Monthly Archives: January 2010

School Librarians and Administrators

I found all the readings this week quite interesting in terms of how they looked at what does a school librarian do that no one else in the school does. The feeling that I really ended up getting was that a good administrator and school librarian when working together and using the various standards that are laid out then together they can be more effective. I liked how so many things focused on using self assessment and goals as a way to not only improve how the library works but show teachers and administrators exactly what’s happening in the library.

I’ve never thought about how assessments can become such a huge tool for communicating what you’re trying to achieve. This seemed to me to be a very powerful idea because assessment is a huge part of the world of education and also complicated in terms of self assessment and student assessment because its hard to get right. So I liked especially the Weber article and Woolls where they took all these lists of standards, goals and missions and showed how they really connect in the day to day business of running an effective library. When I read through all the various standards, and roles they seemed powerful and like useful goals, but I needed Weber’s thoughts to help me see them move into the real world.

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What’s your hill?-Scheduling and Priorities

What’s your hill to die on is quickly becoming one of my favorite ways of talking about how you decide your priorities. I think it captures a lot about how contentious things can get in a school and in a library as different ideas of what’s the best policy and way to do things collide. I had never expected scheduling to capture just how important knowing what your priorities are though.

For me scheduling is always something that I’m not that good at doing, I’ll try but things change and so I tend to find a way to make things work instead of expecting things to change. So the idea that deciding will I eat lunch, will I be the mediator for all these shared spaces through the medium of a schedule is a little terrifying. Though it does tie into the fact that libraries tend to be powerful community spaces that are used for far more than just reading or research and so being aware of all these issues and what choices you’ll make in terms of controlling them really struck me.

I’ve been in the position of being a mediator before and I know how key it is for some people to have someone to go to that they see as slightly outside of whatever the issue is and so being that person can mean you end up knowing a lot about what’s going on in the community. Yet its one of those things that you need to make sure that it doesn’t become too much of what you do, because someone with a grievance is not going to respect your schedule, they just want to vent and have someone else fix it.

Also I find it fascinating how much of these scheduling issues are much more abstract in terms of what we read as in this is what you should do but not as much about how to do it, at least in the AASL standards. I hope we talk more about this idea of how to find your allies and create these balances for all the things a librarian needs to do.

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The Library Space

My first thought after reading the AASL standards and the Johnson article is that this seems like a rather large divide in terms of scheduling. I’m curious as to what created this division and has it caused problems for how various librarians plan their work with teachers. In Empowering Learners the idea of a virtual library seems like a good way to use technology resources to their best advantage, but a clear part of it seems to be making sure that teachers are aware of it so they can help their students use it wisely.

Woolls’ idea of really looking at how to run the library in a strategic sense seems logical especially with all the different goals that a school librarian has to work into all of their plans. Also the idea of an advisory committee appears to be a good formal structure in which to make sure that everyone from teachers to administrators understand what’s going on in the library and feel connected to what’s going on. Also a truly intelligent administrator would work with the librarian since they’re one of the few people in the school who actually interacts with everyone.

In terms of long term planning, I can see how this would work best for a library since things aren’t going to be changing quite as often as they are in the classroom. Though it appears that a good librarian must have a plan with a good amount of flex in it if there is an unexpected overhaul of curriculum or a new law that requires major changes.

I find it quite sad that in some schools unless there’s a planned time to go to the library some teachers really won’t use it. That seems to argue for making sure that every teacher brings their class to the library at least once a week. Then if the scheduling is done thoughtfully, there should be time for children to come in on their own to get a book perhaps even while a class is there. I’m really curious to understand what the reality of these types of scheduling is, because access is important but there also needs to be a connection to the teachers.

Hribar’s post is a wonderful exploration of how to actually take standards and make them come to life in a library and how it doesn’t take much to help children start thinking outside of their own boxes. I love how she worked to use peer learning to really expand how the children were learning. This is especially resonant with me because I think that storytelling and helping children really understand that when you tell a story or talk about some information in a performance or presentation context, it becomes more yours. The question a child gave her about plagiarism is a great example of how powerful it can be to transform knowledge into your own words. Her enthusiasm comes off the page and makes me more excited to become a librarian.

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Values and a Mission Statement

What’s above represents the tasks that I think are most important to do a School Library, as you can see they’re grouped in a way that made sense to me. Since I worked on this spectrum in class, I’ve combined a number of things that seem to fit together better so that I feel this is a good representation of my thoughts for creating an effective and welcoming library environment. I think they all need to be done and when it comes down to the day to day running of a library, all of these will be mixed and changed depending on how that school is run and what they feel is key.

To connect to that, in class we spoke about mission statements, which can be a really powerful way to connect to people working within the school and also from outside. Its really fascinating how a mission statement is trying to do so much and how sometimes the way it connects to the goals is not as specific as it could be. So in groups we worked on putting together mission statements for imaginary schools. The one that I and LibraryGirl chose was called Sacagawea Elementary School; a forward thinking magnet school with a focus on holistic and collaborative learning.

The mission of Sacagawea Elementary School is to develop the child’s identity as a whole individual and to encourage collaboration between students and teachers.

