support my book Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (MSLL) (ALA 2018). When I wrote the book, composing posts and podcasts related to each chapter in the book was a commitment I made to myself and to readers. I planned for blog posts by interspersing four pull quotes in each chapter. After the introductory posts, I have based each blog post on a pull quote. The content of the podcasts evolved beyond my own recordings to include interviews with selected school librarian leaders.

This photograph was taken at a California beach in May, 2019. The smaller footprints belong to my grandson who was fifteen months old at the time. The larger footprints belong to his dad, my son-in-law. This image came to me when I was walking with them on the beach and thinking about this final MSLL blog post. I knew I wanted to address “next steps” but it wasn’t until I saw their footprints that I realized how I could so.

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Lao Tzu

Small First Steps
It has often been said that change agents should start small; that the best strategy to sustain long-term improvements is to take measured steps. When you come to the realization that it is time for you and the library program to move forward in a new direction, you are ready to begin a change process. Aligning your steps with the goals of your administrator, school, or district is the most effective way to make sure that your “library” goals will help others succeed. Remembering the charge to serve others serves school librarians well.

Having a plan helps you chart and measure your progress. Developing your plan with school library stakeholders is a wise choice. As a team, you may take two steps forward and one step back, but if you keep your goals in mind, you will always be able to see your reality in terms of forward progress (see Chapter 9: Figure 9.3: Your Plan and Reality.) When missteps and reversals happen, having a supportive team can give you encouragement and ideas for taking a new step and moving forward again.

Each step you take—with purpose—is one that leads to your goal. Your goal may be related to students’ or classroom teachers’ equitable access to the resources of the library and your expertise. Your goal may be a flexible schedule that offers students opportunities for deeper learning through the library program. Your goal may be increasing access to and the effective use of technology tools for learning and teaching. It may involve informal or formal professional development, or grant writing, or an advocacy campaign. Whatever your goal, each step along the way can get you closer to your desired outcome.

“Anything can be achieved in small, deliberate steps. But there are times you need the courage to take a great leap;
you can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.”
Former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George

Crossing Chasms
Great leaps are possible. These steps require courage; they also require a community of support. Large-scale change in any school should be led or colead with the school principal. Again, aligning “great leaps” with initiatives underway at the site or district level gives “library initiatives” a leg up.

One leap that many elementary librarians have taken involves scheduling. Flexible scheduling allows for school librarians to reach their capacity as leaders, instructional partners, information specialists, and teachers. A flexible schedule based on classroom-library collaboration for instruction makes deeper learning for students possible. It also helps school librarians measure and document their impact on student learning outcomes. Without this evidence, school librarians’ value may not be recognized.

One leap that secondary librarians have taken involves classroom-library collaboration for instruction; it involves coteaching with classroom teachers in more than one subject-area department. Classroom teachers and school librarians plan for learning from an interdisciplinary perspective. “Each disciplinary perspective contributes specific concepts or findings as well as specific modes of thinking to shed light on a particular problem” (Wineburg and Grossman 2000, 27). This type of learning design mirrors they way people work and live outside of school (see also Chapter 5: Figure 5.1: Cross-Discipline and Discipline-Specific Questioning Matrix).

The “size” of your steps forward may be irrelevant. Their impact on teaching and learning depends on the culture and goals of the community you serve. Only you, along with library stakeholders, can decide if a step is a small one or a big one. Plan, take action, reflect, revise, and repeat in order to bring your vision into reality.

Advocacy and the School Librarian Leadership Blog
Each school librarian is the representative of the profession for the students, educators, administrators, families, and community members they serve. In your daily practice, you show others why a state-certified school librarian is an essential member of every school faculty. With your expertise and extensive literacies toolkit, you have the opportunity to fill a niche that would otherwise be lacking to the detriment of students, colleagues, and families.

The blog posts I have authored and the podcasts I have published to support a year-long book study are available and linked from the menu at the top of School Librarian Leadership. com. These resources will be available for future MSLL book readers. In many ways, for me, this feels like the end of an extra long teaching semester.

When I taught at Texas Woman’s University, I often pulled out and posted this quote at the end of each semester. (It is one that I had hanging in our library office when I was a practicing school librarian.)

“True teachers use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own.”
Nikos Kazantzakis

In your role as a school librarian leader, I know you will build bridges/connections for learning with the students, colleagues, and families you serve. I know you will reach out into the wider community of librarians and library stakeholders to move our profession forward. The school librarian profession is in good hands with professionals such as you who are continuously developing their craft, deepening their knowledge, and growing their leadership.

I invite you to use the MSLL book study posts and podcasts in any way that supports your work. I also invite you to continue following this blog. My posts from June 10th on will be aligned with the courses I’m teaching, research, events, and issues related to effective professional school librarian leadership.

Thank you for reading and listening and most of all, for leading.

Work Cited

Wineburg, Sam, and Pam Grossman. Eds. 2000. Interdisciplinary Curriculum: Challenges to Implementation. New York: Teachers College Press.

