Building Relationships Through the Environment, Your PLN, and a Smile

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

“The act of making a connection, feeling and being connected is something humans strive for whether it is a relationship with a place, pet, parent, colleague, or student.”Stacy Allen, Jennifer Sturge, Sandy Walker (2021, 76)

Building Relationships Through the Environment|
As part of the chapter on relationships, we focused on relationships between librarians and students, librarians and teachers, librarians and the broader community. As we set out to write this blog post, we wanted to focus on how we can build relationships by creating spaces that are welcoming, spaces where our students want to spend time and feel empowered to be themselves.  We can build positive relationships in our virtual school libraries and in our physical libraries through many of the same steps.

Create a Welcoming Environment
This might seem like something you already do, but take a close look around you. Go ahead, scan your library. Let’s consider deeply – what is on the walls, in the displays, and how is furniture arranged?

Do you see:

  • Representation from diverse groups of people?
  • Do posters of books and authors include BIOPIC representation?
  • Do your walls welcome those who are differently abled?
  • Persons or books representing the LGBTQ+ community?
  • Do your displays include a wide variety of books and materials that represent your school community, the outside world, and multiple views?
  • Do you have areas where students can work as a group, solo, or relax?
  • Can students who use mobility aids access all areas?

It may feel like a small step to take, but when your library decorations and displays include everyone, students are more likely to want to spend time in the library and thus, you are more likely to be able to build that connection with your students. Every student needs to feel both welcomed and seen.

Focus on Accessibility
As we talk more about the library environment, we wanted to go a little deeper into building relationships through accessibility. When we think about accessibility and relationships,it is essential that we provide an environment where everyone belongs.

Here are a few steps you can take quickly.

  1. Be sure your tables and areas of instruction include tables at which a student with a wheelchair can sit without having to wait for someone to move a chair out of the way. Provide a self-checkout station that is low enough that someone in a wheelchair can access it, and that has enough space around it that a person who has limited mobility can maneuver. If possible, provide the option of a touch screen for someone who may have difficulty using a mouse.
  2. Add core language communication boards to your school libraries. Core language communication boards allow a person to communicate with you and those around them in a non-verbal way. There are many school library core boards available to print and provide in your library.  Susan Berkowitz provides a free one here. However, many are available with a quick web search, or work with your assistive technology team to create a custom one.
  3. Purchase the audio version of your books. One thing that we have started doing as we purchase new titles for the library is adding the audio book on our Sora platform. This allows students who may need access to the audio version to be able to check it out without having to put in a special request for the book to be in an audio version and makes it accessible to all. Your students with vision or reading disabilities may also have access to Bookshare.org, a free online resource with 500,000+ books readily accessible through text-to speech.

Look Up, Smile, and Respond
As we were thinking about this blog post, we started sharing stories of how we feel like we have formed relationships with others that are not the traditional relationship, but ones we enjoy the interaction with just the same.

Jen shared about her favorite cashiers at the local Safeway. Typically, when Jen did her grocery shopping it was around the same time and she enjoyed getting into Jeri’s line. Jeri would chat during the checkout process and share stories about funny things that had happened or about their kids or pets.  Even though Jen never saw her outside of the grocery store, she always made it a point to say hello if she was going through the express line, or to get in her line. Just two weeks ago, Jeri retired. Without that interaction, Jen’s going to need to find a new favorite cashier at her local grocery store — a small relationship, but a relationship nonetheless.

The point of the previous paragraph is not that Jen is missing her cashier, but rather that, as librarians, we serve in a role where we often see hundreds of students in a day, week, or month.  It’s difficult to really dig down and know every single one of the people in our amazing school community. We can be like the Jeri’s of this world – we can converse, give a smile, and make the student or faculty member feel special while they are in our library.

You can also build relationships by displaying your interests. Have an About Me poster that kids can see, display a picture of you in your softball uniform or dance costume, or wear a button showing the instrument you play. Stacy shared that she recently built a new friendship with a teacher who wore a shirt with an ukulele on it. She never would have guessed they had that interest in common!

There is power in the smaller relationships. How you make someone feel sticks with them for a long time. Sharing a small interaction, a smile, and a kind word goes a long way.  Kindness can build trust, and trust is the foundation for a mutually respectful and beneficial relationship.

Relationships with your Professional Learning Network
As some of you reading this blog post will have just returned home after attending the #AASL21 conference in Salt Lake City, we wanted to remind you to nourish the relationships you invested in as you met new people and engaged with those you see only periodically. The school library community is a vibrant community and by continuing to connect with those you spent your time with in Salt Lake City, you will continue to grow and nourish your school librarian toolbox. Reach out to the person on Twitter that you sat next to in a session on Friday morning. Share an idea with the group of people you exchanged emails with at the Rock Out Celebration on Saturday night.

Above all, revisit your relationship with the notes you took, the pamphlets you picked up, and the boxes of books you shipped home! Share what you learned with students, other educators, and administrators. Share important information, effective strategies, and exciting resources that can improve teaching and learning in your school community.

You’ll be glad you did.

Reflection Question
“In your role as a school librarian, what are some of the greatest responsibilities you have in terms of relationships with library stakeholders?” (89).

Work Cited

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

 

Opening Our Educational Practices for Intellectual Freedom

Chapter 4: Intellectual Freedom by Suzanne Sannwald
and Dan McDowell|
Blog post by Suzanne

Although I was a co-author for the chapter on Intellectual Freedom for Core Values in School Librarianship, I am quite self-admittedly far from being an expert on intellectual freedom. My approach with writing was instead from the perspective of an ordinary school librarian, and the chapter that unfolded shared information that anyone can find by doing some research on the topic.

At the same time, the framing of the chapter was very personal. My hope was to share the thought journey that I went through in making sense of this very theoretical sounding concept and seeing how it affects my very concrete daily practices.

