Connecting With Teachers

In the upcoming Building a Culture of Collaboration webinar, the co-bloggers invite you to connect with us for a lively discussion about sparking and sustaining collaboration with stakeholders in our schools and communities. So far this month, Judi proposed some self assessment questions about collaborating with students; last week Judy added questions about collaborating with administrators; and this week I will add some things to think about when developing relationships with teachers.

During my years in practice other school librarians used to often ask me “how do you get teachers to work with you so much?” I was always surprised by this question because to me it was just a natural part of my job as a school librarian – working with teachers. But it was also something that was hard to put into words when thinking of how to respond to this question.

We all know the importance of working with teachers and the research on the various roles of the school librarians repeatedly illustrates the importance of developing relationships with teachers, but I think it is the “how” part that is sometimes difficult.

So hopefully our discussion on May 19th can focus on the “how” of making that connection with teachers and the sharing of strategies to cultivate this all important relationship.

Some things to think about:

  1. Approaching Teachersworking together
  1. Foundational Steps to Developing Relationships
  1. Proactive Strategies
  1. Publicize the Benefits of Collaboration

Bring your thoughts and strategies so that we can share and learn from one another on May 19th!

BACC January Recap

January is always a very busy month for me and so if you are like me you may have missed some of the great discussion here on the BACC blog.

As I have been looking back at the post from my co-bloggers this month several things resonate with me. I am teaching Administration of the School Library this semester and reading these posts I found that there are several items that need to be added into my course. First, I really like the term proposed “classroom collections” over “classroom library” and agree with Lucy’s assertion that “the classroom collection is not a library because it is missing the information literacy expert.”

And we need to prepare future school librarians for “classroom collections” and the challenges they may experience with these, but also how they can transform this into an opportunity for collaboration. Offering to help a teacher select books for their classroom collection is a great way to connect with them and then in turn as Judi talked about, always get input from teachers when building the school library collection too.

Whether it is through a library advisory committee, a survey of needs, and/or just informal feedback. The collection does indeed belong to the entire school community. If we want teachers to work with us and utilize the collection it only makes sense to promote this type of ownership through including them in the selection process. I know I teach this to my students, but we need to add more strategies on how to do this.

Because as Judy says “Resources for literacy should not be an either/or choice for investing in school wide literacy programs.” And she is exactly right – we all should be contributing to the same goal. Teachers and teacher librarians are partners for the literacy in their schools. I believe this is just one more collaborative relationship that we as school librarians need to cultivate. I well remember the strategies I utilized to maximize this opportunity and Judy expressed several of these in her post with a great list of some ideas to add to your toolbox and connect with teachers to serve as a literacy leader in your school.

OER for Resource Access

This month as we have been focusing on how school librarians can provide equitable access for all students despite financial challenges many school libraries are experiencing. My fellow bloggers have discussed human resource sharing, partnering with nonprofit organizations, and sharing with non-school libraries.

When I think about providing resources for students I immediately think about how many great free resources are out there. Recently there is a good bit of buzz in the school library world about OER: Open Educational Resources, which are “are freely accessible, openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes. Although some people consider the use of an open file format to be an essential characteristic of OER, this is not a universally acknowledged requirement” (“Open Educational Resources”, n.d.).

Just last month the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSO) reported on their survey that examined the state of Open Educational Resources in K-12. They found that:

  • Twenty states are currently planning OER initiatives.
  • Sixty percent of SEA respondents recognize the value of OER in school districts in their state and are promoting OER as either a supplement and/or replacement for traditional instructional materials.
  • States with existing OER programs are utilizing a variety of online methods to develop, curate, and access OER materials and integrate them within school programs. (p. 4)

They are also launching the K-12 OER Collaborative and are currently asking for people to participate.

OER provide benefits to teachers by providing them with cost-effective materials that are available for sharing, accessing and collaborating for personalized learning (Bliss & Patrick, 2013). There are lots of resources out there to get you going using OER in your school library:

OER definitely has the promise to assist in our efforts as we strive to provide resources to our students and teachers!



Bliss, T. & Patrick, S. (2013). OER state policy in K-12 education: Benefits, strategies, and recommendations for open access, open sharing. International Association for K-12 Online Learning. Retrieved from uploads/2013/06/inacol_OER_Policy_Guide_v5_web.pdf

Council of Chief State School Officers. (2014).Open Educational Resources in K-12. Retrieved from State_of_the_States_Open_Educational_Resources_in_K-12_Education.html

“Open Educational Resources.” (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from

Inspiring Innovation with Emerging Technologies

In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama emphasized innovation as the main driving force for producing the jobs of tomorrow (Obama, 2011). To ensure that the jobs of tomorrow will be in America and not overseas, Obama challenged the nation to win the race to educate our children in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Innovation is defined as “…the creation and implementation of new processes, products, services and methods of delivery which result in significant improvements in outcomes, efficiency, effectiveness or quality. The keyword in the definition is “new,” where the newness, or the perception of newness, differentiates between change and innovation” (Agcaoili, 2012).