An Effective Teaching Force

When marketing the expertise of the school librarian and services of the library program, it is imperative that we find out what our administrators, colleagues, students, families, and community want and need. While stakeholders may have numerous specific needs for resources and tools, there may be one thing everyone agrees upon.

Every school needs an effective teaching force.

An Effective Teaching Force
An effective teaching force contributes positively to school climate and embodies the school culture. Effective educators build positive, supportive relationships with students, colleagues, and families. They create a welcoming environment in their classrooms, libraries, and labs. They spread welcome in the hallways, at student performances, and athletic events. They are committed to creating a climate in which learners and learning can thrive. In such a school, the library is a “hospitable” space for learning, teaching, meeting, and simply hanging out.

Effective educators also have shared values and practices that create and sustain the school culture. Through open and honest communication, educators collaboratively reach, revisit, and revise agreements regarding the core teaching and learning practices based on shared values. They have contributed to and embody the school/school district’s vision, mission, and goals. They are team players who know it takes an entire village to raise joyful (and effective) readers, writers, and thinkers.

Educators Matter
According to the RAND Corporation organization, one of the least-biased research and reporting non-profits in the U.S., teachers matter.

  1. Teachers matter more to student achievement than any other aspect of schooling.
  2. Nonschool (sic) factors do influence student achievement, but they are largely outside a school’s control.
  3. Effective teachers are best identified by their performance, not by their background or experience.
  4. Effective teachers tend to stay effective even when they change schools (RAND).

In short, effective educators help level the playing field for students.

School librarians are about equity of access to the resources students and educators need for success. Equity, however, applies to intellectual as well as physical access. Getting a book or a resource into the hands of a student is an essential first step, but it does not ensure that reading and learning will follow. Students need the tools to make sense of text. They need comprehension strategies, opportunities to discuss their learning with peers and experts, and support in making connections to school-based learning and taking action in the world outside of school. Equity requires vigilance and continual instructional improvement.

Continuous Improvement, On-going Assessment
As the lead learner in a school, principals are deeply invested in and charged with elevating the instructional proficiency of classroom teachers, specialists, and other certified staff, including school librarians. To that end, school librarians can be principals’ partners in providing formal professional development and job-embedded informal PD that results in improved teaching and learning opportunities for students.

A focus on “development” suggests that learning is about change over time. “Viewing learning as a never-ending journey that students and educators undertake together keeps the focus on development (assessments) rather than on a final destination (evaluation)” (Moreillon 2018, 110). While students’ standardized test scores may occupy an overrated top slot in the hierarchy of evaluation, wise educators focus on the daily relationships they build with students; They focus on improving their ability to spark students’ curiosity and help them find their inner motivation to pursue learning. Wise educators focus on their own skill sets in order to improve the school-based learning lives of students. They focus on a continuous cycle of assessment, feedback, and improvement.

School librarians are partners with principals, classroom teachers, and specialist colleagues on a continuous improvement, on-going assessment journey. School librarians can commit to improving their own ability to learn and lead. This is how an effective teaching force is developed and sustained. In fact, that is precisely how school librarians achieve their capacity to influence and improve teaching and learning their school communities.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What is your commitment to supporting all of your colleagues in reaching their capacity?
  2. How do you frame your contribution to other educators’ learning (and your own instructional improvement) such that your principal and school community value the role you play in school improvement?

Works Cited

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

RAND Education and Labor. nd. “Teachers Matter: Understanding Teachers’ Impact on Student Achievement.” https://www.rand.org/education-and-labor/projects/measuring-teacher-effectiveness/teachers-matter.html

Community Connections

I believe a school librarian’s first order of business is serving as a leader within the school building itself and then within the school district. The focus of Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy is librarian leadership that benefits students, other educators, administrators, and families within the school building and district.

That said, instructional leadership and advocacy are two areas in which school librarians’ leadership activities can extend into the community outside the school building. When the greater community is aware of the school library program, advocacy appeals for more resources, staffing, and other types of support will be supported by local businesses, non-profit and civic organizations, and by voters.

Instructional Community Connections
School librarians can be the connectors who bring the resources of the community into the school building. Human resources are often overlooked by busy educators. Bringing in guest speakers and experts in their fields builds bridges for learning and perhaps future career choices for students. School librarians can coordinate or work with a school community liaison to facilitate volunteer tutors and other services offered by individuals and non-profit groups.

Taking students and learning out into the community is another area for school librarian leadership. Field trips to public and academic libraries, museums, universities and colleges connect students to community resources that can support learning. Getting outside the school building and visiting parks and nature preserves or attending fine arts performances enriches students’ lives.

Off-campus student jobs and internships are other ways school librarians can support student learning. As a high school librarian, I wrote a number of reference letters for library aides and other students who were seeking employment or apprenticeships. Based on my experience of students’ work ethic and willingness to learn, I could confidently recommend them to business owners and community organizers.

