Library Values Honor the Legacy of Dr. King

Over the past weekend and today, people are honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work and life. If I were in charge of the world, young people would spend this school “holiday” in classrooms and libraries across the country. K-12 and college and university students and educators would be engaged in dialogues about Dr. King’s legacy and how each individual and groups of like-minded people can carry on his work.

Since, this is a holiday and students are not in schools, I am hoping that educators across the country are pausing to reflect on how their teaching can best embody the social justice work of Dr. King. For school librarians, the articles in the January/February 2017 issue of Knowledge Quest (KQ), the journal of the American Association of School Librarians, could be used as prompts to engage in deep reflection.

The issue theme is “Equality vs Equity: Diversity Matters: Moving Beyond Equality toward Equity in Youth Services.” On the cover, the guest editors Kafi Kumasi and Sandra Hughes-Hassell clarify this distinction. Equality “assumes fairness as a uniform distribution” while equity aims “to overcome generations of discrimination.” This KQ issue is perfectly timed with this moment in U.S. history when people of all ages are using their voices and their bodies to express their expectations for “liberty and justice for all.”

The articles in this issue connect the work of school librarians and the role of school libraries to the imperative to contribute to a more-just society in which all people and their cultures are represented, respected, and given voice. In library collections and through school librarians’ teaching, instructional partnerships, and leadership, librarians can be role models—in our words and deeds—for marginalized students and families.

In their article, “Shifting Lenses on Youth Literacy & Identity,” Kafi Kumasi and Sandra Hughes-Hassell remind readers to keep our focus on the purpose of literacy. “All libraries must be spaces where young people are encouraged and supported to develop their voices, tell their stories, and to share their unique perspectives on how we can create a more-just world” (18). Literacy gives people the tools they need to participate effectively in their civic lives as well as their personal and professional lives.

This morning, I signed a pledge to stand in solidarity with marginalized people who are frightened or disrespected because they don’t know how they will be treated during the next administration. The pledge was launched by MPower Change, a grassroots movement rooted in diverse U.S. Muslim communities. The goal of this group is to work “together to build social, spiritual, racial, and economic justice for all people.”

Let’s remember today that Dr. King’s work began as an effort to bring civil rights to African American people and communities. At his untimely death, his work encompassed three threats to U.S. society: racism, poverty, and militarism. I believe and as the MPower Change pledge notes: We are bound to one another in what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called “an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

Let’s all use our voices to engage one another in civil discourse, to empower ourselves and one another to bring about positive change, and work together to increase justice in our local communities, nation, and global society.

Work Cited
Kumasi, Kafi, and Sandra Hughes-Hassell. “Shifting Lenses on Youth Literacy & Identity,” Knowledge Quest 46, no.3, 12-21.

Image Credit:
Remix image from Thurston, Baratunde. “I Am A Community Organizer,” 7 Sept. 2008, Flickr.com, https://www.flickr.com/photos/baratunde/2837373493

Trust and Communication

Although it goes without saying that trust and communication are essential building blocks for collaboration, these two components for effective relationships are not simple to achieve.

My husband and I are currently fostering a Goldendoodle named Riley (pictured here). We are committed to adopting rescue dogs and giving them the best homes possible. My dog allergies make adoption difficult for us and prevent us from bringing home needy but shedding dogs from the humane society. Riley has been with us for just one week. We are taking very small steps since Riley was not well socialized for the first two years of his life, slowly building trust, and learning to communicate with one another.

This experience reminds me of the challenges of building trust among colleagues. Trust is built when all parties show they are trustworthy.

Being trustworthy involves:
•    Being honest and truthful;
•    Practicing consistent and clear communication;
•    Responding to requests and saying “yes” whenever possible;
•    Keeping commitments.

Synonyms for trustworthy include dependable, reliable, and responsible.

It is difficult or even impossible to build trust without communication. Just as Riley has brought his prior experiences of (or lack thereof) dog-human relationships, so do collaborating educators bring their prior experiences.

While everyone can probably name a time when a colleague dropped the ball and collaborative work did not meet our expectations, it is important to enter into each new partnership with an open mind and heart. It is also essential to communicate.

For me, disappointments in “collaborative work” happen when partners have different definitions of collaborative work. In my experience, not all people make the distinctions I make between cooperation, coordination, and collaboration.

