Building Connections

Welcome to the official launch of the Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (MSLL) 2018-2019 Book Study. I invite you to read one chapter each month and participate in weekly blog discussions throughout this school year.

Podcast – Episode 1: Building Connections for Learning

Maximizing School Librarian Leadership Facebook Group

Each chapter in the book opens with an invitation to connect your background knowledge and experience with the content of the chapter. The prompt in Chapter 1: Building Connections for Learning asks you to consider how the current culture in your school supports your personal growth and how does it support individual and collective risk-taking, problem solving, and innovation.

These may or may not be easy questions to answer. You may be new to a school, or you may be serving in a new role this year and have yet to realize the affordances of your current school culture. If that is the case, think about your previous school or work environment.

Have you served, or do you serve in a culture that supports your professional growth?

School Culture
According to the glossary in MSLL, culture is “a way of life. It is comprised of shared beliefs, values, knowledge, attitudes, language, behaviors, social interactions, and more. Cultures are created by people over time. Cultures are dynamic; they are not fixed. Cultures change as people’s needs and norms change” (Moreillon 2018, 170). For me the keywords in this definition are “people” and “dynamic.”

Building Relationships
When building a culture of learning in your school, your relationships with people are THE place to start. People who know, like, and respect each other are more likely to invest in the success of the entire learning community. As a school librarian, you make sure that the strongest relationship you form and nurture is with your principal. You will build relationships with library staff, volunteers, and student aides. You will build relationships with individual classroom teachers and specialists and with grade-level or disciplinary teams. You will build relationships with the Parent-Teacher Association/Organization leaders and students’ family members.

Simply put, you must build relationships in order to position your work and the library program at the center of the learning community.

There are many ways to build connections via relationships. With your principal(s), it may be through regular face-to-face meetings, via email or other electronic communication, by sharing lesson plans, monthly newsletters, and quarterly reports. It may be through professional development opportunities you are facilitating for faculty. Wise school librarians regularly leave invitations to see what’s happening in the library and other positive notes in their principal’s mailbox. All of these communication venues will focus on sharing how you assist your principals in meeting their goals for faculty, students, and the school.

The teachers’ lounge in any school can be a positive point of contact, or it can be a place for airing complaints. If it is the former, be sure to get out of the library and into the lounge whenever you can. Get to know about classroom teachers’ own children (grandchildren) as well as their students. Listen and learn as they share the successful happenings in their classrooms. Be on the alert for problems they might share that you can help them solve. Share yourself as well as the resources and learning experiences centered in the library. If you cannot change the teachers’ lounge into a positive place for developing relationships, steer clear of it.

Forming advisory committees that include administrators, classroom teachers, students, and families is one sure way to build relationships. Make sure these committees have a defined purpose, such as setting library procedures, overseeing the library’s Web presence, or planning a literacy event. Library student aides can become the school librarians “own kids.” Not only do they help manage the library, they also further develop literacies and give school librarians insights into possible challenges other students may be having in using and creating with information.

Building Connections
Effective school librarians build connections between professional development and practice; resources and curriculum; libraries and classrooms; inquiry and the disciplines; and future ready learning and college, career, and community readiness (see figure 1.5).  Building these connections can best be achieved in a learning commons model. This model “for the use of the library’s physical and virtual spaces, its resources, and the school librarian focuses the library program on knowledge-building by students and educators alike” (Moreillon 2018, 173).

Cultural Transformation
“Advancing progressive learning approaches requires cultural transformation. Schools must be structured to promote the exchange of fresh ideas and identify successful models with a lens toward sustainability — especially in light of inevitable leadership changes” (NMC/CoSN 2017, 4). I believe that school librarians can play a pivotal role in initiating, maintaining, and sustaining cultural transformation in their schools.

If the school library is known as a place for the open exchange of ideas, school librarians can help ensure that the school culture is a dynamic one. This open exchange will happen when there is trust among educators, students, and community members. With an exploratory and risk-taking approach, school librarians who have co-created a “learning commons” in the library will be on the forefront of identifying, testing, and developing successful strategies for transforming teaching and learning.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What are your go-to strategies for building connections in your school learning community?
  2. How does your school library program reflect a “learning commons” model, and how can you capitalize on this model to transform learning and teaching in your school?

