Future Ready Librarians Stand Up

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When I started my position as an Instructional Technology Specialist in Indian Prairie School District, I would never have guessed that four years later I would have the opportunity to write a blog post in honor of our librarians…yet here I am. What my boss at the time didn’t know, and my fellow librarians still probably don’t know, is that my one of my greatest career passions was to be in a position to support librarians.  Having been a former Library Media Center Director in the district, I know first hand how vital the role is to school’s  culture. I loved being an LMC Director.  I loved the chance to use technology in new ways that could transform how we educate students.  I loved watching kids come alive through literature. However, I always had a nagging and lingering thought in my mind. The Library is even so much more.  The Library is THE PLACE.  The place in which learners grow to love reading, to acquire knowledge through their own inquiry and self- discovery.  The library is the HUB of the school.  The librarian is central and essential to it all.  The librarian is an instructional leader partnering with teachers to help all students succeed.. How could I help spread the word?  When my boss told me she would like me to work closely with our librarians and support them and lead them through the transformational change that was coming….my dream came true.  As I sat a year later with a member of our district senior leadership,  I told her, “Our librarians are an untapped resource”.  When my new boss came in and taught us all that in order to grow, we had to become vulnerable and accept the change and transform…I knew it would happen.  Timing is everything.  Today, four years later, I can honestly say that our librarians are helping to lead the transformational change happening in our district.  Each and every one of our librarians have chosen to STAND UP.

Standing up isn’t easy.  It takes trust. It takes commitment to the cause.  It takes Time. Trust started the summer we did a workshop on Making Spaces in Your LMC.  We would Dream Big.  We would be Bold.  We would be Visionary.  At least that was the plan.  Half way through that workshop I realized we were collectively getting stuck in what appeared to be so many roadblocks in our way.  We had to make a choice.  A choice to let the roadblocks stop us, or move around the roadblocks.  Anyone in education can easily make a laundry list of roadblocks.  We could.  Or we could chose Stand Up.  We did make that list though, then we put the list in an envelope, and we sealed it.  We chose to Stand Up.  That was only the beginning.  As of today,  our middle and elementary school libraries  have been supported financially from the district level in order to start the physical space transformation.  Had we not chosen to Stand Up three years ago and Dream, be Bold and be Visionary…would we have been ready?

In order to be Future Ready we must chose to Stand Up.  I am honored and privileged to see what it looks like and sounds like when librarians chose to  Stand Up.  Standing Up looks like a librarian who has her eye on that one student who never talks but comes into the library to get book and she chooses to start a conversation.  That conversation would lead to helping that student find the book that he was looking for…and through that book that child would find his voice.  If that librarian hadn’t chosen to Stand Up and empower that child through literature, would he have found his voice?  Standing Up looks like a librarian who has embraced the makerspace movement although fearful of the unknown.  Had she not chosen to Stand Up she would have missed hearing students say, “ I never want to leave the library.  This is my place”.  She would have missed listening to the dialogue between two students as they communicated, collaborated, used critical thinking skills and created.  Standing Up looks like a librarian who finds a way to let all voices be heard. Whether that be by bringing in an author that she knows students can identify with, providing a safe place for students to explore their own interests and create a 3D prototype of their invention that will change the world, or simply to provide a safe place for students to just Be Still.  Standing Up looks like a librarian who takes the risk and invites a teacher to partner with him as he brings relevance and real world experiences to students as they engage in their course content through inquiry.  Standing Up sounds like librarians stepping out of their comfort zone and telling their story through a blog.  This is that blog.

This blog was started as a way for each of our librarians to tell their story.  Each and every story matters.  This blog post is dedicated to our LMC Directors in IPSD 204.   You have each chosen to be like the little engine that could….you chose a growth mindset.  You chose a “I think I CAN” attitude.  And TOGETHER….we CAN and WE DO.

I am privileged and honored to walk alongside each of you as we continue down the Future Ready path.  What you do Matters.  YOU matter.  YOU are essential.

by Laura Nylen

 

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#thinkwriteboard

Contributed by Rhonda Jenkins, elementary librarian

Reading and writing are enhanced by thinking! What better way to get students thinking first thing in the morning! Give them a space to express their opinions, thoughts and feelings. I started the year off with this whiteboard. Each day I change the question using an alliteration for the day of the week and a thought provoking question. I Tweet it out every day using #thinkwriteboard.

Student response has been amazing. Each day, they rush to read the question and to get to be the first to write their thoughts. Here are a few examples of our responses:

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Of course, kids will be kids . . . that’s why it’s important to be on an erasable surface!