Simply dividing the work with each person doing their “part” is cooperation. Cooperation is informal, short term, and lacking in planning effort; each individual maintains authority, and there is no joint mission or structure. Coordination requires a longer duration; the relationships are a bit more formal with an understood mission, a specific focus that requires some planning. Often one person will take the lead in coordination and the other(s) will simply follow along. While there is more intensity in coordination than in cooperation, authority is still maintained by the individuals involved.

Collaboration is a way of working together. It involves communication in which equal partners determine and set out to achieve specific goals and objectives. Collaborative partners are interdependent; they are jointly responsible for the entire project, not just for “their” individual parts. They provide each other with feedback and push each other to do their best. They are committed to succeeding together and in the final analysis, cannot separate their individual work from the collective whole.

There are many electronic tools that allow educators to communicate and collaborate effectively. In terms of collaboration, one of the potential pitfalls is that it is easy to use some of these tools to cooperate or coordinate our work without ever having a collaborative experience.

For example, when we use a Google Drive document and simply do “our part,” we are not collaborating. In order to utilize this tool for collaboration, we must be leaving comments and feedback for our partners, asking each other questions, or better yet, scheduling a real-time time conversation over chat, Google Hangouts, or other tools to bounce ideas off each other and work toward a shared understanding of what will constitute a high-quality outcome for our work.

I have fallen into the trap of disappointment in “collaborative work” when there was no shared understanding or clear communication among partners. Hoping for collaboration is not enough, especially when I know that the final product could have been so much better if we had developed the necessary trust at the beginning of the project.

Thank you to Riley for reminding me how challenging and how essential it is to build trusting relationships and how clear communication is a first step toward that end.

Re-commitment to Collaboration

Like many of you, I reflected on my most satisfying accomplishments and my incomplete projects of 2016 before settling on my 2017 New Year’s Resolutions. Although I am big on setting short-term achievable (daily/weekly) goals, it’s helpful for me to have a year-long big picture plan as well.

This year, I will re-commitment my professional work to collaboration within school learning communities and outward into the larger local, state, national, and international communities as well. As they have for more than twenty-five years, my resolutions focus on the literacy work of school librarians and school library programs.

In 2017, I will:

  • complete my forthcoming book Building a Culture of Collaboration: School Librarian Leadership and Advocacy. In the book, due to my editor in mid-June and scheduled to be published at the end of 2017, I will make the case with all library stakeholders for adopting a systems thinking approach to classroom-library coplanning and coteaching;
  • write, blog, make presentations, and generally shout out about the inquiry learning and reading comprehension foundations of the book and the potential of these responsibilities and a systems perspective to create opportunities for future ready school librarians to increase their impact on teaching and learning;
  • continue to work with the Arizona Library Association and the Teacher Librarian Division to advocate for inclusion of the essential roles of school librarians and libraries in the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Plan. Once in place, I will advocate for the return of school librarian positions across Arizona, focusing first on districts in and around my home in Tucson;
  • continue to serve on committees of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) and promote and support the worthy work of the association (including the celebration of AASL’s 65th anniversary);
  • work with practicing school librarians to support their collaborative work within their schools and in their collaborative work with community agencies and organizations. I will write about and promote their success; (See my 12/30/16 ALSC blog post “Gimme a C (For Collaboration!) that features a school-library public-library collaboration for summer reading.)
  • expand my thinking about how school librarians and school library programs can make a difference in family literacy, particularly for babies and preschool children. Helping our communities prepare children for formal schooling is an investment in each individual’s long-term life choices and in the health of our neighborhoods and cities;
  • continue to honor and promote the work of public library and healthcare providers who are making a difference for families through books for babies programs. Yesterday, in Tarrant County, Texas, the Fort Worth Public Library and the JPS Health Network began their 2017 initiative to give a copy of my book Vamos a leer/Read to Me to every new mother. In 2017, the Friends of the Dallas Public Library and Parkland Health Systems are continuing their program “Books for Dallas Babies,” which began on January 1st, 2016;
  • and I will enact my library values in my professional and civic life.

There is much work to be done to promote equity and justice.

With a huge thank-you to author-illustrator Melissa Sweet for Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White, my pick for the most outstanding 2016 information book for children, I set my resolve with an excerpt from a letter E.B. White wrote in 1973:

“Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.
Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day” (White, cited in Sweet 132).

And I would add: Let’s work together for equity, social justice, and the betterment of all!