Community Advocacy Connections
There is no question that the community outside the school building can provide powerful support in advocating for the school librarian’s position and the library program. The more students and educators are out in the community the greater the community’s knowledge of their talents and their needs. When students share their learning, musical or other talents at a school board meeting, parents, voters, and the press are there. In a small school district where I served in a combined junior high/high school library, I co-sponsored and sponsored two sets of student presentations. One was a classroom-library online literacy circles collaboration; the other was the library geek squad who researched and presented the need for computer upgrades.

Making sure the school district and local town/city press cover the contributions of the library program to student learning helps educate the community about the vital learning and teaching facilitated by the school librarian. This will take a strategic and concerted effort on the part of the school librarian and school/district administrators who understand the literacy and learning value added. If and when the school board decides to address a budget shortfall by eliminating school librarians, there should be a hue and cry.

Community and Sustainability
When the school and school library are positioned in the community as sites for literacy and learning opportunities, school library programs have a greater opportunity to survive in the ever-changing, ever-evolving education landscape. It is up to each and every school librarian to make the commitment to sustaining a program that is worthy of stakeholders. “Developing excellence in school library programs and a credible collective advocacy story is a path to sustaining the vitality, integrity, and the future of our profession” (Moreillon 2015, 26).

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What are the benefits of maximizing community connections?
  2. What connections are you making with resources, including human resources, to bridge school and community?

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2015. “Quick Remedies Column: Collaborative Library Stories. School Library Monthly 31 (8): 25-26.

 

Collegiality and Teamwork

Chapter 9 Podcast: Sustaining Connections in a Collaborative Culture

Collegiality and teamwork are essential for future ready educators. In a collegial work environment, coworkers see each other as “companions” or equals. They cooperate and share responsibility for their collective goals and objectives. Collegiality implies friendship, caring, and respect for work mates. Teamwork implies that colleagues work together in an effective and efficient way to accomplish a task or achieve a goal. Members of a team may make unique contributions to the success of the work but all will take “credit” for the outcome.

Peter Senge and his colleagues note that “schools that learn” are in a continual process growth and change. As such, educators in these schools must exhibit collegiality and engage in teamwork in an open and trusting environment. Through developing shared values and common agreements, formal and informal school leaders ensure that the environment remains conducive to collective work.

Competitive Collaboration
It may seem counter-intuitive but principal leader George Couros advocates for a bit of competition among colleagues. He promotes what he calls “competitive collaboration,” in which “educators push and help one another to become better” (Couros 2015, 73). “Competitive collaboration” can help ensure that faculty learn with and from one another, cheer for each other’s achievements, support each other as team members who take risks individually and collectively, fail forward, and grow.

“Competitive collaboration” requires a high level of trust. The willingness to risk and fail in front of one’s colleagues is not easy for most adults. When principals, as lead learners, are the first to demonstrate this level of openness and transparency, it will be easier for faculty members, including librarians, to follow suit. In an environment of trust and shared commitment to each other’s growth, the result of competitive collaboration can be improved student learning and continuous improvement in educators’ instructional practices.

Sharing Data
“Along the way, faculty will share their practices and student learning outcomes data more openly. They will coplan, coteach, and collectively reflect on practice. They will build deeper and more trusting relationships in a culture of continuous learning” (Moreillon 2018, 50). If educators are to succeed at solving individual instructional challenges and schoolwide issues, they must openly share data. Again, it is not easy to actually document a misstep or failure.

Still, sharing data can be a pathway to engaging colleagues in helping individual educators reflect on their practice in new ways. Others can “show” us our teaching from another perspective and suggest strategies for revising our instruction, changing up resources, or making other improvements that can better meet students’ needs. Principals and supervisors can take this role. When we break down the walls between our classrooms and libraries, coteachers can also offer new perspectives on thorny issues.

Building Capacity
Creating the conditions in which all members of the learning community can reach capacity is a primary function of the school principal. School librarians can colead alongside their principals in capacity building. They “can serve as models for continuous learning while they engage in professional development (PD) with colleagues. School librarians help all library stakeholders reach their capacity” (Moreillon 2018, xiii).

One of the on-going challenges for school librarians is that they are not necessarily working in contexts that allow them to achieve their capacity or help students, classroom teachers, and administrators reach theirs. In a fixed schedule library where school librarians are providing planning time for classroom teachers, school librarians cannot achieve their capacity as instructional partners. School librarians who lack library staff, especially a full-time library assistant, cannot fully serve their learning communities if they spend their days doing clerical work rather than teaching. School libraries without adequate budgets cannot provide students, educators, and families with up-to-date books and resources to meet their academic and personal learning needs.

As noted in Chapter 8, leadership and advocacy go hand in hand. School librarian leaders will continuously advocate and enlist stakeholders in advocating for the most effective library scheduling, staffing, and budgets. They will use their voices and influence to build and sustain effective library programs in which collegiality and teamwork can thrive.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What is your response to George Couros’s idea of “competitive collaboration”?
  2. What are your/your principal’s specific behaviors that build trust in your learning community?