A #thinkwriteboard is a simple way to get students and staff involved in the library. I  also love that other Future Ready Librarians and teachers alike have seen our #thinkwriteboard examples on Twitter and have started one in their own school too!

Happy writing!!!

 

What’s Your A to B?

Contributed by Jessica Conlon, middle school librarian

Today marks my 171st day as a school librarian. 171 fun, challenging, dynamic, whirlwind days.  

The journey that brought me here began in January of 2014, and according to my transcripts, it officially ended in May 2016. At that point in my life, my A to B was earning my Masters degree, and I did it.  A to B. Check!  By all intents and purposes, I was officially a library media specialist.

With my newly minted degree, I was hired as a middle school librarian in an innovative district about to enter its monumental first year of a 1:1 Chromebook rollout.  With the help of my assistant, staff, and administrators, over 900 Chromebooks were unpacked, organized, checked out, and used for the first time in the course of just 3 school days. As soon as the Chromebooks had been distributed, teaching and learning began to shift, and as a result, our library needed to shift with it. The excitement in our school was palpable, and I had found my new A to B.

But as every Future Ready Librarian knows, the journey never really ends, it just changes.  One of the main objectives in my new position was to design a more collaborative space.  As all 7 middle schools in our district made the transition to 1:1, no longer was it necessary for classes to come to the library to “get” information; it was now at their fingertips.  For me, this meant beginning the massive task of weeding our 18 year old collection.  Although this is young by some library standards, some of the non-fiction texts hadn’t been checked out since 1999.  For reference, I was in 5th grade in 1999!  In collaboration with staff and students, I unshelved, sorted, piled, weeded, and ultimately reshelved our entire non-fiction collection.  

Letting go of these older resources allowed us to make room for a more Future Ready library media center. My assistant and I knew that to help our students and ourselves get from A to B, we needed to do things we hadn’t done before.  From my perspective, every inch of our library was now real estate–an opportunity to transform our space to one that is flexible, comfortable, and Future Ready.  By creatively prioritizing our budget to buy new furniture that adapts to our needs, along with re-purposing some of our oldies, but goodies, we have been able to get whiteboard tables on wheels, a green screen, a collaboration station with a screen to hook up your device to present, a 3D printer, and a MakerSpace that is currently in the works.

As I reflect on the first 171 days of my new A to B, I realize that creating a Future Ready Library has as much to do with what stuff we have as it does with the feeling students and teachers get when they are in the space.  A sense of community, creativity, and curiosity aren’t available even if you have an open checkbook.  Although every student has the same device, their needs, interests, and passions can be very different; the same goes for us as teachers.  The library has begun to reflect the uniqueness of each of our own A to B, in all facets: 21st century skill building, socially, emotionally, and academically. As Future Ready Librarians, we are all tasked with fostering an environment that helps us get our students from their A to their B.

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Future Ready Librarians as Instructional Partners

Post contributed by Kristen Mattson, Ed.D., high school librarian

When I first saw the Alliance for Excellent Education’s Future Ready Librarians Framework, I was excited to note the inclusion of “Collaborative Leadership” and “Builds Instructional Partnerships” as descriptors of an excellent school librarian. These are two areas of the job that I enjoy the most, so their inclusion only seemed natural to me. I do recognize, however, that some librarians’ strength may lie in other areas of the Framework, like “Budgets and Resources” or “Community Partnerships,” and that coming alongside teachers in an instructional partner role might feel a little intimidating. I also recognize that there are many classroom teachers who have never, for whatever reason, been exposed to the power of a collaborative relationship with the school librarian and may not naturally seek him or her out. In this post, I would like to speak to both the classroom teacher and the teacher librarian – giving both groups some ideas for how to form rock-star collaborative relationships that will have a huge impact on student learning.

Classroom teachers: You may be asking yourself what the benefit of partnering with a school librarian for instructional design or lesson delivery might be. While each librarian has his or her own strengths, I think it is pretty safe to say that we are all equipped to help you with:

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Curation – Librarians are trained to collect, organize, and manage content that is both physical and digital. Have you ever wished you could offer more choice in the classroom but just don’t have the time to find relevant, reliable, and on-level articles, websites, or books for your students to choose from? Your school librarian would be an excellent person to approach with your ideas and ask if he/she could help you curate some content for your classroom.