Works Cited

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

New Media Consortium and Consortium for School Networking. 2017. The NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2017 K-12 Edition. https://cdn.nmc.org/media/2017-nmc-cosn-horizon-report-k12-EN.pdf

Maximizing Systems Thinking

In this quote from the book, I offer a critical foundation for succeeding in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership. When administrators, educators, students, and families have a collaborative mindset, they will be invested in each other’s success and in the success of the entire learning community. With a culture of collaboration as a foundation, principals and school librarian leaders will have built the necessary relationships to fully understand the system they seek to lead.

The Global View
Like principals, school librarians have a global view of the learning community. Effective school librarians and principals also reach out beyond the school walls to work with families and other community members. A close working relationship between principals and school librarians helps them share their insights into the various components of the learning community.

Systems thinking involves taking stock of the whole system before attempting to change any part of it. Systems thinking leaders search for patterns in the interdependent relationships among people and practices within the system. It is important, then, that leaders step into each other’s and every stakeholder’s shoes. School librarian leaders must ask: What does the school library program look like from the perspective of the principal(s), classroom teachers, specialists, staff, families, district-level decision-makers, and community members?

Systems thinking helps leaders identify areas of strength. These are the places in the system that support the learning community’s vision, mission, or goals. Leaders also look for stumbling blocks that may impede the school’s progress toward achieving their goals. In a collaborative culture, leaders use this information to further strengthen the system and collectively solve the challenges that could keep educators, students, and families from achieving success.

School Library Services Alignment
Collaborative school librarians seek to align their work—resources and teaching—with the classroom curriculum. Through coplanning, coteaching, and coassessing student learning outcomes they have first-hand knowledge of the instructional program from a school-wide perspective. Principals and school librarians can use that information to continually improve their own leadership as well as the success of other educators, students, and families.

Systems thinking involves working as a team. Team learning “is a discipline of group interaction. Through such techniques as dialogue and skillful discussion, small groups of people transform their collective thinking, learn to mobilize their energies and actions to achieve common goals, and draw forth an intelligence greater than the sum of individual members’ talents” (Senge et al. 2012, 8).

School librarians work with individual colleagues as well as with grade-level and disciplinary teams. This gives us the opportunity (and the responsibility) to personalize professional learning for each member of the teaching faculty. Our knowledge of the entire system, which we share with our administrators, helps school librarians collaborate with others to transform teaching and learning. It helps us know how we can capitalize on our colleagues’ individual strengths and the school’s collective strengths. It helps us develop strategies to address any policies, procedures, or practices that may be holding us back.

Systems Thinking in Education
Systems thinking is not a new idea in education. In 1992, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development published an issue of Educational Leadership called “Improving School Quality.” Frank Betts contributed an article to that issue called “How Systems Thinking Applies to Education.” As Betts notes, “Each educational system is composed of a unique set of elements arranged in a unique constellation of relationships. Furthermore, the relationships among elements, subsystems, and supra-systems are continually changing in search of equilibrium while avoiding entropy.” As the call for systemic change in education has grown even more urgent in the years since his article was published, there remains much to learned about applying systems thinking to transforming our schools.

Taking a systems thinking approach provides school leaders with the data they need to lead a change process. Strong leaders practice distributive leadership and encourage all stakeholders to actively participate in the process. Applying systems thinking and working collaboratively with others is the way to collectively take the risks necessary to maximize our effectiveness and reach for our capacity to meet the needs of today’s students.

Coming August 27th at 3:00 p.m. EST:

Your Library on Steroids: Make an Impact on System Level PrioritiesSchool Library Journal Webinar with Priscille Dando, Coordinator of Library Information Services, Fairfax County Public Schools, and Jonathan Hunt, Lead Coordinator of Library Media Services, San Diego County Office of Education

Questions for Discussion

  1. Do you feel that your school community is currently working together as a team?
  2. How do you or could you contribute to strengthening your school’s team?

