Collaboration and Leadership

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

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

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

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

A Collaborative Culture of Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classroom-Library Collaboration for Instruction

Chapter 9 Collaboration by Judi Moreillon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advocacy Is Not Optional

Chapter 8 Advocacy by Kristin Fraga Sierra and TuesD Chambers
Blog post by Judi Moreillon

“Spreading the message for stakeholders to advocate for the program is an essential activity for today’s school librarian, particularly during school closures” (Sierra and Chambers 123).

Kristin and TuesD began their chapter with a note about the critical need for advocacy, particularly in times of stress and change such as the school closures that occurred while they were writing Chapter 8.

In their experience (and in my own), school librarians who are leaders must be intentional about communicating and building relationships with library stakeholders in order to develop a team of advocates who have first-hand experience with the value of working with a state-certified school librarian and providing students with access to the full range of resources available through the school library program.

Advocacy is not optional.

Creating the Welcoming Space
Before communicating the value of the library program, the librarian must create a space in the library that serves all students, educators, administrators, and families—all library stakeholders. These are some strategies for building a space for belonging:

  • Focus on students first;
  • Listen intently to library stakeholders when they express their needs;
  • Distribute marketing tools such as surveys to collect feedback.

In all cases, make changes to the policies, physical space, programs, and teaching and learning opportunities based on feedback from library stakeholders.

Communication Strategies
The coauthors provide many examples of public relations communication strategies that build library stakeholders knowledge of the value of the library program. These are some:

  • Newsletters with section tailored to the needs of specific stakeholders;
  • One-page infographics that summarize the influence and impact of the library program on learning and teaching;
  • Flyers and invitations to literacy events and teaching and learning opportunities offered in the library space;
  • Social media posts that promote books and share the learning experiences of students’ literacy-focused clubs;
  • And more.

Building Relationships
In every aspect of their work, school librarians must be intentional relationship builders. Putting people first is a leadership behavior.

Whether this focus is evidenced through policies such as late fees or lost materials, providing diverse resources to equitably meet the needs all educators and students, or teaching and learning activities that are inclusive of multiple perspectives, the focus on people means that school librarians will build a cadre of advocates as an organic aspect of their work. Others will have first-hand experiences of how the work of the school librarian and the resources and activities in the library program made a difference in their learning and teaching.

“Strong advocacy work is absolutely necessary to the survival of the school library and is a core, undeniable element to the position of the school librarian” (Sierra and Chambers 124). (Sierra and Chambers 124)

Responding to School- and District-level Priorities
While school librarians will have particular areas of expertise and interest, if they are to be successful, they must align their work with the perceived needs of the school and district. They must be able to tell a “library story” that matters to their decision-maker stakeholders

“We need to keep in mind that library numbers and statistics
are pretty meaningless to anyone else unless they are connected
to your school and/or district priorities”
(Len Bryan cited in Sierra and Chambers 129).

This does not mean stepping away from the work of school librarianship and serving as a reading intervention teacher or technology coach throughout the school day. Rather it means, showing administrators with those needs that the work school librarians do will help them reach their goals. In these cases, improve students’ reading proficiency and students’ and educators’ use of educational technology.

This means teaching and coteaching with classroom teachers to achieve student learning targets, assessing student learning outcomes, and determining how to improve instruction in order for more students or all students to reach standards-based learning goals.

With these data in hand, school librarians will demonstrate to administrators how their work matters, and administrators will understand and value school librarians’ impact on teaching and influence on student learning.

Reflection Question
“What types of advocacy efforts have you led or been a part of in your career or schooling experience and what were the outcomes?” (Sierra and Chambers 137).

Work Cited

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

Who Do You Trust?

Chapter 7 Leadership by Pam Harland and Anita Cellucci
Blog post by Pam Harland and Anita Cellucci

When reflecting on the ideas we shared in our Core Values in School Librarianship chapter on how confidence and vulnerability lead to leadership, we thought about how trust is another important aspect of leadership. We were recently struck by Charles Feltman’s definition of trust, “choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions” (2021). We thought about how important it is for leaders to be intentional about building trust in themselves and with others. This idea connects to the ideas of confidence and vulnerability we wrote about in our chapter.

Building Trust with Adults in the Learning Community
We felt that the easiest way to start thinking about the idea of trust is to ask ourselves: What makes people not trust a leader? Our initial thoughts are:

  • If their words and actions are inconsistent.
  • If they lack understanding of our shared functional goals.
  • If they deflect blame, especially at the expense of their direct reports.
  • If they are too uncomfortable with uncertainty (they are not willing to take a risk).
  • If they are unable to manage risk appropriately (either by taking too many risks or not enough).
  • If they are unable to manage emotions (either too robotic or explosive).
  • What else would you add to this list? [Leave your thoughts in the comments below.]

In order to avoid distrust and move towards trust, we must behave in ways that demonstrate our trustworthiness. We cannot control how other people think about us, but we can control our own actions and behaviors. For example, we can intentionally:

  • Always tell the truth and not over-commit ourselves or our resources.
  • Seek to understand school-wide goals and how our library goals align.
  • Publicly accept blame when we make a mistake and be transparent with our decisions.
  • Accept uncertainty in our practice. Understand that sometimes we will need to take risks in new situations in order to improve our library programs.
  • While we need to take risks, we must be cautious before taking too great a risk. We will communicate clearly about any risks, especially those risks that impact others.
  • Be willing to share emotions with the school community, but in a controlled way.
  • What other ways can we intentionally avoid distrust in our practice? [Please share your ideas in the comments below.]

