Collaboration and Leadership

Chapter 9: Collaboration by Judi Moreillon“Collaboration is THE key to co-creating a values-centered culture of deeper learning.” (Moreillon 2021, 141)

Maximizing Their Impact
As school librarians enact equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom (EDII) in their collaborative work, the school community will help them reach for social justice for all students. In schools with effective school librarians, EDII extend beyond the library and permeate the entire school culture. When school librarians collaborate with classroom teachers, specialists, and administrators, all students will experience the benefits of an EDII-infused learning environment.

Through coplanning, coteaching, and coassessing student learning outcomes, collaborating school librarians advocate for EDII in their daily work and influence the instructional practices of their colleagues. Effective school librarians integrate the diverse resources of the school library as they coplan and coteach. They ensure equitable student access to resources in all formats and to assistive technologies. School librarians coplan and coteach for student choice, voice, and differentiation in teaching and learning strategies, student activities, and learning products. Alongside their colleagues, they guide students in reading for learning in order to make sense and critically analyze and use ideas and information.

In schools with effective school librarians, collaboration results in instructional improvements for educators, including school librarians, and improved learning outcomes for students.

A Collaborative Culture of Learning

Graphic: A Collaborative Culture of Deeper Learning (Moreillon 2021, 139)(Moreillon 2021, 139)

How can school librarians be leaders in co-creating a values-centered culture of deeper learning?

Instructional Leadership: What If?
Given the emphasis on literacy and reading in schools and districts, it makes intuitive sense that students’ reading and writing proficiency and standardized scores would be better in schools with strong library programs.

Research also bears this out. Decades of research indicates that there is a positive correlation between learners’ attending schools with full-time, state-certified school librarians and higher scores on standardized reading tests (Gretes 2013; Lance and Kachel 2018). As Todd notes, deep reading for comprehension and meaning making is the foundation for constructing knowledge (2015, 13). If school librarians seek to guide students in making meaning from texts and creating new knowledge, then the school librarian’s role in reading is critical.

“The school librarian is an instructional partner who models and supports independent reading and the development of reading comprehension through curricular planning, instruction, resources, and literacy activities. School librarians:

  • Co-design, co-implement, and co-evaluate interdisciplinary lessons and units of instruction that help learners increase reading proficiency through inquiry learning experiences.
  • Collaborate with classroom educators and specialists to integrate paper and online reading comprehension strategies in library instruction that supports learners’ development” (AASL 2018).

How can school librarians maximize their impact on student outcomes in the areas of reading and writing while centering EDII in their work?

Collaboration and Leadership
If school librarians are to be instructional leaders, then aligning their expertise in teaching/coteaching information literacy skills through inquiry and research with effective strategies for elevating students’ reading and writing proficiency is essential. Bringing school librarian values to the collaboration table helps spread EDII and principles of social justice throughout the learning community.

Fact
In order to be information literate,
students must be able to comprehend the information they read/view/hear.

Intentionally addressing comprehension strategies during information literacy instruction is a pathway to success for students. One critically important reading comprehension strategy is activating or building background knowledge. When readers connect to ideas and information that reflect their experience, they are more likely to be motivated to read because they have a foundation of knowledge on which to build new understandings. Readers who lack such background knowledge will struggle unless they are guided to build such knowledge or if they havealready incorporated this comprehension strategy into their reading toolkits.

Coplanning for and coteaching reading comprehension and writing strategies must be central to school librarians’ work. Providing students with equitable intellectual access to ideas and information is a way for school librarians to bring principles of EDII into the classroom curriculum. Through diverse, inclusive collection development and coplanning with other educators to enact student-centered practices, school librarians can help all students succeed while they influence the values of their colleagues.

In order to reach their capacity, school librarians must diffuse their value for equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom throughout the school learning community. They do this by collaborating with others and in the process, achieve leadership and enact social justice.

Reflection Question
In order to achieve a school culture of deeper learning, what role have you played or will you play in bringing conversations and actions related to social justice (EDII) to the fore in your teaching, school, district, and community? (Moreillon 157).

Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage Book Study
This is the final blog post in this book study of companion writings to support the content of the book. The contributors to the book and to this book study resource hope we have given you some examples, inspiration, and motivation to further your own values-centered practice in the areas of equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom. “We hope you will use your voice to affirm your commitment to library values and have the courage to enact them in collaboration with library stakeholders” (Moreillon 2021, 157).

Working together in collaboration with others, school librarians can transform teaching, learning, and the cultures of schools and communities. Together, they can stand up for the hard things that lead to social justice in education.

Works Cited
American Association of School Librarians. 2018. “Position Statement: The School Librarian’s Role in Reading.” ALA.org. Available at https://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/resources/statements. Accessed December 27, 2021.

Gretes, Frances. 2013. “School Library Impact Studies: A Review of Findings and Guide to Sources.” Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.

Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra Kachel. 2018. “Why School Librarians Matter: What Years of Research Tell Us.” Phi Delta Kappan Online. Available at http://www.kappanonline.org/lance-kachel-school-librarians-matter-years-research. Accessed December 27, 2021.

Moreillon, Judi. 2021. “Collaboration.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 139-158. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Todd, Ross J. 2015. “Evidence-Based Practice and School Libraries: Interconnections of Evidence, Advocacy, and Actions.” Knowledge Quest 43 (3): 8–15.

Classroom-Library Collaboration for Instruction

Chapter 9 Collaboration by Judi Moreillon

“Collaborating educators believe that their instructional practices develop at a much greater rate with more assured improvements when they collaborate” (Moreillon 2021, 144)(Moreillon 2021, 144)

Way back in the 1990s during the National Library Power Project, I participated in a course for Library Power librarians offered by Ken Haycock. A question he asked at that time has been a reoccurring theme in his writing. When asked whom they serve, “most [school librarians] would answer students, yet the primary clientele in terms of power, impact, and effect would be teachers” (Haycock 2017, 3). This understanding of the importance of collaboration with colleagues is, in my view, the foundation for school librarian leadership.