 

Works Cited

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

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

 

Continuous Learning, On-Going Assessment

Learners—of all ages—must “replace, modify, or eliminate established patterns of behavior, beliefs, or knowledge. Learning is not about reaching a specific target and then resting on one’s laurels. Rather, it is about a continuous process of building and tearing down and building up again. Transforming a learning culture requires change with a capital ‘C’” (Moreillon 2018, 19).

As centralized instructional partners, school librarians are perfectly positioned to model continuous learning. Along with administrators and teacher leaders, they can initiate, monitor, gather and analyze data, adjust, and propel any change initiative underway in their schools.

Principals’ and School Librarians’ Shared Roles
While changemaker school librarians can make a modicum of progress working with selected classroom teachers, they cannot achieve schoolwide success without the leadership and support of their principal(s). A school librarian’s relationship and communication with the school principal must be a primary focus if a change process is to succeed. School librarians who seek to open the library for additional hours, move to a flexible schedule, adopt a schoolwide inquiry process, improve school climate, culture, and more, must partner with their administrators.

“Together, they develop a culture of collaboration and continuous learning in their schools. While people have both fixed and growth mindsets in various contexts, principals can lead learning by modeling a continuous openness to growth” (Moreillon 2018, 12). Principals who position themselves a “lead learners” and practice distributed leadership may create the most conducive environment for school librarian leadership.

Principals and school librarians can then work together to nurture and sustain the supportive environment that Peter Senge and his colleagues call “schools that learn.” These schools are “places where everyone, young and old, would continuously develop and grow in each other’s company; they would be incubation sites for continuous change and growth. If we want the world to improve, in other words, then we need schools that learn” (Senge et al. 2012, 4–5).

Continuous Learning = Continuous Improvement
Maximizing School Librarian Leadership (MSLL) is intended to provide educators with instructional and cultural interventions that can “help create new norms that foster experimentation, collaboration, and continuous improvement” (Guskey 2000, x). As professional development, the information provided and strategies suggested in MSLL can serve to validate learning and teaching as currently practiced in readers’ schools.

For progressive school libraries, schools, and districts, MSLL may serve as confirmation that the transformation process currently underway is headed in the most effective direction to improve student learning and educator proficiency. For those readers, the book may also serve as a prompt to stretch themselves a bit further, to take another calculated risk, to gather and analyze additional data on their path to excellence.

For other school libraries, schools, and districts that are not as far along on their path to transformation, MSLL may provide targets, guideposts, or tools for self-assessment to further direct the change process. Using this book to clarify vision and mission or goals and objectives is a worthwhile outcome for a professional book study. Engaging in professional conversations around these topics can strengthen communication and relationships among faculty members. These conversations can provide a stronger foundation on which to build collegiality and common agreements.

Confidence
“School librarian leaders nurture, develop, and sustain relationships with all library stakeholders. They build their confidence by continuously improving their skill sets, including pedagogical strategies and technological innovations. School librarians develop their communication skills in order to listen and respond to the ever-evolving needs of learners—students and educators alike” (Moreillon 2019). Through relationships and communication, school librarians lead with confidence (Everhart and Johnston 2016).

School librarians, in particular, may find the information in MSLL will increase their confidence, their willingness, and their ability to lead. By increasing knowledge and improving skills, school librarians can shore up the necessary confidence to step out of their library-centered comfort zone and expand their influence throughout their school, their district, and beyond.

Schoolwide or districtwide goals will require collaboration with stakeholders and on-going assessment of the change process. School librarians who are armed with information and confidence can enlist their site and district administrators as strategic partners who ensure the central role of the school library program in the academic program of the school. They can ensure that state-certified highly qualified school librarians are leading through library programs across their district and their state. “Collaboration is an indispensable behavior of school librarian leaders who help all library stakeholders reach their capacity. Through leadership and collaboration, school librarians cocreate and colead future ready education” Moreillon 2019).

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What supports are in place in your school or district that make it possible for educators to engage in continuous learning?
  2. What is your role as a school librarian in promoting continuous learning and gathering and analyzing data for on-going assessment toward school/district outcomes?

Works Cited

Everhart, Nancy, and Melissa P. Johnston. 2016. “A Proposed Theory of School Librarian Leadership: A Meta-Ethnographic Approach.” School Library Research 19.

Guskey, Thomas. 2000. Evaluating Professional Development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

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

Moreillon, Judi. 2019. “Leadership through Collaboration: Memes with Meaning.” School Library Connection Online. https://schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2193152?topicCenterId=1955261&tab=1

Senge, Peter, Nelda Cambron-McCabe, Timothy Lucas, Bryan Smith, Janis Dutton, and Art Kleiner. 2012. Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education. New York: Crown Business.

 

Advocate for What Students Need to Succeed

While it is all educators’ responsibility to advocate for what students need to succeed in their futures, school librarians can use their leadership and instructional partner roles to advocate for authentic, relevant, and challenging curricula. They can colead and advocate for initiatives that result in transforming teaching and learning.

