Future Ready Librarians Build Instructional Partnerships

“Future ready” is catching fire. In the education landscape, “future ready” denotes students, educators, and school districts that are being effectively prepared or are preparing learners of today for the challenges of tomorrow. The emphasis on digital learning is at the core of this movement. Fortunately, many educational decision-makers are recognizing that school librarians and libraries are important components in future ready teaching and learning as the image from Follett’s Project Connect attests.

A growing number of school districts across the country are joining Future Ready Schools® (FRS). According the FRS About page, the FRS goal is “to help school districts develop comprehensive plans to achieve successful student learning outcomes by (1) transforming instructional pedagogy and practice while (2) simultaneously leveraging technology to personalize learning in the classroom.”

Launched in 2014 with the Future Ready Pledge, the Alliance for Excellence in Education has collected more than 3,100 school superintendents’ signatures. According to the Future Ready Web site, this means that the learning of 19.2 million students and their teachers’ teaching are being impacted by the framework for this initiative.

In June, 2016, FRS announced the Future Ready Librarians piece of their effort. (Note the links on this page to additional articles that spotlight the work of school librarians.) This movement toward the transformation of teaching and learning is inspiring many school librarians to self-assess their own future readiness and prepare themselves for partnering with administrators and teaching colleagues to implement the eight principles of the Future Ready Librarians (FRL) Framework.

For me, one of the most exciting FRL principles involves school librarians in building instructional partnerships in order to directly impact curriculum, instruction and assessment. The FRL “partners with educators to design and implement evidence-based curricula and assessments that integrate elements of deeper learning, critical thinking, information literacy, digital citizenship, creativity, innovation and the active use of technology.” (See the FRL Fact Sheet.)

The Future Ready Librarians Facebook Page is one source of professional development for school librarians. This is a closed group and participants must request access. Searching Twitter with the #futureready and #FutureReadyLibs hashtags are additional ways to be connected.

This groundswell of support for the role of FRL and school libraries should energize the school librarian community. It should prompt and inspire professional development. School librarian Michelle Luhtala, Vancouver Public Schools library administrator Mark Ray, and Sara Trettin from the U.S. Department of Education provided a FRL Webinar via edWeb last October. You can view the archive.

On February 14, the Alliance is hosting another Webinar focused on FRL: “What’s Not to Love?” This time, Shannon McClintock Miller will join Mark RAy and Sara Trettin. Check it out!

Image Courtesy of Follett’s Project Connect

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

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

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 ???

Banned Books Week Projects

muniz_img_2403_thumbnailAs AASL President Audrey Church notes: “Intellectual freedom and the right to privacy have been with us throughout the history of school librarianship. The issues are the same, but the formats, the situations, and the contexts have grown” (qtd. in Adams, 41).

During Banned Books Week, every school librarian has the opportunity to involve students, colleagues, administrators, and families in projects related to the Freedom to Read (http://ftrf.org).

Celia Muniz is the library media specialist at Harlingen High School in Harlingen, Texas. She created a flyer to spotlight her school’s week-long observance of Banned Books Week.

On Monday the Harlingen Information Literacy Center (ILC) kicked off the school’s observance with a display of books and projects created by English language arts (ELA) teacher Mrs. Huerta’s students. (Ms. Muniz sweetened the deal by giving those who stopped by the library circ desk and joined the fight against censorship a candy treat.)

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Mrs. Huerta’s students and the ILC offered Banned Books Week presentations to other classes on a sign-up basis. Today, on September 29th, Ms. Muniz is taking photos in the ILC of staff and students wearing super hero t-shirts and capes. Finally, on Friday Ms. Muniz is distributing “Defending the Right to Read Banned Books” stickers in the cafeteria during both lunch periods.

Similarly, Erikka Adams, head librarian at the Proctor Academy in Andover, New Hampshire, set out to involve the entire campus in Banned Books Week. She created a school-wide, campus-based banned books scavenger hunt, which she kicked off with a school-wide announcement. She followed up the announcement with details via email.

All of the banned books in the hunt had a sheet inside explaining why they are banned and a QR code to a video talking about banned books in general.  She posted the scavenger hunt clues on the library’s social media accounts; students and faculty had to follow/like/friend to get the clues.

