Concurrent Leadership and Advocacy in the School Library

I’ve been reading about leadership and advocacy this week and I got to thinking about how these things in successful school library programs really are concurrent activities. As you behave as a leader in your school library, you become an ambassador for the school community and even the wider local community (or state). When people see enthusiastic programming and a positive welcoming environment, they are more likely to value the work that you do and less likely to offer your position up to the chopping block when budget cuts come around.

For example, I have a colleague who announced that she would be leaving the district at the end of the school year. She has been sharing ideas and resources with the entire district (through the mass email list) all year long. She hasn’t said as much, but I suspect her very visible efforts are a conscious way of demonstrating her and her program’s worth to the district. If the administration values her role, perhaps they won’t decide to have us go down a librarian due to attrition. Nothing is certain, but this kind of program advocacy doesn’t hurt—and the approach is to simply do exemplary work as an instructional leader.

In fact, my principal told me himself that [an instructional leader] was what he needed me to be in his school. I had been cautious in my interactions with staff as the new kid on the block, not wanting to step on toes or make a bad impression, and I told him that I didn’t want to tell anyone how to do their job (at least not while I’m still new). He encouraged me to push the staff to think critically and be someone who sees the big picture. If you are working hard side-by-side with other teachers, the respect and even loyalty is sure to follow.

I’ve actually had the opportunity to see my predecessor in action a few times at conferences. She’s a very dynamic person and dives right into the action. I understand a little better now the kind of leadership that she brings to the table, and to which my principal was alluding. She and I are very different in quite a few ways and I worried a lot at first that I was a disappointment to the staff as her replacement. It’s not that I am not just as dynamic or haven’t already had success in my new role. Some of my hesitation though is due to the humility I have toward the profession—I am not a seasoned veteran in the library and don’t even have my full license yet. It’s hard to proceed with confidence and, yes, leadership when you’re not sure if you’re even “doing it right”!

I have given myself permission to feel out the situation and scramble around in survival mode for now, but it can’t last for too long. Unfortunately, the attitude around the state is that school librarians are optional. A librarian friend of mine works in a district similar to mine that had someone leave and instead of rehiring a librarian, they reassigned a non-librarian teacher to be a tech integrator to fill the role (and my friend has to cover the missing duties). I met some librarians from Milwaukee Public Schools a few months ago—they have something like 12 librarians now for the entire district, covering something like 165 schools. They said that they basically go from school to school and select books. There are similar situations in Sheboygan and Menasha.

This isn’t just happening in Wisconsin—I read a newspaper article earlier this year about Philadelphia Public Schools going from 176 certified librarians in 1990 down to 11. One of the principals there fought back to restore the librarian position at the school saying, “The library was the center of the school program. I just don’t see a library as an extra,” which is amazing—but the advocacy and leadership necessary to preserve school libraries has to also come from the front lines, i.e. the librarians who convince the leaders, community and decision-makers that school libraries are, indeed, not extras.

The New Job

I’ve refrained from saying a lot, but the news is out. About three weeks ago, I resigned as a high school/middle school ESL teacher. About two weeks ago, I started as the high school library media specialist in a new district. Many have shared their congratulations, which is sweet, but congratulations have been hard for me to accept. While I ultimately have been looking forward to making this change eventually, I ethically have a problem with breaking a contract (that’s why it’s a contract, you know–because you make a commitment), but the circumstances were such that I did it anyway.

As I considered the possibility, I ultimately landed on a dating analogy about how sometimes you spend too much time with someone who is good enough, but ultimately you know it’s probably not what you want for yourself.

For the record, the political climate here in Wisconsin in regards to public education has made this an even more difficult–and expensive–feat. For example, the fine was five percent of my salary. Do the math in your own life; who has that kind of money to throw around? Not me. The adage that “if you don’t like it, find something else to do” is a pretty tall order. But trapped animal that I was in this situation, I chose my happiness. That is all I will say.

It has been wild trying to properly wrap up one job that I was deeply invested in and learn a new one at the same time. The position was empty for the first week of school (and the teacher prep-time the week before), so there was also a bit of catch up to do. It is also very peculiar to go into a job not as an expert, but as a rookie again. This is my first real experience in a school library. (So far, I am so thankful for everything I’ve learned working with children’s literature at the CCBC! What a life-changer!)