School librarians’ overarching goal is to prepare students for lifelong learning. It could be said that preK-12 educators have always prepared the next generation for their lives after high school. But the speed of technological and other change in today’s society make it more difficult to predict those needs. Education organizations have suggested various skills and competencies for educators to consider as they guide future ready students’ learning. (Competencies are applied skills; all of the standards cited in this post are intended to be applied in authentic learning experiences.)

Among those skills are the Partnership for 21st Century Learning’s 4Cs (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity), the International Society for Technology in Education’s Student Standards, NextGen Science Standards, National Curriculum Standards for Social Studies, and more including the National Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries (AASL 2018).

In Chapter 8 in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership, I draw connections between leadership and advocacy. Both are essential behaviors of school librarians if we are indeed positioning our work at the forefront of innovation, change, and reform in education.

Leadership
“Leaders maintain an understanding of what the mission and goals of an organization are and how these can be fulfilled” (Riggs 2001). Leaders inspire and influence the thinking and behaviors of others. From the global view provided by the library—the largest classroom in the school—school librarians are stewards of the widest range and variety of resources. Their job is to develop a collection of resources that meet the needs of the learning community.

In their daily work, school librarians connect books and other resources with students in order to help them develop as strategic readers, who enjoy and choose to read for pleasure. Strategic readers use comprehension strategies to think critically, to understand an author’s purpose, separate fact from fiction, news from propaganda. They also ask probing questions, seek credible answers, and develop new knowledge that helps them make sense of the world.

School librarians connect books and other resources to the curriculum by working with classroom teachers and specialists. They help other educators extend student learning beyond the textbook and offer resources on curricular topics at multiple reading proficiency levels to help all students build their reading skills. School librarians advocate for learning experiences that give students voice and choice and set them on the path of lifelong learning.

School librarians are on the constant lookout for resources that will spark students’ curiosity while supporting classroom teachers’ required student learning objectives. In many schools, school librarians are stewards of the most up-to-date technology tools and have expertise in marshaling the power of technology to improve student learning. They have expertise with digital information, including databases. They teach digital citizenship and help students understand the implications of the digital footprint they are creating today and how it may affect their futures.

Advocacy
“Collaborating school librarians have the potential to influence teaching and learning for every classroom teacher and every student in their building. To embrace a leadership role is an opportunity to co-create a collaborative school culture of learning that truly transforms education” (Moreillon 2019). Through coplanning, coteaching, and coassessing student learning alongside classroom teacher colleagues, school librarians have the opportunity to advocate for effective instruction, relevant learning tasks, and meaningful inquiry-based learning experiences that improve student learning outcomes. This work supports administrators’ goals for their schools and their district.

“Advocacy in all its forms seeks to ensure that people, particularly those who are most vulnerable in society, are able to: Have their voice heard on issues that are important to them. Defend and safeguard their rights. Have their views and wishes genuinely considered when decisions are being made about their lives” (SAEP n.d.). When school librarians advocate for future ready students, they are advocating for students’ voices and agency, their rights, and their empowerment to pursue learning that will make a long-term impact on their readiness for college, career, and community life.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. In your way of thinking, how are leadership and advocacy linked?
  2. Describe how your passion for school librarianship, your role as a school librarian, and the role of the library in future ready learning has led you to advocating for future ready students.

Works Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2019. “Leadership Requires Collaboration: Memes Have Meaning.” School Library Connection Online: https://schoollibraryconnection.com/Home/Display/2193152?topicCenterId=1955261&tab=1

Riggs, Donald E. 2001. “The Crisis and Opportunities in Library Leadership.” Journal of Library Administration 32 (3/4): 5-17.

seAp.org. “What Is Advocacy?” https://www.seap.org.uk/im-looking-for-help-or-support/what-is-advocacy.html

 

 

 

 

 

Advocacy: A Long-term, On-going Process

Chapter 8: Leadership and Advocacy Podcast: Virtual Interview with Dr. Ann Ewbank

When advocacy becomes a regular part of a school librarian’s daily practice, then the long-term, on-going nature this work becomes clear. School librarians must always serve stakeholders in such a way as to engender their support for the professional work and leadership of the school librarian and the role of the library program in student learning. The history of school librarianship is clear. School librarians can never rest on their laurels and assume that their positions, library budgets, and programs are safe from cuts when budgets get tight, district deficits loom, or national trends in education shift.

Readers of Ann Dutton Ewbank’s book Political Advocacy for School Librarians: Leveraging Your Influence (2019) can find additional support for stepping out of one’s comfort zone and developing persuasive messages. School librarians can also use the American Library Association’s Library Advocate’s Handbook (2008), which includes guidelines for telling the library story, successful speaking tips, including a speaker’s checklist, and tips for talking with the media and dealing with tough questions.