Photo Credit: Glenn, Kyle. 2017. Awesome Stencil. Unsplash. Available at https://unsplash.com/photos/gcw_WWu_uBQ. Accessed November 17, 2021.

When we look for trust in our leaders, we are primarily looking for reliability and competence. Additionally, our leaders need to be able to trust the people who work with them. So, while we hope for a reliable and competent school administrator, we also need to be reliable and competent in our own practice. That means we are true to our word and able to perform all aspects of our own jobs. We do not overcommit or promise to do something that we are not willing or able to do. We are also willing to confidently take responsibility for all aspects of our roles as school librarian leaders.

“Leadership is about developing trust and having the tough conversations that strengthen the community of learners.” Pam Harland and Anita Cellucci(Harland and Cellucci 2021, 112)

Building Trust with Students
It is also vital that we act in ways that build trust with our students. “Students are much more likely to engage in discussion and try new things if they trust the librarian to look out for them” (Rinio 2018, 47). Intentionally building trusting relationships with students is another way to demonstrate true leadership in practice. Be true to your word, especially with your most vulnerable students, and you will gain great rewards.

Another way we build trust with students is to amplify their voices in situations where they have little or no power. Iris Eichenlaub, Librarian/Technology Integrator at Camden Hills Regional High School in Camden, Maine described how she created a student-centered library by listening to her students. She wrote that when freshmen first come into the library for orientation in the fall, she begins by saying, “Some of the best parts of this library are because of your great ideas, so please share them” (Eichenlaub 2018). She went on to write, “The library is a dynamic, living space, a space that the community co-constructs together, and a space that responds to the needs of the community” (Eichenlaub 2018). Because she listens to her students and is open to sharing new ideas, she has become the trusted person in her school who can influence ideas and people.

Creating a co-constructed space with students develops trust as students are made to feel comfortable sharing ideas and they have an understanding they have a voice in the decisions made about the library. By providing a platform for her students to share ideas, especially those individuals who do not necessarily possess the formal power to make and implement decisions, she has created a unique leadership opportunity for herself.

Having confidence in our practice and sharing vulnerability with our colleagues and students will help us build trust in all of our relationships. We titled this post by asking, “Who Do You Trust?” and we want to conclude it with: Be sure that the leader your school trusts is you.

Reflection Question
In what ways do you intentionally avoid feelings of mistrust in your school community? Please share in the comments section below.

Works Cited
Eichenlaub, Iris. 2018. “What’s A Student-Centered Library?” Knowledge Quest (blog). Available at https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/whats-a-student-centered-library/. Accessed November 17, 2021.

Feltman, Charles. 2021. Thin Book of Trust: An Essential Primer for Building Trust at Work. 2nd ed. Bend, OR: Thin Book Publishing.

Harland, Pam, and Anita Cellucci. 2021. “Leadership.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 107-122. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Rinio, Deborah. 2018. “How Understanding the Nature of Trust Can Help Address the Standards.” Knowledge Quest 46 (3): 44–48.

Photo Credit: Glenn, Kyle. 2017. Awesome Stencil. Unsplash. Available at https://unsplash.com/photos/gcw_WWu_uBQ. Accessed November 17, 2021.

Pam Harland, EdD, served as a librarian for 25 years. She is now a member of the faculty at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire where she directs the School Librarian and Digital Learning Specialist educator preparation programs. Most recently she earned her doctorate in Educational Leadership in 2019 in which she researched the leadership behaviors of school librarians. Connect with her on Twitter @pamlibrarian.

Anita Cellucci, MEd LMS, is a high school librarian, K-12 library leader, in Westborough, Massachusetts. She advises teens in a library advisory board and coaches a poetry spoken word team. As a teaching lecturer for Plymouth State University, New Hampshire, she teaches children’s and young adult literature with a focus on social justice and diversity. Connect with her on Twitter @anitacellucci.

Strengthening Principal-School Librarian Partnerships

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

“School librarians must actively endeavor to understand their principal’s interests, needs and priorities both on a personal and professional level.” Kelly Gustafson and M.E. Shenefiel(Gustafson and Shenefiel, 99)

As M. E. noted in last week’s blog post “Principal Partnerships and Leader-Librarians,” when the librarian “can be proactive and offer solutions to building-level concerns, the principal can breathe a little sigh of relief. These small moments and actions build trust, and strong partnerships are the result.”

Meeting the Needs of the Community
It is essential that school librarians help other people in the learning community solve problems. Whether responding to a student’s question, a colleague’s resource, technology, or instructional strategy need, a parent’s question about their student’s access to library materials, or the principal’s initiative to continuously improve literacy learning and teaching in the school, school librarians must be at the table and bring with them ideas for addressing the needs of others.

While all library stakeholders deserve our attention, meeting the needs of building-level and district-level administrators must be a top priority. Listening to and understanding those needs is essential if school librarians are to reach their capacity to influence teaching practices and student learning outcomes.

There is no substitute for having a mutually respectful, supportive, and beneficial relationship with one’s administrator.

Connection to Research
At the AASL conference in Salt Lake City last month, there were two concurrent sessions focused on research. One Research Empowering Practice session focused on collecting evidence of practice; the other focused on advocacy. In the advocacy session, I presented a recently completed study that focused on the influence of the 2018 National Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries (AASL Standards) on the understandings of the AASL School Leader Collaborative (Collaborative). Four members of Collaborative also presented an opening panel keynote at the conference, including principal Kelly Gustafson coauthor of Chapter 6.)