So the new job… well, I find myself looking forward to going to work on Monday morning. (By Thursday and Friday morning, I feel exhausted as usual when I get up, but at least it’s not dread!) I was starting to forget that feeling! The school is a one-to-one school, actually the district grades 4-12 is one-to-one–this means that every student has their own school-issued Chromebook. (They lease every three years. Outside of that, I don’t know how they pay.) Every teacher has a MacBook Air and they teach on an A-B block (four periods that meet every other day). Also there is a homeroom/flex period for enrichment/support/remediation that teachers personally schedule the kids in. Every staff member–including the principal, counselor, librarian, etc. participates in the scheduling and teaching of the flex period.

A large part of my responsibilities now is to manage the flow of broken and repaired Chromebooks and our loaners. Lots of cracked screens and charger port problems (this is year 3 of the lease). A big perk I’m noticing about all the kids having a uniform device like a Chromebook is that we can pass along a lot of our messages to students through email or chat–thus eliminating the constant overhead announcements like “Will so-and-so please report to the attendance office? So-and-so to the attendance office” that kill your ears all day long. It is just so much calmer without that. Also, it is sooooooo cool to look around at students productively working on their devices–not just Facebook and YouTube.

My new school has a great reading culture going on, and it seems like a lot of kids approach me looking for “a good book” (dream come true!). I am also trying to wrap my head around the budget money I have available and getting some orders pushed through. I am also working on setting up a MinecraftEDU server because I have this tremendous pile of teenage boys who come in during “breakfast break” and sit on my library couches playing Minecraft on their respective personal mobile devices. What an opportunity! My principal is really hoping to re-work a back room in the library and have me create a Makerspace area in there too. What an even bigger opportunity!

Wish me luck, clarity and grace as I travel down this road. I feel like it was the right, err, a good, umm, a solid decision. I pray that I look back on this tumultuous August someday with affection and relief.

Reader’s Response Journal: Biblioburro

BiblioburroCitation:

Winter, Jeanette. Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia. New York: Beach Lane-Simon & Schuster, 2010. Print.

Plot:

Luis had so many books in his house that his wife, Diana, started to get frustrated. Luis had the idea bringing books to children who had none in remote Colombian villages. He got two donkeys named Alfa and Beto, strapped crates for the books to their backs and created the “biblioburro” (the burro library). He rode all over with his burros, sharing a love of reading and his books with people who began to look forward to his visits.

Setting:

Set in rural Colombia, contemporary time period.

Point of View:

3rd person

Theme:

Literacy promotion, serving others, creative problem solving

Literary Quality:

Two or three short, simple sentences are on each page, making this book appropriate for young children. Text and pictures complement each other nicely. The use of speech bubbles and thought bubbles (with words and pictures) also add to the richness of the story. This book was on the 2011 commended list for the Américas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature.

Quality of Illustrations:

The illustrations were done with bright, jungle colors and have the appearance of folk art. Many birds, lizards, butterflies and other insects occupy the pages with Luis, the burros and the children. There are many details for readers to examine, including a tiny second appearance of the bandit who tried to rob him, now reading a book too!

Cultural Authenticity:

This book was based on the true story of Luis Soriano in Colombia who really does travel with his biblioburro. Jeanette Winter heard of Luis from an article in the New York Times and was inspired to share more. Because the story is brief, it is hard to accuse Winter of embellishing the details. The illustrations of the Colombian characters have dark skin and black hair, with simple, colorful clothing, also seemingly respectful to Luis and the people of Colombia he serves.

Audience:

This book is most likely appropriate for preschool- through early elementary-aged children. It will also appeal to librarians and teachers for the love of reading that it promotes.

Personal Reaction:

I really enjoyed this book because of how it recorded for posterity the ingenuity of Luis Soriano and his quest to share books with people. In fact, it made me go out searching for more information on Luis and I did find several pictures, videos and articles about what he is doing in Colombia. This is the kind of book that makes you feel good about humanity. I also love how Winter portrayed Luis as a perpetual teacher and a librarian at heart, notably in the scene where he brings masks for the children to wear as he reads The Three Little Pigs to them before they could choose their books. It made me feel a connection to him as a someone who just wants to bring books alive for kids.

