As School Library Month comes to an end, it’s natural for library staff to ask: how can we increase awareness and keep the momentum going? This month INFOhio staff have had several meaningful interactions with library staff, INFOhio Providers, and administrators that have given us a few ideas on how school library staff can continue to demonstrate the value of their school library all year long. Whether your job title is Teacher Librarian, Library Paraprofessional, Library Aide, School Library Media Specialist, or Library Support Staff, make it your goal to demonstrate your school library’s value and finish the school year strong.
Ask, “What can I do to support my district?”
A school library staff person’s work is never done and it’s constantly evolving. To demonstrate the value of the school library, you need to have a growth mindset and be willing to embrace change. Know your district priorities and initiatives and explore ways you can support them. At a recent INFOhio user meeting, one library aide shared her strategies for supporting her district’s new 1:1 initiative. All the school’s Chromebooks are now cataloged and circulated through the library’s integrated library system (ILS). This hasn’t been without its challenges, but the aide’s willingness to embrace this responsibility to support the district and to experiment with different approaches to tracking school assets makes the school library indispensable.
What are some ways you can use your library’s ILS to support your district? Does your school have a problem getting textbooks back at the end of the year? Are calculators impossible to track and costing the district money? Do you have instrumental music teachers that are spending too much time tracking district-owned instruments and music? Your administrators, colleagues, and school treasurer would probably thank you if you offered to help track school assets with your ILS.
Accepting the challenge to circulate Chromebooks has given the library aide additional opportunities to “lead the horse to water,” as she put it. She is using her increased tech interactions to point students and teachers to research resources available through INFOhio. She printed bookmarks from INFOhio and distributed them to students and she plans to print flyers and affix them to laptop carts so students and teachers will see them when teachers borrow carts. Printing and distributing flyers and bookmarks is an easy way for library staff to have a voice throughout the school building.
Lead from the Library
In a recent discussion with a high school principal, he praised his library aide for taking initiative and being a leader in their district. In the corporate sphere, this is called “managing up.” (For more info on that strategy, try a search for “managing up” in ISearch.) In the school, Jennifer LaGarde calls it “Leading from the Library.” In this 2014 INFOhio Boot Camp recording, LaGarde shares great nuggets of leadership traits like these:
"Instructional leaders focus on students not stuff."
"Instructional leaders contribute to the dialogue and have a voice in school-wide decision-making processes."
"Instructional leaders assess programs and share that data regularly and formally."
"Technological leaders curate (and teach others how to curate) the best digital tools for teaching and learning."
LaGarde says that library staff need to, “Persistently and publicly focus on learning.” Library staff demonstrate the value of the library when they show that school libraries are all about “teaching kids and growing readers.”
One way to show that the school library is about teaching kids and growing readers is to evaluate your library space. Does it look like your space is focused on kids and on learning? If not, weed the stuff that needs weeded to create more space. Move the furniture around to create different spaces that accommodate multiple learning styles. LaGarde says that library staff need to, “Document the learning that happens in your library.” You can do this by displaying student work that was created in or with the help of your school library. “Every single wall, every single bookshelf, every single display case in the library is an opportunity for us to document our work...documenting that we make an impact on kids.” In other words, our library spaces should “...send the message that what we do in the school library impacts student learning.”
LaGarde also encourages library staff to use their voice. Share resources with colleagues whenever you can. Don’t know what kinds of resources the classroom teachers need? “Invite teachers to have their team meetings in the library so that you can pop your head in and share resources.” Ask for a few minutes at the beginning of a staff meeting to share an INFOhio resource of value to your colleagues. If you need presentation ideas, visit a Teach With INFOhio blog post like Scholastic Stuff for Students – Straight to Your Desktop and demo how to access Scholastic classroom magazines. INFOhio’s Educator Guide to ISearch includes a step-by-step presentation for sharing ISearch with your colleagues. If you aren’t comfortable presenting at a staff meeting, just push play! INFOhio has lots of brief videos in our YouTube channel that you can use to introduce colleagues to different research tools from INFOhio.
Do your colleagues and administrators really know what’s going on every day in your school library or do they think you’re just scanning items in and out? Demonstrate value by sharing your data and connecting it to student learning. LaGarde encourages library staff to create a data wall and give your administrator an annual report. If you’ve never created a library report before, this can seem daunting. Start by creating a monthly report that you can print and give to your administrator. If you’re short on time but want to take a first step, use this template. In less than an hour you can plug in a few numbers, highlight how your data is connected to student learning with a few bullet points, insert your school logo, and you’ll have a basic monthly report. As you get more practice reporting how the library impacts student learning, modify the template to meet your needs or create an infographic. For more on using data to tell your story, see these previousblog posts.
“Because School Libraries Empower Students”
AASL’s slogan for School Library Month is “Because School Libraries Empower Students.” Let’s make sure our colleagues and administrators know that’s what we do. It may be late in the school year, but it’s not too late to start. Finish strong so that you can start next year even stronger.
Erica Clay has been a member of INFOhio's Instructional Team since December 2013. She earned a BA in English and Music and a Master of Humanities from Wright State University, and a Master of Library Science from Indiana University. As an ILibrarian, Erica evaluates and selects digital tools and resources aligned with Ohio Learning Standards, and supports integration of those tools and resources into classroom instruction. She also collects, analyzes, and shares INFOhio usage data to inform instructional design, and writes for INFOhio's social media, blog, and news.