There are plenty of possibilities in education provide learning opportunities to inspire innovative thinking, but we need to focus on finding specific ideas for promoting STEM learning. These opportunities involve students in the learning process as active agents in constructing their own knowledge, rather than just passive recipients of knowledge from teachers. Knowledge construction is also facilitated in a social context or through collaborative efforts toward shared objectives or challenges brought about by different perspectives (Pea, 1997).

In order to inspire innovative thinking we need to promote STEM learning through allowing for play and constructive learning that allows students to work together to conduct research, share their results, and perform or produce a final project. Vygotsky (1962) advocates for not only student-student collaboration, but also expert-student collaboration on real world problems.

Innovative thinking is often the forgotten piece of STEM. School librarians can respond to this gap by promoting and integrating technologies that will inspire innovative thinking in students. One such way is through encouraging the most current emerging technologies that will promote STEM learning, such as apps. Last week I presented at the NYC School Library System Annual Fall Conference on apps for teaching and learning and several of these, taken from the AASL Best Apps lists, present just such learning opportunities. The apps in the STEM category provide a way for students to construct knowledge and be innovative, as well as collaborate with each other and share in a social context. Also think about the ways that you as the school librarian can facilitate this expert-student collaboration through using technologies. STEM education provides a great opportunity for school librarians to work with teachers to create learning experiences that inspire students’ innovative thinking!




Agcaoili, K. (2012). Google apps: An opportunity to collaborate (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Dissertation Abstracts International.

Obama, B. (2011). Remarks by the President in State of the Union Address. Retrieved from

Pea, R. D. (1997). Practices of distributed intelligence and designs for education. In G. Salomon (Ed.). Distributed cognitions: Psychological and educational considerations (pp. 47-87). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1962). Thought and language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

School Librarians as Connected Educators

ConnectedAs Judy mentioned last week in her post, this month is Connected Educator Month. I was just reading this post from the Langwitches blog about the Four Big Ideas Around the Connected Educator. They identify these 4 Big Ideas as: Local Isolation, Gaining Perspective, Data Crowdsource Resources, and Model for Students. These four concepts or ideas definitely relate to the school librarian.

First is local isolation, being the only school librarian in the building definitely leads to isolation. Connecting with other school librarians, peers, and experts can provide a connection, a way to share, a support system, and a way to learn and grow as a reflective practitioner.

Gaining perspective is critical as we seek to teach our students to consider multiple points of view – to think and learn beyond their own four walls or zip code. Connecting with other educators through building and fostering your Personal Learning Network (PLN) provides a way to do this through providing different points of view, fresh ideas from new professionals, benefit of experience from those experienced school librarians, views from different cultures and locations across the world.

Take advantage of crowdsourcing and your personal learning network. Crowdsourcing “is the process of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community.” This goes way beyond networking in the traditional face-to-face sense! I experience the value of my PLN on a daily basis – I get resources for classes, I gather data for my research, I get help when I have a problem and tips on ways to do things more efficiently that save me time, and I collaborate on a global scale 24/7.

As we expect students “consider diverse and global perspective” and to “contribute to the exchange of ideas within the learning community” it is important that we model this for both students and teachers (AASL, 2007). We must use our PLNs for more than just our own professional growth – use them to to connect teachers to resources, peers, experts so that they can grow their own learning network and model for their students, in order to open up a world of learning opportunities for their students in their classrooms.

So make sure you are a connected educator and that the teachers in your school are too – get involved in Connected Educator Month!



American Association of School Librarians (AASL). (2007). Standards for the 21st-century learner. Chicago: American Library Association. Retrieved from

Crowdsourcing. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from

A Hodgepodge of Resources


As I have been exploring different sites and articles for my classes this fall I have run across several interesting readings I thought I would share!

I know I am always looking for great news ideas and resources to try – especially here during the exciting back to school time. What great resources have you stumbled across?


