Maximizing Leadership: Keyword = Collaboration

For the 2018-2019 academic year, I will be using my blog to support educators who are using my book Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy as a book study selection. This month (August), I blog about the information found in the preface and the introduction and the to use the book as a book study selection. In September, I will blog about Chapter 1: Building Connections for Learning and continue dedicating each month during the academic year to subsequent chapters in the book. You can find the schedule and links to these blog posts, on the book page of my blog. Each month, I will introduce that month’s chapter with a podcast.

For the month of August, I published a podcast called: Preview: School Librarian Leadership

All Podcast ScriptsPreface

In the preface of a book, authors often explain why they wrote the book. They often use the preface to establish their credibility in terms of their experience on the topic or their professional background. To apply an old term from the study of rhetoric, a preface is in a sense an “apology”: an explanation or defense.

As Simon Sinek, David Mead, and Peter Docker explain in their book Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team (2017), it is essential for people to determine their “whys.” While we may achieve “happiness” in “what” we do, our “whys” indicate the ways we achieve satisfaction. Our “whys” align with our values, our goals, our raison d’être. This book is about my “WHY.”

From a professional standpoint, “collaboration” is the skill and educational value that is primary in my heart, mind, and experience. For me to fulfill my purpose as an educator, I have chosen to collaborate with others to reach for my individual and our collective capacity to serve the needs of the students in our care. I know from experience that none of us can succeed with all students in all content areas if we choose to work in isolation from our colleagues.

Collaborative Cultures

I have served in collaborative culture schools and worked on non-collaborative faculties as well. I know the difference in terms of my ability to learn and grow. I know the difference in terms of what we can accomplish and offer students by working together. I know it takes a village to help students and educators reach their capacity.

Simply put, there is no comparison between a collaborative culture and non-collaborative culture learning community.

Culture is everything. At times in my teaching career when my collaborative purpose and the purpose of the learning community were aligned, there was absolutely no limit to what we could accomplish together—and no limit to my joy and sense of achievement. A culture of collaboration is focused on both individual and collective growth. “If every member of a team doesn’t grow together they will grow apart” (Simon, Mead, and Docker 2017, 195).

As a school librarian, I have had awesome (no exaggeration) opportunities to co-lead along with administrators and classroom teacher leaders in collaborative culture schools. These experiences have shaped me, and they shaped this book.

Maximizing School Librarian Leadership

This book represents almost thirty years of learning, seven years of intensive graduate-level teaching, and two additional years of reading, researching, and writing. During my tenure as an assistant, then associate, professor at Texas Woman’s University (TWU), I developed (from scratch), refined, and further refined a course called “Librarians as Instructional Partners” (LS5443). For me, this course offered graduate students THE reason to serve as school librarians. It offered preservice school librarians a “why” followed by “what” and “how.”

Over my seven years of service at TWU, I taught this course twelve semesters, occasionally teaching two sections in one semester. I learned a great deal from the over three hundred students who participated in the course. There were students who entered LS5443 with open minds or prior positive experiences with collaboration; they embraced coplanning, coteaching, and co-leading. There were other students who struggled to let go and trust their fellow students; they resisted collaboration. Some developed their collaborative ability over the course of the semester; others left our course adamant that they would seek library positions in which they could work alone.

When I completed this book in November of 2017, I realized that Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy, is the text I wish I had had to help guide the preservice school librarians who participated in LS5443. Perhaps this text would have helped me more effectively communicate the deep sense of purpose and satisfaction that is possible when school librarian leaders collaborate to co-create a culture of learning.

My Hope

I hope all school librarians will come to know through first-hand experience that teaching and learning within a collaborative culture of learning is the context in which they will succeed in educating students for the present as well as for their futures. When school librarians serve as culture builders, practice job-embedded professional development, and lead as changemakers, they can and will be leaders on teams that transform learning and teaching.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is your WHY related to your career in school librarianship?
  2. What do you hope to learn, or wish you had learned in your preservice school librarian education?

Work Cited

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.

Note: I reviewed this book on my blog in two parts on October 16 and October 23, 2017.

#Election 2018 and Digital Literacy

I had intended to review one more #Election2018 resource, iCivics, in this three-post series. However, Connie Williams did an outstanding job sharing this site in her “Got Civics?” post on the Knowledge Quest blog in June so I will simply reinforce her post here. Connie spotlighted the Drafting Board and civics learning games. As Connie noted, educators can expect to find a new game on the iCivics.org site this fall. iCivics is partnering with the Annenberg Public Policy Center to develop this game. Look for it. Educators can set up free accounts in order to access all of the resources on the site.

Digital Literacy
Connecting #Election2018 with digital literacy presents a leadership opportunity for school librarians. “Digital literacy is the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, understand, evaluate, create, and communicate digital information, an ability that requires both cognitive and technical skills” (ALA 2013). The technical skills involve the use of various information and communication technologies. #Election2018 presents an opportune time to coteach digital literacy with educators in every content area. Here are some promising possibilities.

Published Lesson Plans
Common Sense Education offers outstanding lessons including this one: “News and Media Literacy.” Lessons are targeted to four grade bands: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. One newly added resource that English Language Arts and Reading (ELA-R) educators may find useful is a one-page piece on “Misinformation.” It includes definitions for key vocabulary such as “clickbait,” “extreme bias,” and “hate news.”

