Candidate for AASL President, 2019-2020

Last Friday, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) announced the 2018 candidates for AASL President-Elect.

As quoted in the announcement, “I am honored to be invited to run for the position of AASL President-Elect. If elected, I will conscientiously facilitate the work of our professional association and serve with passion and purpose to ensure a leadership role for school librarians and libraries in the literacy ecosystem of today and tomorrow.”

AASL has been my professional home since I started my Master’s degree program way back in 19XX. 😉 I was well schooled in the critical importance of our national organizations ALA and AASL as essential to the effectiveness and success of my own practice of librarianship. Our associations continue to give us a national voice while they support our efforts for continual growth and development at the building and district levels as well.

I am in the process of constructing my campaign wiki. While putting together information for the Bio page, I reflected on some of the most empowered opportunities I have had to serve our national associations. After nearly three decades of involvement, I have served in many capacities and reaped many benefits. These are just a few of the highlights.

•  Serving as an elementary school librarian during the exciting years of the National Library Power Project set my course as a collaborating educator committed to building effective classroom-library instructional partnerships (1993-1997).

•  I had the amazing opportunity to serve on AASL’s @your library® Committee from 2002-2004. Through this experience, I developed an understanding of advocacy and made lifelong librarian colleagues and friends across the country.

•  In 2008-2009, I served as the chair of AASL School Librarian’s Role in Reading Task Force. We created a toolkit and drafted the Position Statement on the School Librarian’s Role in Reading that was adopted by the AASL Board and was included in Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Programs (AASL 2009).

•  I served on the 2009-2010 Pura Belpré Book Award Committee, a year during which our committee had only 36 titles to consider. This experience solidified my commitment to diversity in library collections and in advocating for increasing diversity in children’s and young adult literature publishing.

•  Throughout my career, I’ve had many opportunities to collaborate with outstanding public library children and teen librarians. I am pleased to be a current member of AASL’s Interdivisional School-Public Library Cooperation Committee. Representatives from AASL, ALSC, and YALSA serve on the committee. We have created a soon-to-be-published toolkit that demonstrates and support collaboration among librarians who serve young people.

Clearly, serving on AASL and ALSC committees has been a rich source of professional learning for me.

2018 School Libraries Resolution
As noted in last week’s post, I made this resolution for 2018:

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

I actually wrote this resolution before accepting the invitation to stand for the position of AASL President-Elect. If it’s possible to be even more committed to this resolution, I am!

AASL announced all of the candidates who are running for the Executive Board and other association positions in 2018. Please learn about all of the candidates and exercise your right to vote as a member of the only national association for school librarians.

Thank you.

 

#AASL17 Redux

Dear Colleagues,
If you are an AASL member, you now have access to the concurrent sessions that were recorded at the AASL National Conference & Exhibition last month in Phoenix. In order to access this content, you will need to go to AASL’s eCOLLAB archive.

1. Go to AASL’s eCollab: http://www.ala.org/aasl/ecollab
2. Click on the link titled: Brand-new eCOLLAB platform.
3. Log in with your username and password.
4. Click on: Archive Sessions.
5. Click on: AASL National Conference & Exhibition 2017 “View Product.”

You will find the archives for seventy sessions. One of the great things is that the sessions are edited so that listeners can focus on the information presented and participate in the interactive pieces on their own time.

Conference participants from Arizona were asked to volunteer to assist at as many sessions as we could fit into our schedules.  I attended and volunteered at three sessions focused on the new National School Library Standards for Students, School Librarians, and School Libraries. “Inquire and Include,” “Collaborate and Curate,” and “Explore and Engage” sessions are all available on the site for your review.

These are a three of the sessions I missed in Phoenix and have now been able to view.