Works Cited

Betts, Frank. 1992. “How Systems Thinking Applies to Education.” Educational Leadership 50 (3); 38-41.

Senge, Peter, Nelda Cambron-McCabe, Timothy Lucas, Bryan Smith, Janis Dutton, and Art Kleiner. 2012. Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares about Education. New York: Crown Business.

 

Maximizing Leadership: Keyword = Collaboration

For the 2018-2019 academic year, I will be using my blog to support educators who are using my book Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy as a book study selection. This month (August), I blog about the information found in the preface and the introduction and the to use the book as a book study selection. In September, I will blog about Chapter 1: Building Connections for Learning and continue dedicating each month during the academic year to subsequent chapters in the book. You can find the schedule and links to these blog posts, on the book page of my blog. Each month, I will introduce that month’s chapter with a podcast.

For the month of August, I published a podcast called: Preview: School Librarian Leadership

All Podcast ScriptsPreface

In the preface of a book, authors often explain why they wrote the book. They often use the preface to establish their credibility in terms of their experience on the topic or their professional background. To apply an old term from the study of rhetoric, a preface is in a sense an “apology”: an explanation or defense.

As Simon Sinek, David Mead, and Peter Docker explain in their book Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team (2017), it is essential for people to determine their “whys.” While we may achieve “happiness” in “what” we do, our “whys” indicate the ways we achieve satisfaction. Our “whys” align with our values, our goals, our raison d’être. This book is about my “WHY.”

From a professional standpoint, “collaboration” is the skill and educational value that is primary in my heart, mind, and experience. For me to fulfill my purpose as an educator, I have chosen to collaborate with others to reach for my individual and our collective capacity to serve the needs of the students in our care. I know from experience that none of us can succeed with all students in all content areas if we choose to work in isolation from our colleagues.

Collaborative Cultures

I have served in collaborative culture schools and worked on non-collaborative faculties as well. I know the difference in terms of my ability to learn and grow. I know the difference in terms of what we can accomplish and offer students by working together. I know it takes a village to help students and educators reach their capacity.

Simply put, there is no comparison between a collaborative culture and non-collaborative culture learning community.

Culture is everything. At times in my teaching career when my collaborative purpose and the purpose of the learning community were aligned, there was absolutely no limit to what we could accomplish together—and no limit to my joy and sense of achievement. A culture of collaboration is focused on both individual and collective growth. “If every member of a team doesn’t grow together they will grow apart” (Simon, Mead, and Docker 2017, 195).

As a school librarian, I have had awesome (no exaggeration) opportunities to co-lead along with administrators and classroom teacher leaders in collaborative culture schools. These experiences have shaped me, and they shaped this book.

Maximizing School Librarian Leadership

This book represents almost thirty years of learning, seven years of intensive graduate-level teaching, and two additional years of reading, researching, and writing. During my tenure as an assistant, then associate, professor at Texas Woman’s University (TWU), I developed (from scratch), refined, and further refined a course called “Librarians as Instructional Partners” (LS5443). For me, this course offered graduate students THE reason to serve as school librarians. It offered preservice school librarians a “why” followed by “what” and “how.”

Over my seven years of service at TWU, I taught this course twelve semesters, occasionally teaching two sections in one semester. I learned a great deal from the over three hundred students who participated in the course. There were students who entered LS5443 with open minds or prior positive experiences with collaboration; they embraced coplanning, coteaching, and co-leading. There were other students who struggled to let go and trust their fellow students; they resisted collaboration. Some developed their collaborative ability over the course of the semester; others left our course adamant that they would seek library positions in which they could work alone.

When I completed this book in November of 2017, I realized that Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy, is the text I wish I had had to help guide the preservice school librarians who participated in LS5443. Perhaps this text would have helped me more effectively communicate the deep sense of purpose and satisfaction that is possible when school librarian leaders collaborate to co-create a culture of learning.

My Hope

I hope all school librarians will come to know through first-hand experience that teaching and learning within a collaborative culture of learning is the context in which they will succeed in educating students for the present as well as for their futures. When school librarians serve as culture builders, practice job-embedded professional development, and lead as changemakers, they can and will be leaders on teams that transform learning and teaching.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is your WHY related to your career in school librarianship?
  2. What do you hope to learn, or wish you had learned in your preservice school librarian education?

