When I was a student teacher in the fall of 1997, I worked with my cooperating librarian, Karen Satterlee, and a few other teachers on a grant for professional development in technology. As the project began to wrap up, my cooperating teacher commented that the grant topic would be a wonderful article for a library journal. I just nodded, but she pushed a bit more by suggesting that I should write it. I had no idea how this process worked, but I sat down and wrote down everything we did step by step. After a little editing, I submitted my article to Paula Montgomery, the editor, at that time, of School Library Media Activities Monthly. Much to my surprise, it was accepted and a few months later my first published piece appeared, “Baby Bytes: Integrating Technology Effectively.”
When I think back all those years ago, I have to thank Karen and Paula. They opened a door that I didn’t even know existed. I’d read library periodicals all through my college experience, but I had no idea where the articles came from. I learned, from my experience with writing, that they come from school librarians just like me who were out in the field sharing what works and doesn’t work.
So, why do folks take the time to put ink to paper (or rather, words to screens)? One could easily argue that it takes time away from other tasks. People say it is more important to keep moving forward and working on the next program or lesson or project. I would have to disagree a bit. There are so many reasons why taking time to write about something you’ve done in the school library is important. I think the following seven reasons help answer this question.
First and foremost, writing is a way to reflect on what you’ve done. Writing about a project or lessons allows you to go back to the beginning and document everything step by step. It gives you time to think about why you chose the path you did, and make notes on what needs to be altered or changed for the future.
Oftentimes, we are so busy moving from one thing to the next that we don’t take the time to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and what needs to be changed for the next time. You can certainly do that with a conversation, but writing it all out lets you process as you continue to revise and edit.
Writing it out also allows you to keep a record of what you’ve done. It is a great reference when you try to replicate the project or improve upon it the next year. At the same time, if you have already taken time to write everything out, why not go ahead and share with others?
I can’t even begin to think how long it might take me to thank all the authors of the articles, books, blogs, etc. that I’ve read over the years. I have learned so much from them, and they have made me a better school librarian. It seems important to give back to those who have given so much to me. One of the ways to give back is to share ideas and program initiatives by writing articles and getting them published. We often work in isolation while other teachers can rely on their grade level and other teachers in the building for ideas. Most school librarians are usually the only one in that position. Ideas from publications can be a lifesaver for the librarian that feels isolated. Writing an article serves as a chance to be a lifesaver for someone!
Every periodical is different. The easiest way to get started is to check out the website for how to submit articles for publication. For example, for School Library Monthly, you can go to the website and read the writer’s guidelines [Ed Note: click here for information on writing for School Library Connection]. Some publications follow a theme or editorial calendar. Some welcome articles on any topic. Some prefer to see an outline and hear about the idea first before you take the time to write it out. Others will take a completed article and decide if they can publish it or not.
Submitting an article for publication does not guarantee it will be published, but not submitting an article is a way to guarantee that it won’t be published. The process is always worth more than the prize. Even though your article may not be accepted, the process of putting your thoughts to paper is always worthwhile. However, if you write something and a publication opts not to publish it, you can always send it to another one. You never know who may think your idea is just brilliant. Almost every author I’ve met has had both rejection and success. It is part of the business of publishing, but that shouldn’t deter you from trying again and again.
I’ve heard a lot of librarians that think that what is happening in their library isn’t exciting enough to share with others. Let me quickly end that way of thinking by saying it is a false assumption. I hear people talk about what is happening in their libraries, and I always want to know more. Taking time to write out what you did and how you did it can be an inspiration to others. Here are some ideas to get you started, but know that this is in no way an all-inclusive list. We know that school librarians wear multiple hats in their job, so any of those hats could lead to a potential article. You could write about any of the following:
- A reading motivation program
- Using a new technology resource or device
- Professional development for teachers and/or school librarians
- A collaborative project you co-taught
- A change in your program (scheduling, staffing, budget, programmatic, etc.)
- Thoughts on a hot topic in the field (time for your inner rebel to come out)
- Designing curriculum
- Collections for the 21st Century
There really is an endless list of topics for good articles.
It could be that the process of publishing an article may not be the right format for your personality. Consider that there are a multitude of other opportunities for sharing what is happening in your library. Perhaps a blog post might be the most appropriate place for publishing your thoughts. Maybe Facebook or Twitter would work better for you. The opportunity to share is global and instantaneous in today’s world.
Some of the benefits of writing and publishing, such as giving back to the field and the reflective process that writing leads you through, have already been pointed out. However, there are a few more things to consider. The first one is that most publications will have you sign a contract for publishing your work, and there is typically some sort of compensation.
But, publications can also be a tool to promote your library with your administrators. It allows administrators to see that others are learning about the great things happening in your school library and that can be a source of pride. Make sure to share one of your author copies of the magazine with your administrator. Many of today’s evaluation systems for educators require demonstration of active participation professionally. Publishing an article is great evidence.
Another way to write is to make the experience collaborative. Ask a teacher or administrator to co-author the piece with you. It will continue to foster the collaborative environment and possibly lead to other benefits.
So I invite you to walk through the door and consider writing your own story about what is happening in your library. Consider this your push to just try. Take an evening and write it down. There is nothing to lose, and really so much to be gained. Whether you submit it for publication, post it on a blog, or just keep it for your own personal reflection, the opportunity to share and grow as a professional is too important to miss. I look forward to seeing your name at the top of an article in a publication soon.
Originally published in School Library Monthly 31, no. 1 (September 2014).
Harvey, Carl A., II. "Your Name Should Be Here." School Library Monthly, 31, no. 1, September 2014. School Library Connection, schoollibraryconnection.com/Content/Article/1967186.
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Entry ID: 1967186