Work Cited
Sweet, Melissa. Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.

Twibbon courtesy of the American Association of School Librarians’ “It’s in Our Hands” 65th-anniversary Celebration

Positive Messages

mora_blog-poem-2Poet, author, and literacy advocate Pat Mora sent her poem “Light” as an invitation to her friends and colleagues to “nurture justice and joy” in the new year.  She also posted it to her blog. While Pat’s poem captures the heart-felt sentiments of many as 2016 draws to a close and 2017 begins, her words are also a call to action.

Last week, NPR’s Steve Inskeep published “A Finder’s Guide to Facts.” Inskeep notes: “Facts have always been hard to separate from falsehoods, and political partisans have always made it harder. It’s better to call this a post-trust era.” (Inskeep) In his article, Inskeep gives his tips for how to dig dipper to investigate, even interrogate, “facts” – some of them similar to those suggested on the blog, “Fake “News” in a “Post-truth” World.”

How can educators work in collaboration to build trust? How can we start with our immediate school community and extend our message out into the larger world?

These are just three examples of positive messages that students, educators, and organizations are sharing. As leaders, school librarians can collaborate with other members of their school learning communities to broadcast positive messages—messages of kindness, inclusion, and connectedness.

Project #1: “Kindness Counts”
2014-2015 fifth-grade students at Collier Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona raised funds and designed a “legacy mural.” It was installed in a prominent place for all learning community members to see on the front of the school building. Students chose the title and theme for the mural: “Kindness Counts.” See the YouTube video about their project.

Project #2: “Positive Messages”
In his December 10, 2016 post “On the Other Side of the Screen” former principal, author, and blogger George Couros encourages educators and young people alike “to go out of our way to make a positive impact on the lives of others” (Couros).

In his post, Couros shared a way that Pulaski Middle School in Pulaski, Washington is using their twitter account to share positive messages. Using the hashtags #positivepcms and #raiderstrong, school community members publicizing sincere praise and positive comments about individuals and concepts such as ability, motivation, and attitude.

Project #3: “Start with Hello Week”
The Sandy Hook Promise Web site is dedicated to protecting children from gun violence. In February, 2017, they are organizing a national observance of “Start with Hello Week

During the week of February 6 – 10, 2017, participants will raise awareness and educate students and the community through “Start with Hello” trainings, advertising, activities, public proclamations, media events, contests and school scholarship awards. “Start with Hello Week” will bring attention to the growing epidemic of social isolation in our schools and communities. Their goal is to empower young people to create a culture of inclusion and connectedness within their school or youth organization.

If you are an educator who is searching for a way to make a fresh and positive start in the new year, ask yourself these questions:
•    Who are my most trusted colleagues?
•    How can we inspire and support each other and students in increasing the positive messages in our classrooms, libraries, schools, and communities?
•    Do any of the above examples give us an idea how our school can make a commitment to kindness, inclusion and connectedness?

“Learning the truth is not a goal, but a process” (Inskeep). The process involves keeping our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds open and thinking critically. It also involves making a commitment to bring more caring, truth, and justice into the world.

If you need any further inspiration for what the world needs now, read Karim Sulayman’s sign and watch his “I Trust You” video.

Works Cited

Couros, George. “On the Other Side of the Screen.” The Principal of Change. 10 Dec. 2016, http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/6916

Inskeep, Steve. “A Finder’s Guide To Facts.” NPR, 11 Dec. 2016, www.npr.org/2016/12/11/505154631/a-finders-guide-to-facts?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social

Sandyhook Promise. “Start with Hello Week.” Sandyhook Promise.  n.d. http://www.sandyhookpromise.org/startwithhelloweek

Pat Mora’s Poem “Light” Used with Permission

Harmony in Difference

tt54-coverSaturday, December 10th, was the United Nations’ Human Rights Day. Making the connection between human rights and finding “harmony in difference” feels like a timely post for me.

In 1992, when I was serving in my first school librarian position, my father-in-law gave me a copy of the Southern Poverty Law Center magazine Teaching Tolerance.  Founded in 1971, SPLC is a U.S. non-profit organization monitors the activities of domestic hate groups and other extremists.

Shortly after reading my first issue of Teaching Tolerance, I became a card-carrying SPLC member and have religiously renewed my membership every year since. Over the years, Teaching Tolerance has given me inspiration, encouragement, and teaching tips to make social justice a central component of my service as a school librarian and school librarian educator.