In May of 2019, AASL put out a call for school librarians to nominate their administrator to join the Collaborative in an effort to establish a network of administrators who could provide advocacy for school librarians. Three superintendents and four principals served for two years and it was announced at the conference that another cohort will be forming soon.

Pam Harland, Anita Cellucci (coauthors of Chapter 7), and I conducted a content analysis of videos produced by AASL with testimonials from the Collaborative gathered at the 2019 conference in Louisville (secondary sources) and the November, 2020, AASL Town Hall video, which was the primary source of data for our study.

Research Purpose and Questions
Our research inquiry was based on our belief that if administrators understood the roles and responsibilities of school librarians and school librarians were meeting administrators’ needs then there would be fewer school librarian positions eliminated. We believe that in sharing their perceptions and priorities, these exemplary administrators, who were selected based on their understanding and experience of school librarians as leaders in their schools and districts, can teach school librarians and librarian educators how to further develop as educational leaders.

We wanted to know if we could locate, within these artifacts, these administrators’ understandings of what school librarian leaders do in practice. We also wanted to learn whether or not the AASL Standards were prioritized in these artifacts. Did they mention the five roles of school librarians as defined by the Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Programs (AASL 2009) and cited in the 2018 AASL Standards? Did they refer to the six Shared Foundations as described in the AASL Standards? And finally, how did the content of these artifacts support the leader role of school librarians?

Research Findings
What we learned is that these administrators expect school librarians to take action to help them and others solve problems. The most noteworthy theme that emerged from the Town Hall data is that these administrators expect librarians to take action in response to challenges and opportunities in order to increase effectiveness.

Out of the 32 quotes by administrators in the town hall meeting artifact, 25 of them mentioned this leadership behavior for school librarians.

One of the administrators said: “Our librarians haven’t been waiting for people to tell them what to do. They’ve been saying okay here’s the problem we need to solve and then here’s how we’re going to make it happen” (Harland, Moreillon, and Cellucci 2021).

Another theme that emerged is that these administrators expect librarians to collaborate with principals in ways connected to the school’s mission, vision, and goals.

Out of the 32 quotes by administrators in the Town Hall video transcript, 14 of them mentioned this collaborative role for school librarians. These school leaders were asking librarians to share solutions with principals in response to school and district-wide initiatives.

Research and Practice
As noted in Chapter 6 and in last week’s blog post, school librarians must invest in their relationships with administrators. They must listen, learn, and act to help administrators be successful and thereby influence the success of every student and educator in the building or district.

Reflection Question
“How does your library program support the strategic goals of the building and district?” (Gustafson and Shenefiel, 105)

Works Cited

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

Harland, Pam, Judi Moreillon, and Anita Cellucci. 2021. “Research Empowering Practice: Advocacy. The Influence of Standards of School Administrators’ Priorities.” American Association of School Librarians Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

For more information about this research study, Anita Cellucci and Pam Harland will have an article published in the January/February, 2022, issue of Knowledge Quest that focuses on the study: “Do You Know Your Administrators’ Priorities for the School Library?” All three researchers have a research study report forthcoming in School Library Research: “Take Action: A Content Analysis of Administrators’ Understandings of and Advocacy for the Roles and Responsibilities of School Librarians.”

Relationships Matter

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

“Inside of a school library and outside of the school library, relationships are everything.” Stacy Allen, Jennifer Sturge, and Sandy WalkerCore Values in School Librarianship:
Responding with Commitment and Courage 
(2021, 76)

As we set out to write this first blog post, a pesky little tune popped into Jen’s head and seemed to stay there for the duration of our writing. “Relationships, we all want ‘em, we all got ‘em, what do we do with them?” This quote can be attributed to the great Jimmy Buffett and his song Fruitcakes. It may be a lighthearted and fun song, but there is a lot of unpacking that can be done in that last part of the line: “what do we do with ‘em?” In school libraries, the short and sweet answer is, we build ‘em! This blog post features a story from one of Stacy’s friends, Yesenia and the relationship she formed with her elementary school librarian which continues to this day.

Conversations about Books
At the start of our journey in writing this chapter, Stacy reached out to Yesenia, curious to compare their experiences with books and libraries as children. Yesenia attended elementary school at PS 16 in Brooklyn, New York. Stacy was a student at Anne Arundel County Public Schools in Maryland. Stacy’s elementary school library memories were unremarkable, yet her access to books in childhood was undeniable. Between school and family weekend trips to Annapolis Public Library on West Street, she always had stacks of books she was longing to read. Books like the Nancy Drew mysteries even featured strong female protagonists who looked like her. When Stacy reached out to her friend, she didn’t know what she would hear during their conversation.  She didn’t expect it would not be as much about books, but more about the relationships that formed because of books!

But a library isn’t simply a room full of books, is it? Books were not even close to the center of the conversation for Stacy and Yesenia. The conversation centered around relationships. Yesenia spoke of a transformative relationship with her elementary school librarian, one that continues to this day. At PS 16, in the second-floor library, Yesenia first became an award-winning author — and she credits her relationship with librarian Muriel Feldshuh for the push.