“Intellectual freedom, including access and choices, privacy
and confidentiality, is the right of every library stakeholder” (Sannwald and McDowell 2021, 55).

As often happens when you learn about something, you start to see the term or idea show up all over the place, and that has definitely been the case for me since I co-wrote the chapter on intellectual freedom. For instance, as I shared in a previous post, I cannot hear discussions about challenges to curriculum related Critical Race Theory (CRT) without thinking about how this threatens the intellectual freedom of students. The fact that educators may through intimidation and/or legislation be discouraged from sharing marginalized voices and factual experiences is clear and present censorship.

I have also been thinking about the way misinformation with COVID-19 has also endangered intellectual freedom since intellectual freedom is not just a matter of what information is allowed or not allowed to be shared. Intellectual freedom is also about our capacity to be mentally free, to be able to think critically.

When thinking about building students’ “capacity to be mentally free, I now see how every instructional choice is really tied to intellectual freedom. Suzanne SannwaldWith the pandemic, another trend that I tracked was the increased use of digital resources as students engaged in online-based distance learning. I work in a district that has been working for years now as a #GoOpen Ambassador District implementing Open Educational Resources (OER), but I feel like movement and motivation in this direction was certainly accelerated during the pandemic.

This past summer, my ideas around OER were deepened when I had the fortunate opportunity to talk with Susan D. Ballard, Dr. Pamela C. Harland. and Dr. Gerard L. Hanley for School Library Connection. Although I had originally sought them out based on their involvement and expertise with OER, my favorite takeaway was learning about OEP: Open Educational Practices/Pedagogy. I realized that OER may, of course, have benefits when it comes to ensuring equitable access to learning resources.

However, if it is always teachers and librarians doing all of the curation with OER, then is there really that fundamental a shift in the learning experience for students?

With OEP, the idea is that we don’t just look for ways to open up resource access. We go further by looking at ways to open up learning so that students share ownership in constructing their own learning. This, again, made me think again about intellectual freedom and fostering student capacity to be mentally free. It ties to the idea that we, as school librarians, must go beyond simply opposing censorship and securing access to resources for students. We, in collaboration with all educators, must open learning experiences to students so that they are enabled and encouraged to think and engage critically.

Only by creating these opportunities for participatory practice may we truly ensure students’ intellectual freedom.

Reflection Question
“What practices are you already doing to support the intellectual freedom of students and staff members in your school community, including ones that you may not have previously identified as relating to intellectual freedom?” (70).

To learn and reflect more about how intellectual freedom can drive your professional practice, make sure to check out Chapter 4 in Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage.

Work Cited

Sannwald, Suzanne, and Dan McDowell. 2021. “Intellectual Freedom.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 55-72. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

About the Blogger
Suzanne Sannwald, MLIS, (she/her) has worked as a high school teacher librarian since 2014. She builds upon her previous education-related roles from middle school to higher education levels, serving as a certificated classroom teacher, classified library technician, district library supervisor, and student affairs technology manager. Suzanne earned both an MA in Teaching and Learning with Technology and an MLIS. She was a 2015-16 ALA Spectrum Scholar, 2016 California School Library Association Leadership for Diversity Scholar, 2017 school site Golden Apple Teacher of the Year, 2018-19 AASL Induction Program member, San José State University iSchool lecturer starting Fall 2020, and School Library Connection contributor. Suzanne has published articles and presented on topics including user experience, information literacy, collaboration, advocacy, and affirming students’ reading and larger lives. Connect with her on Twitter @suzannesannwald.

Anxiety as an Impetus to Act Courageously for Intellectual Freedom

Chapter 4: Intellectual Freedom by Suzanne Sannwald
and Dan McDowell|
Blog post by Suzanne

I’ve had a lot of anxiety entering the 2021-22 school year. I’ve felt concerned about COVID-19 with all of its variants, as well as with the uncertainty of being fully back on campus with students and staff who may or may not be vaccinated and may or may not be required to wear masks or follow other safety protocols.

I have also anticipated possible challenges we educators may face in opposition to what is perceived as related to “Critical Race Theory” (CRT). But, all of this has inspired me to reflect even more deeply on the importance of intellectual freedom as a core value of school librarianship that we must embrace always, and especially now.

Regarding attempts to legislate and control what historical and social curriculum can or cannot be taught, we are seeing how censorship is alive and well. And, we are having the opportunity to truly wrestle with the complexities of intellectual freedom when we consider how the same constituents who aim to censor teaching that is considered CRT-aligned have also asserted their own rights to freedom of speech in the face of what they have deemed to be “cancel culture.”

How is intellectual freedom defended only when considered convenient? "As school librarians, we must think carefully about how we may consistently uphold intellectual freedom with integrity as we serve community members who hold polarized points of view." Suzanne SannwaldHow do we create spaces and opportunities for our communities to share their voices when some voices infringe on the experienced safety of others in our communities?

After all, if someone does not feel safe, are they able to truly experience and enact their own intellectual freedom?

With regard to the misinformation that has been rampant with COVID-19, we have also been reminded that intellectual freedom is not just a matter of what information is allowed or not allowed to be shared. Intellectual freedom is also about our capacity to be mentally free, to be able to think critically.

How can we help our students develop this capacity to think critically, especially when they (and their families) may hold contrary (at least to you) beliefs about what mental freedom looks like?

Just as I remind our students whenever they are working on research related to controversial issues, if these issues were easy to solve, then they wouldn’t be issues any longer and there wouldn’t be controversy.

So, I’m not claiming to have easy answers – or any answers at all for that matter – to the questions I have posed above. I share them so you may serve as my witnesses to this very real current struggle and so that you might join in conversation about what our work looks like as we act in the service of intellectual freedom.

Regardless of whether or not you or I end up experiencing a formal book or curriculum challenge during this next year, intellectual freedom is always at stake. This is a realization that became clear to me when researching and co-writing the chapter on Intellectual Freedom for Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage.

