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