“Piecing Administrators into the
Collaboration Puzzle”
A Supplement for LIS Faculty

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This month at School Library Connection, we are debuting a new feature on our blog—a set of learning experiences built around our latest issue and designed for use with school library candidates in graduate/professional programs, including pre-service school librarians and practitioners working as educators while earning their credentials. The suggested discussions, writing exercises, and other activities are written “to the graduate students,” so that faculty might borrow or adapt sections of the text directly into assignment instructions or online course modules.

Current subscribers can access the referenced articles via the hyperlinks below. (Magazine subscribers who still need to register for their login credentials at no extra cost may do so here.) As always, new subscribers are warmly welcomed into the SLC community, or we invite you to sign up for a free preview of our online platform.

Feedback on this supplement is  greatly appreciated as we develop this evolving area of School Library Connection’s professional development materials. Please tell us if you applied some of these ideas with your graduate students, and how they went! What did you try? What changes did you make, or might you incorporate next time? What other kinds of materials might be useful to you—more like this? Something different? We look forward to hearing from you!
—Dr. Rebecca J. Morris, Adjunct Faculty, Library and Information Studies, UNC-Greensboro, University of North Carolina, Greensboro


Piecing Administrators into the Collaboration Puzzle
It’s not an exaggeration to suggest that the relationship between the school librarian and school administrator can make or break the library program. A myriad of practices and policies within the control or influence of the principal stand to affect the library program. Among them are student and teacher schedules, budget, staffing, collaborative opportunity, and school-wide literacy culture, not to mention support for and belief in the value of the school library for student learning.

If the school’s core priorities might be imagined as the star at the center of a solar system, then the school library might be the closest planet. (There’s a caveat coming, so please stay with me!) The school library program constantly revolves around school priorities. Are the numbers of ELL students increasing? The school library collection can help meet these students’ specific literacy needs, and guide teachers to using the collection. Is there an emphasis on problem solving this year? The inquiry thread in library lessons is already present, and the school librarian can collaborate with teachers to amplify the integration of problem solving into content area curriculum. And on and on and on . . . With a focus on “the star,” the library hovers close, day after day, year after year, locked into that power source. Like the energy of the star, the needs of the school fuel the library.

Of course, the huge difference in this celestial metaphor is that the school library has the potential to exert powerful influence on the school—unlike the planet that revolves around the star, wielding little outward effect of its own. In contrast, an effective school library program strengthens the star, and the entire solar system—or school community.

Turning the lens back to principals now, ask yourself: does your school principal know that the school library is so tightly aligned with the school? Or does the principal think that you and the library are your own separate solar system, nice to look at, but far away and disconnected from the most pressing needs of the school? The articles in this issue of School Library Connection aim to help school librarians and their school principals understand and build the interdependence on which school libraries and school communities thrive.


In my book, School Libraries and Student Learning: A Guide for School Leaders (Harvard Education Press 2015), I wrote that,

In the leadership role, it is an ongoing practice for school librarians to look outward to the needs of the school, then reflexively back to the needs of the library program to consider what it can offer in terms of resources, instruction, and ideas, and then back out to the school to monitor and adjust” (Morris, p. 10).

The course activities offered here build upon this month’s articles to guide school librarians in examining how they conduct this practice, with tools, prompts, and reflections provided to support the critical work of communicating and collaborating effectively with the school principal.

The instructional objectives are as follows. School librarian candidates will:

• Identify, discuss, and practice strategies for building effective communication and collaboration with the school principal.
• Reflect on professional areas of strength and opportunity in strategic information sharing and relationship-building with school administrators.
• Align school-wide priorities with elements of the school library program.
• Use, evaluate, and recommend digital tools for curricular integration and professional development.

This collection of course activities consists of the following exercises, labeled by letter:

A: One set of 6 related activities developed around the article, “What to ‘Look For’ in Your School Library,” by Courtney Pentland.

B-E: Distinct activities aligned to other articles in this issue, listed below.