Annotation: Instructional Design

Hovious, A. (2013, September 22). The “Rule of One” and the One-Shot Session. Designer Librarian. Retrieved October 13, 2013, from http://designerlibrarian.wordpress.com/2013/09/22/the-rule-of-one-and-the-one-shot-session/

This blogger-librarian discusses how librarians often only have one opportunity to reach students in an information literacy training session, requiring the librarian to seriously consider instructional design if he/she wishes the instruction to be effective. The author lays out four guidelines for librarians trying to design a successful stand-alone session: one learning goal, one objective per task, one strategy per objective and one culminating activity. This is an important idea since many students have limited contact with librarians and may not consult with one unless they are required to—the first impression matters for possible future reference desk use, but also for the information literacy skills that are developed/under-developed in the students that the library serves. Even if a teacher-librarian has the opportunity to adjust his/her instruction based on formative assessment or student needs-analysis, the guidelines in this article are worth implementing because they make for a tight, power-packed lesson.

Annotation: Collaboration

Immroth, B., & Lukenbill, W. (2007). Teacher-School Library Media Specialists Collaboration through Social Marketing Strategies: An Information Behavior Study. School Library Media Research, 101-16. Retrieved October 6, 2013, from http://www.ala.org/aasl/aaslpubsandjournals/slmrb/slmrcontents/volume10/immroth_teacherslmscollaboration

This study examined how social marketing strategies can be a tool for fostering collaborative relationships in schools between teacher-librarians, content teachers and student librarians (i.e. practicum school librarian graduate students). The study is thoroughly documented and reflects its validity as exploratory research, but I was most interested in the strategies the librarians tried. By using the concept of social marketing, which aims to benefit the audience and society instead of the marketer, and the Attention Interest Desire Action (AIDA) model, the researchers were able to give a common framework for their participants to pursue this type of collaboration. Though written as an academic research article, its application of the AIDA model could be potentially more useful to practitioners seeking to improve their collaborative efforts than a simple list of tips—like eating lunch with other teachers in the teacher’s lounge or sharing names of new DVDs with targeted teachers.

An Online Professional Learning Network for School Librarians

Goals Statements

My Online Professional Learning Network will help me to…

  • Connect with other school libraries that have similar needs and populations to serve
  • Pursue grant resources for technology implementation and collection development
  • Use the online LIS Professional Commons as an initiation to the library learning community since I am only a Special Student and am not officially admitted into an MLIS program yet
  • Develop my skills in outreach programming for at-risk learners, especially bilingual and reluctant readers
  • Engage in trend-spotting of up-and-coming digital tools and instructional technology strategies

 

Defined Scope

It is my goal to be a secondary (preferably high school) Library Media Specialist in Southern Wisconsin. I would like to work in a place that honors my technology skills but does not require that the majority of my professional time be spent fixing computer problems. I want to serve students and staff directly by meeting their media needs and increasing their information literacy skills. I also intend to keep my “eye to the sky” because I have a strong interest in working in public libraries if I ever decide to leave K-12 education.

 

Resource Network

 

School Librarianship

The Adventures of Library Girl
http://www.librarygirl.net/

This blog features explorations of a lot of trends in school librarianship. The author, Jennifer LaGarde, has been honored as a Mover and Shaker of 2012 by Library Journal.

 

American Association of School Librarians @aasl
http://www.ala.org/aasl/

This website has information about issues, advocacy and continuing education for school librarians, plus an interesting section for school librarian students.

 

Association for Library Service to Children Listserves
http://lists.ala.org/sympa/lists/subject/school

I can use these listserves as a means to casually tap in to discussions between school librarians around the country.

This is a listserve for discussion of all matters regarding library service to children.

This is a discussion listserve about partnerships between public libraries and schools.

This is a listserve that discusses children’s collection management.

 

Cathy Nelson’s Professional Thoughts
http://blog.cathyjonelson.com/

This blog by a Nationally Board Certified Teacher Librarian features posts about the integration of technology in authentic and ethical ways to increase student engagement.

 

The Daring Librarian
http://www.thedaringlibrarian.com/

This award-winning blog by Gwyneth Anne Bronwynne Jones shares lots of ideas and reflections for school librarians.