Inquiry – Librarians are trained in the research process and practice it daily as they search for materials to support learning. Whether you ask your kids to complete in-depth inquiry tasks that you’ve created or you find yourself saying things like “just Google it!” in response to student developed inquiries, odds are that your teacher librarian has ideas, resources, and lessons that can help you and your students develop quality research questions, locate information that is relevant, and then synthesize findings to help answer the research question and communicate learning to a specified audience.

Information Literacy – Not all information is created equal. Your teacher librarian can show you and your students ways to evaluate the accuracy, relevancy, reliability, authority and validity of the websites you and your students use for information and learning.
Digital Literacy – The teacher librarian used to focus on skills like locating books on a shelf, utilizing tables of contents, indexes, and card catalogs. As most of our information has moved into digital formats, however, there are a whole new set of skills that students must possess to access content. Your teacher librarian can help your students master basic and advanced web searches, navigation of academic databases, show them how to download eBooks, and model ways to work with the various file types content is delivered in.

Ethical Use of Information – It is increasingly easier to create and share content digitally. As students cut, paste, borrow, remix, remake, and integrate media together into their own creations, they need to understand the legal and ethical issues around the use of other people’s multimedia content. In the same regard, students should be educated on ways to protect their own creative works before sharing them. Your teacher librarian can be an excellent source of information on both traditional copyright and Creative Commons Licensing.

Teacher librarians: Once you decide you are ready to start building, or increasing the number of instructional partnerships you have in your building, there are some ways to go about drumming up interest:

Visit PLC’s and Other Gathering Places – My goal is to visit at least one team’s PLC meeting each month, and I usually have to invite myself! The easiest way to do that is just after working with a teacher in their classroom. Ask if you can join the next PLC meeting to engage in a reflective discussion on the unit. This opens up opportunities for you to meet more teachers in the building and for those teachers to hear about the partnerships their colleague has formed with you. If you do not have a formal PLC format in your building, make sure to put yourself where the teachers are – in the staff cafeteria, in department offices, or even in places like the cafeteria or bus line during duty times. The teacher librarian does not make instructional partnerships by sitting behind the circulation desk and waiting to be approached. Get out, make friends, and be willing to jump in when a need arises!

Listen with Intent – Whenever I am in whole staff meetings, small group PLCs, or in casual conversations with teachers, I am intently listening for ways to help. While we’ve all been guilty of tuning out during meetings not directly related to our role, making a deliberate choice to pay close attention is a great way to increase instructional partnerships. When I am in these meetings, I am listening closely for opportunities to share my skills with individuals or teams. Follow up the meeting with a personal conversation or an email detailing the work that needs to be done and the skill sets you can bring to the project. Many hands make for light work, so I am rarely turned down when people realize that I am willing and able to contribute.

Volunteer for Committee Work – Some of my best instructional partnerships have been forged through building and district level committee work. If your administrator approaches you with an opportunity to serve on a curriculum or technology team, do your best to clear your calendar and say yes! If you have never been invited into these teams, make sure your administrator knows you are interested in growing this area of professional responsibility. colalboration

Be An Extra Set of Hands – Oftentimes a teacher does not need assistance in gathering information, learning about a new technology tool, or developing a cool lesson. Sometimes a teacher knows exactly what they want the instruction to look like, but could really use an extra person in the room to help make the magic happen. Serving teachers through your willingness to help in any capacity goes a long way in forging instructional partnerships that will allow you to help integrate library skills and standards into the classroom down the road.

Make Your Goals Clear – Whether or not you are in a formal evaluation cycle, there is value in professional goal setting. To say that you want to grow in your instructional partnerships during the next school year is a start, but unless your goals are specific and action oriented, it can be easy to let them slip to the bottom of your priority list. Write a clear goal with a deadline and action steps. For example, “During the month of November, I will work with at least one English teacher on a lesson. To help me achieve this goal, I will visit the English PLC during the month of October to look for opportunities to serve.” Then, share this goal with someone at work – your administrator, your library assistant, the secretary you eat lunch with each day. Regardless of who you tell, sharing your goal with someone else adds a layer of accountability and increases the chances of you meeting it. Finally, keep your goal in a place you will see it each day – on the corner of your computer, taped to the wall above your desk, maybe even set a phone reminder to go off once a week and remind you of the work to be done.

Whether you are a new librarian, have recently moved buildings, or just a bit shy and introverted, it can be difficult to form instructional partnerships that will positively impact student learning. But by reflecting on your strengths as a practitioner, and purposefully seeking avenues for professional relationships to form, you will be well on your way to the title “Future Ready Librarian.”

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Note: This post has also been published on the McGraw Hill Art of Teaching blog.