Work Cited

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

Note: I reviewed this book on my blog in two parts on October 16 and October 23, 2017.

Co-Creating a Community of Readers

“Supporting Middle School Reading: Using a Data Dashboard to Create a Community of Readers” by school librarian Kelsey Cohen appeared in the June, 2018, issue of American Libraries. Kelsey’s article is about how she engaged in a professional inquiry with assistant principal Rob Andrews, literacy coach Lisa Ramos-Hillegers, and instructional technology coach Mike Sammartano to support striving readers at Hommocks Middle School (Larchmont, New York). Their goal was to explore ways to use digital reading logs to motivate and engage more readers and further develop a reading culture in their school.

When educators engage in inquiry, they take risks together. They analyze a challenge they are facing, design, and test solutions that can help students succeed. Sometimes when they examine the outcomes, they find their solution needs to be tweaked and retested before they can achieve their goals.

In the American Libraries article, Kelsey describes an inquiry conducted by Hommocks educators. In this example, assistant principal Rob Andrews suggested the literacy team institute electronic reading logs in order to collect and use student data to improve students’ engagement and motivation. In the first year of testing the logs, the collaborators learned that the digital reading log forms were too detailed and therefore, not completed by enough students. When they revised the form, they involved the expertise of their instructional technology coach. Together, they created a data dashboard where students could access colorful graphs, charts, and lists based on their reading log data. They increased students’ and classroom teachers’ buy-in.

Kelsey displayed the data on a large monitor in the library. Readers used this information to self-assess their reading and classroom teachers used it with students during reading conferences. Along with literacy coach Lisa, Kelsey used the data specifically to reach out to striving readers. Kelsey and Lisa made sure that these students had “first dibs on new book arrivals” and they “created personalized book bins” that struggling readers could browse in their classrooms (Cohen 2018, 19).

These educators’ use of the inquiry process parallels the process that students take when they engage in inquiry learning. This strategy for learning can increase their own ability to guide students (and classrooms teachers) in inquiry learning. Kelsey and Lisa contributed voices from the field in the “Literacy Leadership and the School Librarian: Reading and Writing—Foundational Skills for Multiple Literacies” chapter of The Many Faces of School Library Leadership (2017). In that example, they collaborated with science teachers in creating classroom “wonder walls” as springboards for student-led inquiry (Moreillon 2017, 104).

As the quote from above from Kelsey attests, hers is not a “neutral” stance with regard to library services. Along with her colleagues, she creatively reached out to students who were not frequent library users. The literacy team created a tool that could be used by all Hommocks students. In addition, they targeted specific services to the readers who were most in need and helped them monitor their own reading and develop internal motivation to pursue learning. Rather than simply serve those who came to the library on their own, Kelsey and her team reached out to those who could benefit the most from the resources and expertise of the library and librarian in order to reach their potential as readers.

You can read Kelsey’s article in the magazine or online and reach her via Twitter @KelseyLCohen: “Supporting Middle School Reading: Using a Data Dashboard to Create a Community of Readers.”

With the culture of reading inquiry described in the American Libraries article, Kelsey. Lisa, and their collaborators are clearly continuing on their journey to create a culture of learning in their school. And they are using an inquiry approach to pursue their goals. Bravo to the collaborating educators at Hommocks Middle School and to Kelsey Cohen for her school librarian leadership.

Works Cited

Cohen, Kelsey. 2018. “Supporting Middle School Reading: Using a Data Dashboard to Create a Community of Readers.” American Libraries 49 (6): 28-19.

Moreillon, Judi. 2017. “Literacy Leadership and the School Librarian: Reading and Writing—Foundational Skills for Multiple Literacies.” In The Many Faces of School Library Leadership, 2nd ed., edited by Sharon Coatney and Violet H. Harada, 86-108. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Image credits:
Quote from Kelsey Cohen used with permission

Youngson, Nick. “Decision-making Highway Sign.” http://www.creative-commons-images.com/highway-signs/d/decision-making.html

Maximizing Leadership: Chapter 9

Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy will be published by ALA Editions in June, 2018. Chapter 9 is the final chapter in the book.