To expand on this and create a mission statement for the library is actually quite hard since I think that a library within this school wouldn’t actually have that many changes from their mission. Since the library would hope to be at the heart of all of the collaborations between the students and teachers. Perhaps the wording might be slightly altered to give a sense of the library’s place.

Sacagawea’s Elementary School Library strives to be a place which helps to develop the child as a whole individual and be a fertile ground for collaboration between students and teachers.

In terms of the class discussion, I agree with LibraryGirl that I never realized just how much of what a school librarian did was connected to evaluating technology resources. I think that I was aware of how libraries tend to be the place where technology is really put into use, but thinking about how the librarian is truly the leader in choosing and understand how and why they’re used was a nice thing to learn.

Also the discussion and all the distinctions between visions, mission statements and goals really helped me get a better sense of how hard they are to get right and how effective they can be.

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Mission Statements-Elevator Speeches

The readings for this week made me think a lot about something my mother talks about which is the elevator speech for something you’re doing. An elevator speech is a small speech hopefully not more than five minutes in which you sum up a project or a thesis and someone should know exactly what you’re onto. The idea of Mission Statements seems very tied into this idea of being concise and powerful, which is so difficult. As a writer, I found the different ideas that were presented for how to go about making a mission statement quite intriguing though I was a little disappointed in how some of the articles seemed to rely on little tricks to get across the idea of what a mission statement is. I guess I find it kind of worrying that many mission statements are created more to have one then perhaps to use it as a real rallying point and way to be able to say to anyone, this is what we do.

I think the AASL discussion of how they went about crafting theirs was actually the most useful to me of all the readings because it was dealing with how they created an actual mission statement versus more generalities. In my experience the idea of titles and mission statments and such really need to hang on a thing and they’re very hard to practice in the abstract because they are such powerful tools which work best when they’re grounded in something real.

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History and Politics-Acting for Change or Reacting to Trends

I always find myself amazed at just how much trends and politics play into the history of education and through that to school libraries. I know its one of those things that actually should be fairly obvious since its been going on for a couple centuries, but it still surprises me. Part of it I think is that there’s this ideal of education that it should somehow be beyond the normal back and forths of politics and focused on teaching. Though as you go more into things then its clear that what’s going to be taught really depends a lot on what’s going on in the world and what’s seen as important by the people who are teaching. Then it all makes sense, because education is very reactionary, most of the trends and movements seem to have been caused by we have to get better at this or we’re not good enough at this.

One thing I like especially about the AASL guidelines is that they seem to be taking action and saying, well we’ve been reactionary and it hasn’t worked that well. So now we’re going to take charge and say, this is what we think is important and why. Its a powerful idea that I really like since it seems to be a way to really do more in the world of a school where so much is reactionary to be the one in charge of taking action. It seems like school librarians have a lot of power in terms of changing things, because they have the possibility of moving in and around the various structures that teachers might not be able to. A good school librarian can see and identify the current and coming trends and make a plan that will use them but not hopefully be fully controlled by them. I’m really curious to learn more about how school librarians try to take action instead of just being reactionary.

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Standards and Goals

I find the AASL standards well thought out in terms of how they work to combine information literacy and literacy to help young readers become creative and intelligent young people. Though I did find some of the language slightly odd especially the idea of Dispositions, which feels like an awkward word to encompass the important idea of using knowledge.

In the Pappas’ article, I found it interesting the focus on how do you measure standards and how they’ve changed so much through the years. Also how much those standards can affect how teachers see school librarians as part of their day to day teaching schedule. The idea of team teaching seems like something that could be quite difficult to make work really well in a busy school environment due to the time required to make sure that everyone involved feels like they’re truly collaborating. Though it does seem like it could be incredibly benefical and effective due to the time it takes to make it truly work. While the other types of collaboration that are mentioned seem to be mainly variations on how the collaboration is presented since at the heart of all of them is the respect and understanding of both people involved for them to truly work. So the aspect of assessment and reflection is quite important because different personalities are going to work better with one format, but it takes trial and error combined with discussion and understanding to see what is the best solution for which librarian and which teacher.

All the research that Pappas discusses seems very much focused on how the more conversation and interactions that happen between teachers and students and librarians then the more everyone will benefit. Though the greatest difficulty in actually creating a place where this discussion can happen is all the other responsibilities and expectations that exist in a school environment.

In Woolls, I found the history quite useful for orienting to what are the expectations in school’s and how they’ve changed and are still changing. I always find myself amazed at just how many different types of statistics exist for schools and how many things are measured. The connection to how many associations then end up in the position of having to create standards because their isn’t a national curriculum is interesting. It  seems like something that could be quite useful to have the standards created by those that use them, but it also seems like there’s a danger of standards by teachers and librarians perhaps not fully connecting since their hopes for students differ. Though there’s also the  fact that so many other organizations are voicing their own ideas of what students should be able to do mainly local, state and federal governments so that its very hard to know what are the standards for each school. The history of school libraries is also interesting and a little disheartening with how new they are and not really always fully connected to the school as much as they could  be. Then the idea of the differences of what works best for a school library versus a public library was fascinating in terms of how a lot of the basic ideas are the same, being accessible by the most population though the school library has the population constantly coming to them. I sort of wish that I’d read this reading first because it provided a strong historical foundation  for the other two readings.

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