In the many day-to-day decisions that we make for our school library programs, whether regarding cataloging and circulation or curriculum and instruction, we are either intentionally or unintentionally advancing intellectual freedom… or not.

Having acknowledged my anxiety about this school year, I choose to sit with the anxious feelings and embrace them as my impetus for intentionality. I can’t guarantee that every decision I make will be correct, but I do hope that overall, my mindful efforts will have a net positive impact when it comes to honoring the intellectual freedom of those I serve.

Reflection Question
What intention are you acting from? What impact will you have?

To learn and reflect more about core values that drive your professional practice, make sure to check out Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021).

Work Cited

Sannwald, Suzanne, and Dan McDowell. 2021. “Intellectual Freedom.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 55-72. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

About the Blogger
Suzanne Sannwald, MLIS, (she/her) has worked as a high school teacher librarian since 2014. She builds upon her previous education-related roles from middle school to higher education levels, serving as a certificated classroom teacher, classified library technician, district library supervisor, and student affairs technology manager. Suzanne earned both an MA in Teaching and Learning with Technology and an MLIS. She was a 2015-16 ALA Spectrum Scholar, 2016 California School Library Association Leadership for Diversity Scholar, 2017 school site Golden Apple Teacher of the Year, 2018-19 AASL Induction Program member, San José State University iSchool lecturer starting Fall 2020, and School Library Connection contributor. Suzanne has published articles and presented on topics including user experience, information literacy, collaboration, advocacy, and affirming students’ reading and larger lives. Connect with her on Twitter @suzannesannwald.

 

The Future of School Librarianship: Why Administrators Matter

It is true that research on the understandings and perspectives of school principals has been conducted over decades. Whether or not there are state mandates for school librarian positions, we know that district-level and site-level decision-makers are the leaders who ultimately ensure support for school librarians. They approve hiring or making cuts. They support funding for materials. They decide whether or not school librarians will have an official spokesperson (read that district-level supervisor) who has a seat at the table when literacy learning gaps are being identified and solutions are found.

Bullhorn with words: School Librarian Advocacy

The future of school librarianship
depends on advocacy
from district- and site-level administrators.

School Librarians: Endangered Educators
If our profession was doing a stellar job of demonstrating how our work with classroom educators closes gaps and improves student learning outcomes, then there would be no need to continue to study administrators’ understandings and perceptions of our work.

But that is not the case. We know this because school librarians are endangered educators. Nationally there has been a twenty-percent decline in school librarian positions over the past decade (Kachel 2021, 52), and seven million students in the U.S. have no access to a school library with a certified school librarian (49). If equity is indeed a core value of the profession and we care deeply about other people’s children whether or not they attend our own school, then we need to get serious about how we can align our work to meet administrators’ needs and how the roles we play in education are perceived and understood.

The hard part is that in many schools and districts across the country state-certified school librarian positions, if they ever existed, were cut more than a decade ago. A generation of students, classroom teachers, administrators, and families have never known the scope and potential of school librarians’ contributions to learning in this century. They have not experienced collaborating school librarians as culture-builders and instructional leaders and partners. They have not experienced libraries as hubs of technology-infused learning, library collections that include resources in multiple formats, and librarian leaders who integrate tools and resources to help students and classroom educators succeed.

It is a tough sell when the “buyers” haven’t had first-hand experiences of highly qualified school librarian leaders and vibrant library programs with school-wide impact.

“Today’s” School Librarians
It may be understood that school librarians develop library collections. They match print and digital resources to curriculum and the needs of the students, educators, and families in their learning community. For close to three decades, they have been technology as well as book experts who support classroom teachers by integrating digital and print resources and tools into the classroom curriculum.

Most of all as experienced educators and instructional partners, school librarians collaborate with classroom teachers and provide the support needed for specific learners, small groups, or entire classes of students depending on students’ needs, teachers’ learning objectives, and the required standards. School librarians’ teaching is flexible based on just-in-time instructional needs. (If librarians are not engaging in instruction, that is not a function of job descriptions or national standards, but rather the way the librarian or site administrator understand the job. That should not be allowed to continue in this century.)

Effective school librarians offer job-embedded professional development because when they coplan, coteach, and co-assess student learning outcomes, they are learning alongside colleagues in real time, with real students, within the real supports and constraints of the school’s learning environment (physical or virtual). Classroom teachers and school librarians become reciprocal mentors for one another. The result is a collaborative teaching force that can help the school reach its capacity for educating every student.

Learning from Administrators
So why are we still studying the understandings, perspectives, and needs of school administrators? The answer to that question is as simple as it is complex. Because we cannot exist without administrators’ support.

Pam Harland, Anita Cellucci, and I have completed a study of video content created by the seven-member AASL School Leader Collaborative (see the May 3, 2021 blog post). We will be presenting “The Influence of Standards on School Administrators’ Priorities for School Librarians” during a Research Into Practice session at the AASL National Conference in Salt Lake City in October, 2021.

There is much to learn from studying these exemplary administrators and even more to gain by practicing the high level of school librarian leadership they expect from their school librarian cadre.

Work Cited

Kachel, Debra. 2021. Data speaks: Addressing Equity of Access to School Librarians for Students. Teacher Librarian 48 (3): 49-52.

Advocacy NOW: Save School Librarians

“School librarians need an advocacy network, especially when challenges or possible solutions undermine the potential of the school librarian and library program to serve the literacy learning and resource needs of students, classroom teachers, and families” (Moreillon 2018, 133.)

Advocacy for full-time, state-certified school librarians in every school is one of my passions and a motivating purpose in my life’s work. When I taught preservice school librarians, I stressed the non-negotiable responsibility to take up school librarian and library program advocacy as a way to take action for a high-quality education for K-12 students and teaching experience classroom educators.