As previously noted, The Center for Civics Education Project Citizen offers lessons for upper elementary through post-secondary students. Taught alongside the Stanford History Education Group’s resources, educators can help students develop the critical thinking and information/digital literacy skills they will need to be informed, active citizens.

The advanced questioning lesson (for approximate grades 9-10) in my book Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact (ALA 2012) uses editorial cartoons as prompts. In the lesson, educators teach and students apply the Question-Answer-Relationships questioning strategy. “The Editorial Cartoons of Clay Bennett” is one of the resources I recommend for this two-part lesson. (Since the publication of my book, this site has been thankfully archived by the Library of Congress.) Of course, your hometown newspaper (in print or online) is likely an outstanding resource for your students.

Other Published Texts
Both ELA-R and civics/social studies/history classroom teachers often assign students op-eds as writing activities. (See Sarah Cooper’s post on The Middle Web blog: “An Op-Ed Project Based on Personal Choice.”)

The election season presents a perfect opportunity to analyze published texts for persuasive techniques and for students to compose persuasive texts of their own. School librarians can support classroom teachers’ curriculum by identifying op-eds and letters to the editor in local or national newspapers and news outlets. Here is an example written by Paul McCreary and published in the Arizona Daily Star on July 27, 2018: “What can we do? Vote!

The New York Times The Learning Network offers a wealth of participatory and real-world learning experiences to prompt student learning and support educators’ teaching. During the academic year, the site posts an article of the day, a news quiz, and a student opinion section. The Learning Network offers lesson plans for students in grades 7 and up in core content areas and lessons on topics that build technology skills, too.

Research to Support Teaching Digital Literacy
In conversations with administrators and classroom teachers, school librarians may want to share popular or scholarly articles and research studies that make the case for teaching digital information literacy. These are three recent articles that are well worth reading, discussing, and applying in our professional work.

Gooblar, David. 2018. “How to Teach Information Literacy in the Era of Lies.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. https://www.chronicle.com/article/How-to-Teach-Information/243973

Taylor, Natalie Greene. 2018. “Middle-Schoolers’ Perceptions of Government: Intersection of Information and Civic Literacies.” Journal of Research on Libraries & Young Adults 9. http://www.yalsa.ala.org/jrlya/2018/07/middle-schoolers-perceptions-of-government-intersection-of-information-and-civic-literacies/

Weaver, Brilee. 2018. “From Digital Native to Digital Expert.” Harvard Graduate School of Education. https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/18/06/digital-native-digital-expert

Preparing for and Teaching #Election2018
Connie Williams also noted in her KQ post that classroom-library collaboration for civics teaching and learning should not be relegated to civics and government departments only. This and my previous two posts on this blog have focused on ELA-R and social studies/civics connections.

What about reaching out to mathematics teachers to study polling or other data that is published during this election cycle?

How are candidates talking about topics related to science, such climate change, fossil fuels, and alternative energy sources?

What about connecting candidates’ positions and promises related to health care with health or P.E. teachers’ curriculum?

How will you use digital texts to strengthen students’ literacy during this election cycle? What are your plans for collaborating with classroom teachers to engage students in digital literacy – locating, comprehending, evaluating, creating, and communicating digital information – in Fall 2018?

Work Cited

American Library Association. 2013. Digital Literacy, Libraries, and Public Policy: Report of the Office of Information Technology Policy’s Digital Literacy Task Force. www.districtdispatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/2012_OITP_digilitreport_1_22_13.pdf.

Election 2018 Resources

“Productive civic engagement requires knowledge of the history, principles, and foundations of our American democracy, and the ability to participate in civic and democratic processes. People demonstrate civic engagement when they address public problems individually and collaboratively and when they maintain, strengthen, and improve communities and societies. Thus, civics is, in part, the study of how people participate in governing society” (NCSS 2013, 31).

The Center for Civics Education (@CivicEducation) was one of fifteen organizations that collaborated on the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards (NCSS 2013). According to their website, “The Center is dedicated to promoting an enlightened and responsible citizenry committed to democratic principles and actively engaged in the practice of democracy in the United States and other countries” (http://www.civiced.org/about/37).

The Center started in 1965 at the University of Southern California. Researchers have conducted studies related to all five of the projects hosted on this website. The Center’s “Promoting the Principles and Practice of Democracy” video is a worthwhile introduction to their work. Educators who are preparing to connect curriculum with #Election2018 will want to explore the resources available on their site.

The site offers five programs. I have reviewed “We the People” and “Project Citizen” below. The “School Violence Prevention Demonstration Program” provides professional development support for educators who are teaching the “We the People” and “Project Citizen” programs in their classrooms. The James Madison Legacy Project is focused on educator professional development, and Civitas International involves learners in countries around the world.

We the People
This program offers textbooks that include six units of study at three instructional levels: upper elementary, middle, and high school. You can download a two-page summary of the program. If your school or district has adopted these texts or is considering a new social studies/civics adoption, these resources may be important to your classroom-library collaboration. “We the People” videos offer an overview of the program and its impact on student learning.

