Unleash Your Passion for School Library Programs

April is School Library Month. This is a time of year when school librarians across the country spotlight the transformational learning and teaching that is happening through school library programs.

School librarians who continually improve their expertise and collaborative skills build effective school library programs. Their exemplary programs are the foundation they need for advocacy. In her chapter entitled “Becoming an Expert Teacher,” Hilda Weisburg writes this: “Many librarians have struggled with getting teachers to work with them but you (school librarian) will never be regarded as a leader if you work alone in the library” (47).

From my personal experience, students’ learning experiences can be especially empowered when they are cotaught in collaboration with classroom teachers and specialists. When educators coteach, they learn from one another and provide more feedback to students, more timely interventions, and support student success. In all ways, two heads and four hands are better than one! (And working with a trio—or more—of educators increases student support exponentially.)

In support of preservice school librarians’ understanding of and commitment to the power of classroom-library coteaching, I curated a collection of video testimonials of classroom teachers and specialists talking about their positive experiences collaborating or coteaching with their school librarian.

Along with Teresa Starrett, preservice principal educator colleague at Texas Woman’s University, I crowdsourced a video of principal testimonials about the essential work of their exemplary school librarians: “Principals Know: School Librarians Are the Heart of the School.”

While it is ideal for students, classroom teachers, principals, parents, and other library stakeholders to advocate for school librarians and school library programs, it behooves school librarians themselves to unleash their passion for the difference their work and the resources and environment of the school library make in empowering students’ learning and teachers’ teaching.

At the invitation of Jennifer LaGarde, school librarians from across the country are providing testimonials about their understanding of future-ready school librarianship. Reedy High School (Frisco, Texas) librarian Nancy Jo Lambert submitted a video response to the question: “What is a future ready librarian?” I believe that Nancy Jo’s response is brilliant because she confirms her focus on curriculum and classroom-library collaboration in order to positively empower student achievement. Brava, Nancy Jo.

Please view Jennifer’s crowdsourced flipgrid and get an idea of how your future-ready colleagues express their future-ready roles.

Here’s to all the school librarians who shout out about the privilege of learning with and from awesome students and collegial educators. Here’s to the librarians whose stakeholders shout out about the indispensable role school librarians and school library programs play in the education of future-ready students.

Happy School Library Month!

Work Cited

Weisburg, Hilda K. Leading for School Librarians: There Is No Other Option. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2017.

Image credit:

Howard Lake. “Speak Up, Make Your Voice Heard.” n.d. Flickr.com, https://c1.staticflickr.com/6/5260/5540462170_d5297d9ce8_b.jpg

Logo courtesy of the American Association of School Librarians

School Librarian Leaders

This quote by American writer on business management Tom Peters has been a guiding principle (and caution) throughout my career as a school librarian. I firmly believe that all school librarians can/must/will/should aspire to leadership in their schools—and in the profession. Through instructional partnerships, curriculum design, collection development, resource curation, and participation in our national association, there are limitless opportunities for leading.

When I taught at Texas Woman’s University, graduate students who participated in a course called “Librarians as Instructional Partners” developed a Web 2.0 portrait of themselves as a collaborator. As an exercise in getting to know their styles, students took the Jung typology test (Myers-Briggs). They also took the (Gary) Hartzell Needs Assessment that focuses on the relative strength of one’s need for achievement, affiliation, and power.

I taught 12 sections of the course over a period of 7 years. In all but one section of this course, the “introverts” far outnumbered the “extroverts.” In terms of percentages, 60 to 80% of the students taking this course identified as “introverts.” Barbara Shultz-Jones, associate professor at the University of North Texas, and I compared notes on this phenomenon more than once. Likewise, she found that a majority of her students also identified as introverts.

Yes! to introverts. I married one; my son is one… And I don’t believe those designations are black and white. People who are introverted in some situations may behave as extroverts in other situations and vice versa. The same can be true of risk-takers, innovators, and leaders, too.

Long-time school librarian, librarian educator, and leader Hilda Weisburg titled her hot-off-the-presses book Leading for School Librarians: There is No Other Option (ALA Editions 2017). I am in total agreement with Hilda. As she notes, school librarians’ “ultimate survival rests on their ability to be recognized as a leader in their building” (xvi). There is NO other option.

