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Friday
Sep012017

The signs of an abundance mindset in libraries

 

It doesn't happen often, but I kind of lost it the other day. Our elementary media EAs were meeting and the big topic was changing the circulation policy in our K-5 libraries.

Due to some of our libraries having highly restrictive circulation policies, the library coordinator, the elementary principals, and I decided that all students, regardless of building, would be able to check out four books at a time, regardless of grade level, and at least one book could be a "choice" book.

Given the following discussion, you'd have thought we proposed taking a torch to books and just watching them burn. What if the teacher doesn't want the kid to check out that many? What if one kid gets all the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books and never brings them back? Just how many books can a kid check out before we cut him off? You get the drift.

But what set my hair on fire was when one well-intentioned EA said, "But in MY library, I take great pride in making sure I have all my books on the shelf and I get judged on how few books I have overdue or missing."

In no uncertain terms, I'm afraid, I reminded her and others that these were not their libraries. These libraries and the materials in them belonged to the school, the kids, and the teachers. We were only the caretakers and managers of the libraries, not the owners. And that the metric we must use to evaluate the success of the library and the media EA from now on would be the circulation rate, not how many books were overdue or lost.

I am embarrassed to say, I saw a few tears. I could have said it more kindly.

On reflection, I could empathize with these smart, caring, and skilled EAs who I sincerely believe love books and kids. For many years in our district, the libraries had been funded by building dollars, creating under funded and highly inequitable collections. Ranging from a meager $1400 to an inadequate $3800 per 6 grade level building, most EAs turned not to the district, but to book fairs and PTOs to add at least a few new titles each year, making sure what new books that did come got into as many hands as possible. Last year, for the first time, we established a district-wide library budget that would support a well-weeded collection of 7500-8000 volumes.

While it's fairly simple to change funding sources and formulas, it's a lot tougher to change a culture with a scarcity mentality to an abundance mentality.

What are signs of an abundance mentality in a school library?

 

  • Generous circulation policy
  • Forgiving overdue policy (no fines!)
  • Multiple copies of popular titles
  • Well-weeded collections
  • Proactive measures to increase number of students in the library and lengths of library visits
  • Proactive measure to make sure all classroom teachers get kids to the library on a regular basis
  • Providing classrooms sets of library materials
  • Participating in book award programs
  • Student clubs, volunteers
  • Readily changing book displays
  • Genrefication of the collection

 

Is your school's library working in an abundance or scarcity mindset? And can the librarian still have an abundance mindset even when library funding may not be optimal? 

I think so. Please don't cry when you read this.

Monday
Aug282017

Starting year 41 - a life in education

Today is the big opening celebration for teachers coming back to school. This is the start of my 41st year as an educator. My professional work history includes:

  • 1976-1978 (2 years) at Stuart-Menlo (IA) Schools -English, Speech, Drama, Journalism High School Classroom Teacher
  • 1978-1979 Grad School student at U of Iowa
  • 1979-1984 (5 years) West Branch (IA) Schools - Junior High Librarian, English and Reading Teacher
  • 1984-1989 (5 years) ARAMCO, Saudi Arabia - K-9 Librarian, Uhhailiyah and Abqaiq
  • 1989-1991 (2 years) St Peter (MN) Schools - 7-12 Librarian
  • 1991-2014 (23 years) Mankato (MN) Area Public Schools - Technology Director
  • 2014 - present (3 years) Burnsville-Eagan-Savage (MN) Public Schools - Technology Director

I have been incredibly fortunate. Each year has included a learning curve - some years steeper than others. Every year I have felt passionate about my work. At every job I there have been people with whom I have really enjoyed working. I've earned enough to keep the wolf from my door (although there have only been few years when I have not hasd to figure out how earn outside income). My work has not been so onerous that I could not spend time with my family and friends, travel, exercise, and read for pleasure. And blather on in my blog, articles, columns, and books.

Yet each year I have experienced discomfort at times - and caused discomfort in others. I have always managed to piss off my bosses now and again. I've agitated for kids and for libraries and for the good use of technology. Some nights I've gone home worried I would be fired; other nights I've gone home hoping I would be fired. Some nights I've gone home feeling I just might, might have made a difference to somebody, somewhere.