These are the units in the textbooks:
Unit One: What Are the Philosophical and Historical Foundations of the American Political System?
Unit Two: How Did the Framers Create the Constitution?
Unit Three: How Has the Constitution Been Changed to Further the Ideals Contained in the Declaration of Independence?
Unit Four: How Have the Values and Principles Embodied in the Constitution Shaped American   Institutions and Practices?
Unit Five: What Rights Does the Bill of Rights Protect?
Unit Six: What Challenges Might Face American Constitutional Democracy in the Twenty-first Century?

Project Citizen
This civic education program, geared to middle, secondary, and post-secondary students and youth or adult groups, offers open education resources. The goal of Project Citizen is to promote “competent and responsible participation in state, local, and federal government.” The site offers lessons/units of instruction. The Level 1 lessons are for students in grades 5-8. Level 2 lessons are for secondary and post-secondary students. Lessons are aligned with the Common Core Standards in History/Social Studies.

For example, the four lessons in the “9/11 and the Constitution” unit involve students in reflecting on U.S. ideals and answering the question: “What does it mean to be an American?” The subsequent lessons involve students in learning from various founding documents and completing a questionnaire about how well our country is actualizing these ideals. Students also administer the questionnaire to adults in their homes and communities. The unit concludes with students comparing and discussing the similarities and differences in people’s responses. Finally, students compose an individual or small group statement and cite evidence on how well the American government is fulfilling its purposes as set forth in the Preamble.

As with all published lesson plans and units of study, educators will want to adapt instruction for their students and the context in which the lessons are presented. For #Election2018, students could make connections by examining local, state, and national candidates’ statements to analyze them for “U.S. ideals” as expressed in the Preamble of the Constitution or other governmental documents. They could also examine the prior voting records and statements made by incumbent candidates and determine whether or not the candidates’ statements and actions are consistent. Students could then debate the merits of various candidates using the evidence they found in the candidates’ campaign materials and/or voting records.

Another component of the site involves learners in working together as a class or extracurricular group to identify and study a particular public policy issue. The final product of this project-based learning opportunity is a portfolio that may be presented to other students, civic groups or community organizations, or policymakers.

Both the Center for Civics Education and the Stanford History Education Group (reviewed last week) have resources to offer educators who are building students’ background knowledge, information-seeking and critical thinking skills in order to connect school-based curriculum with #Election2018.

Works Cited

Center for Civics Education. 2018. http://www.civiced.org

National Council for the Social Studies. 2013. College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards. https://www.socialstudies.org/sites/default/files/c3/C3-Framework-for-Social-Studies.pdf

Image Credit:
amberzen. “Vote Button.” Creative Commons CC0. https://pixabay.com/en/vote-button-election-elect-1319435/

Planning for Election 2018

For many educators, summer is a time for planning for the fall. The gardening metaphor works so well for teaching. The more relaxed pace and some daydreaming time provide mental space to plot out the garden where students will think, create, share, and grow come fall. Summer is when educators look for new seeds to plant (concepts to emphasize). We research better fertilizers (resources and tools) and improved ways to till the soil (motivate and inspire learners).

We also look for real-world connections that can help students build connections between school-based learning and the world outside of the classroom, library, and lab. With the midterm elections to be held on Tuesday, November 5th, fall 2018 presents an excellent opportunity for students to delve deeply into the connection between civics and (online) information—between citizenship and digital literacy.

One website that supports student learning and educators’ teaching civics content is Stanford History Education Group. One the American Association of School Librarians’ 2018 Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, the site includes a Civic Online Reasoning section. Based on research evidence (Wineburg et al. 2016), the site offers online resources that educators can use to prompt students to engage in reasoning related to history content.

The site also provides short-answer assessments that indicate a student’s level of development: emerging, beginning, and mastery. Each rubric includes sample student responses at each level, which can be initially used as examples for students and as guides for educators. (Coteaching classroom teachers and school librarians may find these “anchor responses” particularly useful when they share assessment responsibilities.)

As noted on the site, these resources are intentionally flexible so educators can “use the tasks to design classroom activities, as the basis for discussions about digital content, and as formative assessments to learn more about students’ progress as they learn to evaluate information.” The assessment prompts include historical photographs and other printed artifacts as well as social media posts from Facebook and Twitter.

I appreciate the terms used for the Civic Online Reasoning (COR) competencies:
1. Who’s behind the information? (Authority)
2. What’s the evidence? (Reliability)
3. What do other sources say? (Bias or Perspective)

The two other sections of the website are “Reading Like a Historian” and “Beyond the Bubble.” The former includes lesson plans; the latter provides assessments.  The lessons in “Reading Like a Historian” have been adopted by history departments in schools across the country. All aspects of the Stanford History Education Group site focus on documentary evidence as the way to validate information.

If the last election cycle is any indication, there will be no shortage of (online) information that will provide fodder for civic reasoning learning experiences in the fall of 2018. Check out this site and start plotting your fall garden today! Even better, start a conversation with your school librarian and classroom teacher colleagues to collaborate to design learning opportunities for students to develop digital literacy in the context of civic reasoning.

