This month's One-Question Survey asked us to consider what drives the changes we make in our school library programs. I don't know what I was expecting, but I was intrigued and a bit surprised by the number one response: one out of four respondents said that professional development they've attended plays the most critical role in affecting change in their programs. That influence came in ahead of student or curriculum needs, school missions, and teacher or student input. It's rather extraordinary when you consider it.
After giving the matter some thought, however, I'm inclined to agree. Of course I value student need and input. I would walk across fire to honor a teacher request. I try very hard to make sure the library program supports the school mission and goals. I am very much aware of all of these driving forces when I participate in the crowdsourcing round to vote for sessions I want to see at the AASL conference coming up this November. These drivers are on my mind when I notice a Twitter chat or webinar that looks like it might have interesting ideas I should check out. I think about these factors when considering what session I might propose for my state school librarian conference.
The power of professional development (PD) opportunities, in relation to driving change in our libraries, is that they can offer a road map to meet all the needs we have. Good PD can show us how someone else is already succeeding in something that we need to do. It can save us valuable time and effort by letting us learn from someone who already knows where the pitfalls are and how we might avoid them. Attending a session, engaging in a focused conversation on social media, this is where we can make connections, find ideas that inspire us, and see exactly what we need that we never would have thought of on our own. It makes you look at PD a little differently, doesn't it?
I happen to be involved in the planning of our state association's summer conference. While I have always looked forward to this event for the networking and the fabulous, relevant sessions, this survey's results have re-energized me. I think I better understand why I need to reach out and find as many, and as diverse a selection of presenters as possible. It is so important that we evaluate our strengths, look at what is working for us, consider what we have gained experience in, and then share it.
We need each other. Not all of the professional development we seek out will be built exactly for school librarians. Nor should it be. But the professional development that is school library-centered largely comes from those of us in the field. My biggest take away from these survey results is that we should be not only seeking out quality professional training from which we have a lot to gain but also diligently and thoughtfully contributing to our field's professional development offerings.