Anyone who finds one of the challenged books, snaps a selfie holding the book, and posts the photo using these hashtags (#bannedbooksweek #proctoracademy #proctorreads) will be invited to the post-banned books book swap and pizza party.  Finally, during a school-wide assembly, some students will share the title of the books they found, why each has been banned or challenged, and how students found that particular copy.

Danielle Lewis, middle school librarian at the United National International School (UNIS) in New York, New York, sent this message to the school learning community: “The right to books, libraries, and information is a human right embedded in the UNIS Mission, the Charter of the United Nations and the 2030 SDGs.  I want to start a conversation that helps middle school students explore how our diverse stories enrich the human community — and why we need to celebrate and protect everyone’s right to read and write.”

In collaboration with advisors and subject area teachers, Ms. Lewis opened a discussion with the entire middle school community.

  • There has been a “pop-up” library with banned books and poster-making materials in the middle school lounge during lunch over the past few weeks.
  • The school’s book clubs have dedicated their opening meetings of the year to exploring banned books, censorship, and the freedom to read and think for themselves.
  • In addition, Ms. Lewis has been speaking about intellectual freedom with ELA and advisory classes.  Last Thursday, she spoke with one grade level as a whole group during Drop Everything and Read time.

After students were introduced to the issue of intellectual freedom, they were encouraged to participate in a variety of activities including making a poster, taking a “banned book shelfie,” participating in a virtual read-out, and reading diverse banned books. Ms. Lewis created this presentation to support this call to action.

Seanean Shanahan, who shared Banned Books Week activities in Monday’s “Freedom to Read” blog, snapped photographs of ELA teachers wearing their “I Read Banned Books And I Cannot Lie” t-shirts.

Involving classroom teachers, staff, and students in these week-long projects is one way for Ms. Muniz and the Harlingen High School ILC, Ms. Adams and the Proctor Academy Library, Ms. Lewis and the UNIS Library to diffuse conversations and learning about censorship and First Amendment rights throughout their school buildings.

Brava to these four leader school librarians. If you have questions about their work, you can contact Celia Muniz (@celiamuniz2), Erikka Adams (@LovetheLovejoy), and Seanean Shanahan (@Librarytalker) using their Twitter handles.

And hurray for all of the school librarians who remain defenders of students’ intellectual freedom.

 

Work Cited

Adams, Helen. “65 Years and Counting: AASL and School Librarians—Still Champions of Intellectual Freedom.” Knowledge Quest, vol. 45, no. 1, 196, pp. 34-41.

Image courtesy of Celia Muniz, Library Media Specialist, Harlingen (TX) High School

Banned Websites Awareness Day 9/28/16

bwad-2016_webbadgeLibrarians across the U.S. will be recognizing “Banned Websites Awareness Day” (BWAD) on 9/28/16. Working toward unrestricted access to information and resources should be one of librarians’ top priorities. Choice in checkout helps students (yes, even kinders) practice a lifelong learning strategy. Internet filtering and blocked Web sites and social media are an on-going challenge in many schools and libraries.

Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was passed in April, 2001, in order to address concerns about children’s access to obscene or harmful content over the Internet. Just as school library policies can minimize the frequency of book challenges, policies can also mitigate complaints regarding Web-based information.

According to CIPA:
“Schools and libraries subject to CIPA are required to adopt and implement an Internet safety policy addressing:
◾Access by minors to inappropriate matter on the Internet;
◾The safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms and other forms of direct electronic communications;
◾Unauthorized access, including so-called “hacking,” and other unlawful activities by minors online;
◾Unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal information regarding minors; and
◾Measures restricting minors’ access to materials harmful to them” (FCC).

While protecting children and youth from obscene and harmful information is essential, overly restrictive filtering software may prevent young people from accessing information that is important to their health, wellness, and intellectual growth. School librarians, in particular, may frequently be in the position of advocating for a particular educational website to be unblocked. The wise school librarian makes friends with the IT department and helps to educate administrators about the importance of students having opportunities to practice digital citizenship.

If students are to become responsible, informed digital citizens, they must be given guidance as they develop skills to evaluate information. They must learn to use social media venues in an environment in which they are accountable for their communications. School librarians in collaboration with classroom teachers can provide youth with learning experiences so they can explore, evaluate, and responsibly use Web-based information and tools.

As AASL notes, “Relying solely on filters does not teach young citizens how to be savvy searchers or how to evaluate the accuracy of information” (BWAD Background).

What are you doing in your school to recognize BWAD?