The book will be hot off the presses next month and a limited number of copies will be available at the ALA Store at the Annual Conference in New Orleans. I will be participating in the conference and will carry copies of the book for you to preview. I will also have $5-off coupons to hand out.

Chapter 9: Sustaining Connections in a Learning Culture

“Courageous leadership and the perseverance to continually improve are critical to creating a better learning culture for all students and ultimately, to transform learning” (Sheninger and Murray 2017, 227).

Building and sustaining a collaborative culture of learning provides the necessary foundation for change. In order for any innovation to be successful, all stakeholders must work together to achieve that shared goal. In this culture, leaders engender trust and ensure positive relationships among team members. Beginning and ending with the plural pronoun “our,” all members of the school learning community share responsibility for learning and take pride in the outcomes. They all have a common stake in continuous improvement that results in student success.

A collaborative culture of learning allows individual educators to capitalize on the strengths their colleagues possess while they build their own instructional expertise. When school librarians enter into future ready learning partnerships, they help others achieve their goals. Working in teams, they build trusting relationships. In classrooms and libraries, educators practice reciprocal mentorship in order to improve student learning outcomes. They take risks together to coteach, and they believe that their instructional practices can develop at a much greater rate with more assured improvements when they collaborate.

With leadership, a successful change process breeds more change. School librarians working as change aides have the opportunity and responsibility to collaborate with administrators to codevelop and sustain library programs that are at the center of initiatives to transform learning and teaching. As leaders, librarians embody the vision, walk the talk, and go the extra mile.

What you will find in this chapter:
1. Graphic from How to Make a Switch (Heath and Heath 2010);
2. AASL Shared Foundations and Key Commitments (AASL 2018);
3. Your Plan and Reality Graphic;
4. Empowered Collaborative Culture of Learning Graphic.

For all stakeholders to work together over time, an empowered learning culture must be nurtured in order to sustain change. Time and time again, principals, school librarians, and teacher leaders will be called upon to renew and reinvigorate the learning community’s commitment to growth.
School librarians can be essential leaders who build and sustain the relationships that cement the foundation of a culture of learners—young and older—who strive to make schools joyful, relevant, challenging, and effective learning environments for all.

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians. 2018. National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. Chicago: American Library Association.

Heath, Chip, and Dan Heath. 2007. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. New York: Broadway Books.

Sheninger, Eric C., and Thomas C. Murray. 2017. Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Image Credit: Word Cloud created at Wordle.net

 

Maximizing Leadership: Chapter 8

Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy will be published by ALA Editions in June, 2018. Since the publication date is fast approaching, I am previewing Chapter 8 this week and Chapter 9 next in order to give reviewers a one-page summary of each of the nine chapters in the book.

The book will be hot off the presses next month and a limited number of copies will be available at the ALA Store at the Annual Conference in New Orleans. I will be participating in the conference and will carry copies of the book for you to preview. I will also have $5-off coupons to hand out.

Chapter 8: Leadership and Advocacy

“Good leaders get people to work for them. Great leaders get people to work for a cause that is greater than any of them—and then for one another in service of that cause” (Pearce 2013, 40).

Leadership and advocacy go hand in hand; both are necessary for achieving future ready learning. Leaders seek to influence the attitudes and behaviors of the members of their team as well as other stakeholders in their endeavors. Trust is the foundation on which these changes are built. School librarians can be coleaders with principals to positively affect school climate and culture. They do so through developing trusting classroom-library instructional partnerships.

“Leadership is about social influence, enlisting the engagement and support of others in achieving a common task” (Haycock 2017, 11).  One common task of school leaders is to ensure continuous improvement in teaching and learning. Working together, school leaders and stakeholders are able to transform traditional pedagogy into future ready education for the benefit of students. This is a cause and an effort that requires the commitment and dedication of a team that includes administrators, educators, students, families, and community.

