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

Professional “Gratitudes”

continental-divideEvery night for the past year, I have been recording my “gratitudes” in a journal. I began this reflective and hope-building practice after I learned that Texas Woman’s University rejected my proposal to continue in my associate professor position as a telecommuter from Tucson. (After seven years, commuting for my marriage was no longer emotionally or financially sustainable.) These daily notes to myself capture my thoughts as I negotiate this transition time in my life. This reflective practice provides me with reminders of my many blessings.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, many speak aloud of the things for which we are grateful. While I have often thought about my “professional” blessings, this may be the first time I have written them “out loud.”

I am grateful for the many friends and colleagues I have met and worked with throughout my school librarianship career. There are simply too many of you to name.

As a member of the American Library Association (ALA), American Association for School Librarians (AASL), Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC), Arizona Library Association (AzLA) and Teacher Librarian Division (TLD), Texas Library Association (TLA) and Texas Association of School Librarians (TASL), I have had the opportunity to get to know and learn with outstanding librarian practitioners, researchers, and literacy advocates.

While I have been a member and have been periodically active in education associations, my commitment to (school) librarianship has been and continues to be the overarching theme of my professional work. I am grateful for the people who lead and participate in library organizations. We share a set of core beliefs that come from our hearts and reach out as we serve children, youth, and our communities. I am blessed to be in their company; I am honored to call so many colleagues friends.

The photograph above was taken in 1998 at the 3M corporate compound at Wonewok in Minnesota. At the time, I was serving on the AASL @yourlibrary® Task Force. Those of us who participated enjoyed three days of thinking, planning, and playing that, for many of us, solidified our commitment to advocating for the professional work of school librarians.

Like many of my Wonewok colleagues, I felt “under the spell” of the Northern Lights and the incredible beauty of the grounds at Wonewok. In the above photograph, a number of us posed where the Northern (Continental) Divide intersects the St. Lawrence Divide near Hibbing, Minnesota, with waters draining to the Arctic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes.

I believe the school librarian profession is at another one of those watershed times in our history. In the federal education legislation called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), school librarians are included as key faculty in educating students for the future and collaborating with classroom teachers to co-create dynamic learning spaces and opportunities for all members of our learning communities.

Thank you especially to the ALA Washington Office Executive Director Emily Sheketoff for her tireless and unwavering advocacy efforts on behalf of school librarians. And thank you to AASL and our dedicated members who have provided 30 (!) state-level ESSA trainings in the past 60 days. Whew! You are a wonder.

Thank you to all of our colleagues for offering our expertise and care to children and educators through our professional work. As we move forward together, and to show my gratitude, I recommit myself to our mission to provide each and every student in the U.S. with a full-time state-certified school library professional who serves her/his school community as a leader, instructional partner, information specialist, teacher, and program administrator.

Image Credit
Photographer Unknown – from the Personal Collection of Judi Moreillon

Some of those pictured: Connie Champlin, Susan Ballard, Terri Grief, Harvey, Barbara Jeffus, Doug Johnson, Carrie Kienzel, Keith Curry Lance, Deb Levitov, Eileen Schroeder, Rocco Staino, Barbara Stripling, Hilda Weisburg, Terry Young, yours truly, and ???

Reflections on Professional Learning, Part 2

library_values_2This post is a continuation of last week’s reflection on my take-aways from the 2016 Arizona Library Association Conference.

I hope BACC readers who were at the conference will comment on their learning, including adding reflections on sessions I was unable to attend.

One of the reoccurring connections for me on the second day of the conference Friday, November 4th, was the importance of library values. This word cloud captures just some of the values embedded in the competencies for librarians as codified by our professional organizations: the American Library Association Core Competences, Association for Library Service to Children’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries, ALA/AASL Standards for the Initial Preparation of School Librarians, and the Young Adult Library Services Association Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth: Young Adults Deserve the Best.

Jessica Jupitus and Lori Easterwood provided the “Libraries Transform, But How?” opening keynote on Friday, November 4th.  When Jessica and Lori worked together a four-year goal of the Sacramento (CA) Public Library’s strategic plan was to increase positive public awareness about library services and increase participation in library programming. At the time, Jessica and Lori were young adults themselves. They used deliberately provocative titles, such as Punk Rock Aerobics and Heavy Metal Yoga, to attract 18 to 28-year-olds to programs. For me, their program connected to the library values of inclusion and diversity.

