Last fall I had the opportunity to speak at the annual banquet hosted by the Associated School Librarians of Fairfax County (VA) for their administrators. I asked the administrators in attendance how many had attended sessions about school librarians at their administrator conferences—a few affirmative responses. Next I asked how many had read articles about school librarians in their professional journals—again, a few affirmative responses. Then I asked how many learned what school librarians do in their educational leadership preparation programs—zero. Finally I asked how many learned what librarians do from librarians with whom they work—100%.
Administrators are absolutely critical to school library programs. They influence staffing, scheduling, and budgets. They have control over facilities, from usage for testing or meetings to facility upgrades and renovations. They appoint educators to key leadership committees and school advisory councils. As instructional leaders in schools, they model perceptions of the library for both students and teachers, and they set the tone for library usage. It is up to librarians to make sure that administrators know the critical role that school librarians play in teaching and learning and how learning in the library contributes to overall school goals. If you already engage in purposeful communication and conversation with your administrator, excellent! If not, the time to begin is now. In either situation, amazing resources are available to assist you in conveying your message.
The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) offers many resources to assist you in your advocacy efforts, and the School Librarians as Learning Leaders website (http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/tools/leaders) focuses on administrators as the primary audience. If your administrator is a visual learner, you'll most likely want to share the infographic on this page, which organizes resources under the categories of Teaching, Leadership, and Evidence.
As a librarian, you deliver effective instruction. Resources curated under Teaching include an article on the role librarians play in teaching students digital literacy skills, an infographic that demonstrates how school librarians transform learning, and a report that outlines how librarians improve instruction and learning through the use of various technology tools.
As a librarian, you are an instructional leader in your school. Resources curated under Leadership include AASL's position statement on an effective school library, the Future Ready Librarians infographic, and three videos that illustrate how librarians lead instruction in their schools.
As a librarian, you make a difference in student learning. Resources curated under Evidence include the newest edition of Scholastic's School Libraries Work!, an infographic showing the difference certified school librarians make in student achievement, and a brochure presenting library goals and key questions an administrator should ask regarding attainment of those goals.
If your administrator is more of a textual learner, you can share the resources described above as an Annotated Resource Guide instead. The guide, available on the website, is organized by format (infographics; journal articles, position statements, and reports; and videos) rather than by topical category. To assist you in utilizing these tools, AASL also offers "Tips & Scenarios for Using School Librarians as Learning Leaders: An Administrator's Guide" and an Action Plan Worksheet. Whether you share the infographic or the annotated resource guide in their entirety or choose to share one key resource at a time is totally up to you. You know what would resonate best with your administrator to convey the message that you are a learning leader in your school.
Is your superintendent one of the 3200+ superintendents across the United States who has signed the Future Ready pledge? Future Ready Schools propose that "every student deserves a rigorous, personalized learning environment filled with caring adults and student agency. District leaders must recognize the potential of digital tools and align necessary technologies with instructional goals to support teaching and learning" ("About the Effort"). As I read this description, it shouts at me, "School library! School librarian!" The school library provides each student a personalized learning space, a warm and welcoming learning environment staffed by caring adults and offering student agency and choice. Librarians are technology specialists, well-versed in using digital tools for teaching and learning to meet instructional goals. If yours is a Future Ready district, Future Ready Librarians provides you with ready topics for conversation with your administrator.
With personalized student learning at the center, the eight gears of the Future Ready Librarian framework (https://futureready.org/program-overview/librarians/) address the following areas:
- Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
- Personalized Professional Learning
- Robust Infrastructure
- Budget and Resources
- Community Partnerships
- Data and Privacy
- Collaborative Leadership
- Use of Space and Time
As a school librarian fully immersed in curriculum, instruction, and assessment, you "build instructional partnerships, empower students as creators, and curate digital resources and tools" ("Future Ready Librarians Framework"). You facilitate professional learning for your educator colleagues as you provide in-service and professional development opportunities. You thoughtfully and strategically build the library collection, both print and digital, and you work to insure equitable access to those resources. As you work with your community stakeholders to build support for the library, you develop community understanding, connections, and partnerships. You honor student privacy in your library and advocate for it in the larger educational arena. On a daily basis, you "lead beyond the library" in your schools, your school districts, and the larger community ("Future Ready Librarians Framework"). You do all of this as you design and offer collaborative library spaces for learning.
Comparison of the district-level Future Ready framework and the Future Ready Librarian framework shows one-to-one alignment. This alignment not only provides you with a common vocabulary for conversation with your administrator but also allows you to demonstrate how the library contributes to the overall learning picture. Your administrator needs to fully understand how Future Ready Librarians impact Future Ready Schools.
The new National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries were unveiled at the November 2017 AASL National Conference and Exhibition, and the accompanying webpage (http://standards.aasl.org) offers a plethora of resources for use in their implementation. One of the key audiences to share the new standards with is administrators, and a variety of resources are linked from the Administrators page (http://standards.aasl.org/administrators/).
With a focus on the common goals and priorities that librarians and administrators share, the standards' Shared Foundations (Inquire, Include, Collaborate, Curate, Explore, and Engage) are highlighted and explained. The one-page, downloadable Guide for Administrators on the website points to the school library as the hub of the learning community, encourages your administrator to partner with you, and notes how school librarians connect learning across grades and disciplines. As you communicate with your administrator, this one-pager is a great conversation piece and discussion starter.
Additional links on the Administrators page lead viewers to the six common beliefs that illuminate the "qualities of well-prepared learners, effective school librarians, and dynamic school libraries" as well as to the learner standards framework which outlines learner competencies. The National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries emphasize librarians' key role in student learning. Sharing these standards with your administrator allows you to demonstrate not only that you have standards for the library but also how the standards align with and contribute to overall school goals.
According to AASL, advocacy is the "on-going process of building partnerships so that others will act for and with you, turning passive support into educated action for the library program. It begins with a vision and a plan for the library program that is then matched to the agenda and priorities of stakeholders" ("What is Advocacy?" 2007). As a school librarian, you have a vision and a plan for your library. This plan is most effectively implemented when it aligns with the agenda and priorities of your administrator.
What is important to your administrator? What keeps her up at night? Identify this, and then make the connection. What is your goal? Is it to educate, inform, and raise your administrator's understanding of what you do? Do you have a particular ask, a particular request that you want to make? Use the resources outlined here to make sure that your administrator knows that you are a learning leader, that you are future ready, and that you have new standards. It's time to have (or to continue) that all-important conversation. Your administrator learns what librarians do from you!
American Association of School Librarians. National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. American Library Association, 2017.
"Future Ready Librarians Framework." Future Ready Schools. https://futureready.org/program-overview/librarians/. Accessed January 8, 2018.
"About the Effort." Future Ready Schools https://futureready.org/about-the-effort/. Accessed January 8, 2018.
"What Is Advocacy?" American Association of School Librarians, April 26, 2007. http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/definitions.