Can introverts be leaders?

Absolutely! Rather than can they, the question may actually be will they. Will the members of a predominantly introverted profession connect their passions for literacy, literature, and libraries in such a way as to step out of their comfort zones to lead? I believe they can and will, and as Hilda says, I believe they must.

In October, 2016, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) released a study conducted by KRC Research: “AASL Member and Stakeholder Consultation Process on the Learning Standards and Program Guides” (2016). The study involved 1,919 respondents involved in school librarianship who took an online survey. Approximately 40 people participated in six focus groups conducted at the 2015 AASL conference, and 110 participated in focus groups held around the country at state conferences.

Of the core values most frequently mentioned by participants in the focus groups, fostering “leadership and collaboration” was 9th out of ten values (9).

For me, this was an uncomfortable finding. Since “leader” was one of the five roles identified by AASL in Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Programs (2009), I would have expected (hoped?) to see leadership (and collaboration?) closer to the top of the list. In fact, when prioritizing the roles, some (including Hilda and me) would have listed leader as role #1…

A recent Forbes blog post by Ekaterina Walter may well be worth reading for all school librarians. In her post, Ms. Walter identified and dispelled five myths of leadership:

1. Leaders work smarter, not harder.
2. Leaders have all of the answers.
3. Great leaders are always in the spotlight.
4. Leaders are always “on.”
5. Leaders are born, not made (Walter).

Now is an important time in the history of our profession to marshal our courage to lead. Yes, we will need to work hard. Yes, it’s a relief to know that we don’t have to have all of the answers, be always in the spotlight, or always be “on.” And most importantly of all, leaders can be made. We can become the leaders our students, colleagues, and profession need to be instrumental in transforming teaching and learning. We can be future ready librarian leaders serving our learning communities through future ready school libraries.

And through collaboration, we can help create leaders among our students, colleagues, and in the larger school librarian and education communities!

Since I began this post with a quote, I will end it with another that resonates with me. This one is by Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu. “A leader is best when people barely know he (she) exists, when his (her) work is done, his (her) aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

With special thanks to Ekaterina Walter for reminding me of these two quotes. (Side note: Hilda also includes this quote from Tom Peters in her book.)

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians. “AASL Member and Stakeholder Consultation Process on the Learning Standards and Program Guides.” American Library Association, Oct. 2016, http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/guidelinesandstandards/AASL_SG_ResearchFindings_ExecSummary_FINAL_101116.pdf Accessed 24 Mar. 2017.

_____. Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Programs. Chicago: AASL, 2009.

Walter, Ekaterina. “5 Myths Of Leadership.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 8 Oct. 2013, www.forbes.com/sites/ekaterinawalter/2013/10/08/5-myths-of-leadership/#ddeb989314ed. Accessed 24 Mar. 2017.

Weisburg, Hilda K. Leading for School Librarians: There Is No Other Option. Chicago: ALA Editions, 2017.

Image Credit: Microsoft PowerPoint Slide

Twitter Chats

What does a Sonoran Desert tortoise have to do with a twitter chat? Thanks to Aesop, tortoises have a reputation for being “slow but steady.” Online professional development (PD), particularly a “slow Twitter chat” may result in the slow and steady progress we all want to experience in our personal learning networks (PLNs).

Online PD is a trend that meets the test of aligning with library and my personal values. The Web allows near and distant colleagues to get together in real time or asynchronously. We can share our questions and challenges, successes and missteps. We can interact with others with particular areas of expertise. We can respond to shared readings and current events. In short, we collaborate to expand our knowledge and improve our individual and collective practice.

Twitter has become a go-to PD platform for many state-level, university-based, and independent groups of school librarians. Through regular contact with one another, participants in these chats “learn from one another, develop shared meanings through exchanging ideas and information, and enculturate one another into the ever-evolving profession of school librarianship” (65).

Developing a strong PLN is one important way to stay current in the field and freshly energized in our practice.