Advocacy begins when library programs are aligned with the vision, mission, and strategic plan for their schools and districts. School librarians match library programs with the agenda and priorities of library stakeholders. Working from that shared vision, mission, and plan, school librarians codevelop a vital, integrated, and results-oriented school library program.

School librarians have the responsibility to educate stakeholders about the value added by their teaching and leadership. They serve as “centralized” instructional partners who work with all school library stakeholders. This global influence gives librarians opportunities to positively impact learning and teaching throughout the building. School librarians collect and share data and use promotional materials to educate stakeholders about the benefits that result from the learning opportunities that happen through the library program. This is the most effective way to advocate for the program and build a cadre of advocates among library stakeholders.

What you will find in this chapter:
1. The Relationship between Leadership and Advocacy;
2. Public Relations and Advocacy Tools;
3. School Librarians’ Public Relations, Marketing, and Advocacy Checklist;
4. Sample Advocacy Plan.

Through their daily activities of coplanning, coteaching, coassessing student learning, and providing and engaging in professional development, school librarian leaders create advocates as an organic part of their work. Along the way, they nurture relationships with colleagues, families, educational decision-makers and policy-makers at the district and state levels, members of the business community, and voters who are also stakeholders in preK−12 education.

Works Cited

Haycock, Ken. 2017. “Leadership from the Middle: Building Influence for Change.” In The Many Faces of School Library Leadership, 2nd ed., edited by Sharon Coatney and Violet H. Harada, 1–12. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Pearce, Terry. 2013. Leading Out Loud: A Guide for Engaging Others in Creating the Future, 3rd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Image Credit: Word Cloud created at Wordle.net

#SLM18 Making Community Connections

This week, School Library Month (#SLM18) activities focus on outreach with the community.  To my way of thinking, there are two communities to which effective school librarians are accountable – the community of the school and the community outside the walls of the school. The imperative to make connections in both can be the same.

When I think of the word “community,” I immediately think of the teaching of a thoughtful, influential library leader, R. David Lankes. Currently, the Director of the School of Library and Information Science, and Associate Dean, College of Information and Communications, two of his books are my go-to sources for inspiration and guidance in all things “community.”

Like Lankes, I believe “the greatest asset any library has is a librarian” (2011, 29). But librarians isolated in a library with the “stuff” and siloed away from the needs of the community cannot reach their capacity to lead. For school librarians, Lankes argues that “it is time for a new librarianship, one centered on learning and knowledge, not on books and materials, where the community is the collection, and we spend much more time in connection development instead of collection development” (2011, 9). Connection development requires leadership.

What does it mean to lead? Leadership is about influencing others. It’s about making changes in the world – small and larger – that help other people better their lives. In order to lead, school librarians must be “embedded” in the community. They must serve on essential school-based committees and in community-based organizations. When we serve, we build relationships, the essential foundation for making change—together.

According to Lankes, knowledge is created through conversations, which involve both listening and speaking. When we listen to the dreams and goals of our school-based colleagues and people in the wider community, we learn how we can help them achieve their potential. When we help others, they will reciprocate.

Through this daily practice of service, school librarians develop advocates for their programs and for their positions, which are actually one and the same. “Librarians do their job not because they are servants or because they are building a product to be consumed by the community, but ultimately to make the community better. Community members don’t support the library because they are satisfied customers, but because the library is part of who they are” (2012, 37). When the community advocates for the library, they do so because they have experienced the benefits for themselves. It’s in their self-interest.

“The difference between a good and great comes down to this: a library that seeks to serve the community is good, and a library that seeks to inspire your community to be better every day is great. You can love a good library, but you need a great library” (Lankes 2012, 111).


“…To facilitate is not to sit back and wait to be asked… no one ever changed the world waiting to be asked. No, you (the community members) should expect the facilitation of librarians and libraries to be proactive, collaborative, and transformational (bold added). Libraries and librarians facilitate knowledge creation, working to make you and your community smarter” (2012, 42-43).

For me, Lankes’ work is a call to action. Rather than simply serving our communities in a passive way, effective school librarians spread their influence into every nook and cranny of the school. They use their knowledge, expertise, and access to information resources to be proactive in helping every student, classroom teacher, specialist, administrator, and parent achieve their goals.