Reference
Wineburg, Sam. Sarah McGrew, Joel Breakstone, and Teresa Ortega. 2016. “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning.” Stanford Digital Repositoryhttp://purl.stanford.edu/fv751yt5934

Image Credit: Word Cloud created at Wordle.net

Building Connections for Learning in the Neighborhood

In my blog post last week, I recommended that people see Emilio Estevez’s film The Public when it is available in their community. This week I MUST follow up that recommendation with another. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?—a film about the life, work, and empowered positive impact of the amazing Fred Rogers—is a touching, sweet, emotional, and illuminating film about a man who made an incredible difference in the lives of countless young children and their families.

I have always remarked that one attribute that separates educators from (many) other adults is that we care about other people’s children. School librarians whose “kids” are all the young people in their schools must have expansive hearts to accommodate the personal and academic needs of all the youth we serve.

Effective and caring school librarians create a climate of welcoming acceptance in the library that extends out into the school and into the surrounding community. We achieve that through library programs that affirm diversity, insist upon equity, and strive to help all learners (students, educators, and parents) achieve their capacity to think, create, share, and grow.

This film made so many connections for me with our work in school libraries. These are just a few of them.

In the themed episodes for Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred addressed children’s feelings about war, divorce, race, and other timely topics. He did not talk down to children. He did not shield them from the realities of their lives because he respected their intelligence. Fred Rogers was a courageous educator and friend to children. Today’s educators should be as courageous in helping learners express their feelings and deal with real-world problems and issues.

Our daughter watched Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood is the 1980s. I distinctly remember the pace of Mr. Rogers’ show compared with other children’s programming at the time. It was slower, in many ways more thoughtful, and allowed viewers thinking and feeling time. With today’s focus on academic, social, and emotional learning in many schools and districts (see CASEL), there is much for educators to consider in terms of a slower pace. We can carve out the necessary time students need to integrate their learning into their lives by making time for reflection and time for sharing with others.

The Guided Inquiry Design Framework (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2012) that includes sufficient time for students to immerse themselves in questions of their own making acknowledges the emotional aspects of learning. As Carol Kuhlthau (2013) found in her research on the information search process, inquirers pass through various emotions as they pursue learning. If Fred Rogers had known about inquiry learning, I believe he would have agreed that such a process is respectful of learners’ emotions as well as their intellect.

One of the most powerful scenes in the film is when Fred Rogers testified at a Senate hearing regarding funding for the Public Broadcasting System. At the hearing, Senator John O. Pastore promised to read Fred’s prepared statement but asked him to talk extemporaneously in his oral testimony. Mr. Rogers began his response by telling the senator that he trusted him to keep his word and read the statement, which Fred has so carefully prepared. Then, he sang him a song about children feeling fearful and developing trust—a song sung from Fred’s heart that went straight to Senator Pastore’s heart. At the end of the song, the senator simply said, “You got the $20 million.”

This is a vivid reminder that when we are advocating for school library programs that help all learners succeed, our knowledge and data do matter. But it’s our stories that touch the heart; they are most often the aspect of our advocacy work that helps people make difficult decisions. Changing people’s minds through their hearts works.

These are some of the quotes from the film that made powerful connections for me and may serve as words of wisdom for today’s educators.

“’Won’t you be my neighbor?’ Well, I suppose it’s an invitation. It’s an invitation for somebody to be close to you” (Fred Rogers).

“Love is at the root of everything – all learning, all parenting, all relationships. Love or the lack of it. And what we see and hear on the screen is part of who we become” (Fred Rogers).

“Someone smiled you into smiling; sang you into singing; read you into reading” (Fred Rogers paraphrase from the film to the best of my memory).

I believe that educators can care students into caring about their own well-being, the health of our/their country, and the future of our planet. When we care for our “neighbors,” we model the empathy that is essential for living, working, and succeeding in a global society.

Thank you, Mr. Rogers, film director Marvin Neville, the film’s producers, and others who brought Fred Rogers’ knowledge, perspective, and heart to the screen. I also believe we become what we see and hear on the screen. I want Won’t You Be My Neighbor to be part of my becoming.

References
Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. “CASEL: Educating Hearts. Inspiring Minds.” www.casel.org.

Kuhlthau, Carol Collier. 2013. “Inquiry Inspires Original Research.” School Library Monthly 30 (2): 5-8.

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: Sign distributed by Peace Centers across the U.S.

Question to the Internet Movie Database: What does it take to earn a ten?

 

#ALAAC18 Reflection

I believe in reflecting after every learning experience. In fact, research shows that reflection/metacognition (thinking about one’s thinking) is the way prior knowledge is modified or changed and new ideas are added to our understandings. At a conference, it is often difficult to make time to stop after every meeting, session, keynote speaker, or event to talk with colleagues or engage in the necessary individual reflection that makes learning happen…

Twitter to the rescue! Now that the conference is over, I have the tweets I posted (plus likes and retweets) to use as reflection prompts. Since I began tweeting at conferences (nearly ten years ago), I have appreciated this social media platform as a tool for reflecting on whirlwinds of information and knowledge, especially for intense multiple-day conferences like the American Library Association Annual Conference, aka #alaac18. These are some of the highlights of my conference experience that may be of interest to readers of this blog.

The Lilead Project
My visit to New Orleans began with a day and a half of learning and strategizing with the Lilead Project. For the past year, this group of 20 changemaker school librarian supervisors, five mentors, and three project administrators has been growing a community of practice. The work of the Lilead Project with school librarian supervisors is a vital component of leadership development and moving the school librarian profession forward. The Lilead Fellows put their knowledge into action in districts across the United States. I am proud to have served as a mentor for the West Coast Lilead group. We will continue to meet and support one another in the coming year.