Learning During Preservice Education
As those of us who have served in school libraries know, many classroom teachers and administrators lack an expectation or an experience of classroom-library collaboration for instruction. Preservice preparation programs for educators/administrators are jammed with state-level requirements and do not, as a rule, include information or an experience of collaborative work with school librarians.

When I taught at Texas Woman’s University (TWU), two doctoral students Ruth Nicole Hall and Becky McKee and I organized and provided annual workshops for preservice classroom teachers about how they could work collaboratively with their school librarian for the benefit of their students and to benefit their own teaching (see the “What Every Preservice Teacher Candidate Should Know about Working with the School Librarian” Slideshare on my presentation wiki).

During those years, preservice principal educator Teresa Starrett invited me to present to her curriculum and supervision classes. Our work included a grant-funded crowdsourced video of testimonials from principals and other administrators from across the country: “Principals Know: School Librarians Are the Heart of the School.”

It would have been ideal if these future colleagues had direct experience of working with school librarian candidates during their preservice education. (This was not possible for our online library science graduate students and in-person classroom teacher and administrator colleagues at TWU.) If direct experience is not possible, currently practicing school librarian educators can help provide information and examples/scenarios for preservice administrators and classroom educators as we did throughout my seven-year tenure.

Instructional Partnerships in Practice
In Chapter 8 Advocacy, Kristin and TuesD note the importance of reaching out to classroom teachers for collaborative work. They wrote: “Messages should help classroom teachers visualize working with the school librarian by providing actual examples of the past and potential partnerships that could be possible” (Sierra and Chambers 128).

The vignettes in Chapter 9: Collaboration offered by elementary school librarian Matt King and middle school English language arts teacher Jenni Kramer and librarian Kat Berg provide examples of collaborative work and testimonials to the power of classroom-library collaboration for instruction – and for job-embedded professional development.

Initiating and Promoting Partnerships
There are times when collaborative partnerships form spontaneously and organically in the context of schooling. However, it is my experience that it often takes one person – usually the librarian – to initiate partnerships.

Providing examples of successful partnerships, especially in terms of student learning outcomes and educator development on the part of classroom teachers and the librarian, are ideal ways to get to “yes!” That is true even if the examples are from the librarian’s work in a different school or district, or with educators at another instructional level. Examples provide school librarians with credibility.

Each of my coteaching reading comprehension professional books includes twenty-one examples of teaching reading to learn in collaboration with elementary and secondary colleagues in every discipline. In addition, I published/copublished two on the National Council of Teachers of Reading ReadWriteThink.org to spotlight for site users, classroom teacher colleagues, preservice school librarians, and school administrators how classroom teachers and school librarians can elevate student learning through coplanning, coteaching, and coassessing student outcomes and the effectiveness of their instruction.

As the second librarian at Sabino High School, I collaborated with the ceramics teacher to co-design and coteach “Behind the Masks: Exploring Culture and Self through Art and Poetry.” Students researched mask-making from various cultures, recreated cultural masks, and composed poetry to share their understandings. Then, they created personal masks and poems to reflect their own cultures. The classroom teacher learned to use rubrics for assessment.

When I served as the literacy coach at Van Buskirk Elementary, I collaborated with classroom teachers, the school librarian, and art teacher to co-design and co-teach “Peace Poems and Picasso Doves: Literature, Art, Technology, and Poetry.” Third- through fifth-grade students applied reading strategies to comprehend literature, created artwork and poetry, and used technology tools to publish their work. Classroom teachers learned new ways to integrate technology into the literacy curriculum.

Classroom Teachers as Advocates
When school librarians help others meet their needs, those library stakeholders will become our advocates. Helping classroom educators and administrators succeed is at the center of the work of school librarians. AND it is important that school librarians turn support for the librarian and library program into actionable advocacy.

Reflection Question
“With whom in your school do you share your vision for building a collaborative culture of learning?” (Moreillon 157).

Note: If you are a School Library Connection subscriber, you can assess the entire Chapter 9 Collaboration as part of the Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage Book Study Kit.

Works Cited
Haycock, Ken. 2017. “Leadership from the Middle: Building Influence for Change.” In The Many Faces of School Librarian Leadership, 2nd ed., ed. S. Coatney and V. H. Harada, 1-12. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Moreillon, Judi. 2004. Peace Poems and Picasso Doves: Literature, Art, Technology, and Poetry. ReadWriteThink.org. Available from http://www.readwritethink.org/classrcoom-resources/lesson-plans/peace-poems-picasso-doves-93.html. Accessed December 19, 2021.

Moreillon, Judi. 2021. “Collaboration.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 139-158. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Moreillon, Judi, and Diane Roderick. 2003. Behind the Masks: Exploring Culture and Self through Art and Poetry. ReadWriteThink.org. Available from http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/behind-masks-exploring-culture-395.html. Accessed December 19, 2021.

Sierra, Kristin Fraga, and TuesD Chambers. 2021. “Advocacy.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 123-138. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Principal Partnerships and Leader-Librarians

Chapter 6 Principal-School Librarian Partnerships by Kelly Gustafson and M. E. Shenefiel
Blog post by M. E. Shenefiel

Tempus Fugit (Time Flies)
We’ve just returned from the 2021 AASL National Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, where we had the honor of learning from our co-authors as they presented an overview of the core values embodied in our book. (Thanks to Suzanne Sannwald, Judi Moreillon, Erika Long, Julie Stivers, and Meg Boisseau Allison for sharing your ideas and passion. You are each inspirational role models for those who choose to embrace this work.) It’s been just about a year since we completed the final draft of Chapter 6 of Core Values in School Librarianship and we are grateful to have had the opportunity to participate. When we began the project, we couldn’t have imagined how pertinent this work would become.