On their “about” page, Teaching Tolerance notes that their definition of “tolerance” aligns closely with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Declaration of Principles on Tolerance: “Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. Tolerance is harmony in difference” (UNESCO).

The Fall 2016 issue of the magazine (cover above) was published before the election. (It is downloadable.)  Read or review this issue and think about the fact that SPLC counted 867 incidents of hateful harassment in the ten days after the U.S. election. How can educators, and school librarians in particular, teach young people to find “harmony in difference?”

Read the latest from Teaching Tolerance: “New Report: School Climate Worsens in Wake of Election.” More than 10,000 educators took the survey; 90% of respondents reported that their school climate has been negatively affected by the election.

These are some tips for school librarians who serve as information specialists, instructional partners, and leaders in their schools:

1.    If you don’t already have a free Teaching Tolerance subscription, sign up for one or read the magazine online. Sign up for the weekly newsletter.
2.    If you receive a print copy of the magazine, share it among your colleagues or send the link to the .pdf version to them. Encourage your colleagues to subscribe to the magazine and newsletter.
3.    Engage students and colleagues in discussions related to the articles in the magazine and newsletter.
4.    Reflect on your own practice of teaching tolerance.
5.    Reach out to colleagues to coteach lessons and units of instruction that affirm diversity.
6.    Consider following Teaching Tolerance on Twitter and Facebook.

As we approach the winter holiday season, it is especially important that our nation’s “public spaces,” including our school libraries, honor the traditions of all of our citizens and library users. Even in homogeneous communities, and maybe most especially in religiously homogeneous schools, the season for caring and giving is a time to acknowledge that diversity is, thankfully, an essential and laudable aspect of U.S. society.

Cover art by Nigel Buchanan
Magazine cover reprinted with permission of Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. www.tolerance.org

Literacy is Political

lit_is_political_sizedThomas Jefferson famously said, “An informed citizenry is at the heart of a dynamic democracy.” An informed citizenry must be able to deeply comprehend information in all formats and engage in critical thought and well-reasoned civic decision-making.

Before the 2016 election, there were a number of comments on the distribution lists and blogs to which I subscribe related to educators maintaining an “apolitical” stance.  In some classrooms and libraries across the country, educators downplayed local, state, and national campaigns in order to avoid confronting “political” issues in schools.

What are the unintended consequences when learners do not wrestle with the political life of our nation in the supportive environment of their classrooms and libraries? How can students and educators practice civil discourse and learn to listen to and share divergent perspectives if political issues are not discussed in schools?

While an individual school can be considered a system, each one is not a “closed” system. All public schools function within a larger system—a school district with procedures, curricula, and policies. School districts must respond and work within even larger systems—state and federal bureaucracies and mandates. What happens in the society at-large affects each of these systems.

It is, therefore, in my view, important for school-age children and youth to have the opportunity to intelligently and respectfully discuss political issues—not just in high schools and not just in civics or social studies classes.

What does “apolitical” mean in a fake news and post-truth world? When political candidates of all stripes and their supporters tell outright lies, mess with the “facts,” or distort the truth, how can educators guide students in an open, respectful dialogue that touches on sensitive topics, including social justice issues? When post-election emotions are running high while results are still coming in or being questioned, what is an educator’s role in responding to these teachable moments?

Quotes from the Field
On December 2nd, the PBS Newshour published an article in their “Teachers’ Lounge” column called “Helping Students Understand the 2016 Election Results” In the article, the reporter Victoria Pasquantonio includes quotes from civics, social studies, English language arts, and world history teachers from across the country. I believe this article and the quotes are important reading for all educators who want to help students unpack the recent election cycle.

Like Ricky House, 7th-grade civics teacher, in Arlington, Virginia, who is quoted in the article, I would never tell students how to vote nor would I use my influence to tell students what to think about a political issue. On the other hand, I have not and would not hesitate to discuss election issues, such as specific policy platforms, marketing techniques, political activism, voting processes, voter ID laws, the process or effectiveness of polling, the Electoral College, and the popular vote. Some of these discussions could lead to social justice or injustice issues thus providing students with opportunities to think about policies, laws, and the Constitution and how they might be changed or interpreted for the betterment of society.