Left to right: Me, Jenny Takeda, Trish Henry, and Claudia Mason. Since our colleague Janet Wile was unable to remain in New Orleans, the poster she created that illustrates her Lilead action plan/learning is standing in (inadequately) for her behind us.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama
Hearing Mrs. Obama speak was a singular experience. Her strength, determination, poise, and most of all, her authenticity make her a leader and role model for many, including yours truly. I did not tweet or snap a photo during her interview with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. I was too star-struck so I especially appreciate those who did!

While standing in line to enter the auditorium, I was proud to see my hot-off-the-presses book, Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy, displayed in the ALA Store. I especially appreciated and learned from school librarian leadership conversations with Misti Werle, Carolyn Foote, and Pam Harland at various points during the conference. Thank you, ALA Editions for your support and thank you to those who purchased the books before they sold out at the ALA Store.

American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) President’s Program
Part 1: More AASL members should attend this event! The award winners, many of whom brought family members and colleagues from their schools to share their achievement, gave inspirational speeches that captured the depth of their professional practice. I would like to spotlight the work the 2018 National School Library Media Program of the Year (SLMPY) Award recipients Mimi Marquet and Lisa Koch from Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, Virginia. They even shared their speech in tandem! Such a powerful partnership! Thank you to Follett for sponsoring the SLMPY award.

Part 2: Thank you AASL President Steven Yates for inviting Dr. Jervette Ward as the speaker for his AASL President’s Program. I agree with Dr. Ward that silence on issues related to social justice is not a neutral stance. Silence is a decision and in cases of social justice, it is a decision in favor of oppression.  I have requested that my public library order her book Real Sister: Stereotypes, Respectability, and Black Women in Reality TV I look forward to reading it.

AASL’s Best Websites and Best Apps
The release of the 2018 Best Websites and 2018 Best Apps is a highlight of the annual conference. I appreciate the committee members who vet, annotate, and use these resources and tools in order to share the most effective ones with our colleagues. I was pleased to see the Stanford History Education Group on the Best Websites list. Civic learning is a hot topic in education, and this curriculum makes an outstanding contribution to this effort. I am not as familiar with apps, but I was excited to see Signed Stories among those listed. School librarians are charged with using and integrating tools that support literacy for all students. Thank you, AASL committees, for pointing the way.

A Bright Spot From Home (Arizona)
How wonderful to hear Lisa Morris-Wilkey’s news regarding her work with the Casa Grande (AZ) superintendent. Together, they are restoring elementary librarians positions. Brava, @LMWArizona!

Fake News or Free Speech: Is there a right to be misinformed?
Mary Minow, Damaso Reyes, and Drs. Nicole Cooke and Joyce Valenza each had ten minutes to share a perspective on this timely topic. I wrote about this session in my  6/18/18 “News Based in Facts” post before I left for New Orleans. The panel provided a great deal of food for thought. I appreciated the legal information Mary Minow provided and learned more about the extremely high bar for successfully prosecuting libel, slander, and disinformation cases in court. Here are just few of my tweets related to the other panelists’ comments.

My take-away from the panel is that information literacy and critical thinking are needed now more than ever. I completely agree with Joyce that stepping up our leadership in this area is essential for school librarians. And with support toward that goal, thank you especially, Damaso Reyes, for sharing your work with Checkology.org.

EveryLibrary
The EveryLibrary.org event was a reminder that networking and advocacy are not only essential “work” for librarians, but they can also be fun! Thank you at EveryLibrary for a smashing evening. I especially enjoyed talking with Dorcas Hand (Texas) and Kathy Lester (Michigan) about their advocacy efforts (and the shrimp and corn were real good, too).

The Public
Our profession is indebted to Emilio Estevez for telling this story and shining a light on a little-known role of librarians and libraries in today’s society in his film The Public.

If you did not have the opportunity to see the film at #alaac18, check out the trailer (no spoilers!) and know that the film is exceptional and the ending is perfect! I do hope Emilio Estevez succeeds with his mini-series. If so, I hope he will include the role school librarians and school librarians play in addressing literacy and technology-access gaps and meeting the needs of students, especially those living in poverty.

Newbery-Caldecott-Legacy Banquet
For me, sharing the authors’ and illustrators’ inspiring speeches with friends is always a highlight of ALA Annual. It was so fitting that Jacqueline Woodson is the first recipient of the renamed and reconceived ALSC Children’s Literature Legacy Award. Ms. Woodson’s empowered speech was the perfect way to launch this award. View a short view of Ms. Woodson’s response to earning the award. Read information about the name change on the ALA/ALSC website.

Our tablemate Audrey Cornelius snapped this photo at Table #51. Deb Levitov must have been visiting another table at the time the photo was taken. Front row: Connie Champlin, Becky Calzada, me, Pam Berger. Back row: Sheila MacDowell, Dorcas Hand, Karen Perry, and Barbara Stripling. And how fun that by an unexpected turn of events, Audrey, who was in my storytelling course at Texas Woman’s University in 2012, joined us at the table. Such a wonderful surprise!