Leader-Librarians
At the AASL conference, the Friday general session was a conversation with administrators (including the co-author of chapter 6, Kelly Gustafson.) The conversation focused on “what administrators need and expect from their school librarians and school libraries, and how administrators can empower a school librarian’s leadership role to impact all learners” (ALA, 2021.) Several times during the conversation the panel of exemplary administrators referred to the “mental model” of the school librarian, and how it does not match the actual role of the school librarian. The “mental model” refers to the antiquated role of the school librarian whose seemingly sole purpose was to protect the paper and shush the student. (The pivotal word being, “was.”) These administrators expressed high expectations for what a leader-librarian can and should be.

 “Principals who value school librarians have a high expectation for those librarians to be leaders within their school and district” (Gustafson and Shenefiel, 94).(Gustafson and Shenefiel, 94)

Question: What does a school leader-librarian look like?

Answer: Whatever your administrator needs it to be. It could be something as small as having a few moments during each staff meeting to highlight new resources. It could mean collaborating with another department to help curate resources for a grade-level curricular project. It could mean organizing literacy events for the school community. It could be presenting professional development within the district or at the local, state, or national level.

Leader-librarians observe and listen, attuned to the needs of the students, staff, and school community. When resources and opportunities to address these needs come to light, leader-librarians share proactively. Committed to finding opportunities to serve, they are curious about school-wide and district-wide initiatives and seek out information to understand these initiatives. They ask for a seat at the table, whether it be a small focus group to provide input for a prospective grant, a standing social studies department meeting, or an expanded advisory committee focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Leader-librarians are confident in their ability to advocate for all students and will take risks to challenge the status quo if that challenge is in the best interest of the students.

Building the Partnership

“Trust is built on very small moments.” – Brené Brown

Librarians tend to have their finger on the pulse of what’s happening in a school or a school district. Principals are responsible for guiding the programs and making decisions in the best interest of the school community. Each time the librarian can be proactive and offer solutions to building-level concerns, the principal can breathe a little sigh of relief. These small moments and actions build trust, and strong partnerships are the result.

As a leader-librarian you need to be alert and take advantage of opportunities to show that you are connected to the goals of the school and district. These opportunities don’t require grand gestures or complicated plans.

For example, my building principal is facilitating a year-long book study of When You Wonder, You’re Learning: Mister Rogers’ Enduring Lessons for Raising Creative, Curious, Caring Kids by Gregg Behr and Ryan Rydzewski. A few weeks ago, the authors were speaking at a local independent bookstore, and I was able to share this event with my principal, so he could, in turn, share it with others. This tiny action is just one of many small moments where I’m proactive and step up to support the goals of my principal.

As a result, the principal will always listen when I have a question or suggestion, and when possible, will defer to my judgment when it comes to decisions about the library.

Collaborative Leadership in Our District
The partnership that Kelly and I have has evolved into an interesting collaborative leadership opportunity. Kelly has used her voice to elevate the role of the school librarians across the district. She has been strategic about finding opportunities to advocate and as such, the other principals and administrators are recognizing the value of a leader-librarians. As a result of this work, for the first time, the library department is working in tandem with the ELA department to update our core novel list with a focus on including diverse texts.

Reflection Question
“What opportunities exist for you to be a leader in your school or district?” (Gustafson and Shenefiel, 105).

Works Cited
American Library Association (ALA). 2021. “Friday General Session.” AASL Salt Lake City. Available at https://national.aasl.org/general/. Accessed October 27, 2021.

Behr, Gregg and Ryan Rydzewski. 2021. When You Wonder, You’re Learning: Mister Rogers’ Enduring Lessons for Raising Creative, Curious, Caring Kids. New York, NY: Hachette Book Group.

Brown, Brené. 2019. “The Anatomy of Trust,” recorded April 15, 2019 for Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations, podcast, 24:28, Available at https://super-soul.simplecast.com/episodes/dr-brene-brown-the-anatomy-of-trust-FfsQ0Y_C. Accessed October 27, 2021.

Gustafson, Kelly, and M. E. Shenefiel. 2021. “Principal-School Librarian Partnerships” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 91-106. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Kelly Gustafson, MEd, serves as the Wexford Elementary School principal in the Pine-Richland School District in Pennsylvania. Kelly’s passion for school library partnerships fueled her active role in AASL’s School Leader Collaborative. She champions the value of librarians as a member of AASL and Pennsylvania School Librarians Association. Connect with her on Twitter @GustafsonkKelly.

M. E. Shenefiel, MLIS, (she/her) is the librarian at Eden Hall Upper Elementary School in the Pine-Richland School District (Gibsonia, Pennsylvania), where she also serves as the library department chairperson and a Building Level Technology Coach. She was a contributor to both the Guidelines for Pennsylvania School Library Programs (2019) and The Model Curriculum for Learners in Pennsylvania School Libraries (2019). Connect with her on Twitter @bookbird.

Building Relationships Through the Environment, Your PLN, and a Smile

Chapter 5: Relationships by Jennifer Sturge with Stacy Allen and Sandy Walker
Blog post by Stacy Allen, Jennifer Sturge, and Sandy Walker

“The act of making a connection, feeling and being connected is something humans strive for whether it is a relationship with a place, pet, parent, colleague, or student.”Stacy Allen, Jennifer Sturge, Sandy Walker (2021, 76)

Building Relationships Through the Environment|
As part of the chapter on relationships, we focused on relationships between librarians and students, librarians and teachers, librarians and the broader community. As we set out to write this blog post, we wanted to focus on how we can build relationships by creating spaces that are welcoming, spaces where our students want to spend time and feel empowered to be themselves.  We can build positive relationships in our virtual school libraries and in our physical libraries through many of the same steps.