As librarians, we are charged with providing physical and intellectual access to information. We are committed to making sure that students are able to use literacy skills to think critically and apply critical thinking as informed citizens. As Ricky House says, we want our students to be equipped to “go out and use what (we’ve) taught them to change the world.”  And yes, there are many who would consider that goal “political.”

Resource
The National Institute for Civil Discourse is a non-partisan center for advocacy, research and policy. To support civil discourse during the last election cycle, they offered a program for high schools called “Text, Talk, Vote.”  School librarians and classroom teachers who are teaching digital literacy through social media may want to adapt this program.

Tips for School Librarians Who Coteach Controversial Issues
When coteaching controversial issues:

  1. Form instructional partnerships with trustworthy colleagues.
  2. Consider coteaching with educators who do not share your perspective and respectfully use your divergent thinking as a resource for learning.
  3. While coteaching, collaborative partners can provide each other with a bias-check before, during, and after instruction.
  4. Model civil discourse and guide students’ practice of civil discourse when discussing controversial issues.

Work Cited
Pasquantonio, Victoria. “Helping Students Understand the 2016 Election Results,” PBS Newshour, 2 Dec. 2016, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/teachers-lounge-reaction-election-continues/

Image: Copyright-free Clip Art from Discovery Education

Fake “News” in a “Post-truth” World

fake_news
In the wake of a contentious U.S. presidential election cycle, researchers and educators are shining a spotlight on critical “information literacy” skills. Determining authority, accuracy, and bias have long been essential aspects of analyzing content and sources of information. Today, this is no easy task for students (and adults as well) when authors of “information” do their best to deceive readers or hide their identity behind domains, such as .org, factual-seeming but phony statistical data, and authoritative-sounding language based on “pants of fire” lies.

In her 2014 book, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, researcher danah boyd wrote, “becoming literate in a networked age requires hard work, regardless of age” (177). While the amount of fake “news” has increased exponentially, the problem of determining authority and validity in information sources has been a critical skill since the early days of the Internet.

How long have school librarians been challenging students to determine the bias in Stormfront’s Martin Luther King Jr. Web site (a site often used by David Duke) began using it in 2002 when I moved from an elementary to a high school position, and I am certain others were using it before me.  (See the 7.3 Category Matrix from Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact Challenging “Determining Main Ideas” Lesson Plan.)

Researchers at Stanford University recently conducted and released the results of a 2015-2016 study, “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning.”  The study showed what school and academic librarians have known through their own observations and action research related to middle, high school, and college-level students’ information literacy proficiency: “Young people’s ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak” (4).

Last week on LM_NET, school librarian Andrew van Zyl of St. Alban’s College, Pretoria, South Africa, raised the responsibilities of school librarians in a “post-truth” world when he posted information about Oxford Dictionaries’ announcement that “post-truth” reflects the “passing year in language.” It defines “post-truth” as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Some who entered the conversation wondered if librarians should be engaged in “politics.” For me the answer is clear. Literacy is “political” because it empowers people. From my perspective, school librarians are required to teach youth to determine the authority and accuracy of information and we are charged with coteaching with classroom teachers to ensure that students are information literate.

Taken together, “fake news” in a “post-truth” world create an even greater need for the information literacy expertise of school librarians. Information is supposed to be factual, whether or not it is considered “news.” (Even in the halcyon days when people read printed newspapers, reporters and editors frequently rushed to “get ahead of the story” and published “errors” that later had to be corrected.) When school librarians bring their expertise to the collaboration table, they can coteach with classroom teachers to help students develop critical literacy skills that are even more essential in the online information environment.

I think this recent post on FactCheck.org “How to Spot Fake News” shows what librarians have long called “information literacy” is finally getting traction as a set of must-have skills for 21st-century students and adults as well:  (Information literacy and reading comprehension skills in parentheses)

• Consider the source. (Authority)
• Read beyond the headline. (Authority)
• Check the author. (Authority)
• What’s the support? (Accuracy and Reliability)
• Check the date. (Relevance and Reliability)
• Is this some kind of joke? (New in the post-truth world!)
• Check your biases. (Questioning)
• Consult the experts. (Questioning)

Like all educators, school librarians must continually self-assess and develop our skills. But we have a strong information literacy foundation on which to build and the desire and responsibility to share our expertise with students, colleagues, and community. Fake “news” and a “post-truth” world call all school librarians to step up  and lead.

Works Cited

boyd, dana. It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014.

