Your professional evaluation is one avenue for communicating to school leaders what you do as librarian. This process can be a useful way for you to self-reflect and document your professional growth. Here are some ways to prepare for your evaluation throughout the school year.
Please note the distinction between your professional (teacher) evaluation and the evaluation of the school library program. These are related, but separate entities. There are aspects of the program that may not necessarily reflect your performance; for instance, identifying areas of need in the collection isn't the same as noting an area of growth for you as a professional. You may consider requesting an approach to monitor and evaluate the school library program, in addition to your professional evaluation.
Early in the School Year
Learn about your state or district's evaluation instrument. With your department, or on your own, set up a time early in the year to discuss the process of collecting evidence for this evaluation. It may be new to the principal to consider other responsibilities and ways of measuring performance, besides the more traditional teacher observation.
Here are some suggestions for this stage:
- Review the evaluation instrument.
- Identify questions or concerns with the document. For instance, are there areas that may be difficult to quantify or document at this time?
- Request a meeting with your school principal and/or curriculum chair to discuss the instrument. Ask for their questions and concerns, and respond, or make a plan to find out information and respond at a later time.
- Develop a plan for collecting evidence. Establish a schedule for checking in on your progress. Make it a simple and memorable system for tracking, perhaps monthly, when report cards go out, or bi-monthly.
- If your school doesn't have an evaluation instrument specific to the librarian's role, consider with your school leaders and library colleagues a plan to supplement the teacher instrument to document the additional roles of the school librarian. Use other systems' or states' instruments as a starting point. Be mindful of contractual requirements for professional evaluation in your school system.
Throughout the School Year
When you think about what data to show your principal, consider this: "The critical question for the twenty-first century library media specialist is not 'How many books are we circulating?' but 'Are our programs and practices making a difference in terms of student learning?'" (Harada and Yoshina, 199). Apply this philosophy to your evaluation, and to your ongoing monitoring of the program.
To collect evidence, consider these formats and items. Note that many of these are components of things you do anyway! Collect and organize them to help showcase your work. Consider an electronic, condensed portfolio in addition to more comprehensive collections. A portfolio-at-a-glance is a useful approach. Highlight accomplishments across domains, such as the roles of the school librarian, goals set the previous year, or other frameworks specific to your school.
- Evidence of student learning, e.g., samples of student work processes and products, with brief notes providing context
- Teacher feedback, e.g., emails, meeting notes
- Parent feedback, e.g., notes from phone calls or face-to-face communication, emails, notes
- Planning processes, with standards (Google Docs, calendars)
- Lesson plans, with reflections for next time
- Library online presence: website, tweets, blog
- Library collection mapped to curriculum
- Annotated collection development plan, with alignment to lessons
- Budgetary documents, with curricular or standards-based justifications
- Library reports: circulation, database usage, trends, visits, use of spaces, teacher and student requests
- Book club or other programming activities
- Your leadership in the school: committees, organizations, etc.
- Community advocacy documentation (newspapers, online coverage, letters to editor, etc.)
- Photographs of library over time, in use with students, teachers, across different purposes
- Professional development: courses, webinars, conferences, workshops, articles/blogs written
- Library newsletter, calendar, communications to school and community
- Grants (both funded and not funded)
- Professional organization participation and leadership (aim for active participation, not just membership)
At a mid-point in the year, assess your collection of work and revisit the evaluation instrument. Are there areas where more evidence is needed? Have new questions arisen about how to show that you are meeting the requirements? Consider a check-in meeting with your principal and/or library colleagues if needed.
At Evaluation Time
Evaluations are conducted differently across schools. If you are new to the building, confer with colleagues about the process for face-to-face evaluation meetings. What is the length? Are there forms to complete ahead of time? Is it acceptable to discuss goals and progress with the support of digital tools? What is the policy for responding to an evaluation? Is there a component where you set new goals?
Spend some time before the meeting reflecting on your evidence, goals, and areas for growth. I had a former principal who used "commendations" and "recommendations" as her approach to professional evaluation, and I still like to think of professional assessment in this way. If you had to review your work, what are areas worth commending? Consider new programs, new collaborations, or specific student learning evidence to help you think of commendations. For recommendations, what are areas where you would like to do more next year? Think across the spectrum of your roles, from collection analysis and development to leadership in the school. Also identify areas of professional development that you may like to pursue. Have bulleted versions of these self-reflections with you in the evaluation. Even if you don't refer to them directly, the preparation will be helpful.
During the evaluation, listen carefully, especially for areas where the principal explains his or her perspective on the school library's contributions (or potential contributions) to the school. You might use this information to help shape your program and communication goals for next year. If appropriate, revisit the idea for a separate meeting to discuss school library program evaluation.
Offer evidence as needed to supplement the discussion. Ask questions. During, or perhaps following the meeting, inquire as to the principal's perspective on the evaluation instrument and process. Did it work this year? What can you do to help him or her see the aspects of your role more effectively?
Preparing for Next Year
As soon as you can following your evaluation meeting, record what you remember (beyond any written documentation of the meeting). What areas will become your professional goals for next year? What steps can you take "now" (at the end of the year) to set the stage for starting next year on a good path to achieve your objectives? Consider contacting new potential collaborators, investigating summer professional development opportunities, or spending time setting up a new blog, lesson plan template, or ideas for book clubs.
Knowledge Quest issue theme, January/February 2015: Evidence-Based Practice
This issue contains articles featuring "EBP" or "EBLIP" or evidence-based library and information practice, that is, "a systematic means of building, assessing, and revising a library program, thus demonstrating a school library program's worth to the larger school community" (Richey and Cahill, 2014).
Moreillon, Judi. "Leadership: School Librarian Evaluation." School Library Monthly 30, no. 2 (November 2013): 24-25, 59.
Owen, Patricia. A 21st-Century Approach to School Librarian Evaluation. Chicago: AASL, 2012.
This book offers rubrics, action steps, and a thorough guide to school librarian evaluation.