Leadership and Collaboration


As co-teachers and instructional partners, school librarians focus on collaborative opportunities with individual or teams of educators within a school community.  Many school districts have been providing professional development for educators by establishing Professional Learning Communities (PLC).   The PLC is a vehicle for collaborative planning and decision making that focuses on improving student learning.  To be successful participants, educators need training to understand the process for and commitment to collaboration that builds the collective capacity of a school system.  An effective PLC can change attitudes and transform teaching and learning in a powerful way.

School librarians are positioned to take leadership roles in PLCs, and should advocate for a place at the table.  Having honed a variety of collaboration skills of various levels, school librarians are familiar with setting goals, timelines, assessments, formulating projects, and are adept at analyzing data.  There are many configurations for PLC teams, and the school librarian should have a pivotal role in content areas.  Unfortunately, in many districts, the PLC teams may not integrate the school librarian into content or grade level groups.  Many times the PLCs are set to meet during the scheduled time for a class visit to the library/media center when the librarian is expected to supervise the class.  That prevents meaningful participation, and limits the expertise and knowledge that the librarian can share with the group.

Stepping into a leadership role means that the school librarian needs to be proactive and stay ahead of the curve.  Find out what is happening in your district or school.  What are the initiatives?  What are the goals for educators and student learning?  What curriculum changes are proposed?  Be ready to explain to administrators, teachers, parents, community members, and students how the school library program and resources will benefit the transformation of learning.  You are the expert, the information specialist, and can facilitate learning for all stakeholders.

If you want to realize your own capacity as an educational leader, I recommend two readings that have influenced my thinking recently.  One was an article in May/June 2013 issue of Knowledge Quest, “The Make-Good Mission.”  Michael Edson, the Smithsonian’s director of web and new media strategy, talks about the possibilities for the school library as a place for meeting the challenges of “scope, scale, and speed” presented by information in present day.  We simply can’t continue to do things the way we have done them in the past.  Organizations have to change from within, not top down.  We all have the capacity to contribute, not just receive information.

Change from within is one of the messages also in Leaders of Learning: How District, School, and Classroom Leaders Improve Student Achievement (DuFour and Marzano, 2011).  Two leaders in organizational systems and education explore how change and transformation can come about using the collective expertise of all stakeholders.  DuFour shares how PLC teams that are created and supported by district administrators and principals, can bring about improvements in student learning.  The training and support is imperative to make a successful outcome for all.  Collaboration skills have to be learned and the authors offer a blueprint.  Marzano clarifies how to establish what is important for students to learn and how to assess their learning.

At the AASL Conference in November 2013,  there will be sessions that focus on leadership roles and require specific collaboration skills.  Come to conference and gather more ideas to add to your leadership/advocacy tool kit!


DuFour, Richard and Robert Marzano. 2011. Leaders of learning: How district, school, and classroom leaders improve student achievement. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Edson, Michael.  2013. The Make-good mission: Evaluating and embracing new possibilities for discovery and innovation in school libraries.  Knowledge Quest 41 (5): 12-18.

Photo: Microsoft clipart


School Structures that Support Collaborative Cultures, Part 2

Shared collaborative planning time is another school structure that supports educators in building and sustaining a culture of collaboration. In schools and districts where administrators recognize this as an essential component of effective instruction, grade-level, classroom-library, and interdisciplinary collaboration is more likely to be practiced and lead to positive results in terms of improvements in student learning and educator proficiency.

The National Center for Literacy Education (NCLE) is a coalition of education associations, policy organizations, and foundations united to support schools in elevating literacy learning. The American Association of School Librarians is a partner organization. NCLE conducted a national survey of educators in all roles, at all grade levels, and in all subject areas to find out more about what is actually happening in schools. (Note: This report was funded by the Ball Foundation.)

Today, the Literacy in Learning Exchange released the findings: “NCLE Report: Remodeling Literacy Learning.”

The report states that although “working together is working smarter, schools are not structured to facilitate educators working together.” It also noted that “effective collaboration needs systemic support.”

Here’s a recommendation that all educational decision-makers should note: “Embed the collaboration of educators in the school day. This is critical for deep student learning and is a necessary prerequisite to the success of other school reforms.

Schools can start by instituting shared planning time during the school day and focus on collaborative job-embedded professional development. The recommendations would go a long way to building the necessary school structures to help make professional learning communities successful. I encourage every educator to make time to read this report.