In the 2014-2015 school year, I had the pleasure of being a participant observer studying the #txlchat. This Twitter chat meets during the academic year on Tuesdays from 8:00 to 8:30 p.m. Central Time. Members post using the hashtag throughout the week as well. I set out to learn about the #txlchat culture and the value participants place on this online PD experience.

The #txlchat cofounders and core group members have created a “democratic” context for the chat. They are committed to ensuring that participants’ voices are heard. Everyone I interviewed and those who responded to the survey noted the benefits they receive from learning from others and from sharing their knowledge and experience with the group. “@debramarshall summed up her experience this way: ‘I am a better librarian because of Twitter’” (68).

Chats can also be an excellent way to get out a message and share resources. The AASL/ALSC/YALSA Interdivisional Committee on School-Public Library Cooperation is currently exploring the use of Twitter chats to promote school-public library collaboration and the toolkit we created.

Currently, I am participating in the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Supervisors Section (SPVS) book discussion. We are using the #aaslspvschat to discuss the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. SPVS Chair Lori Donovan (@LoriDonovan14) is posting questions for our consideration over a five-week period.

This is my first experience with an intentional “Twitter slow chat” and my first experience with a total focus on a shared book reading. I think the slow chat format will help us take time respond to the moderator’s questions, savor each other’s tweets, reply to one another, and reflect on our discussion throughout the course of the slow chat.

Whether or not you’re a school librarian supervisor, check out the hashtag and check in to note how the discussion is progressing. This “slow chat” may be a model for a book study or other conversations with your PLN.

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. “Building Your Personal Learning Network (PLN): 21st-Century School Librarians Seek Self-Regulated Professional Development Online.” Knowledge Quest, vol. 44, no. 3, 2016, pp. 64–69.

Image credit: From the personal collection of Judi Moreillon

#AASL, #ESSA, and #NEAToday’s Report

On Saturday, February 25th, #AASL executive director Sylvia Norton presented an #ESSA workshop for members of the Teacher Librarian Division (TLD) of the Arizona Library Association (AzLA). AASL offers a strong collection of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) resources for all concerned school librarian/library advocates.

At the meeting, TLD was able to report that Arizona’s ESSA Plan, which was submitted for federal approval in January, mentions school librarians twice. School libraries are not mentioned at all in the plan. See below.

As noted in my January 30th post “Advocacy and Collaboration Support ESSA,” AzLA’s Legislative Committee and Leadership helped support TLD’s advocacy effort.

In Arizona, our challenge going forward is how to encourage school districts to include school librarians and libraries in their ESSA plans and grant proposals. As clearly demonstrated in the recent National Education Association’s (NEA) report “Library/Media Centers in U.S. Public Schools: Growth, Staffing, and Resources: Full Report” school librarianship is in desperate straits in Arizona.

These are just a few alarming Arizona data points from the NEA study report. “Those states reporting the fewest percentages of schools with library/media centers are Arizona, Massachusetts, and Alaska, (79.6%, 77.3% and 74.5%, respectively)” (19). “States reporting the fewest [school librarians] are California and Arizona (54.5% and 64.1%, respectively)” (40).

For at least a decade, educators in Arizona have only been required to pass a test in order to become state-certified school librarians. According to the NEA report, 24.5% of practicing Arizona school librarians have earned M.L.S. degrees compared with 51.85% at the national level. And I suspect that many M.L.S. school librarians are on the verge of retiring. (An M.L.S. was required in Arizona when I started my graduate program in 1990.) In districts across this state, there are minimal salary incentives, if any, to earn a Master’s degree.

With so few professional school librarians in practice, no incentives to be fully prepared for the role, and no school librarianship course work offered at a reasonable tuition in the state, it is difficult to image how Arizona school librarian/library advocates can capitalize on the ESSA opportunity. Still, for some Arizona school districts that fund (at least) half-time librarians in every school, support may be within reach via grant funds for school librarian professional development or finessing the reinstatement of full-time positions (!). Then the question will be from where will these professionals come and how will they be prepared to serve?

The view from the Grand Canyon state may be bleak but thankfully, there are bright spots on the national level that offer encouragement for the future of our profession. In Pennsylvania and Nevada, there are efforts to require full-time, state-certified school librarians in every public school.

If you have an ESSA update to share, please do so by adding a comment to this post.