The Extraordinarily Talented Brian Selznick
Scholastic Publishing invited Brian Selznick to draw the new covers for a Harry Potter 20th-anniversary paperback set book release. Thankfully, he said, “YES!” after creating a sketch that shows all seven book covers as a single poster. In this work, Brian explored the relationships between the characters and battle between good and evil. He used a snake to connect all seven covers. Brilliant! Preorder yours today!

ALSC Charlemae Rollins Presidents Program
Thank you to ALSC President Nina Lindsay for bringing together this esteemed panel to share their research, experience, and perspectives. This is just a quick snippet from the many thought-provoking ideas and questions they raised.

Dr. Emily Thomas started the conversation by pointing out the National Council of Teachers of English Resolution on the Need for Diverse Children’s and Young Adult Books (2015). She also talked about how stories matter and used the image of the cover of Stories Matter: The Complexity of Culture Authenticity in Children’s Literature, edited by Dana Fox and Kathy G. Short. (I have a chapter in that book that shares my journey as a cultural-outsider author of a children’s book.)

You can read about Dr. Debbie Reese’s reaction to name and description changes to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award on her website.

Margarita Engle shared her personal journey as a child who was unable to travel to Cuba to visit her grandmother and family. She had many quotable moments in her talk, including this one:

Jason Reynolds asked this question: “Is it that Black boys don’t read, or is it that Black boys don’t have books to read—mirror books that they can see themselves in?” For many young Black men his Newbery honor book Long Way Down may be just that book.

The continuing need for publishers to publish books from authors and illustrators from underrepresented groups was one take-away from this panel. This is not new, but all librarians can make a difference in how they develop library collections and serve ALL kids in their community. The need for increasing cultural competence among those who review, purchase, and share books is a critical aspect of today’s librarianship. The hashtag #alscallkids sums up a very complex and critical conversation.

Final Day in NOLA
I started the morning of my last day in New Orleans with a walk to Café du Monde, Jackson Square, and the cathedral. After checkout, I had the opportunity to have lunch with a dear long-time friend who lives in the Big Easy. Darlene and I became friends in Tucson during our daughters’ challenging adolescent years. Catching up, eating at Morrow’s (we highly recommend the BBQ shrimp!), shopping for grandchild gifts, and being silly together was the perfect way to wrap up this visit.

Only in New Orleans!

ALA Annual is truly about community for me. When I attend the Midwinter Meeting or the Annual Conference, I feel the camaraderie and excitement of learning with and from our nation-wide professional network. I especially appreciate the social justice and equity actions of our colleagues. I highly encourage you to get involved with our national association and its divisions. They are nothing without YOU!

Graphic courtesy of ALA

News Based in Facts

As I pack my suitcase and organize my schedule for the American Library Association Conference in New Orleans (#alaac18), I am once again reminded of how important our national associations have been and continue to be essential components of my professional learning. In addition to seeing long-time friends and colleagues, participating in the Lilead Project meetings, attending AASL meetings, keynotes, events, and enjoying the Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet tradition with select tablemates, I am especially looking forward to this session:

Fake News or Free Speech: Is there a right to be misinformed?
Saturday, June 23rd from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
With James LaRue, Nicole Cooke, Damaso Reyes, Joyce Valenza, and Mary Minow
Morial Convention Center, Room 288

This is the session description:
“‛Fake news’ has always been part of the communication landscape. The difference now is that we are inundated with social media that makes it possible to disseminate “fake news” quickly and easily. In the past ‛fake news’ was used as propaganda to isolate individuals or groups of people, destabilize governments, and foment anarchy. ‛Fake news’ may be inaccurate, dishonest, misleading, intentionally untrue, and even intended to damage the paradigm of factual information. But is it illegal? Is it protected by the First Amendment? Can ‛fake news’ — or suppressing it — undermine our democratic way of life?”

A few days ago, Loretta Gaffney posted a compelling reflection in her Knowledge Quest Blog post: “School Librarians and Truth in an Era of ‘Fake News.” Loretta shared how students had come to her in the library on 9/11 when they were unsure about what was happening in the world. They trusted Loretta and they trusted the information they could access in the library (with her support).
This was the comment I posted to Loretta’s article:

Loretta, Your experience in creating and promoting the library as an information source learners can trust is a model for all of us.

I, for one, would like to see the term “fake news” abandoned by school librarians and the library profession as a whole. Yes, all information/news is a social construct and reflects the perspective of the author/reporter.

However, using the term “fake news” legitimizes it in a way that makes me uncomfortable. Nearly every day, the Arizona Daily Star publishes a “Fact Check” article that has taken up to two pages in our small Tucson newspaper. The constant need for fact-checking our country’s leaders and political candidates is alarming to me.

I believe we can acknowledge that news always has a point of view and still agree that there should be “facts” to back up any information source. I also believe we should expect our leaders to get their facts straight, and we must start holding them accountable at the voting booth.

Let’s give no more credence to “fake news.” Let’s encourage students and classroom teachers to abandon the term in favor of “news” and call the fake stuff what it is: half-truths, distortions, propaganda, outright lies…

To my way of thinking, that would be a start at maintaining the librarian’s and the library’s reputation as a person and place of trust (end quote).