Works Cited

Innovations Lightbulb. Digital image. HHS.gov. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from http://www.hhs.gov/open/initiatives/innovationfellows/index.html

National Center for Literacy Education. “NCLE Report: Remodeling Literacy Learning.” Retrieved from http://www.literacyinlearningexchange.org/remodeling

Teaching Teachers Technology

To further this concept of leadership in technology integration, I hope that Building a Culture of Collaboration Blog school librarian readers will consider the importance of their approaches to teaching teachers technology. While our ultimate goal is to get digital tools in the hands of students so they can use them for accessing information and planning presentations, and producing knowledge, working with classroom teachers and specialists is the way to ensure school-wide technology integration.

On Thursday, February 6th, I will deliver the Library/Media Specialist Academy Keynote at the Texas Computer Education Association Conference in Austin. You can access the online support for my presentation “Teaching Teachers Technology: The School Librarian’s Starring Role.”

When we consider that every time a school librarian or technology integrator facilitates a classroom teacher’s integration of technology tools, we are impacting the learning of every student in that educator’s classroom this year and most likely for years to come. It is important then that we learn effective strategies for teaching teachers. Theories related to andragogy, the science of teaching adult learners, were brought to the U.S. by Malcolm Knowles. This is my summary of his ideas about adult learners.

Adult learners:
1.    are self-directed and take responsibility for their own learning.
2.    have prior experience that can be a positive or negative influence on learning.
3.    are motivated by an internal need to know.
4.    have a problem-solving orientation to learning.

What instructional problems can we help classroom teachers solve in order to effectively integrate technology tools into learning and teaching in our schools?


Knowles, M. The adult  learner: A neglected species. (2nd ed.). Boston: Gulf.

Word Cloud created at Wordle.net

The Role of Tempered Radicals in a Culture of Collaboration

I have really been encouraged by Judi’s posts regarding what pre-service principals saw as the benefits to students and the benefits to educators of the school librarian as a collaborative partner with teachers.  I was particularly struck by the observation that lessons co-planned, co-taught, and co-assessed with the school librarian “pushed instruction to a higher level” and provided the kinds of targeted, formative assessment essential to an evidence-based practice.  The school librarian holds a pivotal position in a school’s learning culture. He or she works within the school structure to nudge instruction, assessment, and ultimately student learning to a higher quality. This type of “embedded professional development” works at a subtle, but powerful level to fundamentally change the culture of a school into a learning community.
School librarians serve in a role that might be characterized as that of “tempered radicals,” a phrase introduced by Stephanie Meyerson (2001)and recently revisited by Peter DeWitt in an Education Week blog post entitled “Education needs more tempered radicals.” Tempered radicals are those who work within the system to create small but potentially pervasive changes to the system.  Working within the system, they retain their legitimacy as an insider, yet introduce difference and provoke learning.  As Dewitt suggests:

Tempered radicals are those educators on the inside who make subtle changes every day. Whether it’s the way they educate students (i.e. seamlessly using technology, parent communication, grading, etc.) or how they make changes to a building through shared decision making and listening to the needs of their stakeholders. Perhaps it is a principal who gives their teachers more autonomy or someone who sends out researched based articles on instruction and discusses them at faculty meetings so they can make changes in instructional practices.

Sound familiar?  School librarians are in an ideal position to serve as tempered radicals since they are recognized as members of the school staff by teachers and administrators, yet their work allows them to be in spaces of influence throughout the school as they plan with classroom teachers, converse with administrators and parents, and interact daily with students.  Meyerson suggests a tempered radical “brings an entirely new set of perspectives, asks different questions, and might pose different solutions to problems” (p.17).  School librarians are tempered radicals who create a climate of inquiry for administrators and teachers to “bounce ideas off of” leading toward an “evidence-based practice” focused on student learning.
Schools should be learning organizations where all members of the community value and engage in continuous learning.  School librarians embedded in the fabric of the community as they co-plan, co-teach, and co-assess instruction and learning are essential catalysts for the kinds of inquiry into practice that lead the learning of both educators and those they educate.  Inquiry offers a tempered approach to change because it raises essential questions and invites others to join in an exploration of answers.  It’s invitational, tempered, and relational. Collaboration and inquiry are essential partners in school reform and the goal of becoming a learning culture.


DeWitt, Peter (Dec. 13, 2012).  Education needs more tempered radicals [web log post]. Retrieved from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/finding_common_ground/2012/12/education_needs_more_tempered_radicals.html

Meyerson, Stephanie (2001).  Tempered radicals: How people use difference to inspire change at work.  Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Collaboration: Benefits to Students

While observing the one-hour workshop cooperation and a collaboration planning session role play, the preservice principals in the TWU Professional Development and Supervision course identified the items (on the post-it pictured) as benefits to students.

The principals noticed that students would benefit from instruction provided by two (or more) educators with different teaching styles. When the preservice principals shared this bullet, they also talked about how the instruction that was planned addressed students’ various learning styles as well.