Mark Ray, Director of Innovation and Library Services, Vancouver Public Schools, and Future Ready Librarians Lead for the Alliance for Excellent Education, and Shannon McClintock Miller, Future Ready Libraries and Project Connect Spokesperson, co-presented “#futurereadylibs: Which Wedge Gives You the Edge?” on 11/10 at 11:20 a.m. (page 2 in the archives). This session is essential viewing for those who want to learn more how they can become Future Ready Librarians (FRLs) and access FRLs resources. As part of their presentation, they asked participants to compare AASL’s “Everyone Is a Learner” infographic with the Future Ready Librarians Framework . Mark and Shannon’s resources are at http://bit.ly/AASLFRL.

Maria Cahill, Associate Professor, University of Kentucky, and Amanda Hurley, Library Media Specialist, Henry Clay High School, Lexington, Kentucky, presented “Survey Says: School Librarians Identifying Stakeholders’ Needs” on 11/11 at 9:30 a.m. (page 5 in the archives). Maria introduced the session with information about and an invitation to participate in the monthly School Library Connection One-Question Survey. Amanda and Maria continued the session by giving examples and promoting the idea of one-question surveys as effective and efficient ways for school librarians to gather data on which they can act to improve their library services.

Judith Kaplan, from the University of Vermont and former coblogger on this site, and Deborah Ehler-Hansen, School Librarian, Fair Haven Union High School in Vermont, presented “Transform Teaching and Learning with Technology and Competency-based Standards?” on 11/11 at 3:10 p.m.(page 7 in the archives). In their interactive presentation, Judith and Deborah made connections between empowered technology tool use with personalized learning, blended learning, open access resources, Future Ready Librarians, ESSA, and more. Their resources are available at: https://goo.gl/zYoRa5 You can also search their hashtag #PDforlib.

If you missed my session, “Investing in Social Capital Counts,” you will find it on page seven in the archives and on a pbworks wiki.

Not all of the sessions were recorded. I regret that I was unable to hear the research papers panel I missed on November 10th. Assistant Karen Reed from Middle Tennessee State University was part of a panel that presented research papers: “‘Computational Thinking,’ ‘Information Seeking in School Library Makerspaces,’ and ‘School Librarians as Co-Teacher of Literacy’: Research Papers from the Field of School Librarianship.” She contributed the third paper.

Access to these seventy sessions can be an enticement for our colleagues who are not yet AASL members. The opportunity to view these resources and develop an understanding of the importance of participation in our national association and conference can be an invitation to join AASL.

Please “Share the Wealth” of AASL membership with your colleagues and your name will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win registration, airfare, and hotel accommodations for the next AASL national conference taking place in Louisville, Kentucky, in November 2019.

Thank you to AASL for making these resources available to all AASL members. I look forward to reviewing more of the sessions I missed in the coming weeks. I encourage you to take full advantage of this opportunity to learn with and from our colleagues.

Log in soon!

 

Instructional Leadership Opportunities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: Educational Leadership Cover courtesy of ASCD

#AASLstandards Resources

New standards cause educators to sit up and take notice. The release of the National School Library Standards for Students, School Librarians, and School Libraries (ALA 2017) at the #AASL17 conference has created a treasure trove of resources to support practicing and preservice school librarians, school librarian supervisors, and school librarian educators in studying and adopting the standards.

As a member of the School Library Connection (SLC) Editorial Board and a regular contributor to the magazine, I was asked along with others to give my initial reaction to the new standards.

This is what I submitted: “The online support for AASL’s National School Library Standards is effective and will support practicing school librarians as they explore and adopt the new language and content of the book. In the book itself, the ‘Standards Integrated Frameworks’ that align the learner and school librarian competencies and school library alignment for each shared foundation and domain may help clarify this initiative for readers.”

You can read all of the comments at “What Do You Think about the New AASL Standards? Librarians Weigh In!

The following are just some of the resources that can help you learn more about the standards and consider how they can help you move your practice of school librarianship forward.

Members of the AASL Standards and Guidelines Implementation Task Force and others have been writing posts on the Knowledge Quest blog. These are three of them:

Counting Down to the Standards Release
Mary Keeling provides background and vocabulary information to help you navigate the new standards.