Advocating for the Program
When school librarians have formed a solid base of support for the contributions of the library program to the school community, they are able to mobilize support from stakeholders when the need arises. Keeping the library program in the spotlight through consistent services and public relations are essential. The school or library website and social media, the school or library newsletter, principals’ communications to families, and local broadcast media outlets are all venues to share the library story.

In her article “Tales of the Crypt,” elementary and middle school librarian Kelly Klober from Danville (AR) shares an exciting Living History project and event that involved students in researching the lives of people buried in the town cemetery. Adult participants in the project included classroom teachers, family members, and other volunteers from the community. Kelly included this as one of her tips for success: “Make friends with the press. We always have incredible coverage from our local newspaper, and our high school’s senior seminar class has always been kind enough to video the event” (Klober 2019, 20).

Advocating for the Position
While some argue that school librarians should not advocate for their own positions, I whole-heartedly disagree. If there were a proposal on the table in your district to eliminate all kindergarten teachers, you can bet that kinder teachers (and their first-grade colleagues, families, and more) would be frontline advocates who could clearly state the need to retain these positions. State-certified school librarian positions are no different. There is research-based evidence that supports the value of having a state-certified school librarian on every school faculty. School librarians should know this research. The following examples are from an article published in Phi Delta Kappan Online by Keith Curry Lance and Debra Kachel (2018).

Given the emphasis on literacy and reading in many schools and districts, it makes intuitive sense that students’ reading and writing scores would be better in schools with a strong library program. In a Washington state study, graduation rates and test scores in reading and math were significantly higher in schools with high-quality libraries and certified librarians, even after controlling for school size and poverty (Coker 2015). Reading and writing scores tend to be higher for all students who have a full-time certified librarian. The Pennsylvania study (2012) found that reading scores for Black students (5.5%), Latino students (5.2%), and students with disabilities (4.6%) where higher when the school had a full-time librarian. Even higher academic gains were evident among student subgroups if their schools had more library staff, larger library collections, and greater access to technology, databases, and the library itself. The 4th-grade NAEP reading data supported the Pennsylvania findings. In states that gained librarians between 2004-05 and 2008-09, average reading scores for poor students, Black students, and Latino students improved more than in states that lost librarians. In states that lost librarians, English language learners’ scores dropped by almost 3% (Lance and Schwartz 2012).

School librarians must advocate for their own positions based on research, on their own practice, and on locally collected student learning data.

Advocacy-at-Large
Inviting print and broadcast media to library program events and writing letters to the editor and op-ed pieces for local newspapers are ways to take the school library story out into the community. School librarians and their advocates can keep school libraries in the minds of the general public as preparation for advocacy appeals and initiatives that will require the support of school boards, families, and voters.

Here are two recently published op-eds that I wrote on behalf of Tucson’s school librarians, libraries, students, educators, administrators, and families.

Missing School Librarians Means Lost Literacy Learning,” Arizona Daily Star, November 3, 2017.

Literacy Matters Every Day,” Arizona Daily Star, March 6, 2019.

And as part of a School Librarian Restoration Project in Tucson Unified School District, TUSD board liaison Kristen Bury of the School Community Partnership Council and I were briefly interviewed by a local news station KGUN9.

Restoration Project Aims to Employ More Librarians for TUSD,” KGUN9 video interview and article.

This letter to the editor was published on April 18, 2019 during School Library Month. “The Library Ecosystem.”

Strategic school librarians engage and enlist others in long-term, on-going advocacy efforts to ensure that school library stakeholders will have equitable access to the resources, instructional and other services, professional expertise, and leadership school librarians and libraries provide. Keeping the public informed is essential when the time comes to seek their support for specific advocacy appeals.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. How are you engaged in long-term, on-going advocacy?
  2. Who do you need to ask to join you in this effort?

Works Cited

American Library Association. 2008. Library Advocate’s Handbook. 3rd ed. http://www.ala.org/advocacy/advocacy-university/library-advocates-handbook

Coker, Elizabeth. 2015. The Washington State School Library Study: Certified Teacher-librarians, Library Quality and Student Achievement in Washington State Public Schools. Seattle: Washington Library Media Association.

Ewbank, Ann. 2019. Political Advocacy for School Librarians: Leveraging Your Influence. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Klober, Kelly. 2019. “Tales from the Crypt.” Knowledge Quest 47 (4): 16-20.

Lance, Keith Curry, and Bill Schwarz. 2012. How Pennsylvania School Libraries Pay Off: Investments in Student Achievement and Academic Standards. PA School Library Project. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED543418.pdf

Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra Kachel. 2018. “Why School Librarians Matter: What Years of Research Tell Us.” Phi Delta Kappan Online. http://www.kappanonline.org/lance-kachel-school-librarians-matter-years-research/

Advocacy: An Essential Component of Daily Practice

Every time school librarians greet a student, family member, classroom teacher or specialist, administrator, prospective student/family, or visiting dignitary in the school library, they show the learning community that the library is a welcoming environment. Following up a warm smile with an offer of help is the first step in establishing the library as a place where a friendly staff helps others solve their problems or get their needs met. Through signage, book and resource displays, technology access and tools, the physical space of the library communicates a great deal about the values and quality of the program—and by extension the work of the school librarian.