As Brian Bess, Library Assistant, Huntsville Madison County Public Library, recently posted in ALA Connect: “…our mission is to disseminate reliable, reputable, and helpful information to the public…” I agree with Brian and am very much looking forward to learning what others in our profession are thinking at next Saturday’s session at ALA. Could suppressing “fake news” undermine our democratic way of life? Really?

I welcome your comments here. I will post a follow up after the session. Thank you.

Image Created at The Ransomizer.com

Co-Creating a Community of Readers

“Supporting Middle School Reading: Using a Data Dashboard to Create a Community of Readers” by school librarian Kelsey Cohen appeared in the June, 2018, issue of American Libraries. Kelsey’s article is about how she engaged in a professional inquiry with assistant principal Rob Andrews, literacy coach Lisa Ramos-Hillegers, and instructional technology coach Mike Sammartano to support striving readers at Hommocks Middle School (Larchmont, New York). Their goal was to explore ways to use digital reading logs to motivate and engage more readers and further develop a reading culture in their school.

When educators engage in inquiry, they take risks together. They analyze a challenge they are facing, design, and test solutions that can help students succeed. Sometimes when they examine the outcomes, they find their solution needs to be tweaked and retested before they can achieve their goals.

In the American Libraries article, Kelsey describes an inquiry conducted by Hommocks educators. In this example, assistant principal Rob Andrews suggested the literacy team institute electronic reading logs in order to collect and use student data to improve students’ engagement and motivation. In the first year of testing the logs, the collaborators learned that the digital reading log forms were too detailed and therefore, not completed by enough students. When they revised the form, they involved the expertise of their instructional technology coach. Together, they created a data dashboard where students could access colorful graphs, charts, and lists based on their reading log data. They increased students’ and classroom teachers’ buy-in.

Kelsey displayed the data on a large monitor in the library. Readers used this information to self-assess their reading and classroom teachers used it with students during reading conferences. Along with literacy coach Lisa, Kelsey used the data specifically to reach out to striving readers. Kelsey and Lisa made sure that these students had “first dibs on new book arrivals” and they “created personalized book bins” that struggling readers could browse in their classrooms (Cohen 2018, 19).

These educators’ use of the inquiry process parallels the process that students take when they engage in inquiry learning. This strategy for learning can increase their own ability to guide students (and classrooms teachers) in inquiry learning. Kelsey and Lisa contributed voices from the field in the “Literacy Leadership and the School Librarian: Reading and Writing—Foundational Skills for Multiple Literacies” chapter of The Many Faces of School Library Leadership (2017). In that example, they collaborated with science teachers in creating classroom “wonder walls” as springboards for student-led inquiry (Moreillon 2017, 104).

As the quote from above from Kelsey attests, hers is not a “neutral” stance with regard to library services. Along with her colleagues, she creatively reached out to students who were not frequent library users. The literacy team created a tool that could be used by all Hommocks students. In addition, they targeted specific services to the readers who were most in need and helped them monitor their own reading and develop internal motivation to pursue learning. Rather than simply serve those who came to the library on their own, Kelsey and her team reached out to those who could benefit the most from the resources and expertise of the library and librarian in order to reach their potential as readers.

You can read Kelsey’s article in the magazine or online and reach her via Twitter @KelseyLCohen: “Supporting Middle School Reading: Using a Data Dashboard to Create a Community of Readers.”

With the culture of reading inquiry described in the American Libraries article, Kelsey. Lisa, and their collaborators are clearly continuing on their journey to create a culture of learning in their school. And they are using an inquiry approach to pursue their goals. Bravo to the collaborating educators at Hommocks Middle School and to Kelsey Cohen for her school librarian leadership.

Works Cited

Cohen, Kelsey. 2018. “Supporting Middle School Reading: Using a Data Dashboard to Create a Community of Readers.” American Libraries 49 (6): 28-19.

Moreillon, Judi. 2017. “Literacy Leadership and the School Librarian: Reading and Writing—Foundational Skills for Multiple Literacies.” In The Many Faces of School Library Leadership, 2nd ed., edited by Sharon Coatney and Violet H. Harada, 86-108. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Image credits:
Quote from Kelsey Cohen used with permission

Youngson, Nick. “Decision-making Highway Sign.” http://www.creative-commons-images.com/highway-signs/d/decision-making.html

Libraries and Neutrality

The June, 2018, American Libraries magazine is one of the most thought-provoking issues ever. I believe the summary and links from Jim Neal’s Midwinter President’s Program on librarianship and neutrality should be required reading for every library science graduate student and used as a discussion starter in classrooms and libraries everywhere. From serving the literacy needs of patrons in prison and those of Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program families, to using visual data to activate middle school readers, to addressing Melvil Dewey’s legacy, this issue is a treasure trove of information, knowledge, and wisdom. It’s also a rich source of topics for this blog.

ALA President Jim Neal’s session at Midwinter in Denver featured a debate with two speakers in favor of neutrality (James LaRue and Em Claire Knowles) and two speakers against neutrality (Chris Bourg and R. David Lankes). A panel of four speakers responded to the debate: Emily Drabinski, Emily Knox, Kathleen de la Peña McCook, and Kelvin Watson. The full program video is available online to Midwinter attendees at bit.ly/mw18-pres.