They form partnerships and collaborate with others in the school and in the larger community to improve the lives of everyone. Through the lens of “community as collection,” school librarians are positioned to act with purpose and passion to transform their communities.

During SLM, school librarians showcase the learning activities that can happen because of the work of an effective school librarian and a collaborative library program. Can we do more? I think so.  Let #SLM18 be a call to action. Our communities should expect more from us and we should step up our literacy leadership and go forward within our school communities and with our larger communities to create futures that benefit all.

Works Cited
Lankes, R. David. 2011. The Atlas of New Librarianship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011.

_____. 2012. Expect More: Demanding Better Libraries for Today’s Complex World. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Image Credits
Collage created with PowerPoint.

Image Remix: Thurston, Baratunde. 2008. “I Am A Community Organizer.” Flickr.com.  https://www.flickr.com/photos/baratunde/2837373493/

Grit, Complacency, and Passion

Last summer, I published a series of professional book reviews. The titles were some of the books I read as I prepared my forthcoming book. At that time, my LM_NET colleague and friend Barb Langridge, who blogs at A Book and a Hug and recommends children’s books as a regular guest on WBALTV Channel 11 in Baltimore, sent me an email asking if I had read Tyler Cowen’s book The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream. I had not but said I would do so. Cowen’s book made be think. It also invited me to reflect on two previous books I read. (So, finally, this post is for you, Barb.)

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth makes a compelling case for people to follow their passion and learn perseverance. (I referenced her work in my 2018 New Year’s Resolution post.) She defines “grit” as self-discipline wedded to dedicated pursuit of a goal. In her study, Dr. Duckworth learned that highly successful people “were unusually resilient and hardworking” and they had determination and direction (Duckworth 2016, 8). If you haven’t yet take her online test, you can access her “grit scale” on her Web site.

One of her findings that was particularly meaningful to me is this. “Grittier people are dramatically more motivated than others to seek a meaningful, other-centered life. Higher scores on purpose correlate with higher scores on the Grit Scale” (Duckworth 2016, 147). People, such as school librarians, who have a moral purpose to serve others can be some of the grittiest people in terms of persevering to follow their passion. For me, this portends success for our profession.

School librarianship is complex. The exemplary practice of effective school librarians requires a wide range of knowledge, skills, behaviors, and dispositions, such those in this word cloud:

Duckworth elaborated on the Finnish concept of “sisu spirit.” Having this disposition means you understand your setbacks are temporary learning opportunities. You will tackle your challenges again no matter what. Setbacks won’t hold you back. “Grit is who you are!” (Duckworth 2016, 252). Just as the Finns do, Duckworth says we must model for and teach young people how to approach life with a “sisu spirit.”

Tyler Cowen in The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream presents readers with a U.S. culture very much in need of “sisu spirit.” Cowen’s thesis is that Americans have lost “the ability to imagine an entirely different world and physical setting altogether, and the broader opportunities for social and economic advancement that would entail” (Cowen 2017, 7). He writes that the main elements of our society are driving us toward a more static, less risk-taking America.

In terms of our young people, Cowen notes (most?) schools occupy them with safest possible activities, most of all homework. We also classify students more thoroughly through more and more testing (Cowen 2017, 19). Low-level, low-risk “activities” in K-12 schools result in students who are averse to risk-taking and unable to problem solve. They will lack the social emotional learning necessary for an entrepreneurial spirit, for a “sisu spirit.”

I believe that Duckworth’s “grit” is the answer to Cowen’s complacency prediction. Inquiry learning (see 2/22/18 post) and activism are also pieces of the puzzle.

Serving as a school librarian is not for the faint of heart. For many school librarians, their work involves bumping up against a system that may not be serving students, educators, and families well. It means influencing others through leadership—an effort that takes passion, purpose, risk-taking, and perseverance. We must have the necessary dispositions to succeed, and we must model these and co-create with classroom teachers opportunities for students to practice them.