During the conversation with Stacy, Yesenia was pulling out memory books with newspaper articles highlighting her win of the Ezra Jack Keats Award and the Brooklyn Literacy Contest as a third grader, and a letter of appreciation she received from then First Lady Barbara Bush. She also shared that she has novels Ms. Feldshuh sent her from contemporary writers like Margarita Engle and Judith Ortiz. “I owe her so much in my life,” Yesenia said, “I moved there in second grade, and she encouraged me beyond books. To this day she sends me emails and news clippings, on books, on mothering. She is my eternal pen pal.”

Access to Literacy Guides
Like the three of us, Yesenia grew up to love books and reading, but, “There wasn’t a Meg Medina picture book for me,” she says. “I remember Strega Nona, Babysitter’s Club, Judy Blume books, and Nancy Drew. But what I remember most is that she [Mrs. Feldshuh] created a safe space for me in the library. She is a very influential person in my life.”

“The school librarian has the power to suggest, discuss, and recommend something that is often very needed in students’ lives–literature and information” (Sturge, Allen, and Walker 2021, 79). The relationship that Yesenia and Mrs. Feldshuh shared, and still share, is one in which the school librarian nurtures a love of reading, takes the time to learn what their students are looking for in a book, and ensures that she sees the whole child, not just the surface.

Relationships are the foundation on which all else is built – and without those relationships we cannot provide what our students need the most – to be seen, heard, feel valued, and find their own success. The school librarians of the world, like Mrs. Feldshuh, make a difference one relationship at a time and one child at a time.

Building Relationships with School Librarian Colleagues
As many school librarians will be embarking on the journey to the American Association of School Librarians Conference in Salt Lake City in the coming days, we want to encourage you to think about relationships there as well. Jen serves on the planning committee for the 2021 conference and wanted to share a quick story about how relationships can develop across the country between school librarians who have never met before in person.

Two members of the planning committee met in person for the first time at an AASL conference several years ago.  Prior to that, they had only followed each other on Twitter and other social media platforms.  In our planning meetings, the friendship between the two is visible – despite the physical geography that separates them in their daily lives. When they finally met in person, it was like meeting a long-lost friend; we’re told there were squeals, screams of happiness, and hugging!

As you set out to enjoy all the conference has to offer, be sure to say hello to people that you have never met in person before. You never know – that social media relationship may blossom into a beautiful friendship!  As we strengthen our professional relationships, we can strengthen our network for learning, support, and growth.

Remember, Jimmy Buffett said it best, “Relationships, we all want ‘em, we all got ‘em, what do we do with them?” The answer simply is: build them.

Reflection Question
As you move through the 2021-2022 school year, what steps are you taking to build lasting relationships with your students, faculty, and school community?

Works Cited

Buffett, Jimmy. 1994. “Fruitcakes.” Margaritaville Records.

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

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

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

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

 

Radical Inclusion is a Lifestyle

Chapter 3: Inclusion by Meg Boisseau Allison
and Peter Patrick Langella|
Blog post by Peter

Black Lives Matter Flag Raising, 4/4/2019Photo: @cvu_library on InstagramBlack Lives Matter Flag Raising, 4/4/2019
Photo: @cvu_library on Instagram

In conversation with Learning for Justice, and speaking specifically about transgender rights, youth activist Hazel Edwards said, “Nothing about us, without us, is for us… If youth, and specifically trans youth, are not given seats at the table to be able to bring their perspectives and their experiences and the ways that they could be best supported, then the policy or the legislation or whatever the rule is will not adequately support us” (Lindberg 2017).

"Nothing about is, without us, is for us." Hazel EdwardsAs educators, we must work with students, not merely for them. Collective liberation is within our grasp.

Together
With that in mind, I’d like to share some highlights of what I got to do with students over the last few days as of this writing.

Monday
It’s second period, and I’m in Social Justice Think Tank with 18 brilliant and committed students. They’ve been learning about their identities, reflecting on and reconciling with their upbringing and social conditioning, and trying to understand privilege (or lack thereof). They’ve been tasked with presenting a music video to the class that will help all of us better envision the inclusive world we want to create while working through the challenges of tearing down the systems of oppression that permeate so much of society.

It’s a heavy and brave conversation, centered on race and gender and mental health and misogyny and substance use disorder. We have more questions than answers, and we haven’t solidified topics for our social justice action project yet, so we all head from our classroom to the library to find our next choice read. I’m filled with joy when a couple of students pick Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender and Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay, respectively, which are two of my favorite titles.

1:30 PM means I’m co-advising the Gender Sexuality Alliance. Because of a focus on advisory during our C3 Block (Clubs, Connections, and Community) for the first few weeks of the year, this is our first meeting with everyone together in the library. The energy is loving and frenetic all at the same time. We form a giant circle and share names and pronouns, welcoming new students to the school and club, and our student leaders add on a couple of rounds of fun icebreakers. Bright eyes and confident body language for most in the room means that the library feels like a safe space today, and it’s because we’re actively working together to make it one, not just because it exists. My co-advisors and I end by passing out custom Pride buttons and stickers with our school’s initials. Everyone wants extras.

Tuesday
I pull into the parking lot of the Black-owned café at 7:30 in the morning. The bagels and scones and pastries are warm and waiting. It’s only a few minutes back to the school building, and the leaders of the Racial Alliance Committee I co-advise smile and eat a toasty treat before we all set up the tables and chairs and coffee pots, an homage to the Free Breakfast for Children Program that the Black Panther Party initiated in West Oakland, California, in the late 1960’s. I find an extension cord and figure out how to get the speaker to blast our playlist while the student leaders welcome and mingle.