Robertson, Lori, and Eugene Kiely. “How to Spot Fake News,” FactCheck.org. November 18, 2016, http://www.factcheck.org/2016/11/how-to-spot-fake-news/

Stanford History Education Group. “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning: Executive Summary,” Stanford University. 22 Nov. 2016, https://sheg.stanford.edu/upload/V3LessonPlans/Executive%20Summary%2011.21.16.pdf

Image Credit: Newspaper Clipping created at Fodey.com

Additional Recommended Reading:
Stevenson, Sara. “Information Literacy Lessons Crucial in a Post-Truth World,” Knowledge Quest Blog, 18 Nov. 2016,
http://knowledgequest.aasl.org/information-literacy-lessons-crucial-post-truth-world/

Valenza, Joyce. “Truth, Truthiness, Triangulation, and the Librarian Way: A News Literacy Toolkit for a Post-truth World,” Neverending Search Blog, 26 Nov. 2016, http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2016/11/26/truth-truthiness-triangulation-and-the-librarian-way-a-news-literacy-toolkit-for-a-post-truth-world/

Professional “Gratitudes”

continental-divideEvery night for the past year, I have been recording my “gratitudes” in a journal. I began this reflective and hope-building practice after I learned that Texas Woman’s University rejected my proposal to continue in my associate professor position as a telecommuter from Tucson. (After seven years, commuting for my marriage was no longer emotionally or financially sustainable.) These daily notes to myself capture my thoughts as I negotiate this transition time in my life. This reflective practice provides me with reminders of my many blessings.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, many speak aloud of the things for which we are grateful. While I have often thought about my “professional” blessings, this may be the first time I have written them “out loud.”

I am grateful for the many friends and colleagues I have met and worked with throughout my school librarianship career. There are simply too many of you to name.

As a member of the American Library Association (ALA), American Association for School Librarians (AASL), Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC), Arizona Library Association (AzLA) and Teacher Librarian Division (TLD), Texas Library Association (TLA) and Texas Association of School Librarians (TASL), I have had the opportunity to get to know and learn with outstanding librarian practitioners, researchers, and literacy advocates.

While I have been a member and have been periodically active in education associations, my commitment to (school) librarianship has been and continues to be the overarching theme of my professional work. I am grateful for the people who lead and participate in library organizations. We share a set of core beliefs that come from our hearts and reach out as we serve children, youth, and our communities. I am blessed to be in their company; I am honored to call so many colleagues friends.

The photograph above was taken in 1998 at the 3M corporate compound at Wonewok in Minnesota. At the time, I was serving on the AASL @yourlibrary® Task Force. Those of us who participated enjoyed three days of thinking, planning, and playing that, for many of us, solidified our commitment to advocating for the professional work of school librarians.

Like many of my Wonewok colleagues, I felt “under the spell” of the Northern Lights and the incredible beauty of the grounds at Wonewok. In the above photograph, a number of us posed where the Northern (Continental) Divide intersects the St. Lawrence Divide near Hibbing, Minnesota, with waters draining to the Arctic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes.

I believe the school librarian profession is at another one of those watershed times in our history. In the federal education legislation called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), school librarians are included as key faculty in educating students for the future and collaborating with classroom teachers to co-create dynamic learning spaces and opportunities for all members of our learning communities.

Thank you especially to the ALA Washington Office Executive Director Emily Sheketoff for her tireless and unwavering advocacy efforts on behalf of school librarians. And thank you to AASL and our dedicated members who have provided 30 (!) state-level ESSA trainings in the past 60 days. Whew! You are a wonder.

Thank you to all of our colleagues for offering our expertise and care to children and educators through our professional work. As we move forward together, and to show my gratitude, I recommit myself to our mission to provide each and every student in the U.S. with a full-time state-certified school library professional who serves her/his school community as a leader, instructional partner, information specialist, teacher, and program administrator.

Image Credit
Photographer Unknown – from the Personal Collection of Judi Moreillon

Some of those pictured: Connie Champlin, Susan Ballard, Terri Grief, Harvey, Barbara Jeffus, Doug Johnson, Carrie Kienzel, Keith Curry Lance, Deb Levitov, Eileen Schroeder, Rocco Staino, Barbara Stripling, Hilda Weisburg, Terry Young, yours truly, and ???

Reflections on Professional Learning, Part 2

library_values_2This post is a continuation of last week’s reflection on my take-aways from the 2016 Arizona Library Association Conference.