Leading Through Technology PD

Last week Judi wrote about professional development stating: “Professional development that supports coteaching works. It creates opportunities for school librarians to positively impact student learning alongside classroom teachers. There is no better way for the skills and expertise of two or more educators to improve educators’ teaching and students’ learning” and she gave us a great example. Judi’s post and this recent post on Ed Tech Review – What Teachers Want More Than New Technologies? PD Opportunities to Learn to Use Them Effectively again have me thinking about the role of the school librarian in working with teachers to integrate technology. We are seeing this same theme over and over again in recent studies – that teachers need more training for using technology effectively.  This is a prime opportunity for school librarians!

And then yesterday AASL released a new mission statement The American Association of School Librarians empowers leaders to transform teaching and learning.  In discussing a new mission statement the chair said “three key components rose to the top” and one of these components is: “School librarians serve as the guiding light in transforming learning through new tools and technology.” Again we see this leadership role in technology integration emerging and I do think that most school librarians see themselves as leading in finding and learning about new technologies for learning. But what are you doing to transform learning through technology? Modeling through use in your own instruction is great, but part of transforming teaching and learning has to be teaching the teachers and I think we need to push to do more in our technology integration efforts and that is through providing professional development for the teachers.

Also this summer as I prepare for state and NCATE certification visits I have been revisiting and becoming even more familiar with the standards for preparing future school librarians. Both sets of these standards talk about the importance of teaching teachers through providing professional development and indeed I teach my students about this and they even have to create a professional development training session and present it to their classmates. So I know this is something school librarians know how to do and a way we can lead, but yet I hear more and more from school librarians that this is just simply not part of their job and that they are not recognized as someone who can provide professional development. So it makes me question why aren’t principals recognizing and taking advantage of school librarians as a free resource in their building to provide technology professional development for teachers who obviously desire it? And what can we do about this?

Collaboration, Cooperation – Time for a Change

A recent blog post, Cooperation vs Collaboration, I read about a couple of weeks ago has been stuck in my head and I keep coming back to it and re-reading from the school librarian perspective. Of course coming from the school library world I instantly thought of Loertscher’s Taxonomies of the School Library Media Program (2000).

This post gives what I consider to be an up to date viewpoint on cooperation and collaboration:

“When collaborating, people work together (co-labor) on a single shared goal. Like an orchestra which follows a script everyone has agreed upon and each musician plays their part not for its own sake but to help make something bigger.

When cooperating, people perform together (co-operate) while working on selfish yet common goals. The logic here is If you help me I’ll help you” and it allows for the spontaneous kind of participation that fuels peer-to-peer systems and distributed networks. If an orchestra is the sound of collaboration, then a drum circle is the sound of cooperation.”

The rest of the post goes on to talk about differences in the two and how they can be thought of in the context of today’s world  – very interesting reading! As I read I was reminded of my own research and distributed leadership. Distributed leadership places an emphasis upon maximizing expertise of teachers and building capacity within the organization (Spillane, Diamond, Burch, Hallett, Jita, & Zoltners, 2002).  Distributed leadership can provide leadership that is “fluid and emergent, rather than a fixed phenomenon” (Gronn, 2000, p. 324), where teachers can become leaders at various times and work collaboratively to pool their expertise, vertically and laterally (Muijs & Harris, 2007).  This type of leadership is particularly appropriate for school librarians due to their knowledge of pedagogical principles, their global perspective on the school curriculum, their training as information experts, and their experience in collaborating with classroom teachers.  School librarians have this unique expertise to contribute.

So indeed the school librarian is there to play a part and through their strengths contribute to the bigger goal of academic achievement. But from experience I also know that there is this spontaneous participation that comes with being a school librarian and indeed we “perform” together with teachers while working on common goals with teachers, but we are also working on our goals focusing on creating information literate students.

This post goes on to further talk about the shift to connectives and connectivism, which I think definitely relates to school librarians and I teach in my courses. “Connectives cooperate. A connective doesn’t give priority to the group or the individual but instead supports and encourages both simultaneously… By linking selfish yet common acts together, connectives are able to empower individuals while creating new kinds of group value.” Using the example of Delicious and individual bookmarks here really brings home the point that connectivessupport individuals while encouraging the emergence of new kinds of group value.”

Thoughts from this blog post such as “But today, cooperation is fueling most of the disruptive innovations of our time. In virtually every aspect of our culture, the old guard is being replaced by cooperative, self organizing, distributed systems” make me wonder if it is time that we as school librarians thought about our roles in this context.

Perhaps it is time for a change in our thinking – away from the old taxonomies, definitions, and terminology- to taking a new up dated look at what practice looks like in today’s school libraries.

The Network:


Cloudhead. (2014, June 2). Cooperation vs collaboration [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Gronn, P. (2000). Distributed properties: A new architecture for leadership. Educational Management & Administration, 28(3), 317-38.