Create a Welcoming Environment
This might seem like something you already do, but take a close look around you. Go ahead, scan your library. Let’s consider deeply – what is on the walls, in the displays, and how is furniture arranged?

Do you see:

  • Representation from diverse groups of people?
  • Do posters of books and authors include BIOPIC representation?
  • Do your walls welcome those who are differently abled?
  • Persons or books representing the LGBTQ+ community?
  • Do your displays include a wide variety of books and materials that represent your school community, the outside world, and multiple views?
  • Do you have areas where students can work as a group, solo, or relax?
  • Can students who use mobility aids access all areas?

It may feel like a small step to take, but when your library decorations and displays include everyone, students are more likely to want to spend time in the library and thus, you are more likely to be able to build that connection with your students. Every student needs to feel both welcomed and seen.

Focus on Accessibility
As we talk more about the library environment, we wanted to go a little deeper into building relationships through accessibility. When we think about accessibility and relationships,it is essential that we provide an environment where everyone belongs.

Here are a few steps you can take quickly.

  1. Be sure your tables and areas of instruction include tables at which a student with a wheelchair can sit without having to wait for someone to move a chair out of the way. Provide a self-checkout station that is low enough that someone in a wheelchair can access it, and that has enough space around it that a person who has limited mobility can maneuver. If possible, provide the option of a touch screen for someone who may have difficulty using a mouse.
  2. Add core language communication boards to your school libraries. Core language communication boards allow a person to communicate with you and those around them in a non-verbal way. There are many school library core boards available to print and provide in your library.  Susan Berkowitz provides a free one here. However, many are available with a quick web search, or work with your assistive technology team to create a custom one.
  3. Purchase the audio version of your books. One thing that we have started doing as we purchase new titles for the library is adding the audio book on our Sora platform. This allows students who may need access to the audio version to be able to check it out without having to put in a special request for the book to be in an audio version and makes it accessible to all. Your students with vision or reading disabilities may also have access to Bookshare.org, a free online resource with 500,000+ books readily accessible through text-to speech.

Look Up, Smile, and Respond
As we were thinking about this blog post, we started sharing stories of how we feel like we have formed relationships with others that are not the traditional relationship, but ones we enjoy the interaction with just the same.

Jen shared about her favorite cashiers at the local Safeway. Typically, when Jen did her grocery shopping it was around the same time and she enjoyed getting into Jeri’s line. Jeri would chat during the checkout process and share stories about funny things that had happened or about their kids or pets.  Even though Jen never saw her outside of the grocery store, she always made it a point to say hello if she was going through the express line, or to get in her line. Just two weeks ago, Jeri retired. Without that interaction, Jen’s going to need to find a new favorite cashier at her local grocery store — a small relationship, but a relationship nonetheless.

The point of the previous paragraph is not that Jen is missing her cashier, but rather that, as librarians, we serve in a role where we often see hundreds of students in a day, week, or month.  It’s difficult to really dig down and know every single one of the people in our amazing school community. We can be like the Jeri’s of this world – we can converse, give a smile, and make the student or faculty member feel special while they are in our library.

You can also build relationships by displaying your interests. Have an About Me poster that kids can see, display a picture of you in your softball uniform or dance costume, or wear a button showing the instrument you play. Stacy shared that she recently built a new friendship with a teacher who wore a shirt with an ukulele on it. She never would have guessed they had that interest in common!

There is power in the smaller relationships. How you make someone feel sticks with them for a long time. Sharing a small interaction, a smile, and a kind word goes a long way.  Kindness can build trust, and trust is the foundation for a mutually respectful and beneficial relationship.

Relationships with your Professional Learning Network
As some of you reading this blog post will have just returned home after attending the #AASL21 conference in Salt Lake City, we wanted to remind you to nourish the relationships you invested in as you met new people and engaged with those you see only periodically. The school library community is a vibrant community and by continuing to connect with those you spent your time with in Salt Lake City, you will continue to grow and nourish your school librarian toolbox. Reach out to the person on Twitter that you sat next to in a session on Friday morning. Share an idea with the group of people you exchanged emails with at the Rock Out Celebration on Saturday night.

Above all, revisit your relationship with the notes you took, the pamphlets you picked up, and the boxes of books you shipped home! Share what you learned with students, other educators, and administrators. Share important information, effective strategies, and exciting resources that can improve teaching and learning in your school community.

You’ll be glad you did.

Reflection Question
“In your role as a school librarian, what are some of the greatest responsibilities you have in terms of relationships with library stakeholders?” (89).

Work Cited

Sturge, Jennifer with Stacy Allen and Sandy Walker. 2021. “Relationships.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 75-90. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

About the Bloggers

Stacy Allen, MA, serves as Assistive Technology Specialist for Calvert County Public Schools in Maryland. She has worked in Special Education for 25 years. Her current position allows her to focus on equity and access for students with disabilities through work with teachers, students, and families. Connect with her on Twitter @artisfood

Jennifer Sturge, EdD, (she/hers) is the specialist for the library media programs coordinating the professional development and library media programs for Calvert’s schools. She is a 2017-2018 Lilead Fellow, the Maryland Technology Leader of the Year for 2019, and was the 2020-2021 Maryland Association of School Librarians President. Connect with her on Twitter @sturgej

Sandy Walker, MA, serves as the Supervisor of Equity and School Improvement for Calvert County Public Schools. He works with school administration, staff, and students to establish an identity-safe learning and working environment where success is not predetermined by income, zip code, or race. Connect with him on Twitter @Real_EquityCCPS

 

Opening Our Educational Practices for Intellectual Freedom

Chapter 4: Intellectual Freedom by Suzanne Sannwald
and Dan McDowell|
Blog post by Suzanne

Although I was a co-author for the chapter on Intellectual Freedom for Core Values in School Librarianship, I am quite self-admittedly far from being an expert on intellectual freedom. My approach with writing was instead from the perspective of an ordinary school librarian, and the chapter that unfolded shared information that anyone can find by doing some research on the topic.