 

School Library Journal @sljournal
http://www.slj.com/

This is website by a respected journal provides online content of the print publication plus other news, features, and leadership tools for school librarians

 

Teacher-Librarian Twitter Feeds
http://blog.schoollibraryjournal.com/neverendingsearch/2010/04/20/lets-start-tlchat-2/

  • #tlchat
  • #teacher-librarian

These are the primary hashtags teacher librarians are using to share interesting insights and links on Twitter.

 

A Media Specialist’s Guide to the Internet
http://mediaspecialistsguide.blogspot.com/

This blog shares digital resources for school librarians and the teachers they serve. Especially unique is a collection of information on book repair, which seems to be vital knowledge for school libraries that coordinate textbook checkouts.

 

Teacher Librarian
http://www.teacherlibrarian.com/

This is the web-presence of a journal for school library professionals. Some parts of the site do not seem to get updated regularly, but the current issue is always available.

 

TL Virtual Café
http://tlvirtualcafe.wikispaces.com/

This wikispace has webinars (upcoming and archived) and conversations about teacher-librarians and educational technology.

 

 

Grant Resources

DonorsChoose.org
http://www.donorschoose.org

This is an online charity specifically that schools and classrooms make requests for materials they need.

 

Grant Wrangler
http://www.grantwrangler.com/librarygrants.html

Among other school subjects, this website lists grants for school libraries, literacy grants for schools, and reading grants for school librarians and media specialists.

 

Indiegogo
http://www.indiegogo.com/

This website is a crowdfunding platform where people who want to raise money can create online fundraisers to get the money that they need.

 

The Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries
http://www.laurabushfoundation.org/

This foundation offers grants for school libraries to update, extend and diversify their collections.

 

Library Grants
http://librarygrants.blogspot.com/

Authors of the book, Winning Grants: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians with Multimedia Tutorials and Grant Development Tools, Stephanie Gerding and Pam MacKellar offer a blog for librarians interested in grant opportunities.

 

Scholastic Library Grants
http://www.scholastic.com/librarians/programs/grants.htm

Scholastic keeps an online list of current and ongoing grant opportunities for school libraries, complete with links and deadlines.

 

Tech and Learning Grant Guru
http://www.techlearning.com/section/grant-guru/55/page/1

Gary Carnow offers grant-writing advice and tips for people seeking grants in educational technology. They also link to a calendar for 2012-2013 of grants for education compiled by Dell and Intel. http://www.techlearning.com/portals/0/Dell_Grants_Calendar_2012-13.pdf

 

Wisconsin Humanities Council Grants
http://www.wisconsinhumanities.org/grants.html

The Wisconsin Humanities Council offers grants and mini-grants to public humanities programs that encourage conversations, connections and reflections upon our world.

 

 

Initiation to Library Learning Community

Hack Library School @hacklibschool
http://hacklibschool.wordpress.com/

This is a group blog that tries to redefine library school using the web as a collaborative space outside of any specific university or organization.

 

In the Library with the Lead Pipe @libraryleadpipe
http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/

This “peer-reviewed” blog offers essays from librarians, educators, administrators, library support staff, and community members to help improve our communities, our libraries, and our professional organizations.

 

Librareo
http://blog.gale.com/librareo/

This is an online forum for LIS students that offers discussion opportunities, resources for LIS studies and free subscriptions to Library Journal and School Library Journal upon graduation.

 

Librarian by Day @librarianbyday
http://librarianbyday.net/

This blog by Bobbi Newman has been honored by the Salem Press. She is interested in digital services, the digital divide and innovative new practices.

 

LISNews: That New Librarian Smell
http://lisnews.org/

This is collaborative blog devoted to current events and news in the world of Library and Information Science.

 

LIS Twitter Feeds

  • #LIS
  • #MLIS
  • #library
  • #librarian

These are popular hashtags being used on Twitter by the LIS community.

 

PLN Starter Kit
http://www.livebinders.com/play/play_or_edit?id=441748

This resource guide hosted on LiveBinders is a crowdsourced collection of resources for connected librarians and educators who are looking to begin a Professional Learning Network. It especially highlights popular Twitter feeds and Blogs.

