What is the most important data you collect and analyze?

The theme for our April online issue is “Your Data Toolkit: Gathering and Using Data to Improve Instruction.” To that end, Maria Cahill asked school librarians, “What is the most important data you collect and analyze?” This turned out to be a challenging question! Keep reading to see Dr. Cahill’s analysis of the results.

We hope you use these surveys to help you reflect on your own practices.  Subscribers can view our archive of past surveys here or check out the complete April issue here.


First, we apologize for putting our school librarians through such a difficult task: we asked them to choose the most important type of data they collect and analyze. As one of our respondents replied, “This question feels a little like ‘which is your favorite child?’ They are important for different reasons.” We recognize that different data are used for different purposes and all of the options we listed have value.

In truth, we fretted a little bit over how to ask the question, as well as how to collect responses. In the end, we decided it was important for librarians to “have” to choose. In case you wonder, we too ground our work in evidence-based librarianship. The option choices were guided by findings from empirical research of school librarians’ evidence-based practices (Richey and Cahill 2014). Continue reading “What is the most important data you collect and analyze?”

Leading from the Library

Do You Agree with the Statement “The Administrator(s) of My School(s) Perceive Me as a Leader”? This is the question we asked for our March One-Question Survey. Keep reading for Dr. Maria Cahill’s analysis of the results and strategies for boosting your leadership profile.

We hope you use these surveys to help you reflect on your own practices. Subscribers can view our archive of past surveys here.


With the publication of Empowering Learners: Guidelines for School Library Programs, the American Association of School Librarians (2009) identified “leader” as one of five primary roles school librarians should enact. Yet, labeling school librarianship as a leadership profession doesn’t necessarily mean that school library stakeholders will perceive the position or the professional occupying that position as such. Rather, leadership is a contextual process in which individuals develop relationships that position them to influence others. Naturally, some contexts are more conducive to leadership and some individuals have developed skills, dispositions, and behaviors to better position themselves as leaders. Nevertheless, all individuals are capable of becoming leaders (Northouse, 2015).

We asked school librarians to identify their level of agreement with the following statement: “The administrator(s) of my school(s) perceive me as a leader,” and we provided space for the school librarians to elaborate on their responses, if they so chose. Encouragingly, the overwhelming majority (81.5%) of the more than 800 respondents to our survey Agreed or Strongly Agreed that they are perceived as leaders within their schools, and this was especially true for school librarians working in middle schools, nearly half of whom responded, “Strongly Agree.” Continue reading “Leading from the Library”

Connecting Students with the World

This month we asked “how do you facilitate opportunities for students to connect with those from other cultures?” In the article below, Maria Cahill discusses the  results and offers resources and ideas for you to use with your students.

We hope you use these surveys to help you reflect on your own practices. Subscribers can view our archive of past surveys here.

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“Global competence is the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance” (Mansilla & Jackson 2011, xiii). To prepare students to become globally competent, schools must meaningfully incorporate global topics within the curriculum, ideally through inquiry-based learning; integrate technology tools that enhance learning outcomes; and provide learning environments conducive to developing and sustaining creativity (P21 Global Education Task Force 2014).

We wondered what roles school librarians play in creating those learning environments conducive to global education; therefore, our One Question Survey this month asked school librarians to identify the ways they, individually or in collaboration with teachers, facilitate opportunities for students to connect with students from other cultures. Continue reading “Connecting Students with the World”

Where Do You Find Great Tech Tools?

We all know how important it is to stay abreast of technology trends, but how do you do that? In this article from our Jan.-Feb. issue, Dr. Maria Cahill discusses our latest survey question:

Which Is Your Favorite Source for Learning about New Technology Tools?

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To fulfill the role of information specialist, it’s imperative that a school librarian stay abreast of the latest trends in education and technology. Doing so enables the school librarian to integrate emerging technologies and tools into learning and teaching scenarios across the school environment and curriculum (AASL, 2009) which, in turn, facilitates the development of digital literacies of students and teachers and positions the school librarian as an instructional leader. Recognizing the power of technology expertise, we wondered where school librarians learn about the latest and greatest technology tools. Continue reading “Where Do You Find Great Tech Tools?”

Learning from Rock Star Librarians

This month’s One-Question Survey asked our readers to name the ‘school library rock stars’ who are the biggest influence on their work and what it is that makes these individuals stand out. The resulting word cloud of school library luminaries is certainly fun to view but really not too surprising—much more intriguing are the explanations of the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that set these individuals apart. What can we learn from these rock star librarians? decwordle4_616x
This month we asked the question, “What ‘school library rock stars’ are the biggest influence on your work?” followed by the sub-question, “Why do these individuals stand out for you?” Our underlying purpose in asking these questions was to better understand what sets a school librarian leader apart.

The 347 responses identified 174 leaders with an additional 14 general responses (e.g. the students I work with, teachers, other librarians in my school district, etc.). The list of school library leaders, displayed in the word cloud, is certainly of interest and fun to view but really not too surprising—we all know that Joyce Valenza rocks this profession!!!