At the same time, the framing of the chapter was very personal. My hope was to share the thought journey that I went through in making sense of this very theoretical sounding concept and seeing how it affects my very concrete daily practices.

“Intellectual freedom, including access and choices, privacy
and confidentiality, is the right of every library stakeholder” (Sannwald and McDowell 2021, 55).

As often happens when you learn about something, you start to see the term or idea show up all over the place, and that has definitely been the case for me since I co-wrote the chapter on intellectual freedom. For instance, as I shared in a previous post, I cannot hear discussions about challenges to curriculum related Critical Race Theory (CRT) without thinking about how this threatens the intellectual freedom of students. The fact that educators may through intimidation and/or legislation be discouraged from sharing marginalized voices and factual experiences is clear and present censorship.

I have also been thinking about the way misinformation with COVID-19 has also endangered intellectual freedom since intellectual freedom is not just a matter of what information is allowed or not allowed to be shared. Intellectual freedom is also about our capacity to be mentally free, to be able to think critically.

When thinking about building students’ “capacity to be mentally free, I now see how every instructional choice is really tied to intellectual freedom. Suzanne SannwaldWith the pandemic, another trend that I tracked was the increased use of digital resources as students engaged in online-based distance learning. I work in a district that has been working for years now as a #GoOpen Ambassador District implementing Open Educational Resources (OER), but I feel like movement and motivation in this direction was certainly accelerated during the pandemic.

This past summer, my ideas around OER were deepened when I had the fortunate opportunity to talk with Susan D. Ballard, Dr. Pamela C. Harland. and Dr. Gerard L. Hanley for School Library Connection. Although I had originally sought them out based on their involvement and expertise with OER, my favorite takeaway was learning about OEP: Open Educational Practices/Pedagogy. I realized that OER may, of course, have benefits when it comes to ensuring equitable access to learning resources.

However, if it is always teachers and librarians doing all of the curation with OER, then is there really that fundamental a shift in the learning experience for students?

With OEP, the idea is that we don’t just look for ways to open up resource access. We go further by looking at ways to open up learning so that students share ownership in constructing their own learning. This, again, made me think again about intellectual freedom and fostering student capacity to be mentally free. It ties to the idea that we, as school librarians, must go beyond simply opposing censorship and securing access to resources for students. We, in collaboration with all educators, must open learning experiences to students so that they are enabled and encouraged to think and engage critically.

Only by creating these opportunities for participatory practice may we truly ensure students’ intellectual freedom.

Reflection Question
“What practices are you already doing to support the intellectual freedom of students and staff members in your school community, including ones that you may not have previously identified as relating to intellectual freedom?” (70).

To learn and reflect more about how intellectual freedom can drive your professional practice, make sure to check out Chapter 4 in Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage.

Work Cited

Sannwald, Suzanne, and Dan McDowell. 2021. “Intellectual Freedom.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 55-72. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

About the Blogger
Suzanne Sannwald, MLIS, (she/her) has worked as a high school teacher librarian since 2014. She builds upon her previous education-related roles from middle school to higher education levels, serving as a certificated classroom teacher, classified library technician, district library supervisor, and student affairs technology manager. Suzanne earned both an MA in Teaching and Learning with Technology and an MLIS. She was a 2015-16 ALA Spectrum Scholar, 2016 California School Library Association Leadership for Diversity Scholar, 2017 school site Golden Apple Teacher of the Year, 2018-19 AASL Induction Program member, San José State University iSchool lecturer starting Fall 2020, and School Library Connection contributor. Suzanne has published articles and presented on topics including user experience, information literacy, collaboration, advocacy, and affirming students’ reading and larger lives. Connect with her on Twitter @suzannesannwald.

Equity from a District-level Perspective

Blog Post by Chapter 1: Equity Co-author Suzanne Sherman“It is very important to our mission to ensure that the district’s school library services truly serve every student” (Searles and Moser, cited in Long and Sherman 2021, 14).(quoted from Long and Sherman 2021, 14)

Transition From a Building-level to a District-level Perspective
At the time Erika Long and I were crafting Chapter 1: Equity in Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, I was entering my 12th year as a school librarian at a large, suburban high school in Knox County, Tennessee. Providing equity had always been at the forefront of my thinking and while I like to think that I was seeing this from a broader perspective than just this particular school, the reality was that I primarily applied the principle to the 2,100+ students I interacted with daily. I attempted in my regular practice to ensure that my energy and accompanying resources in lesson design, collection management, and outreach efforts were all-inclusive and provided entry points for every student.

At various points in my career in Knox County Schools, I served in district leadership positions which allowed me from time to time to have a glimpse of the bigger picture and to see some of the challenges around providing equity on such a large scale. Those experiences were partly what led to my decision to apply for the Library Media Services (LMS) Instructional Facilitator position for the district. I was selected for the job and transitioned from the school library setting into the role at the district office in January, 2021. I knew at this point that my vantage point was shifting and suspected that my understanding of equity in school libraries would be as well.

Collectively Learning
I was extremely grateful for the professional development I received during my first week in my new position as it solidified my thinking about collective efficacy and the role it would play in shaping my work. When I saw that one of the primary goals is to help our department of 90+ librarians grow in their practice as a whole, I immediately saw equity in the equation.