Arizona’s ESSA Plan
“Section 5.2: Support for Educators
A. Resources to Support State-level Strategies. Describe how the SEA will use Title II, Part A
Improve quality and effectiveness: The Arizona Department of Education continues to support, leveraging Title II-A funds, many initiatives and projects to improve the quality and effectiveness of teachers and principals including, but not limited to:…
School librarians to share professional learning for colleagues and disseminating the benefits of new techniques, strategies and technologies” (41).

“Section 6: Supporting All Students
6.1 Well-Rounded and Supportive Education for Students
When addressing the State’s strategies below, each SEA must describe how it will use Title IV, Part A funds and funds from other included programs, consistent with allowable uses of fund provided under those programs, to support State-level strategies and LEA use of funds…
B. The State’s strategies and how it will support LEAs to provide equitable access to a well-rounded education and rigorous coursework in subjects in which female students, minority students, English learners, children with disabilities, or low-income students are underrepresented. Such subjects could include English, reading/language arts, writing, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, geography, computer science, music, career and technical education, health, or physical education.

LEA curriculum and instruction, as required by Arizona Revised Statutes §15-701, will be aligned to challenging academic standards. Through alignment to Arizona standards, all Arizona students will be provided equal access to a challenging, well-rounded instructional experience. Struggling learners will be addressed through intervention strategies while advanced learners receive acceleration and enrichment based on individual student needs. Gifted learners will receive appropriate gifted education services and support in accordance with Arizona Revised Statutes § 15-779, 15-779.01 and 15-779.02. In addition, school librarians support rigorous personalized learning experiences supported by technology and ensure equitable access to resources for all students” (50).

Works Cited

Arizona Department of Education. “ESSA State Plan Final Draft – Federal Submission,Azed.gov, https://cms.azed.gov/home/GetDocumentFile?id=58780e64aadebe183c5d5dc9. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.

Tuck, Kathy, D. and Dwight R. Holmes. “Library/Media Centers in U.S. Public Schools: Growth, Staffing, and Resources: Full Report, 2016,” NEA.org, http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/Trends%20in%20School%20Library%20Media%20Centers%20Full%20Report.pdf. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.

Image credit: Pennywise. “HandReach,” Morguefile.com, http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/156694. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.

 

 

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

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

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/

“It is the time you have given…”

little_princeOne way to make professional connections and build relationships with our colleagues is to read what they are reading. Many school principals are members of ASCD, formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, and receive the Educational Leadership magazine. “Relationships First” is the theme of the September 2016 issue.

Since school principals’ perceptions of and support for school librarians is critical to the success of school library programs, I look forward to reading this magazine when it arrives monthly in my mailbox. (Even if you aren’t an ASCD member, you can access a few articles and the columns online for free: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership.aspx).

Educator and researcher Carol Ann Tomlinson’s column in the magazine has been one of my touchstones for many years. This month in “One to Grow On” she wrote: “Fox Taming and Teaching: The Little Prince offers a lesson on building relationships.”  I was delighted to read that Dr. Tomlinson and I share a favorite book: Le Petit Prince/The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1943). In fact, I quoted from the same passage in the book on the dedication page of my dissertation.

In this part of the story, the Fox is sharing his wisdom with the Little Prince, who has grown fond of a rose. The Fox tells the Little Prince that: “It is the time you have given to your rose that makes your rose so important.” The investment of time, energy, care, and attention that we give to other members of our learning communities is the mark of their value to us.

While the order of the books on the library shelves and empty book carts help students, classroom teachers, and librarians find materials more easily, it may be the time we take to listen to a student’s, teacher’s, or administrator’s story that is the most important thing we do on any given day.

This time of year when the stores begin displaying large bags of Halloween candy, I think of the mini dark chocolate candies that I always kept in my library office drawer. Offering a sweet treat can be an icebreaker. It can be a way to connect with others, to share a success or express empathy, and to start a conversation.

A library that is the hub of learning in a school can be the hub for relationship building as well. Being present for others, listening, offering a word or two of encouragement, or showing that you care is a way to “give” to your community. (And a micro chocolate bar can sweeten the deal.)

How do you show that you value relationships in your daily work?