Much more intriguing, on the other hand, are the explanations of the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that set these individuals apart as leaders in our field. Continue reading “Learning from Rock Star Librarians”

Using Primary Sources in the School Library

How frequently do your teachers/students use the library to access different types of primary sources? This month we asked this question about the primary sources teachers and students are using in the library. The results reveal the popularity of textual sources, but also yield some surprises and inspiration. In her One-Question Survey column, Dr. Maria Cahill discusses these results and encourages readers to use primary sources as an avenue for collaboration.

We hope you use these surveys to help you reflect on your own practices. Subscribers can view our archive of past surveys here.

survey-3We’ve all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words; thus, it’s not surprising that images are one of the two most frequently accessed primary sources along with written documents.

While it stands to reason that teachers and students in elementary schools would access fewer primary sources than their middle and high school counterparts, as the chart illustrates, the minimal use of visual sources (i.e. images, maps, and video files) in the elementary grades is unexpected. School librarians at any grade level, including elementary, should consider using images, maps, or objects to launch an inquiry unit as Kristin Fontichiaro (2016) proposes, and elementary librarians looking for additional approaches for using primary sources with students should be sure to check out the recently released SLC video workshop “Primary Sources for Elementary” presented by Tom Bober. Continue reading “Using Primary Sources in the School Library”

How Do You Assess Student Outcomes in Makerspaces in Your Library Program?

Maria Cahill asked this question recently and found that nearly a third of the school librarians who said they have initiated makerspaces choose not to assess student outcomes, and another 40% do so only informally through observation. In her One-Question Survey column below, Dr. Cahill discusses these results and encourages readers to include assessment in their makerspace programs.

We hope you use these surveys to help you reflect on your own practices. Subscribers can view our archive of past surveys here. And don’t forget to take our latest One-Question Survey, open until 10/19/2016, by clicking here.  

Ten years ago, a school librarian would have been hard pressed to find any professional articles, blog posts, email discussion threads, conference sessions, workshops, or professional development sessions focused on makerspaces. A resurging interest in self-directed and experiential learning, which goes hand-in-hand with the Next Generation Science Standards (2013), has brought makerspaces to the forefront of librarians’ attention. This latest educational trend is especially well-suited for school libraries.

Thus, we were surprised to learn that more than half of the 201 school librarians who responded to our One Question Survey, “How do you assess student outcomes in makerspaces in your library program?” had actually never worked in a school library program with a makerspace, and the comments that accompanied the “other” category indicated that an additional four percent of the responding librarians had either just launched or were still in the planning stages of designing a makerspace.

Continue reading “How Do You Assess Student Outcomes in Makerspaces in Your Library Program?”

How Do You Prepare for Challenges to Books and Other Resources?

Maria Cahill starts off the new year at School Library Connection with the results of her One-Question Survey asking about material challenges.

We encourage you to use these surveys to help you reflect on your own practices. Subscribers can view our archive of past surveys here. And don’t forget to take our latest One-Question Survey, open until 8/24/16, by clicking here.

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“Intellectual freedom is a core value of the library profession, and a basic right in our democratic society” (American Library Association (ALA), n.d.). In response to the latest One Question Survey, slightly more than 200 school librarians provided information about their practices in relation to intellectual freedom. As the chart demonstrates, the large majority of school librarians who select materials based on local policies have had no material challenges. The chart also illustrates that slightly more than 11% of school librarians engage in self-censorship by consciously selecting materials to avoid challenges, and approximately one-fifth have had a material challenge. Continue reading “How Do You Prepare for Challenges to Books and Other Resources?”

It’s Always the Right Time to Find a Partner

Who do you work with in the community? For our Summer One-Question Survey, Maria Cahill asked about partnerships between the school library and the community, revealing both their popularity and the variety of organizations involved.

We encourage you to use these surveys to help you reflect on your own practices. Subscribers can view our archive of past surveys here.

Be a part of our next survey! 

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What’s a school librarian’s favorite greeting? Well, it should be, “Howdy partner!”

We asked school librarians to identify the community organizations and businesses with whom they partner, and we were impressed that more than 85% of the 400 respondents confirmed partnering with at least one community organization, agency, or business, and most of those librarians identified multiple community partners.

Continue reading “It’s Always the Right Time to Find a Partner”

What Barriers Do You Face in
Differentiating Instruction?

In the May issue of School Library Connection, Maria Cahill takes a look at responses to our most recent survey and highlights articles to help you overcome common barriers to differentiating instruction.

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For our May 1QS, we asked school librarians, “What barriers do you face in differentiating instruction?” As expected, time is the barrier that school librarians face most frequently, and as the table illustrates, this problem tends to be even more pronounced at the elementary level. Lack of resources was identified as a challenge for nearly one-third of respondents, and support from teachers and/or administrators was indicated to be the third most common obstacle to differentiating instruction. Continue reading “What Barriers Do You Face in
Differentiating Instruction?”