I hesitate recommending education as a choice of career to young people. The work of a classroom teacher has become more demanding, more challenging that it was 40 years ago. It doesn't pay worth a damn. And teachers seem to get less societal respect. But in the end, yes, I recommend a life in education.

I am not sure what more one could ask of a career. 

My school picture, circa 1976

Monday
Aug282017

BFTP: Entrepreneurial librarianship - 36 suggestions

ENTREPRENEUR: one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise m-w.com

INTRAPRENEUR: a corporate executive who develops new enterprises within the corporation m-w.com

LIBARYPRENEUR: a librarian who actively searches for unfilled needs in his/her organization and assumes responsibility for meeting them, adding value to his/her position. The Blue Skunk

One of the terms that one heard a great deal at the 2012 ISTE conference was entrepreneurship. (What a horrible word to spell!) In education there seems to be no clear definition but when the term is applied to education, it is about private individuals or groups offering new, usually commercial, systems of learning - charter schools, for-profit schools, or online schools. Increasingly, however, I hear it being applied to individuals within traditional schools trying new educational approaches, as well. (More like intrapreneurship.) 

David Warlick in his blog post, ISTE Reflections, describes the educator-entrepreneur as:

  • Self-directed
  • Taking control of their time
  • Modeling their entrepreneurship for their students
  • Not making excuses
  • Taking responsibility

And, I might add, taking risks.

Good librarians have always been good educational entrepreneurs, looking for unmet needs and then meeting them, creating positions of value as they go. As professions transition to reflect the changes wrought by information technologies, this entrepreneurial disposition is critical. The librarians in our district have become webmasters, network managers, book fair organizers, online teaching materials selectors, volunteer coordinators, and PTO liaisons - none of which are traditionally "library" jobs, but all which are appreciated, necessary, and give added value to their positions. 

A week or so ago, I send a request to LM_Net for examples of "librarypreneurship" and I got a whole raft of excellent, often lengthy, responses. Below is my summarization and categorization of these replies. I did not list a lot of details nor jobs I see as part of librarians' expected duties.

Here are 36 ways real librarians are showing librarypreneurship:

Literature-related jobs

  1. Book fair organizer
  2. Reading tutor
  3. Building-wide reading contest and promotions organizer
  4. Book swap manager
  5. One book/one community program organizer
  6. Literacy night sponsor

Technology-related

  1. School webmaster
  2. Building based technology contact - answering software and technical questions, organizing, maintaining, creating, and disseminating "how-to" instruction sheets for various programs (Renaissance Learning,, Discovery Education,, Study Island)
  3. Technology trainer
  4. Flipped classroom and online class support provider
  5. Distance learning coordinator
  6. Videographer of school plays, school cultural events, and academic programs
  7. Technology policy committee member
  8. Tech fair host
  9. Skyping authorities facilitator

School-community-related jobs

  1. Building PTA liaison and/or officer
  2. Community marketing director
  3. School newsletter editor
  4. School news video program director
  5. Organizer of  information for parents and community about school's extracurricular offerings
  6. School blogger

Other

  1. Career guidance support provider including "career of the month presentations"
  2. SAT prep in the library host - an ongoing after school event
  3. Advisory program homeroom teacher
  4. Special events/programs planner - campus-wide celebration organizer
  5. School grant writer
  6. Leadership representative for special area teachers
  7. Fall school picture day organizer
  8. School yearbook sponsor
  9. Field trip chaperone
  10. Van driver
  11. Chief Information Officer (CIO) to principal and staff providing professional development resources and training to the teachers
  12. Academic teams advisor
  13. Database expert for needed building record keeping functions
  14. Textbook manager
  15. Credit recovery teacher

I just sensed a huge shudder in the (library) force. "I am too busy already and you think I should take on MORE work? I know everyone is busy. But consider Thoreau's quote: It is not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about? For those whose jobs may be precarious (and whose isn't), I would say "yes" to any tasks that is valued by my organization, even if meant not doing a traditional library task (inventory? custom cataloging? ???)

Here's my goal: If my position is ever eliminated, I want the person who made that decision to really regret having done so. Not a nice sentiment, to be sure. If the work I am doing is important, I will be missed. Libraryprenuership will help me meet that goal.

 

Original post July 9, 2012