Advocacy and Public Relations Word Cloud

I believe that equitable access to the skill set of professional school librarians and the rich resources of school libraries give students and educators opportunities to reach their capacity to learn and teach how to read effectively and to efficiently locate, evaluate, and apply relevant information in order to create new knowledge.

The inequitable distribution of professional school librarians in K-12 schools across the U.S. is a matter of social justice.

Washington, DC Public Schools Librarians
Our colleagues in Washington, DC are being threatened with a decision to allow principals to deem school librarians as “excess” educators and eliminate their positions. You can read about this poor decision on EveryLibrary’s SaveSchoolLibrarians website and on Nancy Bailey’s Education Website.

This is the personalized introduction I added to the EveryLibrary letter and sent off last week:

Dear Mayor Bowser, Dr. Ferebee and Paul Kihn,

I am an advocate for equity in education. Equity includes access to print and digital resources via school library programs led by state-certified school librarians who teach students reading comprehension and critical thinking skills that help them navigate today’s information.

PreK-12 students, especially those who have not had literacy learning opportunities in their homes and neighborhoods and lack access to a wide-variety of reading materials, need the support of literacy leaders. Likewise, classroom teachers benefit from the resources and instructional knowledge school librarians bring to the collaboration table.

EveryLibrary’s piece:

Losing school librarians is a crisis for any school. Ward-by-ward across D.C. it is an educational tragedy. When the American Rescue Plan includes over $368 million in direct aid for DCPS, this isn’t the right way to balance the budget. We need to focus on building-up our students and families up after COVID disruptions.

There is never a right time to “excess” school librarians. I am concerned that allowing principals to cut their school librarians will create a bigger achievement gap. We should be investing in more certified school librarians and improving collection development budgets. We can support Title I programs and fight learning losses by investing in our school libraries. #DCPSNEEDSLIBRARIANS

I encourage you to make time to speak up for our DC school librarian colleagues and their library patrons. Please add your voice to this advocacy effort.

Follow #DCPSNeedsLibrarians and @Boss_Librarian

Michigan School Librarians
AASL president-elect and librarian at East Middle School in the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, Kathy Lester penned a May 3, 2021 op-ed titled “To boost literacy, Michigan must invest in school librarians.”

“From the December 2019 (Michigan) staffing numbers, only 8 percent of our schools employ a full-time certified school librarian, 25 percent employ at least a part-time certified school librarian, and approximately 52 percent of our schools do not employ any library staff.” As Kathy firmly proclaims, “Without staff, you cannot have a school library.”

Kathy is asking legislators, educators, and community members to support House Bill 4663, introduced by Representatives Daniel Camilleri, D-Trenton, Matt Koleszar, D-Plymouth, and Amos O’Neal, D-Saginaw, which would require a school board to employ at least one certified media specialist for each school library operated by its district.

Follow Michigan Association for Media in Education and @LibraryL

Pennsylvania School Librarians
On May 17, 2021, SLIDE: School Librarian Investigation: Decline or Evolution? researcher and school librarian advocate Deb Kachel published an op-ed titled “Students need equity in school library programs.”

According to a survey conducted by the Pennsylvania Association of School Librarians, the gap between “have” and “have not” schools is widening in their state. Forty-eight districts report having no school librarians in any of their school buildings, impacting almost 90,000 K-12 public school students. The high-poverty districts seem to be the most affected.

Deb notes, “Only a state requirement for certified school librarians, like HB 1168 (which has been referred to the Education Committee) and an enacted fair school funding formula will provide the equity that all Pennsylvania’s students need and deserve.”

Follow @PSLA_News and @lib_SLIDE.

New Jersey School Librarians
The state Board of Education proclaimed April “School Library Month.” Then in an April 7, 2021 article posted by Politico, “‘Vital’ school librarian positions disappearing, state Board of Education told,” New Jersey School Librarian Association President Beth Thomas reported that school librarian job cuts are happening across the state. Beth wrote, “This is the first time seen we have seen the position officially abolished per district policy (in Essex County).”

According to the preliminary data from the SLIDE national study as many as one fifth of New Jersey school districts do not have a certified school librarian although the state’s administrative code mandates the position.

Follow New Jersey Association of School Librarians and @bibliobeth.

Arizona School Librarians?
Don’t get me started…

Your tweets could help our colleagues
in DC, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

Equity and the First Amendment
If you have not as yet read ALA Freedom to Read President Barbara Stripling’s article “School Librarians, Equity, and the First Amendment,” I hope you will do so. In it, she writes this: “school librarians must take a leadership role in ensuring that all young people have equitable physical and intellectual access to diverse content, the right to receive and read that content, and the self-confidence and determination to exercise their right to speak.”

That requires that we ALL stand-up for the “have” students and educators in our own schools and districts AND for the “have not” students and educators in schools and districts that lack state-certified school librarian leaders in their schools.

Let’s create an unstoppable advocacy network—beginning with our support for one another.

Work Cited
Moreillon, Judi. 2018. Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy. Chicago: ALA.

Image Credit
Moreillon, Judi. 2018. Figure 8.1: Public Relations and Advocacy Tools. Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy, 133.

Core Values in School Librarianship Responding with Commitment and Courage

Book Cover: Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and CourageI am a card-carrying collaborator but before Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021) the professional books I’ve authored have been solo projects. Working with 17! co-contributors to Core Values has been a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience for me and now we all get to share in the celebration.

After an 18-month journey, our book is published and available for purchase from ABC-CLIO!

Core Values
When proposing this book, I suggested four core values for school librarianship: equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom. From my perspective, this is an interdependent set of values and a combination of values that are unique to school librarians. While some of our non-school librarian colleagues may share two or more of these values, I proposed that school librarians have the commitment and responsibility to ensure all four of these values are fully accessible and functioning in our spheres of influence.