 

ResourceShelf ResourceBlog
http://web.resourceshelf.com/go/resourceblog/

This is a blog where librarians and researchers share the results of specific, sometimes unique, web searches for information and resources.

 

Connecting to At-Risk Readers

American Library Association Listserves
http://lists.ala.org/sympa/lists/divisions/yalsa

These listserves are ways for me to keep up with discussions about at-risk readers around the country.

This is listserve discusses how libraries are addressing the needs of teens who do not or cannot use the library because of socioeconomic, legal, educational, physical or other relevant factors.

This is a listserve is about serving non-English speakers in public libraries.

 

Children’s and YA Lit Twitter Feeds

  • #titletalk
  • #YAlit

There are a few hashtags being used on Twitter to recommend books for children and young adults.

 

Colorín Colorado @colorincolorado
http://www.colorincolorado.org/

This is a bilingual website for educators and families of English Language Learners that promotes reading and academic success. There is a specific section for librarians.

 

Go Big Read @GoBigRead
http://www.gobigread.wisc.edu/

This is a local common reading program that seeks to engage students, faculty, staff and the entire community in an engaging way through online and live outlets.

 

Library of Congress for Parents and Educators
http://www.read.gov/educators/

This website contains resources that help young people unlock the power of reading.

 

Read Wisconsin
http://www.readwisconsin.net/

This website is hosted by the Department of Public Instruction of Wisconsin to provide webinars, videos and other resources about reading for those serving diverse populations.

 

Wisconsin State Reading Association
http://www.wsra.org/

This website offers advocacy ideas, resources and professional development that             addresses issues and trends in reading and language arts.

 

Tech Trendspotting

ChadKafka.com @chadkafka
http://www.chadkafka.com

Chad Kafka is a technology coach who trains educators and shares his ideas and presentations on his website.

 

EdGalaxy @edgalaxy_com
http://www.edgalaxy.com/

This blog compiles the latest technology, tools, toys and news for “teachers who want to work smarter.”

 

The Edublog Awards
http://edublogawards.com/

This website gives annual awards through a pubic nomination and voting process on social media such as blogs, hashtags, wikis, podcasts and their educational applications. This is a great resource to see what has been popular and useful in instructional technology every year.

 

Edudemic
http://edudemic.com/

This is a website with articles featuring technology tools and trends by covering the leading edge of digital learning.

 

Free Technology for Teachers @rmbyrne
http://www.freetech4teachers.com/

This daily blog by Richard Byrne delivers ideas and resources on instructional technology tools and social media applications.

 

iLearn Technology
http://ilearntechnology.com/

This blog is written by a former schoolteacher named Kelly Tenkely who now consults on how technology can  meet students’ needs and engage them.

 

Libraries and Transliteracy
http://librariesandtransliteracy.wordpress.com/ https://www.facebook.com/librariesandtransliteracy

This is a group blog and Facebook group that shares information on all types of literacies relevant to libraries (digital literacy, media literacy, information literacy, visual literacy, 21st century literacies, transliteracies, etc.)

 

Make Use Of
http://www.makeuseof.com/

This is a website that features articles and reviews of websites, technologies and internet tips. It is also a great learning resource for unfamiliar digital tools.

 

Social Media Examiner @smexaminer
http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/

This is an online social media magazine that businesses (err… libraries) can use to guide their development of their social media presence.

 

 

Network Maintenance Plan

In order for my Online Professional Learning Network plan to be meaningful, I will be using tools such as Google Reader, Twitter and possibly Diigo to keep it organized and accessible to me. These tools are ones that are reasonable for me integrate into my daily routine at a minimal level of about five minutes a day. The key will be to make the maintenance of my OPLN to become a habit so that it remains meaningful to me. This way I can make minor additions or adjustments gradually whenever I discover new ideas or resources.

When I am admitted officially into an MLIS program, I will probably find that the goal statements of my OPLN will need to be tweaked once I have received official career and course advising as to what my plan and path through library school will be. This plan will also probably need a complete overhaul of goals and resources when and if I make a career move from ESL Teacher to School Library Media Specialist (and again if I decide to move to public libraries). At that point, my OPLN should reflect my needs in my precise professional role. This is a reasonable expectation at any career change point thereafter.