As a current example, Carolyn Foote, district librarian for Eanes (Texas) Independent School District and Lilead Fellow, created a Resources for Planning a Peaceful March Padlet to support youth and educators who are organizing protests related to gun violence. She invited Future Ready Librarians to add resources and share this information in their learning communities.

The fact that young people across the U.S. are speaking up and out is sending a strong message to our representatives in Congress. These young people are displaying grit and passion. They are anything but complacent. It is our responsibility as educators and elders to support them and join with them in raising our voices and creating positive change.

As Randy Kosimar writes: “Following your passion is not the same as following your bliss. While passion is a font of expressive, creative energy, it won’t necessarily deliver pleasure and contentment at every moment. Success, even on your own terms, entails sacrifice and periods of very hard work” (2000, xiv).

Let’s get to work!

Works Cited

Cowen, Tyler. 2017. The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Duckworth, Angela. 2016. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. New York: Scribner.

Kosimar, Randy. 2000. The Monk and the Riddle: The Art of Crafting a Life While Making a Living. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Image Credits: Collage created at Befunky.com, Word Cloud created at Wordle.net

Instructional Leadership Opportunities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: Educational Leadership Cover courtesy of ASCD

Maximizing Leadership: Chapter 1

If you have been following my blog for the past year, you are aware that I have a professional book that is currently in the publication process. Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy will be published by ALA Editions in June, 2018. As a preview to the book, I am using one blog post a month to share a one-page summary of each of the nine chapters in the book.

Chapter 1: Building Connections for Learning

“In a school that learns, people… recognize their common stake in each other’s future and the future of the community” (Senge et al. 2012, 5).

Taking a systems thinking approach helps school leaders effectively connect the pieces of the teaching and learning puzzle. Systems thinking involves taking stock of the whole system before attempting to change any part of it (Senge et al. 2012, 8). Systems thinkers closely examine the interdependent relationships among people and practices. They identify what is working and where they can improve in order for their school to reach full capacity. In collaborative culture schools, systems thinkers use their shared commitment and individual talents to collectively solve the dilemmas that hinder students from achieving success.

Systems thinking has the potential to revolutionize the way school librarians interact with administrators and classroom teacher colleagues. School librarians who seek to be leaders in their schools, districts, and beyond benefit from taking the education ecosystem into account. They understand how their work aligns with the beliefs of education thought-leaders and leading education organizations, and education transformation initiatives. When school librarians have a deep understanding of the education ecosystem, they can make connections to the priorities of their administrators, classroom teacher colleagues, and decision-makers in their district and state.

What you will find in this chapter:

1. A Rationale for Taking a Systems Thinking Approach to School Transformation;
2. The Components of Future Ready Learning: Literacies, Skills, and Dispositions;
3. Visions for Schooling by Notable Education Thought-Leaders and Organizations;
4. The Components of a Collaborative School Culture;
5. Responsibilities of School Librarians; and
6. Strategies for School Librarians to Build Connections for Learning and Leading.

As the blog logo illustrates, principals, school librarians, and classroom teachers collaborate in order to build a culture of learning in their schools. School librarians have a unique role to play in supporting the success of administrators who are leading their schools through a transformation process. Classroom-library collaboration for instruction is one central strategy that helps school librarians position their work and the library program as the hub of academic and personal learning in the school. As instructional partners, school librarians codesign effective instruction, provide professional learning opportunities for colleagues, and improve their own teaching practice in the process.

Chapter 1 frames the entire book by situating school librarian leadership and classroom-library collaboration for instruction within a collaborative school culture. School librarians help their schools by building capacity through classroom-library coteaching future ready learning: literacies, skills, and dispositions. In this empowered learning culture, school librarians, principals, and other educators colead to optimize student success.

At the end of each chapter in the book, readers will find three discussion questions, three group activities, and three sample reflection prompts. This study guide approach is intended to support cadres of school librarians, school faculties, and others in using this book as a professional book study selection.

Work Cited

Senge, Peter, Nelda Cambron-McCabe, Timothy Lucas, Bryan Smith, Janis Dutton, and Art Kleiner. 2012. Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education. New York: Crown Business.

Image Credit: Word Cloud created at Wordle.net