Leading with Your Leader: Preparing Your Administrators for the New AASL Standards
Kathryn Roots Lewis and Sara Kelly Johns share strategies for sharing the new standards and a suggestion for aligning your work with your administrators.

Something Familiar, Something New: Unpacking the Standards
Daniella Smith provides a list of features that she appreciates in the new standards.

Joyce Valenza wrote a comprehensive blog post to get you started that includes links and annotations to the online resources for the standards: “AASL National Standards: A few essentials to get started!

Peggy George, Susie Highly, and Jane Loften created a #notataasl Livebinder with information about the new standards, including videos and Webinars.

These are some questions you might use to frame your exploration of the new standards.

1. For #SchoolLibrarianLeadership blog readers who were familiar with the previous standards (Standards for the 21st-Century Learner 2009), what similarities and differences do you note between the 2009 common beliefs and standards and those in the new document?

2. For both seasoned and new school librarians, how do the new standards for students or for school librarians compare or align with other initiatives such as Future Ready Librarians or the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards for Students and Standards for Educators?

3. What are the connections that you make between the priorities of your administrators and colleagues and the National School Library Standards?

4. How will you implement the new standards for school librarians and school libraries?

If you have comments regarding the standards, I invite you to post them here.

Image Credit: Book Jacket copyright by AASL

 

Everybody Is On Commission

Those of us involved in the Lilead Project enjoyed one full and two half days of learning and networking before attending the AASL Beyond the Horizon Conference. Being face to face with the Westcoast Fellows, Claudia Mason, Debi Shultz, Janet Wile, Jenny Takeda, and Trish Henry is always a pleasure. I have learned so much with and from them, and we are less than half-way through our Lilead journey!

I have also been fortunate to work closely with other Cohort 2 Lilead Fellows. Last week, I had the opportunity to contribute a post about the Lilead Project on the Texas Association of School Librarians TxASL Talks blog: “Lilead Fellows Program Holds Potential to Positively Influence Texas School Librarianship.” Go Texas Lilead Fellows!

During our time together in Phoenix, the Lilead Project members shared the results of our Strengths-Finder Inventory (Rath 2008) and further explored our “WHYs” (Sinek, Mead, and Docker 2017). We also learned with and from a panel of school administrators and from Sean Lockwood, Senior Vice President of Sales at Junior Library Guild (@JrLibraryGuild).

I was delighted that John Chrastka (@MrChrastka) and I shared a special affinity for one of our strengths: “maximizer.” We had the opportunity to talk about how that strength has played out in our professional lives thus far. When I first got the results of my Strengths-Finder, I was happy to see “maximize” in my top five. All four of my ALA Editions professional books have “maximizing” in the title, including my forthcoming Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy.

I also had the pleasure of sharing five professional life stories with Lilead Fellow Elissa Moritz (@ElissaMoritz), Library Media Services Supervisor, Loudoun County, Virginia. Together, we searched for themes in each other’s stories and further supported each other in refining our “whys.” (See my Find Your Why blog post.) I tweeted during the administrator panel so I have already published my takeaways from their presentation.

Since the Lilead meeting, I have thought a great deal about Sean Lockwood’s sales presentation. He started his talk with this comment:

“Everybody is on commission. Everybody is either buying or selling.”

He offered five steps to sales success:
1. Correctly identifying your customer.
2. Understanding your customer’s view.
3. Aligning your value proposition.
4. Following a pre-determined process.
5. Delivering more than you promise.

The value proposition was a new concept for me. Sean showed us and explained a matrix that identified a series of values and aligned them with the customer’s issues, the advantages the new product offers the customer, and the significance of the outcome from the customer’s perspective. I have been pondering “sales success” in terms of my forthcoming book. Rather than selling a “product” per say, I am definitely putting forth a strategy for school librarian leadership. I am not yet ready to complete the value proposition document in terms of my book, but I am thinking (hard) on it!