As I undertook specific tasks such as continuing the work outlined in Chapter 1: Equity wherein my predecessor and supervisor collaborated with the Knox County Public Library to provide library cards for all KCS students and partnered with one of the preschools to organize and rethink those libraries, I was able to see firsthand the impact this was making in the community.

I was quickly introduced to planning for professional development (PD) and, again, I saw the power of equity on this larger scale. Through careful planning and thoughtful consideration of our different adult learners’ needs, it became clear to me that ensuring that the PD we offer the school librarians in our district is meaningful and relevant has to be at the heart of my practice.

Consistently providing the entire department opportunities to engage with research-based practices and grow in their understanding of what it means to deliver high-quality instruction and maintain current and relevant collections has the capacity to level the playing field for all students when librarians implement their learning in their individual schools. Exploring ideas pertinent to school libraries such as the ones we included in our 2021 summer PD sessions: on-demand access to materials, building inclusive collections, Universal Design for Learning, and Social and Personal Competencies, highlights for the librarians these principles of equity and ultimately has the power to positively impact their instruction and programming.

Achieving Empowerment
Our chapter concludes by saying, “The first step in working to achieve equity within schools is ensuring that all learners in every school have access to a certified school librarian or district leaders who advocate for resources and services within underserved schools where this is not feasible from a staffing standpoint” (15). We are fortunate enough in our district to be allocated the funding for both a supervisor and an instructional facilitator in the LMS department and this is not something that I take lightly or for granted.

The charge that comes with providing resources for all students and dedicated support for the school librarians points always to the pursuit of equity. Modeling the practice becomes a means of providing structures for the librarians and ultimately empowers them to deliver the same equitable services to their students, classroom teachers, administrators, and families.

To learn more about the role equity plays in planning for instruction and services, explore Chapter 1 in Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021).

Reflection Question
“Brainstorm services your school community lacks. Develop out-of-the-box to meet those needs and create a timeline implementation. What barriers might arise, and how will you overcome them?” (16).

Work Cited
Long, Erika, and Suzanne Sherman. 2021. “Equity.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 3-17. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Leading Learning: Advice from the AASL School Leader Collaborative

Last Friday, American Association of School Librarians (AASL) past-president Kathryn Roots Lewis posted “Celebrate Your Influence!” on the Knowledge Quest blog.

This is a must-read, seriously consider, reflect upon, and take action guide for all practicing school librarians, librarian candidates, and school librarian educators.Word Cloud in the letters W and ELeaders and Instructional Partners
The responses from five of the seven School Leader Collaborative (Collaborative) members reinforce the critical actions school librarians have taken during the pandemic. The school librarian’s role as a leader and the Collaborate Shared Foundation (and action taken during the role of instructional partner) are dominant threads throughout the Collaborative members’ comments. These principals and superintendents know the school library can and should be at the center of the academic program and that school librarians can and should lead from the heart of the school.

Although many school librarians have been serving as leaders and instructional partners for decades, the necessity of leadership and classroom-library collaboration came into acute focus during school closures, hybrid and remote learning. These practices must continue into the future if we are to demonstrate our value and reach our capacity to influence teaching and learning in our school communities.

Maximizing School Librarian Leadership
I believe that the testimonials of the Collaborative suggest that educators thrive in a positive school climate characterized by a can-do spirit. In their comments, they ask school librarians to be adaptable and flexible, intentional and effective communicators who practice grace and patience, and serve as outcomes-oriented coteachers who can be assertive team players.

School librarians must be coleaders in building and maintaining a collaborative culture of learning. “Leaders must communicate optimism to their followers. Optimistic leaders support people in taking the first and then the next steps in a change process. School librarians can be coleaders who positively affect school climate and culture through successful classroom-library instructional partnerships” (Moreillon 2018, 130).

Advocacy
From the perspectives of these administrators, the positive results of (more) school librarians serving as leaders and instructional partners has been a “good thing” for students, educators, and administrators.

This MUST become the new normal for our profession!

Publicizing the work of the Collaborative creates an opportunity for advocacy for all of us. But first, it is incumbent upon all school librarians to take action to work toward the highly influential role of instructional coleader in our schools.

After we have taken on that responsibility, sharing the understandings, experiences, and suggestions of these school leaders can help school librarians influence the actions of administrators in their schools and districts. Combining exemplary practice with administrator support will help us achieve our rightful place at the center of teaching and learning.

Coming Soon at the AASL Conference
Pam Harland, Anita Cellucci, and I have just completed a research study of content created by the Collaborative. We will be presenting “The Influence of Standards on School Administrators’ Priorities for School Librarians” during a “Research Into Practice” session at the AASL National Conference in Salt Lake City in October, 2021.

Work Cited

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

Image Credit

johnhain. “We Unity Cooperation Together.” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/illustrations/we-unity-cooperation-together-566327/

Classroom-Library Collaboration for Earth Day

Image of Global Map imprinted to two hand palms

School Library Month, Part 3

As a global citizen who has deep concern about the health and future of the planet and the safety of her human, animal, and plant inhabitants, I have participated in Earth Day activities since they began in 1970. The official Earth Day website offers a history that may surprise today’s youth in terms of the origin of Earth DAy, how it led to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and evolved from a national U.S. event to a global one in 1990.

Earth Day will be held this week on Thursday, April 22nd. This year’s theme is “Restore Our Earth™.”

This theme and a study of climate change go hand in hand. In this post I share how I suggest using resources from the School Library NJ resource portal and a tool and guide from the Washington Digital TeachKit to co-launch an elementary or a middle school Guided Inquiry Design® (GID) unit into a school-based celebration of Earth Day followed by a service project.

This GID would be co-designed, co-taught, and co-evaluated by a school librarian and one or more classroom teachers.

Open: I found Jeanette Winter’s picture book Our House Is On Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet (Beach Lane 2019) to be the ideal read-aloud to launch this inquiry for upper elementary and middle school students.

