Chapter 7 Leadership by Pam Harland and Anita Cellucci
Blog post by Pam Harland and Anita Cellucci
Three Core Values in School Librarianship contributors Pam Harland, Anita Cellucci, and Judi Moreillon, completed a research investigation earlier this year about how school administrators understand and prioritize the roles and responsibilities of school librarians. We studied several AASL created videos featuring outstanding school administrator leaders from around the country.
Judi shared our research questions, purpose, and overview of our findings in last week’s blog post. In this post, we want to highlight the most significant finding from this study: Exemplary school administrators value the ability and willingness of school librarians who take action. Specifically, school librarians who take action when responding to challenges and opportunities to increase their effectiveness are appreciated by their administrators and considered leaders.
When you are faced with a challenge or opportunity, how do you respond?
For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, how did you respond? Did you create screencasts for teachers, students, and parents to use to access important digital information at your school? Did you work with collaborative partners to develop digital tools and lessons for all students? Did you reach out to colleagues and offer access to ebooks and digital information sources to embed within their classes?
One of the administrators in the Town Hall video 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” (AASL 2020). The school administrators in our study highlighted many of these ideas as integral to the role of school librarian leaders.
Another example is when your school hires a new principal, how do you respond? Do you approach them over the summer to discuss shared goals and values? Do you share the National School Library Standards (AASL 2018) as a method for developing an understanding of your roles and responsibilities? Do you offer to help with understanding cross-curricular connections based on your collaborative efforts?
Collaborating with Principals and Superintendents
During the Town Hall video (AASL 2020), several school administrators featured anecdotes of how their school librarians were among the first members of the faculty to introduce themselves and offer to help meet their goals. As school librarians, we know the importance of working with principals to clearly describe how the library can play an important role in responding to current challenges. Through thoughtful and intentional trust-building and leadership, school librarians must take action.
We understand that taking action in these situations is not always easy- in fact, it’s frequently quite challenging. However, “when a school librarian understands the challenges confronting the community, has intentionally built relationships, and is willing to listen authentically, there is an opportunity to co-create a more positive culture within a school” (Harland and Cellucci 2021, 112). Taking action requires both vulnerability and confidence.
For more detailed research questions, methodology, and findings we have two forthcoming articles that go deeper into the study:
Harland, Pam, and Anita Cellucci. 2022. “Do You Know Your Administrators’ Priorities for the School Library?” Knowledge Quest, January/February.
Harland, Pam, Judi Moreillon, and Anita Cellucci, 2022. “Take Action: A Content Analysis of Administrators’ Understandings of and Advocacy for the Roles and Responsibilities of School Librarians.” School Library Research.
“What difference have you made/hope to make in your school culture as a school librarian leader?” (Harland and Cellucci 2021, 121).
American Association of School Librarians. 2018. National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. Chicago: ALA Editions, an imprint of the American Library Association.
American Association of School Librarians. 2020. “AASL Town Hall: A Conversation with the AASL School Leader Collaborative.” AASL Learning Library (video), 1:02:32. Posted by AASL, Nov 18, 2020. Available at https://aasl.digitellinc.com/aasl/sessions/4159/view. Accessed November 10, 2021.
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.
Photo Credit: Walsh, Rob. 2018. Do Not Wait. [Photograph]. Unsplash. Available at https://unsplash.com/photos/4lfrwRyHRYk. Accessed November 10, 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.