 

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians (AASL). “Banned Websites Awareness Day.” ALA.org. http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/bwad. Accessed 21 Sept. 2016.

American Association of School Librarians. “Banned Websites Awareness Day Background.” ALA.org. http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/bwad/background. Accessed 21 Sept. 2016.

Federal Communications Commission. “Children’s Internet Protection Act.” FCC.org. https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/childrens-internet-protection-act. Accessed 21 Sept. 2016.

Image courtesy of AASL

Advocacy Stories as a Recruitment Strategy

we-want-youOne thing I have consistently heard from preservice school librarian graduate students (all of them current or former classroom teachers) is that they didn’t really know what the school librarian’s job entailed before they started their library science preparation program. There are most likely many practicing school librarians who entered into the profession without deep knowledge of the benefits, rewards, and complexities of serving as an educator working in a school library.

In a course I teach called “Art of Storytelling,” students participate in an assignment called “digital advocacy storytelling.” Students begin the assignment by connecting with a core belief in librarianship. They build on their passion for a particular aspect of library work to develop a digital story targeted to a particular audience. They field test their advocacy story via social media, revise it based on feedback, and publish a final version.

Even if these stories were originally targeted to other audiences, I believe students’ advocacy stories can serve as recruitment tools to invite classroom teachers into the profession. Three students from the Spring 2016 class have given me permission to share their stories—stories that make a strong case for why they aspire to serve in the role of a school librarian leader.

Thank you to Lauren Scott (@MrsScott_1), Kathryn Shropshire (@MrsShropshire7), and Maricela Silva for allowing me to share your stories here.

Lauren Scott: Building Bridges Through Collaboration @Your Library®

Kathryn Shropshire: Read Together, Grow Together @Your School Library®

Maricela Silva: Coteach Technology @your library® 4 Lifelong Learning

You can view their one-sentence themes and digital reflections on this assignment on our course wiki.

School librarians are in the very best position to identify classroom teacher colleagues who have the “right stuff” needed to be passionate, exemplary school librarians. If every school librarian would recruit even one classroom teacher to pursue further education in school librarianship this year, our profession could be in a better position to staff all preK-12 schools in the U.S. with outstanding school librarians.

What’s your school librarian story? How will you share it to advocate for the profession and enlist exemplary classroom teachers to join us?

Word Art Image created with Microsoft

Recruitment to the School Librarian Profession

This month the BACC co-bloggers are sharing their thoughts about recruiting new school librarians to the profession. With many retirements on the horizon and some districts reinstating school librarian positions, there seems to be a dearth of qualified school librarians to fill vacant or soon-to-open positions.

Texas Flag at Veterans' Memorial Park, Port Arthur, Texas

Texas Flag at Veterans’ Memorial Park, Port Arthur, Texas

Recruitment to the school librarian profession is a hot and timely topic in Texas. I can share my perspective from the Lone Star State. Each spring since 2010 (I arrived in Texas in the fall of 2009) school librarians and district-level school library supervisors post job openings on the Texas Library Connection distribution list. Some of these positions are new openings and some are to fill vacancies that were left unfilled in the previous academic year.

Although I do not have hard data to back it up, I suspect that one reason for the shortage of qualified Texas school librarians (at least in this decade) was prompted by the 2011 cuts to school librarian positions and library programs across the state. In that year, a number of my advisees at Texas Woman’s University who were preparing to serve as school librarians changed their focus to children’s or teen services in public libraries. They were justifiably concerned that there would not be school librarian positions when they graduated from their Master’s degree programs.

In the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) signed by President Obama on December 10th, 2015, school librarians are included in the “essential personnel” category. This designation by the federal government should result in confidence on the part of library science school librarian graduate students and classroom teachers who pursue a career in school librarianship.

Today, for example, the Houston Independent School District (HISD) has a bold advocacy campaign in progress in order to rebuild the district’s school library programs. According to a blog post by Dorcas Hand, co-chair of the Texas Association of School Librarians Legislative and Advocacy Committee, “20% of HISD libraries have no designated staff and another 26% have only a paraprofessional managing circulation. 22% have teachers standing in for librarians, leaving only 32% of HISD libraries staffed with certified personnel” (http://tasltalks.blogspot.com/2016/01/libraries-in-hisd-by-numbers.html).