I hope BACC readers who were at the conference will comment on their learning, including adding reflections on sessions I was unable to attend.

One of the reoccurring connections for me on the second day of the conference Friday, November 4th, was the importance of library values. This word cloud captures just some of the values embedded in the competencies for librarians as codified by our professional organizations: the American Library Association Core Competences, Association for Library Service to Children’s Competencies for Librarians Serving Children in Public Libraries, ALA/AASL Standards for the Initial Preparation of School Librarians, and the Young Adult Library Services Association Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth: Young Adults Deserve the Best.

Jessica Jupitus and Lori Easterwood provided the “Libraries Transform, But How?” opening keynote on Friday, November 4th.  When Jessica and Lori worked together a four-year goal of the Sacramento (CA) Public Library’s strategic plan was to increase positive public awareness about library services and increase participation in library programming. At the time, Jessica and Lori were young adults themselves. They used deliberately provocative titles, such as Punk Rock Aerobics and Heavy Metal Yoga, to attract 18 to 28-year-olds to programs. For me, their program connected to the library values of inclusion and diversity.

In my presentation “Storytelling Matters: Reach Out with Digital Advocacy Stories,” I invited participants to reflect on their library values and connect their values with a program or service and an audience they would like to bring into the library. Participants used a graphic organizer to develop a meme, one-sentence theme, think about the needs of their target audience, and identify some free or low-cost Web 2.0 tools to create their stories. On the resource page for the presentation, I shared examples of school and public library digital promotions. After the session, I added an example that participant Claudine Randazzo shared with the group. The testimonials in the video on behalf of the Coconino County bookmobile tell the story of this service so well!

As always, I was inspired by the values in action of those who received awards at the AzLA service and author awards luncheon. Congratulations to TLD’s own Patty Jimenez for her Follett School Librarian of the Year Award. I believe that at least one award recipient embodied each of the values in the word cloud above.

Sunnyside Unified School District (SUSD) librarians Kate Street, Jennifer Flores, and Fran Stoler presented “Extreme Library Makeover: Making Spaces for Student Creation and Collaboration.”  They shared their journey in “creating a digital age library in a 1970s space.” Their Web page includes a timeline, floor plan (for Sunnyside High School), movable furniture, and flexible spaces. For me, their “Extreme Makeover” work connects with the library values of freedom of expression, empowerment, and literacies.

Some of the renovations included smart tables, mobile whiteboards, kiosks, “Nemo Trellis” (new to me) and more. Kate, who is the librarian at Sunnyside High School, reported that the library’s new sound studio has been the most successful aspect of their renovation in terms of student creativity and ownership. Fran, who is the Desert View High School librarian, noted that the positive attitude of the librarians, students, teachers, and administrators was as important in their renovation efforts as were the renovations themselves.

As noted in last week’s post, Sunnyside is a 1:1 technology district and students are eager to spend time away from screens! Jennifer, who is the librarian at Los Amigos (Elementary) Tech Academy, shared some low-cost, low-tech strategies for library renovation, including painting walls and tables with whiteboard paint, board games, and freshly painted walls. Los Amigos uses a 50/50 model with students engaged with tech 50% of the time and interacting face to face (f2f) 50% of the time. Jennifer’s goal is to increase community involvement during the f2f time — to bring in the funds of knowledge in the community to mentor and teach the students.

As Miguel Figueroa noted, for librarians, a societal trend is simply “trendy” unless we view it through the lens of our library values. If we examine the signals in society that confirm a trend exists, we should then explore that trend to see if it aligns with our library values. When it does, librarians can work together to create library services and programs that will meet the current and future needs of our communities. Thoughtful librarians can take action to develop innovations that matter.

Every professional learning experience provides opportunities to meet new colleagues and to get to know long-time colleagues better.  At the TLD Mixer on Thursday night, I enjoyed the conversation with Jean Kilker, Patty Jimenez, Cindy Reyes, and Leslie Preddy. It was rewarding to connect with former University of Arizona graduate students and know they are doing great work in libraries across the state.

I left the conference hopeful for the future of librarianship. I know there is no shortage of work to ensure that our libraries continue to work with our community members to improve lives. I also know we can do it. Yes, we can!