Pentland, Courtney. “What to ‘Look For’ In Your School Library.” School Library Connection, March 2017. http://slc.librariesunlimited.com/Home/Display/2064075

Harland, Pam. “Future Forward Collections.” School Library Connection, March 2017. http://slc.librariesunlimited.com/Home/Display/2064071

Courtney Pentland, Omaha Public Schools

1.    Read the Pentland article. Write a tweet-length summary (140 characters), including 1 or more hashtags.

2.    Pentland organizes “Look For” lists into five categories: Classroom/Physical Environment; Planning and Implementation; Materials Checkout; Use of Library Resources; and Inquiry Instruction. Select one category, and make a chart aligning the described “look for’s” to the ALA/AASL Standards for Initial Preparation of School Librarians (2010), your state or district school librarian evaluation instrument, or the program standards at your institution. (See the example, table 1). Individual or group activity. Small groups can report out on findings.

3.    Based on your comparison and discussions from #2, evaluate the suggested look-for’s. What are the strengths of these questions and in this approach to scaffolding a school administrator’s visit to the library? What are needs or areas of concern? What questions or items would you add? Recommended as group exercise with #2 and #4.

4.    Building upon the lists in the article and your discussion from #2 and #3, select an additional area of the school librarian’s work for creating a “look for” list. Write 4–6 look-for’s for a school principal’s (or curriculum leader, department chair, or other administrator/leader’s) visit to the school library. Individual or group activity.

5.    Respond to the following question(s) in a group or class discussion via threaded discussion board, FlipGrid (or similar) video post, or face-to-face discussion. Group activity.

a.    How does this article reflect the issue theme? Why does this topic merit a dedicated issue for today’s school librarians?

b.    Providing a “look for” list for coaching or evaluation is one form of library communication, designed for a specific stakeholder group. First, how might the librarian and/or library program benefit if a school principal utilized this list effectively? What outcomes or opportunities might be expected?

Although useful, these lists cannot stand alone as an approach for demonstrating the school library program to school administrators. What additional strategies of communication and information sharing might be helpful?

c.    At your current stage of professional development, what do you consider your strengths in communicating with administrators? In what ways do you demonstrate the value of the school library, or its opportunities for growth? What are your professional areas for growth in this skill set? If you are in a school currently, comment on your situation today. If you are not working in a school, what do you anticipate will be your assets (perhaps from previous professional or academic experiences) and what are areas for continued development?

6.    Prepare a bibliography or curated content list of resources to help school librarians prepare for administrator coaching or evaluation visits in the school library. Read Pam Harland’s article in this issue, “Future Forward Collections,” for perspectives on the importance of digital curated collections in today’s school library programs. Individual or group activity.

Table 1
Category Provided By Author Look For or “You See” ALA/AASL Standards for Initial Preparation Element
Use of Library Resources You see the teacher facilitating use of digital resources (library catalog, databases, websites, ebooks, etc.)


You see the students using digital resources to locate and/or read information

Standard 3, Information and Knowledge 3.2 Access to Information


Candidates facilitate access to information in print, non-print, and digital formats.



Cahill, Maria. “One-Question Survey: Do You Agree with the Statement ‘The Administrator(s) of My School(s) Perceive Me as a Leader’?” School Library ConnectionMarch 2017. http://slc.librariesunlimited.com/Home/Display/2064067

Dr. Maria Cahill, University of Kentucky

This activity is based on the March 2017 edition of the “One-Question Survey,” a regular feature of School Library Connection. The survey is facilitated and analyzed by Dr. Maria Cahill (University of Kentucky). The survey is distributed via the School Library Connection Blog and social media. Advisory board members and editors also share with their professional networks. For this month’s question, over 800 individual responses were gathered.

1.    Read the article and respond in writing to the one-question survey. Provide your elaborated response (as described in the article) and share with your class or small group via face-to-face discussion or using a Padlet (https://padlet.com/).

2.    Re-read paragraphs 3–5 with your narrative response in mind. Can you identify whether your response reflects “an internal locus of control?” How? (Share via discussion, or add to your Padlet).

3.    Author Maria Cahill describes “coding” the participants’ responses as one method of analyzing the data collected in the survey. What is coding in the context of conducting educational research? Learn more in this article, “Tips & Tools #18: Coding Qualitative Data” or another article recommended by your instructor.