In my presentation “Storytelling Matters: Reach Out with Digital Advocacy Stories,” I invited participants to reflect on their library values and connect their values with a program or service and an audience they would like to bring into the library. Participants used a graphic organizer to develop a meme, one-sentence theme, think about the needs of their target audience, and identify some free or low-cost Web 2.0 tools to create their stories. On the resource page for the presentation, I shared examples of school and public library digital promotions. After the session, I added an example that participant Claudine Randazzo shared with the group. The testimonials in the video on behalf of the Coconino County bookmobile tell the story of this service so well!

As always, I was inspired by the values in action of those who received awards at the AzLA service and author awards luncheon. Congratulations to TLD’s own Patty Jimenez for her Follett School Librarian of the Year Award. I believe that at least one award recipient embodied each of the values in the word cloud above.

Sunnyside Unified School District (SUSD) librarians Kate Street, Jennifer Flores, and Fran Stoler presented “Extreme Library Makeover: Making Spaces for Student Creation and Collaboration.”  They shared their journey in “creating a digital age library in a 1970s space.” Their Web page includes a timeline, floor plan (for Sunnyside High School), movable furniture, and flexible spaces. For me, their “Extreme Makeover” work connects with the library values of freedom of expression, empowerment, and literacies.

Some of the renovations included smart tables, mobile whiteboards, kiosks, “Nemo Trellis” (new to me) and more. Kate, who is the librarian at Sunnyside High School, reported that the library’s new sound studio has been the most successful aspect of their renovation in terms of student creativity and ownership. Fran, who is the Desert View High School librarian, noted that the positive attitude of the librarians, students, teachers, and administrators was as important in their renovation efforts as were the renovations themselves.

As noted in last week’s post, Sunnyside is a 1:1 technology district and students are eager to spend time away from screens! Jennifer, who is the librarian at Los Amigos (Elementary) Tech Academy, shared some low-cost, low-tech strategies for library renovation, including painting walls and tables with whiteboard paint, board games, and freshly painted walls. Los Amigos uses a 50/50 model with students engaged with tech 50% of the time and interacting face to face (f2f) 50% of the time. Jennifer’s goal is to increase community involvement during the f2f time — to bring in the funds of knowledge in the community to mentor and teach the students.

As Miguel Figueroa noted, for librarians, a societal trend is simply “trendy” unless we view it through the lens of our library values. If we examine the signals in society that confirm a trend exists, we should then explore that trend to see if it aligns with our library values. When it does, librarians can work together to create library services and programs that will meet the current and future needs of our communities. Thoughtful librarians can take action to develop innovations that matter.

Every professional learning experience provides opportunities to meet new colleagues and to get to know long-time colleagues better.  At the TLD Mixer on Thursday night, I enjoyed the conversation with Jean Kilker, Patty Jimenez, Cindy Reyes, and Leslie Preddy. It was rewarding to connect with former University of Arizona graduate students and know they are doing great work in libraries across the state.

I left the conference hopeful for the future of librarianship. I know there is no shortage of work to ensure that our libraries continue to work with our community members to improve lives. I also know we can do it. Yes, we can!

Post-election comment: I believe it is especially critical that librarians rededicate ourselves to practicing and promoting the core values of our profession

Image Credit
Word Cloud created at Wordle.net

Reflections on Professional Learning – Part 1

reflectionLast Thursday and Friday I attended the annual Arizona Library Association Conference. This year it was held in Tucson at a hotel in the shadow of the beautiful Santa Catalina Mountains. As reflection is an important (and some would say essential) aspect of learning, I am taking this opportunity to share my take-aways from the conference sessions I attended.

I hope BACC readers who were at the conference will comment on their learning, including adding reflections on sessions I was unable to attend.

