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« Google and privacy | Main | How much should districts standardize on technology? »
Wednesday
Aug142013

Librarians: Collaborate to lead

80% of success is just showing up.
                                             Woody Allen

The booklet School Library Research Summarized (Kachel, Mansfield University, 2013) analyzes 20 years of the impact of school library programs on student achievement. In summary:

... it has been shown that incremental increases in the following [library program attributes] can result in incremental gains in student learning:

  • increased hours of access for both individual student visits and group visits by classes; 
  • larger collections of print and electronic resources with access at school and from home; 
  • up-to-date technology with connectivity to databases and automated collections; 
  • instruction implemented in collaboration with teachers that is integrated with classroom curriculum and allows students to learn and practice 21st century skills, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication of ideas and information; 
  • increased student usage of school library services; 
  • higher total library expenditures; and 
  • leadership activities by the librarian in providing professional development for teachers, serving on key committees, and meeting regularly with the principal. [emphasis mine] 

While collaboration with individual teachers is important to a successful library program, collaboration with school leaders and membership on school leadership teams is critical - and too few building librarians recognize this. Librarians tend to focus on working with individual teachers, rather than the entities who give those teachers their direction.

 

Not only does working with other leaders help librarians stay informed about their building's and district's goals and priorities, it also gives them a voice in helping create those goals and priorities - allowing librarians to lead.

Given the division in philosophies about how to best teach reading, how to best measure student "achievement," what priorities should be given to higher order thinking skills and creativity; and, indeed, even what the purpose of education itself should be, no conscientious educator can remain mute - or simply grumble to peers.

Librarians, you can and should be serving on at least one, if not more, of these teams (in addition to meeting regularly with your building principal):

  • Building/site leadership team
  • Curriculum teams
  • Assessment committees
  • Strategic planning initiatives
  • Technology advisory committees
  • New facility planning task forces
  • Parent-teacher organization
  • Accreditation/program review teams

By virtue of training and experience, we in the library profession hold unique and valuable insights into the way children learn, what creates a positive school climate, and what students need to know and be able to do to be successful adults. As Woody remarks above, just showing up gets one a long way. But I would advise that the final 20% consists of being persuasive when participating on committees, teams, and task forces. This means having research, expert opinion, and studies to back up one's views and values. Know the research that supports voluntary free reading; understand why creativity and higher order thinking skills, not just test-taking skills, are critical to student success; and know what studies show make an impactful library program.

In a climate in which children's futures are being sold for political points or few dollars of extra profits by educational corporations, to remain silent is unprofessional, even unethical.

Show up. Speak up. Collaborate. Lead. Librarians, make this your goal for the 2013-14 school year - and every year thereafter.

See also "Starting Off on the Right Foot"

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