How do you want others to “see” you and how would they describe the feeling tone of the environment you co-create in your school library?

Image Credit

de Saint-Exupéry, Antoine. The Little Prince. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, 2000. Print.

The Accidental Librarian

Brookline public library

 

 

My forty plus year career as a school librarian began at the Brookline (MA) Public Library, not by plan, but by happenstance. Call it kismet, fate, or just good luck, I stumbled upon what has become a lifelong passion for the essential role of school library programs in educational communities.

Totally green and wide-eyed, recently graduated from college, I needed a job-badly. Here I was on the front steps of the public library with no other good ideas for employment.  It was a last ditch stop in a three month job search, and I was discouraged to say the least. My husband was a first year student at Boston College Law School, and I was a breadwinner without a paycheck.  I remember clearly, as I looked at the imposing building, thinking to myself-maybe they need someone to shelve books.

After applying for teaching jobs in every suburb in the Boston area, and coming up empty, I had come to the conclusion that a career in education was not in my future.  My freshly minted resume with an undergrad degree in American Studies and enough education courses qualified me as a certified secondary social studies or English teacher. My lack of experience or an advanced degree kept me at the bottom of the applicant pool. Not a cheerful picture-at least until that fateful day that I gathered up the courage to enter the library and ask if there were any job openings at all.

Right place, right time…

The twist of fate was amazing, and within minutes of my query, I was sent out to a local school library to interview for a position as a library assistant.  At the time, the public library ran “branches” in all the local schools, something I had never imagined.  They hired librarians and assistants, and provided funding and services to support collection development and instruction for community children in the schools. Books and other educational materials were ordered and processed through the central branch and delivered shelf ready.  The school librarian met with classes for storytime and library skills instruction, and she needed someone to help her manage all the spinning plates.  I was hired, and, as I looked around the wonderful facility, fully stocked with shelves of books, brightly decorated walls, and nooks for reading and learning, I was hooked. Somehow, I knew this opportunity would open my world beyond the confines of a classroom, and I was eager to jump in.

Break for a history lesson…

The timing of my adventures in school library land, coincided with the early years of the landmark ESEA Education Legislation (1965) that resulted from Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty.”   The original Elementary and Secondary Education Act provided funding for programs to expand and improve educational services for low income families, so that children would have increased opportunities for educational success in both urban and rural areas with concentrations of poverty. While school libraries were available in some schools across the nation, ESEA boosted the implementation of school libraries in a big way. Title II of that legislation provided funds for school library resources, textbooks, and other instructional materials, and gave impetus and funding for school libraries, especially in elementary schools.  School libraries and professional librarians were needed to ensure equitable access to information and resources for literacy. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the demands for a cadre of specialized school librarians versed in library administration and pedagogy gave rise to an increase in advanced library and information science programs for that specialty. Standards for preparation for school library programs have continued to be developed and revised under The American Association of School Librarians, a division of ALA since 1951.

Riding the wave…

I will never forget the total immersion effect of those first few months in the school library-and they were paying me to be there! I felt like I had been given a special gift. There were so many books to read, skills to learn, decisions to make, and people to get to know, both students and faculty.  My mentor librarian took me under her wing, and provided amazing professional development in all things “library.”  By the end of the school year, I knew that I wanted to have my own library, so I began to take courses that would lead to the library media educator endorsement, a two year process.  (Later, I went on to an advanced degree in cultural history and museology, and really learned to research!)  In September, as I returned for my second year at the school, the administration of the school libraries was moved from the public library to the school district, and the library program was integrated into the mission of the school. For many, it may have been a minor distinction, but for me, the connection between public and school libraries will forever be strong.

And so, a few decades later…

Here I am, years later with experiences in a variety of school library situations, from preK through high school, and as a library educator at the graduate level, still excited about the best job in the whole school.  In this profession, the learning never ends, and change is a constant.  For those of us who relish creativity and change, and who honor the mission of equitable access for all learners, the school library will continue to be to go to place for learning in our schools. I’m so glad to have been along for the wild ride!

 

Image: Brookline Public Library

https://c2.staticflickr.com/4/3036/2808317102_4fa63f98df_z.jpg