It’s Hispanic Heritage Month, and one of our leaders who is mixed white/Latina talks about words like Hispanic and Latinx and the classifications of colonization and white supremacy culture. She talks about the power of representation, too, and says that the first time she saw her childhood self reflected on screen was just the weekend before with Vivo. We all share aspirations for the year.

When second period begins, I’m in the back lobby near the principal’s office, which has become my reading group space during the pandemic. My co-librarian, Christina Deeley, and I have expanded our Project LIT Community book club into an embedded reading group collaboration with many of our 9th and 10th grade humanities classes. My groups this quarter are reading Here to Stay by Sarah Farizan and Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds.

We’re talking about sports competition and privilege because Farizan’s book has a basketball thread mixed with acts of xenophobia, and I bring up that I think our school’s extreme athletics success in the state is mostly due to our large size and general community affluence. These are ninth graders who’ve just met me, and I can tell that no one has ever even come close to broaching this subject with them before. I slow down. I ask a lot of questions. I listen.

Wednesday
I’m back in community with the Racial Alliance Committee. We have a lot of new members, and so the student leaders share our six living goals that align closely with the national demands from Black Lives Matter at School: 1) Educate the school community on intersectional justice and build relationships with other student clubs and outside organizations. 2) Mandate Black and Ethnic Studies courses and curricula. 3) Recruit, support, and retain more Black teachers and other teachers of color. 4) Establish restorative justice practices within our school district, and create a restorative justice-focused Anti-Racist Community Accountability Board comprised of students, educators, parents, and other community members. 5) Embed Anti-Racist & Anti-Bias training into all professional development for faculty & staff. And, 6) Remove the armed police officer from our high school campus. There’s a cheer when people see the green check mark on the screen for this last one because our activism over the last couple of years means that this is our first year in many without a full-time cop on school grounds.

Now I’m in Social Justice Think Tank again, and we allot some time to listen to my Inclusion chapter co-author Meg Allison’s students talk about Critical Race Theory and their desire to be taught honest history on Vermont Public Radio’s Vermont Edition. My students share similar reflections about feeling like many parts of the curriculum have been watered down or mythologized (Thanksgiving came up a lot), and there seems to be an organic collective growing in this space, like this class is forming a more nuanced consciousness, together.

We watch a video about calling in and calling out from Australia’s Project Rockit TV, and we role-play scenarios from Learning for Justice’s Speak Up at School guide. We process how it’s really hard to call people in when they’re being hateful and exclusionary. Sometimes it’s okay to call people out. As we learned in the video, “Both methods are 100% valid” depending on the situation.

My Privilege
I’m a white, able-bodied, neurotypical, cisgender man. Because of these identities and others, I have a great deal of privilege and social capital. I also work at school with three librarians, a separate technology department, and a principal that grants me a lot of autonomy. I have the resources and time to be creative. However, even if I were to find myself in a different situation someday, these are still the things I’d want to be doing with students. I’m actively trying to redefine and push the boundaries of what a school librarian can be. Having a diverse collection isn’t enough. Providing access to timely, factual resources isn’t enough.

Equity and justice are ways of being, not discreet things that we do in vacuums. Radical inclusion is a lifestyle.

In a 2019 talk at TEDxStowe on “Radical Diversity,” Kiah Morris, former Vermont state representative and current Movement Politics Director at Rights & Democracy Vermont, said that she can “not rest easy over small changes or mediocrity. Understand that if we are to create a vision for what this diverse world looks like, it must be radical, or it will fail” (Morris 2019).

Inclusion in school libraries is no different.

Get together with your students, inside the library and out.

Dream big.

Be radical.

Reflection Question
How can you cocreate a sense of belonging for all students, across all intersectional identity groups? (Allison and Langella 2021, 52).

Image Credit: “Black Lives Matter Flag Raising, 4/4/2019.” Courtesy of @cvu_library on Instagram

Works Cited

Allison, Meg Boisseau, and Peter Patrick Langella. 2021. “Inclusion.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 37-54. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Lindberg, Maya. 2017. “Nothing about Us without Us is for Us.” Learning for Justice, Fall. Available at https://www.learningforjustice.org/magazine/fall-2017/nothing-about-us-without-us-is-for-us. Accessed September 26, 2021.

Morris, Kiah. 2019. “Three Tools for Anyone Serious about Radical Diversity| Kiah Morris | TEDxStowe.” YouTube (video). Posted by TEDx Talks, May 31, 2019. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPfdAX–6ME. Accessed September 26, 2021.

Peter Langella (he/him) is a librarian at Champlain Valley Union HS in Vermont, where he co-advises the Racial Alliance Committee and Gender Sexuality Alliance. Peter also works as a school librarianship instructor at the University of Vermont and an English instructor at Northern Vermont University. He was a 2017 Fellow at The Rowland Foundation, a member of the first Induction Leadership Cohort with the American Association of School Librarians, and the co-recipient of the Vermont School Library Association’s 2020 Outstanding School Librarian Award (with Inclusion co-author Meg Boisseau Allison). Peter is also the co-founder and co-organizer of Teen Lit Mob Vermont, the state’s only teen literary festival. Connect with him on Twitter @PeterLangella.