I am also thinking about the connections between what we traditionally refer to as advocacy and sales. Hmmmmm….

Besides that piece, I resonated with the final step: Delivering more than you promise. Promising less and delivering more sounds like a trust and confidence-building proposition that could be applied with good results in any area of our lives.

Thank you to the Lilead Project Team, all of the Fellows, and our special guests for making my/our Lilead learning impactful.

Works Cited

Rath, Tom. 2008. Strengths-based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow. New York: Gallup.

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

Image Credit: Logo created by Robin Ellis for Judi Moreillon’s Use

AASL National Conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: Provided by AASL

Find Your Why: A Practical Guide

In July, I posted a two-part professional book review for Simon Sinek’s Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (Part 1 and Part 2). While traveling in the U.K. earlier this month, I slowly read and worked through Sinek’s follow-up book: Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team. He coauthored this book with David Mead and Peter Docker.

I was eager to read Find Your Why because of a nagging question from the previous title. While I truly believe everyone must find her/his own personal “why,” I also believe a “shared why” is an essential component of collaborative culture schools.

In the past, I have served in schools where faculty have a shared sense of purpose. These have been the most productive, effective, and satisfying work experiences in my career. I have also worked (hard) as a member of a faculty with no shared why. Such an environment does not foster trust, collaboration, or innovation and results in a dysfunctional environment for growth and change.

Find Your Why begins with connecting readers with the why/how/what content of the first book. In the introduction, the authors write this: “Happiness comes from what we do. Fulfillment comes from why we do it” (7). These ideas spoke to me, and I kept them in mind throughout my reading. Subsequent chapters include discovering your individual why, two chapters on strategies for “why discovery for groups,” a chapter on “hows,” and the final chapter about taking a stand for your/your tribe’s why.

Discovering Your Individual Why
Sinek, Mead, and Docker offer a compelling strategy for discovering one’s own why. It involves identifying ten impactful stories from your personal and professional life. (I used the two weeks of travel to consider, reconsider, and identify my top ten stories). The authors offer two strategies to help you select your stories: peaks and valleys and memories prompts.

After you are satisfied with ten, you identify a partner to help you explore the themes that inform and connect your stories. Your trusted partner in this process must be able to be objective (not a relative or very close long-time friend).

As you share your stories, your partner will encourage you to focus on how you felt as the events in your story were taking place. Your partner can ask questions such as “What is it about that story that really matters to you?” (51). Together, you and your partner draft your why statement: to ________ (contribution) so that ________ (impact). The authors suggest you validate your draft statement through individual conversations with friends until it feels just right. (Note: The book includes an appendix of partner tips for supporting an individual’s why discovery.)

Next Steps for Me
My ten stories are ready for prime time. Of course, I see themes and think I could compose my draft why statement today. However, I intend to follow the authors’ process. I have a short list of people to ask to serve as my partners to listen, to make notes, and to see the themes from their perspective that connect my stories. I am excited to learn what she/he sees that may be the same or different from my view.

Next week, I will reflect on the “nested WHY” information in the book. “The goal is for each individual to work for a company (with a school faculty) in which they fit the culture, values, believe in the vision and work on a team in which they feel like they are valued and valuable” (85).

Please stay tuned!

Work Cited

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

The Phoenix and AASL

Perhaps like me, you have imagined, practiced, and reimagined your professional work over a number of years. This past year has been a transition period for me. Actually, I am still in a period of ambiguity and although I have been here before, it’s not the most comfortable place for me to be.

Fortunately, I prepared for my “premature” retirement by beginning to write my forthcoming book before leaving my associate professor position. Once again, writing “saved” me! (And when writing doesn’t reading does!) Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy will be published in early spring 2018.

