On Thursday, I have the privilege of sharing some of the things happening in my library with about 60 school librarians and tech facilitators from all around southeastern North Carolina. I love these kinds of things - mostly because it's a wonderful and rare opportunity to connect, face to face, with some of my counterparts. Even so, when I was asked to present a "snapshot" of the kinds of stuff that keeps me on my toes on a day to day basis, I struggled with how to organize my thoughts. On any given day, there's lots going on at my busy, suburban school, but having sat through too many disorganized and woefully irrelevant staff development sessions over the years, I wanted to make sure my thoughts were not only coherent, but also meaningful.
Also weighing heavily on my mind was a recent discussion I'd had with a group of teachers at my school about the formal ways in which teachers are evaluated. It seems like our country is at a crossroads when it comes to how teachers are not simply assessed, but also viewed. After a year full of extremes, (both in rhetoric and policy), I'm looking forward to (what I hope will be) the inevitable voice of reason: one that puts students first and agendas, politics and money second. (I know... I know... but a girl can dream, right?)
Anyway, all of this got me thinking about how school librarians are evaluated, or more specifically, what people expect from us. I've written many times before about how I feel one of the major problems facing our profession is that of "terminally low expectations" that, sadly, some of our colleagues live up (or should I say down?!) to. For a long time, school librarians have flown under the radar - a nebulous position: clouded by the specters of stereotypes and camouflage by the knowledge that absolutely no one else in the building has a clue what we're supposed to be doing. Truth be told, there are still plenty of teachers and, worse yet, administrators who don't know quite what to think of or expect from us. What's more, while some librarians have thrived in this environment - others have taken advantage of a situation in which little was expected and, thus, little was delivered.
It's unfortunate that it took the near collapse of our economy to make people take a closer look at school libraries and their impact on student learning. (And by closer look, I mean in some cases a complete decimation of existing programs and staff). Clearly, I believe in the work I do and know that a quality library program can have a tremendous impact on a student as a reader, thinker and creator. However, not everyone believes this or has even witnessed it. Therefore, it's up to us to shine a light on the good and important work we do: the work that directly impacts kids and furthers the learning goals of our schools - to reboot the concept of library and change what people expect from school librarians.
And thus, I found the lens through which I wanted to share my programs with my colleagues.
So... I dusted off my "Librarians Are Ready" flyer and began plugging in some examples of how my library lives up to the expectations I espouse. Honestly, even if Thursday's presentation didn't happen, this has been a good exercise in self-assessment for me. By examining the qualities of a "21st Century School Librarian" and trying to find concrete examples of how I fulfill them, I was forced to a) evaluate the merits of much of what I do, b) face the gaps in my work and c) think about how to fill them. All in all, a very valuable exercise. What's more, it's one I hope to replicate in my presentation.
Rather than just stand up there and say "oooooooh! look at me!" I hope my colleagues will spend some time thinking about their own programs and, in the process, discover some examples of how they are raising the bar for the rest of us AND maybe even leave with a few ideas.
In the meantime, here's the Prezi I'll be sharing with my new friends on Thursday. As always, anything here is licensed under Creative Commons - so please feel free to use, share and change this as you see fit.