The Roots of an Inclusive Worldview

Chapter 3: Inclusion by Meg Boisseau Allison
and Peter Patrick Langella
Blog post by Meg
"In what ways do school librarians reinforce inequities and injustices by choosing what we remain silent about"

The Roots of an Inclusive Worldview
From a very young age, and because I loved books, I was able to tap into a deep well of inner compassion through the stories and perspectives of some incredible characters. Whether it was Wilbur fighting for his life, because of the indignities of being the runt of the litter, or Cassie Logan confronting the hate and social injustices of the South during Jim Crow.

As I grew as a reader and grew older in life, the set of oppressions under which some of my favorite characters strove for their full humanity, in no small way, shaped my worldview. Not only did life seem heartbreakingly unfair; the systemic injustices that impacted one’s place in the world were something that I instinctively recoiled against, giving roots to a lifelong commitment to equity, justice, and inclusion.

As a sociology major in college, as I came to understand the concepts of power and privilege, systemic oppression, and intersectionality, it gave me an academic foundation from which to position myself in the world. It also provided a framework for my work, years later, as a teacher-librarian. It’s why I strive toward Radical Inclusion in my school library today, and write about it with my thinking partner, Peter Langella.

Undeniably, its roots are within the pages of classic children’s literature. As a young white girl growing up in rural Vermont – surrounded by blue-collar neighbors working hard to make ends meet – books were absolutely my window into a larger and more diverse world. They forever altered my heart and capacity for empathy and understanding. It’s no wonder to me why I am still invested in the fight for justice. It feels full circle to continue to do this work in the container of a library, where the stories and characters from my youth reside and where the voices of new generations of authors continue to expand, mirror, reflect, and shake free identities that have long been marginalized, oppressed, and deemed less than.

Photograph: Amplify Black Voices“Amplify Black Voices” courtesy of Meg B. Allison

Exclusion is Ultimately Unethical
In my work as a teacher-librarian, with Radical Inclusion as a core identity, I strive to be mindful of any number of ways that my role wields power, and then move toward sharing that power, specifically with my number-one stakeholders – young people. In thinking of the role that many school librarians assume as the gate-keepers of our large, collective spaces, I try to disrupt the comfort of my own cisgendered, hetero-normative, able-bodied, college-educated, middle-class identities by interrogating the books that are curated, the programming that is supported, in the topics that are addressed, how the library is organized, and in the many ways our systems and mindsets seek to exclude by default, rather than include.

Because, oh, how easily we exclude!  Any librarian can attest that it is much easier to avoid controversy by making choices about what books not to add to one’s collection, what voices not to include in our programming. Every community is unique, of course, and I live in one that arcs toward progressive and liberal values, but certainly not exclusively. I understand that adding books to our collection that feature LGBTQIA+ characters, for example, will not cause the kind of waves in a state that was the first to adopt civil union legislation in 2000.

But yet there is a kind of gatekeeping that happens on behalf of our student populations, and in Vermont, this was apparent when the book George by Alex Gino was selected to be on our Golden Dome list, igniting a conversation within our Vermont School Librarian Association membership about whether to include this book in elementary school collections. Even though the main character is in the 4th grade, some librarians opted to side-step controversy and simply excluded it from their collections, thus denying the humanity of students whose living experiences mirrored George’s. They were also denying other students the opportunity to grow in compassion and empathy for a character who feels differently than their gender identity assigned at birth. What a missed opportunity for all students, albeit made by well-intended librarians to privilege their own comfort under a misguided attempt to protect students from a tender, emphatic, and ultimately affirming story.

Let me be clear: soft censorship is still censorship. Choosing not to add a book, author, or topic to our collection in the name of protecting our readers or avoiding backlash from our larger community is exclusionary.  It is not an act toward building an anti-racist and inclusive library. It is not an act of courage. It is the path of privilege and comfort, attained by maintaining silence. It is one I have to confront each and every day that I suit up and go into the library and challenge long-entrenched status quos that have privileged my comfort over the dignity and humanity of others.

Peter and I ask in Chapter 3: Inclusion in Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, and have asked at many workshops where we present this idea of radical inclusion to our school library peers, in what ways do you reinforce inequities and injustices by choosing what you remain silent about?  To which I would add: we speak volumes with our actions, and uphold injustice and oppression with our inability – individually and collectively – to take action.

Accountability
All of which makes me consider how we can collectively hold ourselves accountable. And hold ourselves accountable to our values we must. We can do this through building strong networks and seeking support. So often, teacher-librarians make decisions of import in a vacuum, largely due to the fact that we are the only ones in our buildings. But I would urge each of us, that anytime we choose to exclude a book – or idea – or program – from our libraries, we get second and third opinions. That we bring our decisions to our library advisory boards. That we pose the question on Twitter and other places where teacher-librarians from diverse backgrounds gather. That we push through our discomfort and get closer to being more open to experiences and identities that differ from our own, and accept that while we might not always get it right, we are cowardly for not trying. We are not doing our students with the most privileges any favors, and at worse, we are harming historically marginalized students by moralizing and patronizing their identities.

Compassionate-Action
Holding ourselves accountable will help each and every one of us move closer to a place of Compassion-Action. Peter and I explore this framework within our chapter, positing that it levels-up empathy, by igniting action. We believe that it’s not enough to have a change of heart: that if true equity and justice is to be realized, those of us with positional power and intersectional privilege must combine empathy with action and move toward compassionate action. That in the words of Dr. Lilla Watson, an Australian Aboriginal elder and activist, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time, but if you have come here because your liberation is wrapped up in mine, then let us work together.”

We can ignite this power within our spheres of influence – within our libraries – by sharing power, sharing space, building containers for compassionate action, and being transparent to our stakeholders about our decision-making processes.