In the meantime, I am living the myth of the Phoenix and thinking about the connections between my professional life and the upcoming AASL Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

Like the mythical Phoenix from Greek mythology, I consider myself a “long-lived” bird – member of the school librarian profession. I have been cyclically born and reborn through my service as a school librarian at all three instructional levels in six school libraries in three different school districts. Each administrator, faculty member, student population, and community presented learning opportunities and challenges. Transitioning between levels and schools always felt like a mini-death and rebirth.

My service to AASL has also be an essential and cyclical aspect of my professional life. From serving on AASL’s @your library® Committee, chairing the School Librarian’s Role in Reading Task Force, serving on the 2009 Standards and Guidelines Implementation Task Force, serving on and then chairing the Knowledge Quest Editorial Review Board, to present time serving on the Interdivisional School-Public Library Collaboration Task Force and chairing the Innovative Approaches to Literacy Task Force.

Like the Phoenix, I have always felt stronger in my knowledge and practice and more empowered in each successive position and committee appointment.

The same can be said for my work over a 21-year-period as an adjunct instructor, clinical assistant professor, and most recently a tenure-track faculty member. Each new group of students, each new course, each new semester presented a fresh opportunity to be regenerated.

Like the Phoenix, this blog, too, is experiencing a re-beginning. For four years along with fellow faculty members from across the country and last year as a solo blogger, we/I blogged on the Building a Culture of Collaboration @Edublogs.org site. Now with my own domain, I will continue to share the news, research, and musings that have always been the focus of this Web presence.

And to further the Phoenix connection, AASL will be rolling out the new standards and guidelines—another opportunity to re-energize our profession. The conference will be held in Phoenix from Wednesday, November 8th through Saturday, November 11th.

As I prepare for my rebirth as a full-time consultant, I am excited to have the opportunity to present an AASL conference session “Investing in Social Capital Counts” (Saturday, 11/11 at 3:10 p.m.) and serve on a panel “Leadership: Many Roles for School Librarians” (Friday, 11/10 at 10:10 a.m.). For me, the fact that “Beyond the Horizon” will be held in Phoenix creates a full-circle synchronicity with my professional life since I began my career as a school librarian and as a school librarian educator in Arizona and now live once again full time in the Sonoran Desert.

I hope you have also registered and are making your travel plans to attend the conference. In addition to this year’s official rollout of the new standards, AASL conferences are always a golden opportunity to learn and network with colleagues from across the country.

Next Monday, September 18th, AASL will hold the first Twitter chat focused on AASL’s “National School Library Standards.” To participate, follow #AASLStandards beginning at 6:00 p.m. Central Time.

Wishing you an exciting professional rebirth this academic year and looking forward to the chat next Monday…

Image Credit:
Leunert, Elisabeth. “Phoenix Bird.” Pixabay, 7 June 2016, pixabay.com/en/phoenix-bird-fire-bright-red-swing-1440452/.

Start with Why, Part 2

While authoring my forthcoming book, Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy, I have read many professional books. This is part two of the eighth in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

Before participating in the Lilead Project Summer Institute in Norfolk, Virginia, I had no intention of extending my review of Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why. (See Part 1 published on 7/17/17.)

But last week, twenty Cohort 2 Lilead Fellows, four Cohort 1 speakers and other supporters, the Lilead Project Team, and five mentors  (of which I am one) spent four days thinking and talking about, writing and revising our “whys” in terms of the Fellows’ Lilead projects.

Throughout this process of connecting the purpose and value of school librarianship to goals for their projects, Fellows had support for pushing their thinking and connecting their “whys” to their personal and professional values and to their school districts’ priorities.

During the week, John Chrastka from EveryLibrary shared information and strategies related to the importance of political literacy, particularly in terms of the Fellows achieving their project goals. (EveryLibrary is registered as 501(c)4 social welfare organization and supports library organizations around the country in achieving their goals.) John said this, “Our concern is on the basics: fix the disconnect in districts that say they want successful schools and fully prepared students but don’t fund their libraries or hire qualified librarians.”