Indeed, we share other values with our classroom teacher and administrator colleagues such as literacy and education as a path to lifelong learning, innovation, and collaboration. Yet, these four—equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom—are the foundation on which school librarian leadership is built.

Editorial Role
As the editor of the book, I had the honor and responsibility of securing an approved book proposal and then soliciting contributors for specific chapters. I am so pleased that the chapter co-authors said “yes!” They remained committed to this work through one of the most difficult years any of us has experienced in our professional and in our personal lives. I am grateful for their perseverance and dedication to our book.

Infusing our profession with voices of our present and future generation of school librarian leaders was one of my goals for this book. (The co-authors are not of my generation of school librarianship!) They are diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, and gender identity. The contributors, including those who offered vignettes of practice found in each chapter, live and work in various parts of the country, serve in urban, rural, and suburban schools and in libraries at all three instructional levels. Our hope is that all Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage readers will find themselves and their work reflected in this book.

I wrote the introduction to the book (and the final chapter as well). In the intro, I share my passion for school librarianship and my inspiration and motivation for proposing this project to our initial acquisitions editor Sharon Coatney at ABC-CLIO.

The introduction begins with a one-sentence theme that summarizes the message I hope we clearly convey throughout the book.

Introduction: A Passion for School Librarianship
All school librarians need a firm foundation to provide strength and direction during these rapidly changing and challenging times.
Judi Moreillon

Based on my experience and thirty years of involvement, I can honestly say that our core values are what initially fueled the fire of my passion for school librarianship, have kept me going in times of trouble, and have—without fail—reaffirmed and reignited my commitment to the profession. I believe that our values are the firm foundation we can rely on during times of change and challenge. As a practicing school librarian and as a school librarian educator, I have met many courageous school librarians who have stepped up to ensure that our core values were accessible to all of our library users when others might have shrunk from that responsibility.

Core Values Chapters: First Four Chapters and Contributors
In the first four chapters of the book, the contributors share their understandings of, passion for, and commitment to four core values: equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom. The co-authors frame their chapters with one-sentence themes that convey the overarching meaning of each value. They also share how they and their colleagues have enacted these values in their practice of school librarianship.

Chapter 1: Equity
Equitable access is a matter of social justice.
Erika Long and Suzanne Sherman

Chapter 2: Diversity
Diversity in resources and programming is not optional.
Julie Stivers, Stephanie Powell, and Nancy Jo Lambert

Chapter 3: Inclusion
Inclusion means welcoming and affirming the voices of all library stakeholders in a way that shares power.
Meg Boisseau Allison and Peter Patrick Langella

Chapter 4: Intellectual Freedom
Intellectual freedom, including access and choices, privacy and confidentiality, is the right of all library stakeholders.
Suzanne Sannwald and Dan McDowell

Courage Chapters: Chapters 5-8 and Contributors
The co-authors of the courage chapters share how they have enacted the four values in specific contexts: professional relationships, principal-school librarian partnerships, and through specific behaviors—leadership and advocacy. Their one-sentence themes convey connections to the application of our core values in practice.

Chapter 5: Relationships
Relationships are the root of a strong community.
Jennifer Sturge with Stacy Allen and Sandy Walker

Chapter 6: Principal-School Librarian Partnerships
Principals are our most important allies.
M.E. Shenefiel and Kelly Gustafson

Chapter 7: Leadership
Leadership requires confidence and vulnerability.
Pam Harland and Anita Cellucci

Chapter 8: Advocacy
Advocacy involves effective communication and building partnerships.
Kristin Fraga Sierra and TuesD Chambers

Final Chapter
I had the gift of contributing the final chapter to the book. Advocating for collaboration through instructional partnerships is the hill on which I will make my final stand in school librarianship and K-12 education. The four core values must be enacted throughout the learning community if school librarians are to achieve our capacity to lead and positively influence every student’s learning. Collaborating with others is the way to co-create the learning environment in which students and the adults who serve them can thrive.

Chapter 9: Collaboration
Collaboration is THE key to co-creating a values-centered culture of deeper learning.
Judi Moreillon

All Chapters
All chapters in the book include two vignettes that spotlight core values and behaviors in action. The co-authors have also included quotes that have inspired them from a wide variety of scholars, practitioners, and writers. Each chapter concludes with questions for reflection.

ALA Annual
The contributors and I are enthusiastic about sharing our work. We will provide many opportunities for you to engage in conversation with us around these core values and their implication for practice beginning at ALA Annual where the co-authors of the first four chapters will offer an on-demand video session #SLCoreValues #alaac21:

Taking Action for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Intellectual Freedom in School Libraries

We invite you to join us in promoting and enacting the unique contributions of school librarians to our learning communities!

And, of course, we hope you will read our book, discuss, and share the ideas and examples of practice with colleagues in your PLNs.

Work Cited

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

Virtual Libraries for preK-12 Students, Educators, and Families

School Library Month, Part 2

During the pandemic when many students were and still are learning through hybrid and remote instruction, many school librarians and library organizations across the country stepped up to share resources and co-create resource portals.

All of them were intended to help students and educators identify online resources and tools without having to completely re-create the wheel for each lesson, unit, or project plan. Instead, they could tap into these portals, adapt them for their teaching and learning purposes, and share them with others.

Sharing resources is a cornerstone of school librarianship.

One of these state-level portals has been around for years; others were developed more recently in response to school closures in 2020. All provide resources specific information and resources that may require log-ins for their in-state users as well as resources generally applicable to users in other states.

None of these sites was intended to replace state-certified school librarians and collaborating classroom teachers who design and guide students in their learning process. In fact, the plethora of resources linked to these portals points to the critical need for educators who help students hone their purpose for and proficiency in searching, analyzing and using information, and creating new knowledge.