To which I say, in order to achieve Radical Inclusion, be it in your school library, your district, and in your statewide or national memberships, we must share power with those who have been historically excluded and marginalized, starting with our students. Anything less than this ensures that systems of oppression will remain firmly entrenched, not just in our hearts, but in our collections, policies, practices, and pedagogies. The school library must be an active site of liberation in the co-creation of conditions for freedom, liberty, and justice for all.

Reflection Question
Peter and I invite school librarians to join in our ongoing reflection and discussion about Radical Inclusion on Twitter. We ask:

“In what ways do school librarians reinforce inequities and injustices by choosing what we remain silent about?” (Allison and Langella 2021, 51).

You can follow the discussion using the hashtags #SLCoreValues and #Libraries4Action.  Additionally, join us at AASL in Salt Lake City for our workshop on Radical Inclusion.  We look forward to leaning in and learning with you!

Additional Resource
Butler, Sarah Lorge. 2018. “Parents Are Divided Over a Book in a Popular Student Reading Program in Oregon.” New York Times, May 8. Available at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/08/books/george-alex-gino-controversy-oregon.html. Accessed September 18, 2021.

Works Cited
Allison, Meg Boisseau, and Peter Patrick Langella. 2021. “Inclusion.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 37-54. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Watson, Lilla. 2004. “Recognition of Indigenous Terms of Reference,” Keynote Address at “A Contribution to Change: Cooperation Out of Conflict Conference: Celebrating Difference, Embracing Equality,” Hobart, Tasmania (September 21-24). Available at https://uniting.church/lilla-watson-let-us-work-together/. Accessed September 19, 2021. Note: Lilla Watson prefers that the words be credited “Aboriginal activists group Queensland, 1970s.”

Image Credit: “Amplify Black Voices.” Vermont State Capitol, Montpelier Vt. June 2020. Courtesy of Meg B. Allison.

 

Equity and Social Justice

Chapter 1 Co-authors
Since I, Judi Moreillon, have the privilege of writing this post, I am beginning by introducing Core Values in School Librarianship readers to the co-authors of the “Equity” chapter.

Erika Long, MSIS, is a school librarian in Tennessee. Among other professional activities, Erika served on the AASL Presidential Initiative Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and on ALA’s United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals Task Force. Erika brings her teaching through the library program experience as well as her tireless advocacy for social justice to her writing in this chapter.

Suzanne Sherman, MIS, is a former English and Spanish teacher turned librarian. She was a school librarian for 15 years before moving into a coaching role as the Instructional Facilitator for Knox County Schools’ Library Media Services in Knoxville, Tennessee. At the district level, Suzanne focuses on supporting the school librarians in both instruction and management. She also works on collaborating with other district leaders in the Teaching and Learning and School Culture departments. Suzanne takes action for the district’s mission: “To provide excellent and accessible learning opportunities that empower all students to realize their full potential.”

Erika Long and Suzanne Sherman open our book and their chapter with this one-sentence theme:

"Equity is a matter of social justice." Erika Long and Suzanne ShermanWhat Is Equity?
Erika and Suzanne use a National Education Association’s definition of social justice as the first pull quote in their chapter. Since the toolkit they refer to is no longer available, I believe this quote from NEA sums up their intention: “Systemic equity involves a robust system and dynamic process consciously designed to create, support and sustain social justice” (NEA 2021). Equity requires a systemic approach, one for which school librarians with their global view of the learning community are perfectly positioned to lead.

What Is the Connection to Social Justice?
The right to access information is a human, constitutional right that the authors encourage colleagues to stand up for in their work as school librarians. The early months of the pandemic exposed many inequities in terms of technology tools and broadband access that prevented students from success with remote learning. School librarians and other educators were well aware of these opportunity gaps long before schools closed—gaps that still exist 18 months later as another academic year is beginning.

In their chapter, Erika and Suzanne talk about advocating for equitable access as an “obligation to ensure” all students have access to the resources they need to succeed. “Librarians have a duty to ensure every young person has access to any resource, at any time, and commit to making equitable access a reality for all” (Long and Sherman 2021, 5). This obligation was/is never more pressing than during times of remote and hybrid learning.

Chapter 1 Vignettes
Ali Schilpp, school librarian at Northern Middle School in Accident, Maryland, and Sarah Searles and Amber Moser, district-level librarian leaders in Knox County Schools, Tennessee, offer the vignettes in the “Equity” chapter.

In her vignette, Ali shared her passion for serving the students who live and attend school in her small, rural town. She noted how school closures spurred her district to provide broadband access to students who lacked it. Ali worked to prepare classroom educators to provide virtual learning as she positioned the library as the hub for instructional and technology support that benefited the entire learning community. She also noted: “A librarian is the one educator in the school who works directly with every student. Each year/semester/quarter students’ teachers change while the librarian remains a constant ally throughout their school years” (cited in Long and Sherman 2021, 9).

Sarah and Amber shared their district-level perspective in terms of equitable opportunities for all students in their large, urban school district. Their focus was on summer reading as well as literacy learning more broadly. They collaborated with the public libraries in their community to extend students’ pleasure reading and learning beyond school campuses and establish an understanding that libraries support people for lifelong learning. Through this partnership, barriers, such as parental documentation and physical library visits, were overcome when students gained access to the public library’s digital resources. Sarah and Amber note: “We are passionate about our commitment to undertake the work of facilitating equitable access district-wide as a point of social justice for everyone in our school community” (cited in Long and Sherman 2021, 15).