John noted that for many library supporters a librarian “who cares (about other people’s literacy needs and welfare) is a proxy” for supporters’ own desire/need to care. These people comprise the “library party” and believe that the library is a transformational force in their communities. Everyone in the room agreed that passionate librarians are “true advocates for lifelong learning.” These connections apply directly to the “whys” Lilead fellows are addressing with their projects.

The Fellows were asked to write about their values related to education and librarianship, their vision for their school/district, why they do this work, and what happens if they don’t do it. All of these thinking activities connected and reconnected to their “whys.”

When the Fellows were asked to share the key ideas that frame their projects, the similarities in their “whys” were very exciting. This is what I heard in terms of key concepts: issues (access/budget/resources/staffing) related to equity (7), cultural responsiveness (2) a subset of equity, librarians as instructional/digital leaders/building capacity (5), advocacy/changing perceptions/increasing visibility (3), K-12 curriculum (2), and increasing future-ready learning spaces (1).

To “see” the Fellows’ “whys” expressed in these ways leads me to believe that the school library profession can coalesce around a shared overarching “why.” With a collective “why,” the “what” we do and “how” we do it may look different in different schools and districts but the benefit of an overarching “values-based approach” (John Chrastka) can help school librarians work within a shared values framework. It can help us identify and build coalitions. It can help the Fellows elevate their projects because they are based on authentic truths—on the school library profession’s shared values.

Thank you to Simon Sinek for giving us the “why” prompt as a stimulus to our thoughts, discussions, and the feedback we shared with and received from one another.

Thank you to John Chrastka for teaching us about political literacy and helping us apply these principles to help us achieve our goals for and with our library stakeholders. We look forward to learning more with you.

Thank you to Roger Rosen, president of Rosen Publishing, for joining us in Norfolk and for sponsoring our learning with John. We are grateful.

Resources
EveryLibrary.org. Newsletter Subscription.

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

Sweeney, Patrick PC, and John Chrastka. Winning Elections and Influencing Politicians for Library Funding. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2017.

 

 

 

 

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

While authoring my forthcoming book, Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy, I have read many professional books. This is the eighth in a series of professional book reviews–possible titles for your summer reading. The reviews are in no particular order.

Although I had previously listened to his TEDTalks, I did not read Simon Sinek’s Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action until it was assigned to the Lilead Project fellows. As a Lilead mentor, I am reading and learning along with the fellows.

Beginning with the dedication, I have a deep appreciation for the message Simon Sinek communicates in this book (bold added).

“There are leaders and there are those who lead.
Leaders hold a position of power or influence.
Those who lead inspire us.

Whether individuals or organizations, we follow those
Who lead not because we have to, but because we want to.
We follow those who lead not for them, but for ourselves.

This is a book for those who want to inspire others and
for those who want to find someone to inspire them” (np).

There are many in education, yours truly included, who hope to inspire others, and I, too, am always on the lookout for others who inspire me. Simon Sinek is someone who inspires me. One reason he inspires me is that I often agree with him about the critical importance of “whys,” “whats,” and “hows.”

As a former school librarian, librarian and classroom teacher educator, and now as a consultant, I truly believe that each individual must start with her or his own “why.” That said, my experience tells me that arriving at a “shared” why is a challenging proposition in many (professional) organizations and for preK-12 school faculty cultures, in particular. After reading Sinek’s book, I believe more fervently than ever that school librarians must arrive at a shared “why” in their learning communities at the site-, district- and national levels as well. I believe our profession must come to consensus on a shared “why.”

Since the school library profession does not have one single charismatic leader with an immutable sense of “why” (backed up by a flexible menu of “whats” and “hows”), arriving at a single “why” is more challenging in our organization(s).  I would like to believe our profession could come to a shared understanding – a shared “why” – a shared value that aligns with the values of other educators, administrators, and educational decision-makers and stakeholders. That “why” could speak to potential advocates and would encourage them to act on our behalf.