“You are never too small to make a difference.” Greta Thunberg

Many students will have heard of climate change, Greta Thunberg, and protests for environmental protections so they will be able to connect their background knowledge to the information in this book. With few words, Jeanette Winter’s text follows Greta Thunberg’s awakening to the climate crisis. The illustrations powerfully show Greta’s concern, courage, commitment, and success in building a global movement of young people. The final page of the book reads:

“What Will You Do?” Greta Thunberg

After a discussion, the educators would propose the purpose for this inquiry (connected to earth science and civics education curricula): Determine the “best” way for students at our school to celebrate Earth Day and use the celebration as a launch for a community service project.

Invite students to brainstorm some keywords and concepts.

Immerse
We would share a video and lead students in a discussion to further increase their investment in the purpose for the inquiry.

For upper elementary students and 6th-graders: “Earth Day 2021 & Beyond | 8 Ways to Celebrate (I bet you don’t know the fact in #1)” by Kid Conservationist

For 7th and 8th graders: “Earth Day 2020” by Culture Collective

If the timing was right, I would also promote students tuning in with their families for this year’s National Geographic Earth Day Eve, a celebration with Dr. Jane Goodall and others and musical headliners Yo-Yo Ma, Ziggy Marley, and Willie Nelson (4/21/21 at 8:30 EST).

Explore
I used some of the elementary and middle school search tools and resources from the School Library NJ portal to identify the possibilities that follow.

I accessed Newslea from the News & Current Events page of the Middle School section to identify several articles about Greta Thunberg (grades 5-8).

Screenshot of Newslea.com articles about Greta Thunberg

I had not previously used Sweet Search (from the Elementary Search page) and wanted to test out the site before recommending it to students.

Using search terms “Earth Day” and “climate change,” my collaborator and I could identify sites similar to these four for elementary or middle school students to explore in small groups. (We would model these searches when students begin to gather their own resources.)

NASA Climate Kids: Definitions and connections to climate change

Earth Day: EPA Earth Day: The site includes projects and ideas for youth.

The Nature Conservancy: Earth Day 2021: #SpeakUpForNature 2021 Virtual Event will be held on 4/22 at noon EST.

United Nations: International Mother Earth Day: The strength of this site is its global perspective.

Identify
In this phase, students would begin to form their ideas for answering the overarching question: What is the best way for our school to celebrate Earth Day and launch a service project?

Using Flipgrid (as described by the WA Digital TeachKit) could allow individual and small groups of students to make PSA announcements to identify team members, seek feedback, and gather support for their idea. See Flipgrid in the Tools section and the Guides section under Student Interaction.

Using Resource Portals
The School Library NJ resource portal would be useful for this guided inquiry project. In terms of resources, I was able to find useful sites for the Explore phase, AND I still had to do my homework. When entering the Gather phase, student searchers would find a number of dead ends when sites they predicted would be useful turned out to be a bust, which was also true for me. (An alternative would be for the educators to use the portal to develop a pathfinder that included searching strategies as well as fruitful sites and databases. The Middle School section offers Crash Course Research Tips videos.)

The WA Digital TeachKit would help educators provide students with a menu of possible sharing tools to use to promote their “best” idea, present their new knowledge, and further their service learning project.

Let’s celebrate Earth Day 2021 and School Library Month in collaboration with our students and classroom teacher colleagues! Their future (and ours) depends on it.

References

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.

School Library NJ. https://schoollibrarynj.libguides.com/home/

WA Digital TeachKit. https://sites.google.com/view/wa-digital-teachkit/home

Winter, Jeannette. 2019. Our House Is On Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call to Save the Planet. New York: Beach Lane Books.

Image Credit
stokpic. “Hands World Map Globe Earth.” https://pixabay.com/photos/hands-world-map-global-earth-600497/

Black History and Women’s History All Year Long

Core Values in School Librarianship Book Cover and Quote#AASLchat organizers and I are on the same wave length when it comes to celebrating Black History, Women’s History, and all of the “months.” Diversity in resources, teaching, and programming are most effective when diversity is essential to the classroom/library curriculum all year long.

The AASL February chat will be held tonight, 2/22/21, beginning at 7:30 EST. You can read about it in an article by Chelsea Brantley and the AASL School Library Event Promotion Committee on the KQ Blog.

For me, “providing students with equitable access to relevant, engaging, and culturally responsive curriculum, resources, and programming must be essential to our mission” (Moreillon 2021, 150). Coplanning instruction with classroom teachers gives school librarians the opportunity to privilege diverse voices, cultures, and contributions throughout the curriculum.

These are the #AASLchat questions followed by my tweets and comments.

Q1 Black History Month is in February, but why not celebrate all year? What are some practical ways librarians can differentiate instruction to support learners’ understanding of cultural relevancy and placement within the global learning community? #AASLchat

Book CoversA1 Conducting #diversity audits, not only for the library collection but also for lessons and unit plans and programming, is essential. These sample resources span the content areas and grade levels. #AASLchat #Kidlit #MGlit #YAlit

Math and Science: Hidden Women: The African-American Mathematicians of NASA Who Helped America Win the Space Race (Encounter: Narrative Nonfiction Stories) by Rebecca Rissman (Capstone 2018).