INFOhio
INFOhio began in 1989 when a group of school librarians developed a plan to “computerize” Ohio’s school libraries. Their vision:

“Each Ohio PreK-12 student has equal access to high quality digital resources for a successful education and future”

and mission:

“INFOhio transforms student learning by providing equitable access to quality resources and cost-effective instructional and technical support for each student, educator, and parent in Ohio” (https://www.infohio.org/about).

sum up the aims of all of these resource portals: equity of access to digital resources.

The site is organized around pre-K (ages 3-5), K-5, 6-8, 9-12, Parent Tools, and Educator Tools sections. The latter is organized by grade level, subject, item type, training and promotion, instructional trends, and Dimensions of Inquiry. Educators, including school librarians, can also receive various types of training and certifications using these resources.

Massachusetts Virtual School Librarian
Early on in the pandemic the Massachusetts Association of School Librarians (MSLA) collaborated with other state-level stakeholders to create their Virtual School Librarian. Organized in instructional levels, elementary, middle, and high school, the site also includes an educator support section. There are currently 133 Massachusetts Library System LibGuides on the site.

One especially exciting and high-impact service was MSLA’s commitment to answering questions posted to the site within 24 hours. Nineteen members volunteered and were organized to respond within three grade bands—elementary, middle, and high school.

To learn more, read about it in Georgina Trebbe and Deeth Ellis’s 6/1/20 Knowledge Quest blog post: “The Massachusetts School Library Association Launches Virtual School Librarian Website to Help Educators during School Closures.”

New Jersey: SchoolLibraryNJ
This project is newly completed. Led by Rutgers University School of Communication and Information, MI Program, the New Jersey Association of School Librarians, and supported by the State Library of New Jersey with the generous cooperation of Springshare, this site is as deep as it is wide.

Sections of the site include grade bands, resources for parents, educators, administrators, and librarians. I will be sharing the Elementary and the Middle School sections in an Arizona Library Association Teacher Librarian Division Professional Development meeting on Wednesday, April 14th. (Patty Jimenez will be sharing Sora-facilitated high school resources.)

I attended the 3/24/21 webinar in which Joyce Valenza, Grace McCusker, and Michelle Luhtala shared many features of the site. Of particular note, the Administrators section offers AASL and other resources to support you as you educate your administrators about your vital role in education. During the session, Joyce invited librarians to contribute to a Padlet to provide possible additions.

You can read more about the site in Steve Tetreault’s 2/5/21 Knowledge Quest blog post: “School Library NJ: Support for an Entire State – and Beyond!” Steve was responsible for the middle school resources on the site.

Or you can view the EdWeb video recording: The Ultimate Research Guide for All Learners (Including YOU!)

New York City School Libraries System: Connect, Create, Lead
Led by Melissa Jacobs, the NYC School Library System has been at the forefront of providing librarians with resources to support hybrid and remote learning. Their Translation of Practice document guides school librarians in making connections from in-person learning and teaching to remote practice, organized in these categories: Learning and Teaching, Information Access and Delivery, and Program Administration.

Washington (State) School Libraries Tools and Guides
The WA Digital TeachKit is designed to help K12 educators select, understand, and use commonly-adopted digital learning tools in Washington State. It was created by Washington teacher librarians and members of the Washington Library Association School Library Division and led by Shana Ferguson, Christie Kaaland, Hillary Marshall, and Mark Ray. The site is divided into two sections: Tools and Guides.

The Tools section includes frequently used digital tools with information organized by first steps, next steps, instructional design, management, differentiation and adaptation, and hybrid strategies. Some links include Wakelets and other collections of information and tips.

The Guides section is “designed to help educators understand different kinds of digital tools and services and how they can fit into your instruction. If you’re not sure which tool fits which need, these guides are designed to help you make the right choice.”

So, as to be redundant: None of these sites was intended to replace state-certified school librarians and collaborating classroom teachers who design and guide students in their learning process. In fact, the plethora of resources linked to these portals points to the critical need for educators who help students hone their purpose for and proficiency in searching, using and analyzing information, and creating with new knowledge.

Image Created with
kalhh. “Learn Media Internet.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/illustrations/learn-media-internet-medium-977543/

School Library Month and The Book of Abel

2020 School Library Month Promotion: Everyone Belongs @Your School LibraryApril is School Library Month. At this time each year, school librarians reach out into our school, local, state, and national communities to show how school libraries matter—to students, educators, families, and communities. School libraries provide access to print and digital books and resources and learning opportunities that invite students into the literacy club, shore up their reading and information literacy skills, and set them on the path to success in school and in life.

I have led and observed many school library programs over the course of my career as a school librarian and school librarian educator. In my experience, there is no such thing as an exemplary school library program without an exemplary state-certified school librarian at the helm.

The greatest asset any library has is a librarian.
R. David Lankes

AND exemplary school librarians are collaborators who find like-minded passionate literacy learning advocates among their administrators, classroom educator colleagues, and families. If one of our essential goals is to lead a culture of reading, then we must form partnerships with others to maximize the impact of our knowledge of literature, curriculum resources, technology tools, and instructional strategies for the benefit of all students.

The greatest assets school librarians have are collaborating colleagues.
Judi Moreillon

With our collaborating colleagues, we can take action to ensure equity, diversity, and inclusion beyond library spaces into classrooms and out into the larger community. We can ensure students’ right to read and their intellectual freedoms of choice and voice. We can create school-based cultures of reading and learning that enrich the lives of all who are privileged to be members.

Literacy Champions
I trust all school librarians have had the experience of working with passionate literacy champions who share their responsibility to create and sustain vibrant cultures of reading. Like you, I am grateful for all educators, from all grade levels and disciplines, who take up this charge alongside us.

