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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