This message was shared over LM_NET last weeK:
Stewing, mulling and/or half-baked?
I've been thinking and thinking and reading all of the articles coming out (studies and exemplary library program descriptions) and after being told that I get to continue running 3 libraries for 2 more years and at that time the district would evaluate whether or not to see if they want a full-time T-L on every campus - I really think I'm coming to the conclusion that...
It doesn't matter how much soul and effort and knowledge the T-L, has - it really is dependent on the culture and expectations the Principal of that campus has of all staff.
I get evaluated on working collaboratively with the teachers, but when I ask, NONE of the Principals ask the same question of the classroom teachers. (Isn't it like the tango? Takes at least two to collaborate?) Aren't the principals the leader of the band and we all dance to the tune they choose?
Have any of you that have thriving library programs, collaborations and infusion of 21st century information skills in a bunch of your subject areas throughout your campus done that on your own? Out continually pounding the pavement getting into classes and setting up collaborations with teachers? Or are you working for a Principal that has and expects that of all staff? So not only are you working for this, but the teachers know it is an expectation and are coming to you for assistance and working collaboratively to ensure their lessons have more and more digital content and 21st information skills embedded into the research and the final product.
Nothing can kill a library program faster than a Principal (adminstration) who believes libraries are obsolete - doesn't it stand to reason that the best way to grow a thriving library is to have a Principal who believes it is the center of the school and requires all to be using it, the resources and they have on staff a T-L who is collaborating to enfuse the curriculum with 21st century information skills?
The half-baked - am I just a grumpy frustrated old woman, or have I finally figured it out in my old age and really need to be working on the Principals - showing them how to be the leader of the pack?
You can create a valuable library program with your administrator - or despite your administrator.
I've written a lot about making your principal your ally:
- No principal left behind
- Who doesn't get "it"?
- Starting off on the right foot
- Transparency and trust
The short answer: Figure out what the principal believes is important for you to do - then do it. This means creating a program that helps meet the goals and solve the problems in your school, NOT creating a program that meets AASL standards necessarily. It means deliberately learning what is important to your principal and then effectively communicating how you are contributing to those important issues. I don't know of another way to get a principal "on your side." Too many principals have worked with librians who have their own agendas which are viewed as irrelevant.
If you have a truly impossible administrator, you can use an advisory group that consists of important stakeholders - parents, students, teachers, community members - to write goals for you and your library and advocate for a strong library program that the principal might respect because of the committe make-up. Sort of a risky power play, however. And of course, subversion can be satisfying.
I sympathize with many in our profession who work with administrators who seem uncaring or even hostile to library programs. And I agree that educating such individuals will be the only long-term solution to school libraries being seen as a costly anachronism.
But the profession cannot rely on university administration programs, library association advocacy campaigns, or wishing and hoping. Principals will become knowledgeable about good library programs only when they experience them.
But once a principal has a great librarian, they will always want one.
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