Hartzell, Gary H. “Building-Level Advocacy with Library Impact Research.” School Library Connection, March 2017. http://slc.librariesunlimited.com/Home/Display/2064064

Dr. Gary N. Hartzell, Emeritus, University of Nebraska at Omaha

Dr. Gary Hartzell suggests sharing small-scale research studies, possibly Master’s theses or PhD dissertations, with school administrators in order to demonstrate positive outcomes of school library programs. Hartzell explains,

“Education may be global, but schools are local. Your principal thinks in terms of this school, these students. Evidence from library studies done in other kinds of schools isn’t likely to carry much weight with your principal. He or she wants to see evidence that something or someone makes a difference in schools like this with students like these.”

1.    After reading the article, identify and read a research study relevant to a need, priority, or issue at a school where you work, volunteer, or conduct graduate course assignments. As Hartzell suggests, try ProQuest Dissertation and Theses, usually available via university library research collections.

2.    Write an email introducing the highlights of this study to your school principal (or curriculum chair, etc.). In this message, be intentional with length and tone. Be concise and specific in explaining why you are sharing this study, including how it links to a need in your school.

If you are not currently in a school setting, design one to frame your email, or borrow from an article in this issue or a classroom described on an education blog, such as Mindshift or Getting Smart. Or use a scenario from a librarian, principal, or teacher blog. Try http://www.edweek.org/ew/section/blogs/ for recommended blogs.

Moorefield-Lang, Heather. “Online Tools and Apps for Administrator Collaboration and Communication.” School Library Connection, March 2017. http://slc.librariesunlimited.com/Home/Display/2064078

Dr. Heather Moorefield-Lang, University of South Carolina

Dr. Heather Moorefield-Lang offers suggestions for applying four digital tools in communicating and collaborating with school administrators: Google Hangouts, Padlet, Dropmark, and TurboNote.

1.    Consider a way to use one of these tools with fellow educators. Select a tool (try them out if they are new to you), and then describe a professional learning scenario in which it might be useful. For this exercise, the librarian might lead the session or participate, as the PD isn’t about the tool, necessarily. Instead, the tool should be used to facilitate learning about some professional topic or theme. Example scenarios are provided in Table 2.

2.    Develop a sample section of content using the digital tool you have selected. (Again, see below, table 2).

Table 2
Digital Tool Example PD Topic (#1) Sample Section to Build (#2)
Google Hangouts Middle grade book discussion club for teachers Record a video with book club welcome and introduction to this month’s book
Padlet Planning family literacy initiative Post sample strategies, links, and videos related to supporting family literacy
Dropmark Elementary teachers are planning an inquiry investigation on pollution Create a sample Dropmark file with 3-4 resources of varied formats
TurboNote Teacher study group on differentiated instruction View the video, “Two Misconceptions about Differentiation”, with Carol Tomlinson (https://youtu.be/HRA8MUUNP8E, 3:30). Take notes using TurboNote to prepare for discussing the video with colleagues.


Lee, Kyle A. “The Natural Leadership Role of the School Librarian.” School Library Connection, March 2017. http://slc.librariesunlimited.com/Home/Display/2064065

Luttrell, Michelle, and Tonya Dagstani. “The Heart of Our Village.” School Library Connection, March 2017. http://slc.librariesunlimited.com/Home/Display/2064069

Evans, Stony, and Bruce Orr. “Piecing Administrators into the Collaboration Puzzle.” School Library Connection, March 2017. http://slc.librariesunlimited.com/Home/Display/2064066

Recommended as a group activity.

Dr. Kyle A. Lee, Kentucky Department of Education

In his article, Dr. Kyle A. Lee explores the leadership roles of school librarians. Lee organizes leadership connections between the work of principals and school librarians into two buckets: Role Responsibility and Program Administrator (see Figures 1 and 2 in Lee’s article). In two (separate) articles, Michelle Luttrell and Tonya Dagstani and Stony Evans and Bruce Orr explain the central roles of their respective libraries in their schools, including roles of school administrators.

Read the three articles. Build upon Lee’s Figures 1-2 with examples from the Luttrell/Dagstani and/or Evans/Orr articles. Use a table or Google Drawings to create a new concept map of these leadership links.



Morris, Rebecca J. School Libraries and Student Learning: A Guide For School Leaders. Harvard Education Press, 2015.

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