History and Civic Education: Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Laura Freeman (Atheneum 2020)

Music and Culture: R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul by Carole Boston Weatherford (Atheneum 2020) with stunning illustrations by Frank Morrison

Q2 Libraries share stories of people from all walks of life. What books do you share with students to celebrate diversity? #AASLchat

Book CoversA2 American Indians’ experiences/contributions often left out of curriculum. Connect current events w/ #diverse resources. Ex: NM U.S. Rep. Debra Haaland, Pueblo woman & candidate 4 Secretary of Interior. What cultural values will she bring to this position? #AASLchat

Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids by Cynthia Leitch Smith (Heartdrum 2021)

Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade (Roaring Brook 2020)

Nibi Emosaawdang / The Water Walker (Ojibwa / English Edition) (Ojibwa) by Joanne Robertson, translators Shirley Williams and Isadore Toulouse (Second Story Press 2018)

Q3 Thinking ahead to March and Women’s History Month, let’s curate some resources to share with our students in the coming weeks. Identify a resource or two and how you might integrate it in your library program. #AASLchat

Book CoversA3 Feature #OwnVoices of Black (& other) women during Women’s History Month. Ex: Make these connections w/social studies curriculum or biography/autobiography unit. Compare first-hand accounts w/textbook/informational book content. #AASLchat

Child of the Dream (Memoir of 1963) by Sharon Robinson (Scholastic 2020)

My Life with Rosie: A Bond Between Cousins by Angela Sadler Williamson and Chloe Helms (Kate Butler Books 2020)

Ruby Bridges: This Is Your Time by Ruby Bridges (Delacourt Press 2020)

An additional word or two about Ruby Bridges: This Is Your Time: This small book is a love and grace letter from Ruby Bridges to young children, in particular. On left-hand pages, Ms. Bridges begins the book with a paragraph or two about her six-year-old experience of integrating a White school in New Orleans (1960) and continues with how the commitment to civil rights has impacted her/our lives. Primary source black and white photographs on the right-hand pages illustrate her text. All are cited. I can imagine an elementary educator using each double page in this book as a discussion/writing prompt in and of itself. Powerful.

Thank you to Chelsea and the School Library Event Promotion Committee for organizing the 2/22/21 chat around questions that focus on how to expand our spotlights on Black History and Women’s History, not solely during the months of February and March respectively, but all year long. We appreciate you for publicizing and publishing the questions in advance so that participants can think about our responses and organize the resources we want to share.

Then we can truly listen and learn from one another during the chat!

See you there!

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2021. Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Professional Book Review: Intellectual Freedom Issues in School Libraries

Book Cover: Intellectual Freedom Issues in School LibrariesWhen school librarians consider our unique set of core values, we must include intellectual freedom along with equity, diversity, and inclusion. Intellectual freedom is a bedrock of our practice. It impacts our work in so many overt and covert ways as we serve the literacy and learning needs of our students, colleagues, administrators, families, and communities.

Intellectual Freedom Issues in School Libraries (Libraries Unlimited 2021) edited by April M. Dawkins is a collection of 57 previously published articles that address this topic in variety of contexts. Readers may be surprised by the many ways the contributors frame our work as school library professionals in terms of intellectual freedom.

In our forthcoming book, the co-authors of the intellectual freedom chapter defined intellectual freedom in this way. It “is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. Rooted in U.S. law, intellectual freedom is further supported through library professional standards and guidance, and involves protecting the rights of access, choice, privacy, and confidentiality” (Moreillon 2021, in press).

From 2012 through 2015, I was privileged to contribute to a column for School Library Monthly. Four of the articles in Dawkins’ book are from those columns: “Leadership: Filtering and Social Media,” “Policy Challenge: Closed for Conducting Inventory,” “Policy Challenge: Consequences of Restricting Borrowing,” and “Policy Challenge: Leveling the Library Collection.” My fifth contribution, “Progressive Collection Development = A Foundation for Differentiated Instruction,” which was originally published in 2017 in School Library Connection, is the last article in the book.

Although each of these articles speak to the commitment it takes to remain true to the core value of intellectual freedom, the most recent “Progressive Collection Development…” has an important place in today’s conversations about racial and social justice.

“Collaborating librarians cannot overestimate the importance of their work as literacy stewards who provide the resource foundation for DI [differentiated instruction]. With their knowledge of literature, librarians can support teachers’ teaching and help motivate students to engage in deep and meaningful learning. Providing multiple sources that serve as mirrors and windows can make DI a reality.

Diverse resources are an essential first step in opening doors for all students to succeed” (Dawkins 2021, 197).

Other contributors to the book are school librarianship’s long-time staunch intellectual freedom leader Helen R. Adams, April M. Dawkins, Elizabeth Burns, Chad Heck, Maria Cahill, Lucy Santos Green, Michelle Maniaci Folk, and more.

Contributing to this book was important to me because the First Amendment applied to the rights of library users was my initial pathway into developing a passion for librarianship. Ensuring that K-12 students had those rights has always been part of my mission as a school librarian and school librarian educator. Intellectual freedom can position our values and work in sharp contrast to outdated school policies and practices. It can cause us to consider and reconsider the distinctions between selection and censorship. And in the case of book or resource challenges, intellectual freedom can require that we show courage to stand up for the rights of youth, authors, and illustrators.

I know readers of Dawkins’ book will want to add Chapter 4: Intellectual Freedom by Suzanne Sannwald, high school teacher librarian, and Dan McDowell, Director of Learning and Innovation, Grossmont Union High School District, San Diego County, California, to their essential readings on intellectual freedom (Moreillon 2021, in press).

In their chapter, Suzanne and Dan explore intellectual freedom from access to print and digital resources to students’ opportunities to exercise agency. The co-authors make a strong case that intellectual freedom is a mindset for students and for educators. It includes seeking and receiving information, securing privacy and confidentiality, and fostering democracy. Suzanne and Dan note that when school librarians collaborate with other educators to design pedagogy, they can make a shared commitment and practice of honoring students’ rights to lead their own learning.

And isn’t that the ultimate goal of intellectual freedom?

Works Cited

Dawkins, April. Ed. 2021. Intellectual Freedom Issues in School Libraries. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Moreillon, Judi. Ed. 2021. Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.