Thoughts on ALA’s 2017 Annual Conference

ALA’s annual conference offers an opportunity for librarians to hear about the latest initiatives, ideas, award-winning books, authors, illustrators, websites, apps, tech tools…and so much more. But perhaps most importantly of all, it presents a chance to simply meet with fellow librarians, to reminisce with old friends, meet new ones, to share ideas and concerns. And, at the end of the day — after attending panels and checking out the exhibitors including, of course, stopping by to hobnob with our own Becky Snyder  (and Keith Chasse, Sharon Coatney, Jessica Gribble, Kevin Hillstrom, Barbara Ittner, David Paige, Cleta Walker, and Blanche Woolls) — it’s your time to let your hair down, enjoy the company of your colleagues, and to eat, drink, dance, and be merry. Oh, yes, and to advocate, always with the advocating!

We’re sure you learned many things that furthered your professional development and that you can use in your own library, and had lots of experiences that will make for some warm and fuzzy memories. In that spirit of learning and sharing, we asked some of our editors to share a few of their takeaways on the conference. And please, if you’d like to share any of your thoughts, leave a comment or give us a tweet; we’d love to hear from you!

Liz Deskins, our curriculum editor for reVIEWS+, jumped in with what might be everyone’s first thought as they gather at the conference:

“There are so many librarians! All different kinds, with a variety of interests and specialties; but all are happy to talk with you. We are family!”

Liz also felt it worthwhile to point out that “AASL is a democratic microcosm; it is wonderful to watch it in action.” And let’s not forget the books: “Books, in many formats, are still exciting and worth standing in line for.”

Here’s Liz taking advantage of the chance to meet with fellow librarians Jeffrey DiScala, Deb Logan, and Susan Yutzey. And who’s that sitting beside her, can that be David Paige?

Continue reading “Thoughts on ALA’s 2017 Annual Conference”

Thank You, Carol Simpson

We all love Carol Simpson. Below, Carl Harvey reflects on the many things she has done for the profession. Carl speaks for all of us when he says “Thank you, Carol Simpson!”

Carol Ann Simpson

I hope you will all indulge me a little bit, as I’d like to take a few moments to say thank you to Carol Simpson. I’m not really sure 600 words will be quite enough, but I’m going to do my best.

The May 2017 copyright column will be Carol’s last regular contribution to School Library Connection. For over twenty years in SLC and Library Media Connection magazines, her column has been the gold standard for copyright advice for school librarians all over this country. I know I personally have relied on her column for advice and counsel as I worked with the students and teachers in my building.

Carol has taken a very complex topic of copyright and translated it for school librarians. Her Copyright for Schools book—now in its 5th edition—and her many other copyright titles are classics that should be (if they aren’t already) on every school librarian’s professional shelf. Her work in copyright took her to the law profession where she has continued to be a voice about education and copyright.

But, beyond her copyright work, her many years working with Linworth Publishing and Library Media Connection led to many voices being published, many for the first time, sharing the successes and stories from school libraries. As editor of LMC (and its predecessors), Carol provided a forum for sharing and learning from each other. Marlene Woo-Lun, publisher of LMC said, “Throughout those critical years of change when libraries and schools were first struggling with how technology fit into education, Carol made profound contributions to the school library profession.” Continue reading “Thank You, Carol Simpson”

Hot off the Presses: The Many Faces of School Library Leadership

Here at School Library Connection, we’re excited to share that the new edition of The Many Faces of School Library Leadership, edited by Sharon Coatney and Violet H. Harada, is hot off the presses. Completely revised and updated with new contributions, this book examines the responsibility to lead in many areas and identifies the real-world, day-to-day application of established theory and best practices.

We at SLC are fortunate that the book’s editors have asked us to host a continuing discussion around its important topics here on the blog, so please use the comments section below to start a conversation, ask a question, engage in dialog, or just follow along! Sharon, Vi, and all of us at SLC are looking forward to a great conversation.

(Faculty interested in course adoption can request a digital exam copy of The Many Faces here.)

Continue reading “Hot off the Presses: The Many Faces of School Library Leadership

School Libraries: Leading the Way into the Future

School Library Connection is pleased to collaborate with ALA President Julie Todaro and her school library group Task Force to provide access to a selection of key professional development articles aligned with essential professional competencies for school librarians. We’ll be posting at least one article a day between now and April 15. These articles were hand selected from our archives by an expert panel of librarians chaired by Susan Ballard, Dorcas Hand, and Sara Kelly Johns, who describe the project and their process here:

ALA President Julie Todaro’s initiative, Libraries Transform: The Expert in the Library, builds on the ongoing ALA Libraries Transform campaign that focuses more on libraries in general, including the facility and the program. However, that facility and program are nothing without a librarian.

In discussing her initiative, Julie always outlines the work and shares how the school librarian members went into high gear, “Our teams met in October, decided on our vision in the morning and met in small groups in the afternoon. The school librarians had a structure, existing content, a rough draft of new content, and had lined up YouTube testimonials and best practices by the following day at lunch. I am always proud to say, ‘I have my all-level certification to be a school librarian.’”

Julie’s Task Force consists of representatives from public, academic, special, and school libraries. The school library group is co-chaired by Susan Ballard, Dorcas Hand, and Sara Kelly Johns, who worked with a subcommittee of outstanding school librarians. They, in turn, were assisted by the school librarian Expert Panel members (Blanche Woolls and Debbie Abilock) who review the School Library Team’s efforts before they go live at ALA Annual 2017 in Chicago.