The opening keynote on Thursday, November 3rd, with Miguel Figueroa from the American Library Association’s Center for the Future of Libraries was inspiring for me. In his talk titled “Signals for the Libraries of the Future,” Miguel spotlighted several trends and noted that we can “see” what will happen in the future by monitoring changes that are happening today. He quoted founder of the World Future Society Edward Cornish: “Foresight is fundamentally about the study of change.”

I am not a student of futurist thinkers and found this information thoughtful and thought-provoking. In his talk, Mr. Figueroa recommended two specific book titles: Anticipate the World You Want: Learning for Alternative Futures by Marsha Lynne Rhea and The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Defeating the Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity throughout Your Organization by Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman. I believe Miguel’s futurist work brings an essential perspective and critical information to our profession. (I also think he has an incredibly exciting job!)

Emily Plagman, project manager for the Public Library Association’s Project Outcome, presented a session titled “The Power of Performance.” While I was most likely the only school librarianship-focused person in the room, I was impressed by PLA’s effort to collect comparable survey data from public library systems across the U.S. I believe that the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) could explore this idea as part of the new standards and guidelines implementation effort. (I was also reminded that when a program doesn’t at first look like a “perfect fit” for my interests, I can gain a great deal by learning and thinking “across the aisle.”)

At the Teacher Library Division (TLD) meeting, Leslie Preddy, the immediate past-president of AASL, shared the many ways our national organization supports our profession. Leslie pointed us to the AASL toolkits, including the most recent “Resource Guide for Underserved Student Populations.” She noted sample posts from the fresh and vibrant Knowledge Quest blog and reminded us that school librarians can sign up to have announcements of new blog posts pushed to our email inboxes.

Leslie also reminded us that AASL has been providing leadership and professional learning for school librarians for 65 years! You can donate to the 65th Anniversary Campaign and you can add a Twibbon to your social media profile photo(s). I hope you will join me in supporting and promoting this campaign.

After Leslie’s presentation, several of us talked about school librarians and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). We wondered how the TLD might maximize the benefit of an AASL-facilitated workshop. As Arizona educators, we should be part of the state’s ESSA plan and position our work as essential to preparing future ready students and supporting classroom teachers’ teaching.

After lunch, I attended a session by Dan Messer called “Transforming Your Perspective: The Beauty of Generalists in Library Technology.” Dan’s own experience as a creative, innovative generalist connected with my perspective on the potential of school librarians to contribute broadly in their learning communities. School librarians may know a great deal about teaching information literacy or guiding inquiry learning but we have to know a little about many things in order to manage our libraries and effectively coteach across the grade levels and disciplines. (In 2010, when the AASL Board officially dropped the “school library media specialist” term, I venture to say that no one was happier than I was!) Check out Dan’s blog “Cyberpunk Librarian” blog.

At the end of the first day of the conference, I participated in a hands-on, minds-on workshop with Mr. Figueroa: “From Futuring to Innovation.” I was fortunate to have the opportunity to think with three Sunnyside Unified School District (SUSD) school librarians (see next week’s post) and a college-level librarian from the University of Phoenix. Our task was to explore societal trends through the lens of library values and develop an event/program that would reflect that trend and our library values, and appeal to patrons.

What may have surprised some who heard our group’s report was that SUSD is a 1:1 technology district and students are eager to spend time away from screens! The trend our group’s event addressed was “unplugged.” (This made me think about Future Ready Librarians and how the “unplugged” trend could align with that initiative.)

Next week, I will share more thoughts on Mr. Figueroa’s suggestion that we “push on trends with our #library values” and reflections on the second day of the conference.

Side note: I tweeted at #AzLA2016 throughout the conference. Tweeting is one way I document my learning during a professional development opportunity. Reviewing my tweets supported my reflection as well.

Image Credit
From the Personal Collection of Judi Moreillon

May Musings About Telling Our Stories

little chromebooks that can be moved around and 2 rocking chairsAs I look at topics that the BACC co-bloggers have addressed in the past few months, I see an overarching theme that has emerged, and it is a theme that reveals the morphing nature of our profession.  All libraries-academic, public, private, and school are transforming and adapting services and resources for information and digital age learners in today’s world.  Successful libraries are led by dynamic, creative professional librarians who have a vision for the future, and are willing to advocate for the value of libraries in their individual communities or institutions.