Post-election comment: I believe it is especially critical that librarians rededicate ourselves to practicing and promoting the core values of our profession

Image Credit
Word Cloud created at Wordle.net

Reflections on Professional Learning – Part 1

reflectionLast Thursday and Friday I attended the annual Arizona Library Association Conference. This year it was held in Tucson at a hotel in the shadow of the beautiful Santa Catalina Mountains. As reflection is an important (and some would say essential) aspect of learning, I am taking this opportunity to share my take-aways from the conference sessions I attended.

I hope BACC readers who were at the conference will comment on their learning, including adding reflections on sessions I was unable to attend.

The opening keynote on Thursday, November 3rd, with Miguel Figueroa from the American Library Association’s Center for the Future of Libraries was inspiring for me. In his talk titled “Signals for the Libraries of the Future,” Miguel spotlighted several trends and noted that we can “see” what will happen in the future by monitoring changes that are happening today. He quoted founder of the World Future Society Edward Cornish: “Foresight is fundamentally about the study of change.”

I am not a student of futurist thinkers and found this information thoughtful and thought-provoking. In his talk, Mr. Figueroa recommended two specific book titles: Anticipate the World You Want: Learning for Alternative Futures by Marsha Lynne Rhea and The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Defeating the Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity throughout Your Organization by Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman. I believe Miguel’s futurist work brings an essential perspective and critical information to our profession. (I also think he has an incredibly exciting job!)

Emily Plagman, project manager for the Public Library Association’s Project Outcome, presented a session titled “The Power of Performance.” While I was most likely the only school librarianship-focused person in the room, I was impressed by PLA’s effort to collect comparable survey data from public library systems across the U.S. I believe that the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) could explore this idea as part of the new standards and guidelines implementation effort. (I was also reminded that when a program doesn’t at first look like a “perfect fit” for my interests, I can gain a great deal by learning and thinking “across the aisle.”)

At the Teacher Library Division (TLD) meeting, Leslie Preddy, the immediate past-president of AASL, shared the many ways our national organization supports our profession. Leslie pointed us to the AASL toolkits, including the most recent “Resource Guide for Underserved Student Populations.” She noted sample posts from the fresh and vibrant Knowledge Quest blog and reminded us that school librarians can sign up to have announcements of new blog posts pushed to our email inboxes.

Leslie also reminded us that AASL has been providing leadership and professional learning for school librarians for 65 years! You can donate to the 65th Anniversary Campaign and you can add a Twibbon to your social media profile photo(s). I hope you will join me in supporting and promoting this campaign.

After Leslie’s presentation, several of us talked about school librarians and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). We wondered how the TLD might maximize the benefit of an AASL-facilitated workshop. As Arizona educators, we should be part of the state’s ESSA plan and position our work as essential to preparing future ready students and supporting classroom teachers’ teaching.

After lunch, I attended a session by Dan Messer called “Transforming Your Perspective: The Beauty of Generalists in Library Technology.” Dan’s own experience as a creative, innovative generalist connected with my perspective on the potential of school librarians to contribute broadly in their learning communities. School librarians may know a great deal about teaching information literacy or guiding inquiry learning but we have to know a little about many things in order to manage our libraries and effectively coteach across the grade levels and disciplines. (In 2010, when the AASL Board officially dropped the “school library media specialist” term, I venture to say that no one was happier than I was!) Check out Dan’s blog “Cyberpunk Librarian” blog.

At the end of the first day of the conference, I participated in a hands-on, minds-on workshop with Mr. Figueroa: “From Futuring to Innovation.” I was fortunate to have the opportunity to think with three Sunnyside Unified School District (SUSD) school librarians (see next week’s post) and a college-level librarian from the University of Phoenix. Our task was to explore societal trends through the lens of library values and develop an event/program that would reflect that trend and our library values, and appeal to patrons.

What may have surprised some who heard our group’s report was that SUSD is a 1:1 technology district and students are eager to spend time away from screens! The trend our group’s event addressed was “unplugged.” (This made me think about Future Ready Librarians and how the “unplugged” trend could align with that initiative.)

Next week, I will share more thoughts on Mr. Figueroa’s suggestion that we “push on trends with our #library values” and reflections on the second day of the conference.

Side note: I tweeted at #AzLA2016 throughout the conference. Tweeting is one way I document my learning during a professional development opportunity. Reviewing my tweets supported my reflection as well.

Image Credit
From the Personal Collection of Judi Moreillon