Although I didn’t have the pleasure of teaching with her, Daphne Russell is one of those standard bearer classroom teachers who knows that books and reading not only change lives; they also save lives. In April, 2019, I wrote a review of Daphne’s book Read or Die: A Story of Survival and Hope and How a Life Was Saved One Book. In that post, I noted how exemplary school librarians strive to find the “right” book for individual students and support classroom teachers in effective reading motivation and comprehension strategy instruction.

To quote from that post: “If school librarians at any instructional level hope to influence students’ enjoyment of reading, reading proficiency, and successful quest for accurate information, they must create opportunities for individualized reader’s advisory. They must acknowledge the greater influence of the classroom teacher on student learning. They must ‘let’ classroom teachers be the first to bring new books into the classroom to share with students. They must coplan and coteach with classroom teachers and specialists. School librarian leaders must collaborate” (Moreillon 2019).

Sadly, not all outstanding educators like Daphne have experienced school librarians as literacy partners who support the growth and development of individual readers and educators’ literacy-for-all aspirations for their students—non-readers, struggling and striving readers, and avid bookworms alike.

The Book of Abel
Daphne has written a screenplay based on her experiences as a book-pushing, life-changing literacy warrior classroom teacher. The Book of Abel follows a young man who, with the encouragement of his teacher, finds himself and his path forward in life through books.

In the video Daphne produced to promote her film, she includes testimonials from students. I believe many students (and adults) whose lives have been changed or saved through books would provide similar stories—stories that school librarians and classroom teachers could use to make the case for including diverse books in the classroom curriculum (see the 1:11 mark on the video).

At the end of the promotional video, Daphne gives us a sense of how the story will end when she describes how viewers will be moved, perhaps to tears, by the impact of reading on Abel’s life.

Shhhhh
Top secret… spoiler… but no surprise to the school librarians reading this blog post. At the end of the film, Abel will find a home for his reading soul…. in the library.

Please join me and consider contributing to Daphne’s GoFundMe effort to produce and distribute her short film The Book of Abel. (Note: Tuesday, April 6th is Arizona Giving Day.)

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2019. “Read or Die: A Book Review and a Call to Action.” School Librarian Leadership (blog), April 29. http://www.schoollibrarianleadership.com/2019/04/29/read-or-die-a-book-review-and-a-call-to-action/

 

Literacy Partners Become Advocates

Judi Moreillon Author Visit 2019 Louisville, KentuckyFor as long as I’ve been in the profession (30+ years), advocacy has been a hot topic in school librarianship. Unfortunately, far too often we start our advocacy efforts when school librarian positions are threatened, library budgets are slashed, or scheduling changes inhibit students’ access to the resources of the school library or the expertise of the school librarian.

To ward off these threats to a complete and equitable education for our students, school librarians must be in a continuous cycle of marketing, public relations, and advocacy.

Data Sources
Marketing involves listening to and learning from our library stakeholders. We must understand their needs as well as their perceptions of how the librarian and the library program can help them meet their needs. School librarians often engage stakeholders in surveys to collect these data. Once collected, we analyze the results and make the appropriate changes to our programs.

There are, however, other sources of data that can also guide our school library program decisions. The International Reading Association (ILA) conducts a biennial “What’s Hot in Literacy Survey.” Comparing this larger data set and national trends and initiatives in education to our own local data collection can further guide our program decisions.

The 2019 ILA survey results appeared in a 2020 report that points to three actions school librarians can take to demonstrate how their work helps elevate the literacy learning of students and positions them as literacy partners with classroom teacher colleagues, administrators, and families.

I wrote about these school librarian contributions in my hot-off-the-presses Literacy Today article “School Librarians as Literacy Partners: Taking Action on the What’s Hot in Literacy Report” (2021).

Early Literacy Skills Instruction
Elementary school librarians are in a position to influence outcomes for preschool children in their learning community. In many cities across the country, various governmental and non-governmental bodies are taking up the charge for high-quality early childhood education. Research has shown that children’s positive preschool learning experience put them on a path for academic and life success (U.S. Department of Education).

Here are three examples of supporting preschool children from my own practice as an elementary school librarian (two schools) and literacy coach (one school).

  • At Corbett Elementary (1994-1997), I offered preschool storytimes for the Head Start program that met on our campus. We also earned a grant to create literacy backpacks. Each backpack included at least one book, a journal, a toy or other prop, and literacy learning information for Head Start families.
  • At Gale Elementary (1997-2001), I was a half-time librarian with a full-time assistant. At first, she and I collaborated to plan a weekly storytime and book checkout for the developmental preschool program held on our campus. In a short time, our assistant offered this service on a day when I was not on campus.
  • At Van Buskirk Elementary (2001-2002), I served as the literacy coach. The Spanish-speaking community liaison and I offered a before-school family literacy program for parents. After they escorted their school-age children to their classrooms, we held a storytime and book-making, or other literacy learning experience for parents and preschool-age children.

Equity and Opportunity for All Learners
Equity continues to be a top five critical issue in the ILA survey, and it is a core value of school librarianship. Erika Long and Suzanne Sherman frame the equity chapter in Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage: “Equitable access is a matter of social justice” (Long and Sherman 2021, 3).

Making a commitment and taking courageous action to serve as equity partners to ensure equitable access to rich and relevant literacy learning experiences in our schools is a leadership role for school librarians. While school librarians have been keenly aware of the opportunity gaps that were exposed during school closures, all educators and education decision- and policy-makers have now gotten a wake-up call.

“School closures during the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the critical need to address equity in terms of access to digital resources and technology devices, which may or may not have been available in classrooms” and students’ homes (Moreillon 2021, 11). These learning tools should have been available through school library programs.

Providing Access to High-quality Diverse Books and Content
School librarians are charged with making access to high-quality diverse books and content universally accessible throughout the school. Librarians must curate a collection of resources that reflect the diversity of the students, educators, and families we serve. We must also expand the collection to include broader national and global perspectives on the human experience.