In a democratic society, libraries provide intellectual and social clearinghouses for citizens to learn and grow. Librarians continue to curate collections and to respond to a user’s individual and unique information and literacy needs.  Since Benjamin Franklin envisioned the public library in Philadelphia, equitable access to information has remained the mission of libraries as educational institutions for all citizens.   That mission is even more important in contemporary society, with the digital divide that continues to separate the haves and have-nots.

Those of us who have discovered librarianship know this is an exciting and dynamic profession for the future, and we want to share the good news and attract like minded folks to join our ranks.  How do we dispel old fashioned notions about libraries and the role of the librarian? How do we get the word out?  Who are the movers and shakers we need to target to promote library programs and to expand the profession?

For libraries to continue to be relevant and accessible for learners, we have to tell our users’  stories and our stories, too.  We have to show how transformed library learning spaces are impacting our communities.  We have to counter old fashioned ideas about libraries of the past with fresh visions of the present and future.  We also have to answer the question, “Why do we need libraries, since we have the internet, and everyone has a smartphone?”  That question will not go away…

Earlier in the month, Judi Moreillon highlighted examples for spreading the word to pre-service administrators and pre-service teachers in graduate programs who are pursuing educational careers in schools. Fortunately, the American Library Association and the American Association of School Librarians provide many resources to help tell our story.  The AASL Pre-service Toolkit for Principals and Teachers (2016) that Judi shared in her post, “can help to educate future principals and teachers about the significant role that quality library programs can play in student learning. The resources can also be shared with practicing principals and teachers, who would benefit from learning more about the impact that a quality school library program can have on their schools.” (2)

Of the varied and comprehensive resources in the toolkit, I would like to focus on two excellent advocacy tools for practicing school librarians to share with administrators and classroom colleagues. Now that “new rules” have been established in the Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, 2015 (ESSA-Every Student Succeeds Act), school librarians have to maximize opportunities to share the impact of school library programs on transformational learning for digital age students, so let’s be active participants in future educational directions.

Ideas from the toolkit:

Why do we still need libraries?

As you walk the walk and talk the talk, share this article by Ann Martin and Kathleen Roberts. Start a conversation about digital learning….

Martin, Ann M. and Kathleen R. Roberts. January/February 2015. “Digital Native ≠ Digital Literacy.” Principal Magazine, 94 (3): 18-21. http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslissues/MartinRoberts_JF15.pdf  (accessed May 25, 2016)

This article in the magazine of the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) explains that although today’s K -12 students typically show confidence and familiarity with digital tools, there still exists the need for professional instructional guidance from school librarians in evaluating information, navigating online spaces with safety and civility, and learning productive use of online tools and spaces.

Capstone Projects and Student Learning

Many schools have implemented capstone projects to demonstrate proficiency based learning.  Do you have capstone projects in our school?  What is the role of the school librarian in providing guidance and support for passion projects and community based learning projects?   What individual interests are supported in relevant library resources? How are school librarians actively involved as facilitators for student inquiry and proficiency?  Use this informative report to spark ideas with principals and co-teaching colleagues.

“AASL Senior/Capstone Project Task Force Report, May 2014.” http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslissues/advocacy/AASL_ExecSummary_SeniorCapstoneProjectTF_2014.pdf  (accessed May 25, 2016)

This preliminary report on the implementation of student-centered Senior/Capstone Projects explores the many ways in which school librarians can be involved in such projects. In addition, it offers links to multiple resources in the United States, including exemplars of school librarian leadership and classroom teacher collaboration. View the related Position Statement on the Role of the School Librarian in Senior/Capstone Projects.

Planning Ahead:

As you look forward to summer months and plans for a new school year in the fall, take time to reflect on ways to continue to tell your school library stories through the lens of the learner, and the lens of all the wonderful folks who work for successful learning in a school community. Be part of the story!

 

Works Cited:

AASL Senior/Capstone Project Task Force Report.  ALA.org. May 2014. Web. 25 May 2106. <http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslissues/advocacy/AASL_ExecSummary_SeniorCapstoneProjectTF_2014.pdf>.