They noticed that through collaboration the educators pushed the instruction to a higher level. Critical thinking was a focus of the lesson/unit planned. The collaborative planning session revised a previously taught Civil War unit that focused on heroes and battles (what David Loertscher calls a “bird unit”) and involved students in an inquiry process in which they would develop personally-meaningful questions about the war.

Targeted assessment and shared responsibility for assessing the learning outcomes were also important to these preservice principals. School librarians can excel in gathering locally-generated formative assessment data to demonstrate the impact of instruction on student learning outcomes. This aspect of evidence-based practice is essential in today’s learning and teaching environment.

I want to thank the students in Dr. Starrett’s ELDR 5223 Professional Development and Supervision Fall ’12 class for allowing me to share the “library story” and for sharing their insights with me/us.



Loertscher, David V., Carol Koechlin, and Sandy Zwaan. Beyond Bird Units: Thinking and Understanding in Information-Rich and Technology-Rich Environments. Salt Lake City: Hi Willow Research and Publishing, 2008.

Collaborative Planning: Benefits to Educators

Collaborative planning is another form of job-embedded professional development. In the one-hour workshop after observing  cooperation and a collaboration planning session role play, the preservice principals in the TWU Professional Development and Supervision course identified the items (on the post-it pictured) as benefits to educators.

While this confirms to me that these practicing classroom teachers value the school librarian’s expertise as a resource provider, I noticed that building relationships appears on this group’s list as well as on the benefits-to-principals list. I believe that school leaders are more and more aware of the importance of nurturing a positive school climate. Educators who support the principal in that effort, school librarians included, are especially valuable members of the learning community.

STAAR (Texas standardized achievement test) and TEKS (Texas state standards) were third on their list. Of course, school librarians and classroom teachers with deep knowledge of curriculum and how it’s tested are important to these preservice principals. Administrators feel the pressure for addressing standards and improving test scores. They could see in the role play that an interdisciplinary approach allowed the educators to cover more ground while students experienced deeper learning experiences.

Win. Win. Win.

As instructional partners, the work of school librarians is integrated into the academic program of the school, increasing their potential to affect student achievement significantly. However, when school librarians are asked whom they serve “most would answer students, yet the primary clientele in terms of power, impact, and effect would be teachers” (Haycock, 2010, p. 3).

If you are a school librarian, if asked, what would your classroom teacher colleagues say is your greatest contribution to the learning community in your school and how do teachers benefit from coplanning and coteaching with you?


Haycock, K. (2010). Leadership from the middle: Building influence for change. In S. Coatney (Ed.), The many faces of school library leadership (pp. 1-12). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Job-embedded Professional Development

Job-embedded Professional Development: That’s what preservice school principals have been taking away from presentations I have been making at a preservice Professional Development and Supervision course. Thanks to my TWU educational leadership colleague Dr. Teresa Starrett I have had three opportunities in three different semesters to talk with three different classes of principal candidates.

In the one-hour workshop, we look at research and standards and most importantly of all, we demonstrate the potential impact of classroom-library collaboration for instruction on students’ learning outcomes and educators’ teaching.

Serving in the role of school librarian, I model cooperation and contrast it with a collaborative coplanning session with a classroom teacher. On November 5th, one of the preservice principals role-played a middle school social studies teacher. While we cooperated and collaborated, the class made notes about the benefits to students, educators, or principals. This week, I will post the results for each of these library stakeholders.

The photo above shows the “benefits to principals” identified by one group. All three times I have offered this workshop, preservice principals have noted “job-embedded professional development” as the number one benefit to principals. Yes, they are in a course in which this aspect of their future jobs is being stressed, but this also shows me that principals are seeking support in this area. To know they have someone in the library who is working closely with all the teachers in the building to improve instructional practices is a godsend.

They are also aware of the importance of building relationships in order to develop a positive school climate. (And I hope they have the goal of building a culture of collaboration in mind as well.)

If you are a school librarian, if asked, what would your principal say is your greatest contribution to the learning community in your school and how does your principal benefit from your work?

Dream Teams: Classroom Teachers and School Librarians Connect and Coteach for Student Success

Are you attending the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Conference in Las Vegas next week? If so, we hope you will attend our session. (Specifics below). Presenters will be coteaching teams from each instructional level—elementary, middle, and high school. Here’s our description.

Ignite student learning with collaboratively-designed and cotaught lessons and units of instruction! When classroom teachers and school librarians join forces, they create resource-rich, inquiry learning experiences to impact student achievement. Coteaching also offers educators the benefits of job-embedded professional development. Let us share how everyone wins on these successful teams!