Commitment and Courage
School librarians hone their global perspective on discovering who is left out and find solutions to address the learning needs of every student. They seek to serve the underserved and ensure an equitable educational environment and experience for each learner. School librarians are allies and advocates who take action and show courage when change is necessary to meet their obligation and commitment to equity.

“There are many in our ranks who are self-proclaimed social justice warriors and yet, systemic policies, procedures, and preconceived notions, coupled with either lack of knowledge or the tools to fully implement equitable practices in the field, create stumbling blocks toward reaching the goal” (Long and Sherman 2021, 3).

It takes commitment and courage to confront policies, procedures, and the status quo, and school librarians are the leaders who can and will stand up for the hard things. For the sake of students, colleagues, administrators, and families, school librarians will continually take action for equity and to reach for social justice.

Reflection Question
What steps will you take to ensure equitable access for all learners? (Long and Sherman 2021, 16)

Works Cited

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

National Education Association Center for Social Justice. 2021. “Racial Justice in Education: Key Terms and Definitions. Available at https://www.nea.org/professional-excellence/student-engagement/tools-tips/racial-justice-education-key-terms-and. Accessed August 17, 2021.

Core Values in School Librarianship: Fall Semester Book Study

This fall, the Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021) contributors and I will be sharing two posts for each of the nine chapters in the book. Beginning today with this introduction through the last week of December, blog readers can read recaps of chapters or more thoughts and experiences of chapter co-authors. (As you know, one challenge with a published book is that once it’s off to the printer, it is fixed in a way our learning and practice never are!) You can find the line-up of posts on this blog. I will be adding links to each of the posts as they are published.

Introduction: A Passion for School Librarianship
As the book’s editor, I wrote the introduction. In it I share my motivation for this proposing this book. I know that my own enculturation into and my passion for the core values of school librarianship guided my library practice, my work as an educator of preservice school librarian, and my continued involvement in the profession and advocacy work. Equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom combined with the values we share with classroom teachers such as collaboration and literacy as a pathway to success have been at the end of my work/life.

"All school librarians need a firm foundation to provide strength and direction during these rapidly changing and challenging times" (Moreillon 2021, ix).These are indeed rapidly change and challenging times. Grounding our practice in our core values gives us a necessary and needed firm foundation to stay strong as we speak up and out for the benefit of our library stakeholders. The pandemic, Black Lives Matter movement, and backlash from various quarters of society have converged to create a time that is testing our mettle. I truly believe we must act now.

Destabilization
Accelerations in technology, globalization, and climate change result in a “constant state of destabilization” (Friedman 2016, 35) all of which affect the education landscape as well as society as a whole. For example, laws recently passed by some state legislatures that intend to constrain educators’ teaching and students’ learning regarding U.S. history will be tested in practice as well as in courts of law. When librarians are guiding students’ social studies inquiry, we must hold to our values and ensure that learners engage with accurate historical records, think critically about our nation’s past and present, and discuss issues that are relevant to their lives—today and in the future.

In this environment, we are called upon to recommit and hold tight to our values: equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom. We may be the only educator in our buildings who holds these core values. As such, we cannot fail to take courageous action when warranted for the benefit of our learning communities.

Co-leading Change
We cannot, however, act alone. While we must embrace ambiguity, stretch our flexibility, and exercise our initiative, we must reach out to others to co-lead change in our schools and districts, state and national associations. We need a tribe to keep us centered in our values. The education profession, of which school librarianship is an integral part, needs a tribe of like-minded dedicated colleagues to move our work forward.

People don’t care how much you know
until they know how much you care.

Dr. Jean Feldman

During these challenging times, many educators, school librarians among them, are feeling vulnerable; others are quite understandably afraid. This may be particularly true at this time for those who are making professional decisions that affect their families as well as their students. It is incumbent on us to practice empathy as we co-lead with our administrators and teacher leaders. Empathy is a key tool in our work as we strive to take compassion action.

Choosing Courage Over Comfort
In her book Dare to Lead. Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts (Vermillion 2018) Brené Brown challenges those of us who live our values to speak up about the “hard things.” She describes integrity in this way: “choosing courage over cover; it’s choosing what is right over fun, fast, or easy, and it’s practicing your values not just professing them” (189).

In our book, the contributors offer inspiration, thoughts, and experiences as guides to help you lead through our shared library values in your learning community. We invite you to share and comment on our blog posts and join in via our social posts as well. We look forward to hearing how you are enacting core values in your library this fall and positively influencing the teaching and learning and work of your administrators, colleagues, students, and families.

Reflection Questions
Each chapter in the book concludes with reflection questions. In addition to your personal consideration or to discussions with your near colleagues, we invite you to respond to these questions on this blog or via our other social media posts.

If I were to add such a question to the book’s introduction, this would be it:

How are you expressing empathy for others and practicing self-care
as you launch the 2021-22 academic year?

Additional Resources
Circulating Ideas Podcast by Steve Thomas: Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage Interview with Judi Moreillon (7/13/21)

Core Values in School Librarianship: Collaborating for Social Justice – School Library Connection Webinar (6/28/21)

Taking Action for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Intellectual Freedom in School Libraries at #alaac21 (6/21/21)

Works Cited
Brown, Brené. 2018. Dare to Lead. Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. London: Vermillion.

Friedman, Thomas. 2016. Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in an Age of Acceleration. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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