After Susan Ballard adapted the Professional Standards for Education Leaders (PSELs, from the National Policy Board for Educational Administration) to reflect school library expertise, the school library group identified eleven competency areas–the original 10 plus Literacy and Reading–for building-level school librarians, developed a rubric for practitioners to self-assess their school library leadership competencies, and compiled a dynamic list of resources in order to build their expertise. Our competency list is entitled School Librarian Competencies Based on the PSELs; the competencies, the rubric and the supporting documents list will be available with the Todaro Expert in the Library materials beginning at ALA Annual 2017.

Thank you, Libraries Unlimited and School Library Connection, for supporting this initiative with access to these articles.

Competency 1: Mission, Vision, Core Values

“School Libraries: Leading the Way into the Future” by Carolyn Foote.  School Library Connection, October 2015

“We need to develop the capacity to think of a library as a developing enterprise rather than an established institution.” — Joan Frye Williams at ALA 2014 “Libraries from Now On” Summit (paraphrase)

Our campus become a 1:1 iPad campus four years ago, and watching the transition’s impacts on student learning and the library has made Joan Frye Williams’ words resonate for me personally. Going through disruption in our own library just as I was writing this article made it clear to me how much we need to build better internal capacities and mindsets to support ourselves in times of change. Both schools and libraries need to begin thinking of themselves as fluid enterprises, not fixed monoliths. Ultimately, we need to be sure that our deep love affair with libraries centers around our deep love for students and their learning. We can serve our communities and student learning best if we are tracking, aware of, and acting on trends to which our schools and libraries need to be responsive.
Continue reading “School Libraries: Leading the Way into the Future”

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”

Beyond Heroes, Holidays, and Special Events

Digital image courtesy of the Getty‘s Open content Program

The school library calendar is filled with events that are focused on both the library and literature: Banned Books Week, Banned Websites Awareness Day, Digital Learning Day, Read Across America, and School Library Month, to name a few. National organizations set the date these initiatives are to be held and library programs provide displays or sponsor programs to support the goals of these events. These efforts clearly fit into our responsibilities as program administrators who ensure that “all members of the learning community have access to resources that meet a variety of needs and interests” (AASL 2009, 18).

Getting beyond Months and Days

What may not be quite as clear is the school librarian and library program’s role in relationship to heroes, holidays, and special events that are not specific to the library. For example, “multicultural months,” such as African-American History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Native American Heritage Month, and Women’s History Month, are celebrated according to the calendar in many schools and communities around the country. Spotlighting religious holidays may also cause challenges for school libraries. Some librarians may even wonder about the wisdom of the library being known for other special events such as “Poetry Month” or “National History Day.” Should these genres in our collection receive little attention except during their month or on a particular day?

The American Library Association’s “Library Bill of Rights” is clear about our charge to “provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues” ( While heroes, holidays, and special events have a place in the academic program of the school, how can we help ensure that “diversity” is not simply something our school is checking off its list? What are some alternatives to these practices and how can school librarians take a leadership role in guiding our schools toward an integrated model rather than an additive model for diversity? Continue reading “Beyond Heroes, Holidays, and Special Events”

Simple Advocacy: Maintaining Perspective

NYC Book Campaign
Library of Congress.

It’s always a good time to advocate for your school library program. In that spirit, we’re sharing this gem from our archives by Allison Burrell.

Subscribers can find advocacy video workshops by Dorcas Hand and Susan Ballard, as well as many more articles on advocacy at School Library Connection.

As I write this, I am marking the one-year anniversary of when I moved from being a high school librarian to being the only librarian for my entire school district. I write this column not as an expert in advocacy, but as a librarian who realizes that being an advocate is a necessary part of my job. I also realize that being an advocate can be easily overlooked or forgotten in the chaos of everyday life.

Advocacy is a work in progress; it is also something that involves a wide scope, because every one of us should participate in some form or another. The ideas I am sharing here are ones that I want to improve as I implement them both now and in the future. I am hoping that by the time this article is published, I will have established an even stronger practice in these ideals. Continue reading “Simple Advocacy: Maintaining Perspective”

Joy Tips in the Library

Library of Congress
Library of Congress

Take a moment to think about how to maintain your sense of joy in the library with this article from Jim McMillan and Barbara Pedersen.

Subscribers can find more great articles like this here.

Life in the library can include many situations that try to steal your joy. We all know if we lose our joy, we lose our peace, and we don’t want that to happen. You may believe that when things go wrong you can’t control how you feel, but you can. Each of us can control how we respond to things through the use of our will power. Make your will power your library power and use it when you need it. Students will learn from watching you. The way you live your life in the library is what you teach others. They will learn by your example. So how do we use our will power, you ask? There are five Joy Tips that have always helped guide me and are guaranteed to help you too in holding onto your joy wherever you go. Continue reading “Joy Tips in the Library”

Sneak Peek: Teaching Leadership

Think you’re not ready to be a leader? Too late, you already are! Gail Dickinson explains, “You decided to be a leader when you decided to become a school librarian.” As you will learn in her new video workshop, “Leadership is part of everything you do.”

In this six-minute sneak peak from her workshop, Gail Dickinson focuses on engaging parents in your school’s leadership curriculum. What do you want to ask of parents? How do you engage them in student learning in a meaningful way? Gail discusses how to identify what you want from parents and how to include them in building a culture of leadership at your school.


SLC subscribers can view the full workshop here.

dickinsonGail K. Dickinson, PhD, is associate dean of graduate studies and research at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. She earned her master’s in library science from the University North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and her doctorate in educational administration from the University of Virginia. Dickinson is a past-president of AASL, was editor-in-chief of Library Media Connection, and is the author of Achieving National Board Certification for School Library Media Specialists and coeditor of the seventh edition of Linworth’s School Library Management.

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”