Educators of School Librarians Section. “Preservice Toolkit for Principals and Teachers.” ALA.org. Mar. 2016. Web. 25 May. 2016. <http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslissues/toolkits/PreserviceEducators_Toolkit_FINAL_2016-03-17.pdf>.

Martin, Ann M. and Kathleen R. Roberts. January/February 2015. “Digital Native ≠ Digital Literacy.” Principal Magazine, 94 (3): 18-21. Web. 25 May. 2016. <http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslissues/MartinRoberts_JF15.pdf>.

Image: Judith Kaplan Collection

 

Building a National Culture of Collaboration

Social_Media_MarketingThank you to the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) blog for putting the Building a Culture of Collaboration blog (BaCoC) in the spotlight last week.  All of the BaCoC co-bloggers are card-carrying active AASL members who promote and model getting involved in our national association for school librarians. As evidenced in Melissa Johnston’s recent post about AASL’s new mission statement and leading through technology, we also promote the work of the association. This is one way to promote a national culture of collaboration.

AASL’s new mission statement is: The American Association of School Librarians empowers leaders to transform teaching and learning.

Yes! To the importance of keeping our focus on teaching and learning! One way to do that is for school librarians to engage in collaborative planning and coteaching with classroom teachers and specialists. Since the publication of Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning (1998), AASL has promoted the school librarian’s role as an instructional partner: “The school library media specialist can provide strong and creative leadership in building and nurturing this culture of learning, both as a teacher and as an instructional partner… As an instructional partner, the school library media specialist offers a unique expertise in learning theory, information literacy, and information technology to promote learning” (60).

AASL recently released the executive summary from the Senior/Capstone Project’s Task Force.  The task force surveyed high school librarians about their involvement in students’ senior/capstone projects. The graphs provided in the summary show areas of potential growth in terms of school librarians’ involvement in guiding, teaching, and assessing these projects. The task force identified six exemplars from high schools of varying sizes and geographic locations across the U.S. to serve as models for best practices. The report includes at table with contact information and links to four of the six schools’ projects.

Check it out!

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians (AASL). Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning. Chicago: American Library Association, 1998. Print.

AASL Senior/Capstone Project Task Force. Executive Summary. American Association of School Librarians. May 2014. Web. 28 Jul. 2014. <http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslissues/advocacy/AASL_ExecSummary_SeniorCapstoneProjectTF_2014.pdf>.

Peralta, Paola. Social Media Marketing. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons. Web. 28 Jul. 2014. <http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Social_Media_Marketing.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Social_Media_Marketing.jpg>.

Big Questions Need Answers

I see you

On April 5, 2014 Education Quality Standards were adopted by the Legislative Rules Committee of the Vermont Legislature. You may ask, “What does that have to do with me, or collaboration-the theme of this blog?”  The bigger question is, “In my state, are there administrative guidelines for establishing school library programs led by certified school librarians that support state education statues?”  The answer to this question varies across the country. You may be surprised when you start to do some digging. What’s happening in your neck of the woods? How can you find out?

 A year ago, the draft document for Vermont State Board of Education, Education Quality Standards (EQS), omitted any language that pertained to school libraries, or certified professional teacher librarians.  That’s when the collaborative team of volunteers from the Vermont School Library Association (VSLA) went into action mode.  Last September in this blog, I posted some details about our plan to insert appropriate language into the document.  It has taken time to work through the whole process, but we are delighted that our collaborative efforts have made a difference.  Now public school districts using the EQS to meet  state law requirements have guidelines for school library programs and staffing that are embedded within the big picture of educational programs and services in Vermont.  The document itself reinforces a commitment to equitable student centered learning, and is quite progressive.

The takeaway from our experience highlights the power of collaboration, and the need for continued advocacy at many different levels.  We have to be able to show and tell the value of a school library program for students.  Recently on this blog, we  have been focusing on ideas for collaboration, not only with our co-teachers, but also with our principals.  The grassroots approach builds influence, acceptance, and support for our programs and our positions.

 In Vermont, we have been asking the question, “Does your principal know what you do-really know and understand the complexities of your job?”  Heidi Huestis, Professional Concerns Chair of VSLA, and I  conducted a short survey of members to get a picture of existing job descriptions and evaluation systems in schools across the state.  The results, based on responses from almost 40% of active members have led us to ask more questions.  We will use this information and future surveys and other research to plan for advocacy as an organization.