One of the tensions I feel is that the “what” (description of what we do) and “how” we do it different (or as Sinek says “better”) from classroom teachers is not shared by all members of our profession. There are those who are still printed books and reading promotion only school librarians. There are those who are technology above all else school librarians. The “hybrids” are growing in number but expectations in various schools and districts may contribute to this polarization that muddies our identity and the perception of others regarding our “whats” and “hows.” From my perspective, our “why” has to be larger than the resources and tools we use.

My “why” for school librarianship was born during my M.L.S. program and was crystallized during the heady days of the National Library Power Project in Tucson Unified School District (1993-97). For me, school librarians’ purpose is to colead with principals to ensure that their school communities are dynamic environments for nurturing continuous development and growth in order to improve teaching and learning.

For me, school librarians’ instructional partnership role is the most direct, assured, and documentable path to leadership. It is “how” we achieve our “why.” School librarians lead when our commitment to improving our own and our colleagues’ instructional practices builds a culture of collaboration and continuous learning in our schools. “What” we do is develop expertise and mastery with our colleagues in order to improve student learning outcomes. Why do we do this? Because “teaching is too difficult to do alone!” (from a Library Power poster, circa 1994).

With a global view of the learning community and a flexibly scheduled program based on access at the point of need, the resources of the library and the instructional expertise in their toolkits, school librarians occupy a unique niche on a school faculty. They must embody the behaviors of risk-takers and continuous learners. They must serve as models because they have the potential and responsibility to impact the learning of every member of their school learning communities—students, educators, administrators, families, and external stakeholders. They must help other reach their capacity.

I totally agree with Sinek: “Passion may need structure to survive, but for structure to grow, it needs passion” (184). I believe there is a great deal of passion in our profession, but I’m not sure we have yet developed the structure we need to help it grow. I think the Lilead Project (and Library Power before it) provide some of that structure. I think Project Connect and Future Ready Librarians are promising initiatives that provide structure. The new AASL standards and guidelines that are set to be rolled out next fall also have that potential. (I would like to think that the book I am authoring could provide some structure as well.)

As Sinek writes: “It’s the decision to never veer from your cause, to hold yourself accountable to HOW you do things; that’s the hardest part” (65). In my experience, collaborating with adults is a thousand times harder than collaborating with students. If we want to hold each other accountable for forming effective instructional partnerships that build an effective teaching force and improve student learning, we have set the bar high.

Many in our ranks continue to work in isolation from their classroom teacher and administrator colleagues. I believe what Sinek writes is true: “The only way people will know what you believe is by the things you say and do, and if you’re not consistent in the things you say or do, no one will know what you believe” (67). School librarians cannot say they are instructional partners if they still prefer to work alone—if they still refer to the library as “my” library, the collection as “my” collection, the instruction they provide as “library lesson plans.”

“A WHY is just a belief; HOWs are the actions we take to realize that belief; and WHATs are the results of those actions. When all three are in balance, trust is built and value is perceived” (85). I aspire to lead a professional life where all three are in balance. I aspire to be a part of a profession where all three are in balance—where there is a shared why and trust among the members and our value as leaders is widely perceived in the education field and beyond. I want to be part of a profession that “walks its talk.” And I will do my part to stay the course.

I am indebted to Sinek for a way I used his framework to organize Building a Culture of Collaboration: School Librarian Leadership and Advocacy. I begin every chapter in my forthcoming book with “why” that topic is essential in building a culture of collaboration. In each chapter, I specify the “what” and “how.” Although the “whats” and “hows” were always there, I strengthened the “whys” after reading Sinek’s book.

What is your “why?” How does it align with that of your site- and district-level administrators’ “whys”? How does it align with those of your classroom teacher colleagues, families, and community? Does your shared “why” make effective “whats” and “hows” possible?

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

Additional Resources
Sinek, Simon. “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” TEDTalk. September 2009, https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action

Sinek, Simon. “First Why, and Then Trust.” TEDxMaastricht. 6 April 2011. https://youtu.be/4VdO7LuoBzM