If you can’t join us, please check out our wiki, which is still in progress at: https://dreamteams.wikispaces.com/

Coteachers positively impact student learning and build a culture of collaboration in their schools!

Session Code: G.09
Saturday, 11/17/12 from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m.
Grand Ballroom #117, Level One

The Flipped Library

21st-century school librarians post a fine collection of book trailers, extensive pathfinders, online tutorials, and other resources, and student learning artifacts online in order to serve their learning communities 24/7. These curation activities provide 21st-century resources to support school library collection development.

But then what?

On Friday, November 2nd at the Richardson-Plano (Texas) “Pump Up Instruction” Library Expo 2012, I presented sessions to invite elementary and secondary librarians to consider how they can show that the librarian is the most important resource in any library. (Thank you to David Lankes for crystalizing the concept.)

In the “flipped” library, school librarians provide students and teachers with support they cannot get learning from home or in their classrooms without the aid of their school librarian. School librarians can provide students with explicit modeling for reading comprehension and inquiry learning. School librarians serve as coteachers who strengthen the work of their colleagues in monitoring student learning, assessing outcomes, and developing expertise in instruction.

Check out the resources at: https://flipped-library.wikispaces.com

Flipping Collaboration for Professional Development

For this week, I’d like to offer some thoughts about Sue Kimmel’s challenge for flipping collaboration (post 9/9/12) in a different, but related model for professional development by and for teacher librarians.

“I would like to advocate that we look for ways to become more fluid and nimble in our approach to time and how we use it to co-plan, co-implement, and co-assess teaching and learning as we continue to ‘push everyone toward excellence (Loertscher, 2008)’.”

One of the guidelines in Empowering Learners (2009), concerns professional development designed to “sustain and increase knowledge and skills.” (43)  As teacher librarians, we strive to expand our understanding of best practice through various opportunities for professional development through courses, webinars, conferences, and so on.  In our schools, we provide learning experiences for our colleagues, as well as our students.

The time issue looms large for both participating in and providing for professional development.  Other than dedicated professional development days that are scheduled around administrative goals, there just aren’t enough hours in the school day for sustained, reflective, meaningful learning for any of us. How can we find a better way that will make a difference?

Web 2.0 tools and applications offer platforms for co-teaching and learning for students, as Sue mentioned, but let’s think about how we might use a 24/7 environment for providing a community space for teacher learning.  The purpose could be described as a place to read and reflect, take risks, model new technology applications, ask questions, discuss and debate, collaborate, and develop new resources for practice and personal learning networks.

Sounds like pie in the sky, but let’s take a look at Jennifer LaGarde’s blog (Adventures of Library Girl) as she describes how she uses Edmoto as platform for “Gamifying PD.”  When you look at the list of expectations and goals, you will see that she has combined face to face, online, and participatory activities-and it sounds engaging and fun.  And it’s available 24/7 whenever a participant logs on.

Blended learning is another way to describe participatory interaction that offers opportunities for face to face and online learning that are both individual and interactive.  A course/learning management system such as Blackboard, Moodle, Haiku and others, can provide a space for content, assessments, discussion boards, blogs and so on, that is available asynchronously.  Face to face sessions can be physical or virtual through webcasts or podcasts, both synchronously and asynchronously.

If you are interested in how blended learning works as a model for higher education, I recommend reading “Communities of Practice for Blended Learning: Toward an Integrated Model for LIS education.” (2010) I discovered this article when I was doing research for a chapter in a book about blended learning.  Joyce Yukawa of St. Catherine University in St. Paul describes blended learning within a graduate level LIS course.  She provides the rationale for combining appropriate technology to meet the needs of adult learners and to foster a social construct for learning. The emphasis is on learning by doing.  LIS students had to use the technology applications as they focused on library projects and assignments. The ideas presented here provide convincing reasons to think about ways to adapt school or district wide professional development to a blended learning environment.

At UVM, where I teach and learn from my students, blended learning has enhanced a cohort experience for everyone.  In school library media studies courses, students from across the state are able to participate in courses for licensure or professional development. In a small state such as ours, we are proud to have contributed to building a network of colleagues and friends who have become educational leaders in schools across Vermont, and access to 24/7 online learning has paved the way.

Collaboration is at the crux of participatory culture.  So let’s get on with it!

Judy Kaplan


American Association of School Librarians (AASL). (2009). Empowering learners: Guidelines for school library media programs. Chicago, IL: American Library Association


LaGarde, J. (2012, August 12). Game based PD for an epic win [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.librarygirl.net/ 2012/08/game-based-pd-for-epic-win.html


Yukawa, J. (2010). Communities of practice for blended learning: toward an integrated model for LIS education. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, 51: (2) 54-75.