 Earlier this month, we presented the findings from the survey at the Dynamic Landscapes Conference at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont.  Our presentation was titled-Under the Radar: Teacher Librarian Job Descriptions and Evaluations, and here’s a link to the slides, and the full survey is included on the resources page.  We were especially pleased that Joyce Valenza, one of the keynote speakers at the conference, was there to share some ideas, too.

 Job descriptions and evaluations are opportunities for starting conversations with principals and administrators.  If you don’t have either, or if they are not updated, you are under the radar- not a good thing!  If important stakeholders don’t know what you do, you are wearing an invisibility cloak.  As Susan Ballard and others have said, “If you are not at the table, you may be on the menu.”

 Resources:

Dynamic Landscapes, May 16, 2014-Under the Radar: Teacher Librarians Job Descriptions and Evaluations https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/10BPsnIZC86WY17Bqodv3YHnEbXnaneZsRvZESkDccoA/edit#slide=id.g33504c028_034

Education Quality Standards, Vermont State Board of Education (Sections on staff and resources, 2121.2, 2121.3 and 2121.4) http://education.vermont.gov/state-board/rules/2000

Image: Microsoft Clipart

 

Collaboration:Build a Plan for Advocacy

In last week’s blog post, I outlined the scenario that has been unfolding in Vermont concerning proposed changes in the state statutes that describe school quality standards.  In the draft document, language about school libraries and staffing was eliminated, and a group of volunteers from the Vermont School Library Association (VSLA) has been collaborating to make sure that the language is reinserted.  So far, the action plan that was developed through the collective capacity of the group has been well received, and we are quite confident that our advocacy is on a successful track.

Here are a few ideas about collaborating for advocacy based on our experience:

  • Set group communication and actions-meetings face to face and virtual-Google docs, presentations, Skype, email, listserv.

Our group began meeting in late August, just as the school year was underway. Certainly, it was not a time for leisurely study of the issues, and we were aware that the Vermont Board of Education would be scheduling public hearings on the proposed changes in October. Our window of opportunity would be short.   Since we represented schools in both urban and rural areas from far corners of the state, we set up Google docs and used Skype when someone could not meet face to face.  TGFG-Thank goodness for Google!  After brainstorming a “to do” list, each person took responsibility for a piece of the action, and shared through our Google documents, presentations, and email.

  • Understand the issues, and the process, develop talking points.

Fortunately, the State Librarian was part of the group, and her contacts at the state level allowed us to move forward quickly.  The person who was the project coordinator for the revised document was very helpful in explaining the process so far, and also for helping us to understand that we still had an opportunity to suggest changes.  As a talking point, we developed a chart that compared the previous document to the proposed one. It clearly showed that all references to school libraries and library staffing had been eliminated. It included our suggested language to be reinserted, as well as, a rationale for school library programs, regionally and nationally.

  • Create a list of possible contacts, and supporters.

Brainstorming our own contacts, we came up with a list of possible people who might be in a position to help in advocacy planning.  We knew that we would need to alert our membership, but we wanted to have a clear message before we “called in the troops.”  We knew that we wanted the message to focus on the impact on students, not on our jobs.  We wanted to show what would happen if school library programs were not available for children all over the state.  Lots to think about!

  • Create a timeline of events, actions.

Through the State Librarian, we were able to schedule a meeting with the Secretary of Education, so that we could advocate for restoring language about school libraries and school library staffing to the Education Quality Standards.  After that meeting, we were assured that he would support our request with the State Board of Education during the review process.

On September 17, the president of VSLA, Denise Wentz, and I made a presentation at the monthly meeting of the State Board of Education.  Our focus was on the positive impact of school library programs in our state. See slide 22  for our concise talking points, “Why a School Library Program?”  https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1RAY0bX0RwK1Ets1ky80DWH9KxftZADVcCZ7Ft8ZdTbc/edit#slide=id.g11a3c625c_2_42

Three public hearings will be held in October, and we are encouraging or members to bring supporters who will tell why school library programs are important to them.  Alternately, we are asking supporters to send letters or email to the Board during the public comment period.