These are some of my takeaways beginning with the pro-neutrality debaters. James LaRue offered three dimensions for neutrality: service, access, and collections. In his view, neutrality is “enshrined in (library) values” and can be summarized as “everyone gets a seat at the table” (34). Em Claire Knowles noted that libraries/librarians have social goals but believes “an active, engaged, continually reaffirmed neutrality is just the first rung on the ladder to advocacy and social justice” (35).

On the other side of the debate, Chris Bourg noted that “neutrality, by definition, is not taking sides” (34). Operating from that definition, he notes “decisions like how much funding a library gets, who should have access to a library, and even where a library is located are not neutral decisions” (34). R. David Lankes further unpacks the “myth of neutrality” (35) and gives this example: “a poor child needs a different level of service to meet our mission than college-educated adults in terms of literacy” (36).

Emily Knox’s comment reproduced in the image above rings true for me (37).  Libraries, and school libraries in particular, cannot collect every book published for youth. In our decision-making, our goal is to provide access to all sides of issues. But with limited budgets and the charge to provide resources aligned with school curricula, school librarians must pick and choose. We do so in the displays we create, the literacy programs we offer, and the ways we collaborate with classroom teachers and specialists and involve students and families in the library program. As the article in this issue by school librarian Kelsey Cohen demonstrates (see next week’s blog post), the library cannot be neutral and simply serve the students who are eager to read.

To be honest, the decisions we make reflect our shared librarianship values, the values of our communities, and our own personal values as well. In the types of outreach and the target audiences for our outreach activities, whether in school, public, or academic libraries, librarians who adhere to our value of “access” seek to be fair rather than equal. A neutral library would simply exist and serve the patrons who come. The library/librarian that assesses the community and determines how to best help people achieve their goals will, of necessity, do more for some than for others.

As Kelvin Watson noted: “We can’t be neutral on social and political issues that impact our customers because, to be frank, those social and political issues impact us as well” (38). In schools, our English language learners and their classroom teachers may need more literacy support than our gifted and talented students and their classroom teachers. Youth living in poverty may need access to literacy and technology resources more than our affluent students who have access in their homes. Inviting an author from an underrepresented group to provide a literacy event may speak in more personally meaningful and impactful ways to some of our students and families than to others. In my opinion, the ways school librarians address academic, social. and political inequities is not a neutral stance.

Since I was unable to attend Midwinter, I especially appreciate the excerpts available in American Libraries magazine and the links to some of the presenters’ full remarks. As noted above, I believe this article can spark a lively and critical conversation in libraries across the country and around the world. I hope you will make time to seek out, read, and discuss the issue of neutrality in librarianship in your professional learning networks.

Work Cited

American Libraries 49 (6). June, 2018.

Image credits:
Quote from Emily J. M. Knox

Youngson, Nick. “Decision-making Highway Sign.” http://www.creative-commons-images.com/highway-signs/d/decision-making.html

Maximizing Leadership: Chapter 9

Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy will be published by ALA Editions in June, 2018. Chapter 9 is the final chapter in the book.

The book will be hot off the presses next month and a limited number of copies will be available at the ALA Store at the Annual Conference in New Orleans. I will be participating in the conference and will carry copies of the book for you to preview. I will also have $5-off coupons to hand out.

Chapter 9: Sustaining Connections in a Learning Culture

“Courageous leadership and the perseverance to continually improve are critical to creating a better learning culture for all students and ultimately, to transform learning” (Sheninger and Murray 2017, 227).

Building and sustaining a collaborative culture of learning provides the necessary foundation for change. In order for any innovation to be successful, all stakeholders must work together to achieve that shared goal. In this culture, leaders engender trust and ensure positive relationships among team members. Beginning and ending with the plural pronoun “our,” all members of the school learning community share responsibility for learning and take pride in the outcomes. They all have a common stake in continuous improvement that results in student success.

A collaborative culture of learning allows individual educators to capitalize on the strengths their colleagues possess while they build their own instructional expertise. When school librarians enter into future ready learning partnerships, they help others achieve their goals. Working in teams, they build trusting relationships. In classrooms and libraries, educators practice reciprocal mentorship in order to improve student learning outcomes. They take risks together to coteach, and they believe that their instructional practices can develop at a much greater rate with more assured improvements when they collaborate.

With leadership, a successful change process breeds more change. School librarians working as change aides have the opportunity and responsibility to collaborate with administrators to codevelop and sustain library programs that are at the center of initiatives to transform learning and teaching. As leaders, librarians embody the vision, walk the talk, and go the extra mile.

What you will find in this chapter:
1. Graphic from How to Make a Switch (Heath and Heath 2010);
2. AASL Shared Foundations and Key Commitments (AASL 2018);
3. Your Plan and Reality Graphic;
4. Empowered Collaborative Culture of Learning Graphic.

For all stakeholders to work together over time, an empowered learning culture must be nurtured in order to sustain change. Time and time again, principals, school librarians, and teacher leaders will be called upon to renew and reinvigorate the learning community’s commitment to growth.
School librarians can be essential leaders who build and sustain the relationships that cement the foundation of a culture of learners—young and older—who strive to make schools joyful, relevant, challenging, and effective learning environments for all.

Works Cited

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

Heath, Chip, and Dan Heath. 2007. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. New York: Broadway Books.

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

Image Credit: Word Cloud created at Wordle.net