“Our” Library
One of the most important messages the physical (and virtual) space of the library must communicate is this: the school library is an “our” place. The resources of the library and the activities that occur via the library program belong to the entire learning community. In addition to always referring to the library as “our library” and its resources as “our resources,” school librarians make a concerted effort to involve students, families, classroom teachers and specialists, and administrators in guiding the library program. The “our” should be understood by all.

Student work is an essential feature of the physical as well as the virtual library. Evidence of student learning should be front and center and obvious to anyone visiting the library or accessing the library’s website. Spotlighting and curating learning outcomes shows how the librarian contributes to the academic program of the school. In addition, the contributions of library student aides should also be evident in physical and virtual spaces.

When library stakeholders know they have ownership of the library, they are more likely to understand what makes the library program successful. As contributors to the library’s success, they have a vested interest in its smooth and effective functioning. As beneficiaries of the quality of the program, it is in their self-interest to help the librarian lead in an exciting learning environment. Involved stakeholders are more likely to support an advocacy appeal—whether it is launched by the librarian or another member of the learning community—because they have a stake in the outcome.

The Library Fishbowl
The school library is a fishbowl. Anyone in the school or community (with proper credentials) can walk into the library at any time and observe the work of the school librarian. For librarians who began their careers as classroom teachers, this can be a bit unnerving at first. A classroom teacher who appears at the library to check out some resources may sit down and watch her colleagues (a school librarian and another classroom teacher) coteach. Administrators who conduct classroom walk-throughs will also observe in the library and will often bring district-level administrators, prospective parents, and community members along with them, particularly in a state-of-the-art library.

Adult volunteers in the library have a bird’s eye view of students’ and classroom teachers’ interactions with the librarian and the library assistant. Volunteers are often students’ family members who share their observations at the Friday night football game or the Little League game on Saturday. Involving adult volunteers in the Library Advisory Committee increases their ownership in the program and will likely lead to positive public relations for the librarian and the program.

Advocacy as a Story
Advocacy is a story that is created, developed, and told in the everyday practices of the school librarian and the library staff. Involving others stakeholders as co-authors of the library story is an essential and strategic component of effective advocacy. By building connections and through collaborative partnerships, school librarians lay the foundation on which the learning community can and will come together to advocate for the library when there is a need. Every member of the community will be able to tell and retell an authentic and convincing story that illustrates the values, practices, and needs of the school library program.

The library advocacy story is not only important for an individual school community. An authentic and effective story reaches out to other schools, across districts, and out into the greater community. It can also reach across the state and around the country or the world. Together, all of our individual advocacy stories can change hearts and minds and make a difference for school librarianship as a profession. “Developing excellence in school library programs and a credible collective advocacy story is a path to sustaining the vitality, integrity, and the future of our profession” (Moreillon 2015, 26).

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. For what specific support, project, resources, or tools would you launch an advocacy appeal today?
  2. How would you frame that appeal in terms of benefits to students, classroom teachers, specialists, and/or administrators?

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2015. “Quick Remedies Column: Collaborative Library Stories.” School Library Monthly 31 (8): 25-26.

Leading Successful Advocacy Appeals

April is School Library Month: Everyone Belongs @Your School Library

When you read Chapter 8 in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership, you will clearly make the connection between leadership and advocacy. Effective school librarians lead advocacy initiatives in order to spotlight the needs of students, classroom teachers, and administrators in relationship to the library program. Such advocacy efforts are made in light of the positive impact the program and school librarians’ teaching/coteaching have on student learning and classroom teachers’ teaching as well as in support of administrators reaching school goals.

School librarians’ own advocacy efforts can lead to increasing all library stakeholders understanding of the critical role libraries and librarians play in future ready education. In a study of school library advocacy literature published between 2001 and 2011, researchers Ann Dutton Ewbank and Ja Youn Kwon found that 83% of advocacy activities were initiated by school librarians themselves or by an individual in the school library field (2015, 240). Only 5% of the advocates mentioned in the literature were parents and just 3% were school administrators.

Advocacy Appeals Supported by Stakeholders
The “Spokane Moms” are one of the shining examples of parent advocates who have spoken up for school librarians and libraries. In 2008, they launched a website, maintained a blog, cited research and testimonials, and provided advocates with ways to support their cause. Working together, they effectively advocated to save professional school librarian positions first in their own city and then throughout the state of Washington.

Each year during April, School Library Month, the American Association of School Librarians seeks an advocate who will record a public service announcement (PSA) to promote the importance of school libraries and librarians. Author and illustrator Dav Pilkey provided this year’s PSA. His heartfelt personal story of being a child with learning challenges and parents who encouraged him to read whatever he wanted provides a powerful testimonial for librarians and librarians. School librarians and school library advocates are encouraged to download it and share it widely in their learning communities and online.