In our role as instructional partners, we can go the next and critical steps. “We then take our knowledge and commitment—our purpose—and use it to transform the collections throughout the school, including classroom collections and the books chosen as classroom texts. For our students, seeing themselves in the library is not enough—they need to see their rich and whole selves in the curriculum and school community, too” (Stivers, Powell, and Lambert 2021, 34).

Literacy Partners Become Advocates
When school librarians take action to meet the needs of our library stakeholders, we engender advocates for the library program and our role as literacy learning leaders. The relationships we build with our literacy partners combined with the evidence of impact we collect create the foundation for continuous advocacy efforts. Then, when and if there is a threat to educational equity that affects the school library program, our advocates and the data to support our cause will be at the ready.

Works Cited

Long, Erika, and Suzanne Sherman. 2021. “Equity: Equitable Access Is a Matter of Social Justice.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 3-18. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Moreillon, Judi. 2021. “School Librarians as Literacy Partners: Take Action on the What’s Hot in Literacy Report.” Literacy Today (March/April): 10-11. Available at http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/b46eaa78#/b46eaa78/12

Stivers, Julie, Stephanie Powell, and Nancy Jo Lambert. 2021. “Diversity: Diversity in Resources and Programming Is Not Optional.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 19-35. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

U.S. Department of Education. “Key Research Studies on Early Learning Effectiveness.” https://www.ed.gov/early-learning/research

March Is Reading Month

Although every day, every week, and every month of our school librarian work lives revolves around reading, March is “reading month,” and an excellent time to reconnect with a literacy habit and skill that is the foundation for all learning. Students at every grade level and when studying every discipline must have access to reading materials and the ability to apply their reading toolkits to enjoy and use texts.

Photographs of Ali Schilpp, Bridget Crossman, Kristin Fraga Sierra, Melissa Thom, and Stacey Rattner

If you were unable to attend on February 24th, ABC-CLIO/School Library Connection offered an OverDrive Education sponsored must-view webinar for any and all school librarians looking to inject collaboration, innovation, and power into their reading promotion activities.

How to Keep Reading Social during Hybrid Learning” will be available to all viewers until March 10, 2021. Please make time to learn from these outstanding school librarians.

These are my takeaways from their presentations, but for the full impact of this professional development opportunity, do not rely on my connections and reflections. I also encourage you to follow these school librarians on Twitter and continue to learn and share with them.

Bridget Crossman, Elementary School Librarian @bcrossm85
Bridget is the elementary school librarian in the Lake George School District, New York, and founder and director of the not-for-profit children’s literacy organization B.O.O.K.S. (Books Offer Opportunities, Kids Succeed). She shared three “joyful, engaging” literacy learning opportunities for the students and/or families at her school. Each one involved one or more partnerships with members of the school or local community. (Bridget is the author of Community Partnerships with School Libraries: Creating Innovative Learning Experiences, Libraries Unlimited, 2018).

Partners included a coffee shop in her community, the PTO, and the “specialists” in her building. The latter helped her offer a drive-thru book fair on the bus loop.

Books were part of these activities. In addition, Bridget gave a shout-out to Teaching Books for a choral reading and all of their resources.

Melissa Thom, Middle School Librarian @MsThomBookitis
Melissa is a middle school librarian at Bristow Middle School in West Hartford, Connecticut. Melissa shared ideas about how to maximize the impact of virtual author visits. She used Google Meet to invite students from across her district to take advantage of the visits. Melissa also offers a KidsLit Club every Monday where some authors drop in for twenty minutes to increase their outreach to and connections with readers.

With a keen eye and ability to find and buy multiples copies of books at reduced cost, Melissa also offers “Free Book Fridays.” Each week about half the books on her give-away cart are snatched up by readers. For more on Melissa work, see her School Librarians United Podcast “Virtual Culture of Reading.”

Kristin Fraga Sierra, High School Librarian @lincolnabesread
Kristin is the high school librarian at Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington. She is also the founder of Lincoln High’s Project Lit Book Club Chapter: Building a Community of Readers and Leaders at #AbeNation. Kristin began her part of the presentation by noting that before the pandemic resulted in school closures Lincoln High had a strong reading culture that focused on reading, leadership, and providing service in their community.

The racial unrest in the late spring and summer of 2020 motivated the club to focus their reading and service on books that dealt with racial injustice. They collaborated with an independent bookstore, developed a K-12 wish list, gained media attention, and successfully raised the funds to stock little free libraries in their community. In another project, they filled backpacks for a Boys & Girls Club.

Kristin noted that student leadership is an essential ingredient in this work. She noted that students are looking for connection to other students and opportunities to work as a team while having fun with their friends. Watch the video to learn more about the high-impact service projects and engaging events of the LincolnAbesRead Club.

Sidenote: Kristin is a co-author with TuesD Chambers of the advocacy chapter in the forthcoming book Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021).

Stacey Rattner, K-5 Librarian @staceybethr
Stacey is the librarian at Castleton Elementary School in Albany, New York. She collaborated with author Steve Sheinkin (@SteveSheinkin) to co-develop an exciting new YouTube project called Author Fan Face-Off (AFF). Wow!

I watched Author Fan Face-off Episode #5: Cece Bell/EL DEAFO. 6th-grade student Noa and Cece Bell tied at six points each after competing through the bonus round. Noa’s excitement (as well as her memory for details) was a wonder.

I have been thinking about how to answer Stacey’s question: How can educators use AFF in their work? If you have an idea, please message her on Twitter.

Be Inspired
Thank you to the presenters and also to Ali Schilpp (@AliSchilpp) school librarian at Northern Middle School, Garrett County, Maryland, for moderating this exciting panel.

If you’re looking for a March Is Reading Month PD opportunity focused on reading promotion, look no further! This is it!

And remember, tomorrow, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, is Read Across America Day. For more information, see the National Education Association’s website.