Johnston, M. P. (2012). School librarians as technology integration leaders: Enablers and barriers to leadership enactment. School Library Research, 15(1). Retrieved from

Loertscher, D. V. (2000). Taxonomies of the School Library Media Program (2nd ed.). Clearfield, UT: LMC Source.

Muijs, D., & Harris, A. (2007). Teacher leadership in (in)action: Three cases studies of contrasting schools. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 35(1), 111-134.

Spillane, J. P., Diamond, J. B., Burch, P., Hallett, T., Jita, L., & Zoltners, J. (2002). Managing in the middle: School leaders and the enactment of accountability policy. Educational Policy, 16(5), 731-762.



Thoughts on Student Collaboration

As the semester comes to an end and I reflect on my own courses of the past year, several themes emerged. One being student collaboration and if I as an instructor am incorporating enough student collaboration into my courses. Because how better to teach future school librarians to work with others, which is a vital part of our job, than integrating group work into their preparation.

I strongly believe that learning is social and is “enhanced by opportunities to share and learn with others” (AASL, 2007) and I am always encouraging my students to share in class. While they are often reluctant, because it is a risk to put yourself out there, I always hear at the end of the semester what a valuable learning experience it was to hear people share their various viewpoints and experiences.

This led me to thinking about student collaboration in the school library and how are school librarians fostering learning in a social context. Student collaboration is an important part of inquiry-based teaching. Through working together students develop verbal communication skills, compromising skills, team work skills, and benefit from each others strengths (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, & Caspari, 2012).

In relation to instruction, “inquiry occurs within a social context” (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, & Caspari, 2012, p. 38) and students collaborating throughout the inquiry process allows students to hear about and learn from a variety of viewpoints. This post from last week What Happens When 5th Graders Run the Classroom: A SOLE in Action provided a great example and one student comments “I like how we get to be independent and collaborate with our friends and talk it out instead of the teacher teaching us” (para. 6). Another example that I saw this past week was from The Unquiet Librarian blog where students collaborated to create poems as an end of the year reflective response. Students were so engaged they even created a hashtag #rollingandwriting – check out the pictures and videos to see this great project in action!

This posting also brings to mind another important factor in encouraging student collaboration in the school library – the facilities. Just having the space setup in a way that is conducive to student collaboration plays an important part in encouraging working together and social interaction. Note the mention of the new furniture and rolling easels and the students’ excitement over it and they way it facilitated collaborating. And another aspect is technology and we are lucky enough to have a variety of tools that even make working together easier and more convenient for our students.

The AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner (2007) promote teaching students to share their knowledge, to “collaborate as members of a social and intellectual network of learners,” and “demonstrate teamwork by working productively with others” (p. 5). As school librarians we are always very concerned about collaborating with teachers, but we must also remember the social aspect of learning and to facilitate this for our students.


American Association of School Librarians. (2007). AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner. Chicago, IL: ALA.

Hamilton. B. (2014). Rolling and writing: Collaborative poetry with whiteboards. Retrieved from

Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L. K., & Caspari, A. K. (2012). Guided inquiry design: A framework for inquiry in you school. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CIO LLC.

Scripture, N. (2014). What Happens When 5th Graders Run the Classroom: A SOLE in Action. Retrieved from

Practicing What We Preach

Each semester I teach my students the importance of collaborating and co-teaching with teachers, but now as a school library educator I miss that daily collaboration and exhilaration of co-teaching I experienced as a school librarian. So that I got to have two valuable collaboration experiences this past month was very exciting!

First was a meeting with the other school library educators across the state of Alabama. As being one of the newest educators in the state, this was especially valuable for me! This meeting allowed time to get to talk about issues that we all face such as certifications and state standards, but also to exchange teaching ideas and share how we are designing our courses and internship experiences. In order to stay in touch and continue to share we now have a Google Group and space to share. I have shared this with some of my students and they have embraced this idea as one they could implement with various grade levels to foster that anytime anywhere collaboration that today’s technology makes possible.

Second was working with the amazing Buffy Hamilton to teach my class. We chatted about what I was currently teaching in my class and how she thought she could contribute to their learning. It was a new experience for me being more in the teacher role in this collaborative relationship. What a great learning opportunity this was for my students too! They were engaged and excited as they learned about things from a different perspective – just as classes are when the school librarian steps into that co-teacher role.

These two experiences and end of the year reflection have made me think about how I can work to incorporate more collaboration and co-teaching into my own practices. As the end of the school year draws closer it is that time for self-reflection and to look back on your practices this past year and ask yourself “How have I done this year?” – no matter what level you teach.