Advocacy Appeals Launched by School Librarians
We all wish our communities had the advantages of a dedicated group of advocates such as the Spokane Moms. While we can count on support from our national association and authors who are generous in making appeals for our profession, school librarians must face the reality of everyday advocacy. School librarians themselves must speak out and be their own first advocates.

Chapter 8 includes an example of a school librarian-led advocacy appeal to hire library assistants in every school—assistants who make it possible for school librarians and the program to reach their capacity to lead, teach, and provide professional development. The example guides readers through a step-by-step process that can be applied to other types librarian-led advocacy efforts.

Advocacy Goal
School librarians may launch an advocacy appeal, but our ultimate goal is for stakeholders to become knowledgeable, vocal spokespersons for the program. When stakeholders speak up on behalf of school librarians and libraries, many policy- and decision-makers will sit up and listen. And when the initiative takes on a life of its own, school librarians can help ensure the success of such efforts by leading from behind the scenes to keep the messaging strong, clear, and productive in reaching the intended outcomes.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. For what specific support, project, resources, or tools would you launch an advocacy appeal today?
  2. How would you frame that appeal in terms of benefits to students, classroom teachers, specialists, and/or administrators?

Work Cited

Ewbank, Ann Dutton, and Ja Youn Kwon. 2015. “School Library Advocacy Literature in the United States: An Exploratory Content Analysis.” Library & Information Science Research 37: 236-243.

 

Educator Reflection

Just as students benefit from reflecting throughout the inquiry process, so, too, do educators. Metacognition, or thinking about one’s thinking, is an essential aspect of learning. Thinking about how we plan for instruction, monitor student progress, provide interventions, and assess our instructional expertise helps coteachers transfer prior learning to their next teaching (and learning) experience.

School librarians can engage in various types of reflection. They can reflect as individual educators. They can also reflect along with their administrator(s) or supervisor(s). They may reflect in small groups such as Professional Learning Communities or along with a cadre of job-alike colleagues. One of the most effective reflection practices in terms of its impact on student learning may be reflecting with coteaching colleagues during the planning process, during lesson/unit implementation, and post-implementation.

School Librarian Self-Assessment
The AASL National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries includes a “School Library Checklist” that covers a range of school librarian behaviors and responsibilities (2018, 174-180) I hope that it is no accident that collaborating with other educators is the first criterion on that list.

Figure 7.3 School Librarian Self-Assessment Criteria shows the keywords used by four organizations that school librarians can use to guide their reflection: AASL, Follett Project Connect, Future Ready Librarians, and International Society for Technology in Education (Educators).

“Collaborate,” “instructional partnership,” “collaborative leadership,” and “collaborator” are various terms used across these four sets of criteria on which school librarians can base one aspect of their self-assessment. Reflecting on one’s ability to lead through collaboration is an essential behavior of effective school librarians (see Leadership Requires Collaboration: Memes Have Meaning).

Different Planning/Thinking Styles
Being aware of how we think and learn can help school librarians, in particular, to be more effective in their roles as instructional partners. Perhaps, you, the librarian, are a sequential planner/thinker who is building a collaborative relationship with a random planner/thinker colleague. You will need to give up some measure of control in order to accommodate the preferences of such a coteacher. It is likely you will need to be flexible enough to think on your feet and approach planning or teaching at a different speed, via a different path or take learning in a different direction all together.

When we demonstrate our flexibility by accommodating the thinking styles of our colleagues and administrators/supervisors, we further show our readiness for future ready education. In order to meet the needs of today’s students, we must be flexible, responsive, and collaborative educators.

Strategies for Reflecting
Ensuring that reflection is a component of learning is difficult to achieve in practice. It seems that reflecting on any learning process has not yet become standard practice in many classrooms and libraries. Perhaps by including reflection time on planning forms and on lesson plans, educators can remind one another of the importance of metacognition.

For coteachers, including reflection before, during, and after an instructional intervention can help educators think, create, share, and grow. Educators may choose to write/draw/record their individual reflections. While reflecting individually is a useful strategy, reflecting together as trusting partners may be even more effective. (Sharing individual reflection documents is one way to do that.) Shared reflection can be a time for educators to express gratitude for what they are learning with and from one another. It can also be a time for coteachers to identify areas for improvement and recommit to growing together as instructional partners.

Reflection is also an important component on semi-annual or annual self-assessment or formal assessment/evaluation instruments. Keeping a journal throughout the year can help school librarians prepare to compose a comprehensive semi-annual or annual reflection. As instructional leaders in schools, administrators will want to know what educators themselves perceive as their areas of greatest strength, areas for improvement, and next steps for future learning.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What are your strategies for ensuring that you make time to reflect on your teaching and learning?
  2. What are the advantages of reflecting with an instructional partner?

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians. 2018. National Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. Chicago: ALA.

Moreillon, Judi. 2019. “Leadership Requires Collaboration: Memes Have Meaning.” School Library Connection Online.