  • Gather resources to support talking points.

Have your ducks lined up in one place that can be shared with all stakeholders. There are many resources available from a variety of organizations, experts, and bloggers.  In order to share the best of the best with our membership, we have gathered recommended “go to” sites, infographics, and documents that can be used to support school library advocacy.  We are happy to share them with everyone through this livebinders link: Advocacy for School Libraries  http://www.livebinders.com/play/play?id=1014077&backurl=/shelf/my

  •  Communicate with membership and other stakeholders.

Advocacy is an ongoing and organic process.  In VSLA, we will continue to focus on advocacy at all levels. It is not done by presenting at one meeting to administrators or school board members.  It is accomplished day to day with intentional purpose for making sure that the school library program is visible and essential for all learners.  Blogs, photos, newsletters, and websites are great vehicles for continuing to put a face on our programs.  Have a brand, have a mission, and don’t be afraid to shine.

 

 

 

 

Advocacy=Collaboration+Leadership

worldThe collective capacity of a group of like-minded folks is amazing.  In past posts, we have spoken about the benefits of belonging to professional organizations, at both the national and local levels, and I would like to share how the Vermont School Library Association (VSLA) has been responding to a situation that emerged recently.  Members of the organization are working together to make a difference and bring about change in a positive manner.  In a way, these actions have been a wake up call for all of us to understand the need for ongoing advocacy for school library programs.

A little background:

Since 2000, the Vermont State Statutes that define School Quality Standards have included language that describe staffing and school library resources. Throughout the state, school districts hired school librarians and supported school libraries as a result of the legislation. At the time that these standards were established, there was a school library media consultant at the Vermont Department of Education.  During reorganization in the early 2000’s, the position was eliminated.  Administrators and school librarians had guidelines, but no one to consult for questions that concerned school library programs.  The Vermont State Librarian who oversees public libraries took schools under her umbrella, and provided many resources that have continued to be helpful, and we have been fortunate to have that commitment and support.

Now:

In October 2012, a committee was formed by the Vermont Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education to revise the School Quality Standards to update changes in educational policy that reflect current goals and practice-now called Education Quality Standards.   The members of the committee worked diligently for months to describe an educational system that meets the needs of today’s learners in Vermont.  School leadership, professional learning, curriculum and instruction, collaboration, and personalization of learning are detailed in the document, but with no one at the table to explain the school library program and its impact on all of these  topics, language about school libraries and the role of school librarians was eliminated from the document.

Enter VSLA.  While the process was unfolding, a group of members worked together on suggested language that could be included in the document, and submitted it to the committee.  When the final document was approved by the committee, there was still no direct mention of school library programs or staffing.  The next step is for the State Board of Education to review and prepare the document for legislative action. Meanwhile, the executive board of VSLA appointed a group (of volunteers) to advocate for our proposed language.  In a meeting with the Secretary of Education, we have been assured that there was no intent to leave out school libraries, and that appropriate language would be included in the next phase. We are continuing to use this opportunity to raise awareness about how school library programs contribute to transforming learning in schools.

As a group of volunteers who have busy work and family lives, we have added another role-full time advocates for what are passionate about. The trick is to remain positive, upbeat, and to collaborate with our stakeholders.  We want our students, parents, colleagues, and administrators to think about aspects of the school library program that improve their lives.  We are encouraging them to share their thoughts with the State Board of Education through comments at public hearings, email, and letters during the month of October.  This is all happening on the fly as we develop a strategy for advocacy as a group. What we realize now is that this is a continuous process, not just for VSLA, but for each and every teacher librarian in every school, every day.

What we have learned is that collaboration for advocacy is more important than ever.  In Empowering Learners (AASL, 2009), the various roles of the school librarian have been updated to reflect the changing landscape of education in today’s world.  Leadership is a mantle that we may not willingly take on as teacher librarians, but one which we all need to embrace, and when we work towards common goals, and speak with a unified voice, change can happen.

Next week: Resources for Advocacy-Collaborating to Build the Plan

References:

Empowering Learners.  Chicago: ALA/AASL, 2009.

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