HISD is actively seeking certification options for classroom teachers to develop the necessary knowledge and skills to serve as effective state-certified school librarians. How can HISD help classroom teachers see that school librarianship is an extension and expansion of the knowledge and skills they have honed as classroom teachers? (Texas certified school librarians are required to have classroom teaching certification, two years of successful classroom teaching plus 24-hours of graduate work in library science or a library science Master’s degree.) How can HISD convince these educators to invest in their own professional growth and pursue graduate-level course work in order to earn certification?

School librarians from across the state of Texas are joining with the HISD school librarians to promote the work, the values, and the potential impact of school librarians on student learning. You can view their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/studentsneedlibraries/

School librarianship needs classroom teachers who believe that:
1.    Reading and writing literacy are the foundation for all learning;
2.    Libraries, reading, and resources create opportunities for students and classroom teachers;
3.    Every student deserves to have physical and intellectual access to ideas and information;
4.    Proficient readers have more life choices, enjoy more satisfying lives, and will be able to participate more fully in society;
5.    Using the technology tools of our times to motivate students, to help them learn, and to produce new knowledge is an essential instructional approach;
6.    Every classroom teacher deserves an instructional partner (a school librarian) who can provide resources to enhance learning and serve as a coteacher to improve student learning outcomes;
7.    They have knowledge and skills to share with their classroom teachers and specialists and position themselves as equal partners who are committed to lifelong learning with their colleagues;

How do we invite these classroom teachers into the profession? By telling the library story… To be continued on Thursday.

Works Cited

Bodden, Ray. “Texas Flag at Veterans’ Memorial Park, Port Arthur, Texas.” Digital Image. Flickr.com. Web. 3 Apr. 2016.

Hand, Dorcas. “Libraries in HISD – by the Numbers.” Blog Post. TASL Talks: Legislative and Advocacy for YOU. 30 Jan. 2016. Web. 3 Apr. 2016.

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

School Librarianship: What’s In It for Me?

tooting_hornsSchool librarians are members of a service-oriented profession. The majority of us come from the ranks of classroom teachers and many of us tend to think of the needs of others before we think of our own.

However, in order to sustain motivation and enthusiasm for our work, we must determine what is “in it for us.” Dr. Ken Haycock who is the director of the Marshall School of Business Master’s Management in Library and Information Science program at USC and a former leader in the (School) Library Power movement, has a famous (in school library circles) saying: “People do things for their own reasons.”

School librarianship has given me the opportunity to teach students at all instructional levels. (I love working with kinders and their heroic teachers for one hour at a time!) Over the course of my career, I have co-taught in every content area, which has provided me with continuous learning from outstanding educators. I have co-developed curriculum to engage and motivate students and have created opportunities for children and youth to use the technology tools of the day in their pursuit of learning and sharing their new knowledge. I have collaborated with classroom teachers, public librarians, and community members to spread a culture of literacy.

But perhaps most of all, I have had the opportunity to serve alongside some principals as co-leaders who guided students and colleagues as we pursued the most effective strategies for teaching and learning. I am proud of the work we accomplished together. I am in debt to the thousands of students and hundreds of teachers who have shared their learning journeys with me.

This deep sense of satisfaction and pride and the opportunity to extend my reach beyond the classroom out into the entire school learning community and beyond is what’s in it for me. I cannot imagine a more fun, meaningful, or impactful career as an educator than that of school librarian. (Yes, principals’ work is meaningful and high impact, but I suspect it is not as much fun!) The desire to spread the potential impact of professional school librarians on teaching and learning and to help future school librarians embrace a leadership role is why I am a school librarian educator today. (That and the fact that I can no longer serve in a school library the way it should be done; I cannot be on my feet from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. every school day!)

Tooting our own horns can be difficult for some of our school librarian colleagues. But sharing our essential contribution to teaching and learning is our responsibility. The photograph above of school librarian colleagues Debra LaPlante, Diane Skorupski, and me was taken at the American Association of School Librarians National Conference in Pittsburgh in 2005. We had just completed a collaborative presentation about classroom-library collaboration for instruction called “Sharing Our Exemplary Work, or Why We Should Publish Our Collaborative Lesson Plans.”

Let’s keep on showing other educators and administrators why school librarians are even more needed today than ever before. Let’s exceed our own expectations as instructional partners and leaders in education. And let’s achieve this together.

Photograph from the Personal Collection of Judi Moreillon used with permission