In 2010, AASL President Nancy Everhart (2013) began a Visions Tour highlighting 35 outstanding school libraries across the country in the hopes of positively influencing parents, administrators, policy makers, and the public to the value of school libraries and librarians. She based her trip on impression management theory (Hass, 1981), which argued that “any individual or organization must establish and maintain impressions that are congruent with the perceptions they want to convey to the public” (Everhart, 2013).
In a previous blog post I applied 1960s media guru Marshall McLuhan’s contention that “the medium is the message” to the school library profession. Essentially, Hass and McLuhan would agree that our libraries, physically, tangibly, and virtually, ARE our ultimate message. What anyone sees at any one time walking past or coming into our physical or virtual space is most often the message s/he is receiving about the library and, by default, the school librarian. It follows then that we are the impression managers of our own fate.
There are several appropriate clichés that come to mind: “what you see is what you get,” or “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and “seeing is believing.” Considering that principals often make cursory assessments based on what they see when taking impromptu walks around the building and observing informally what’s happening when they stop by the library, the message of our medium becomes all the more significant and influential.
So, just what do we need to do to ensure that we are presenting ourselves in the best light possible, that we are managing positive impressions of our work and our value? What message do we want to convey, and how do we make sure we are best positioning ourselves to send the right message through the medium of our library?
Our message represents our vision of our libraries and our work, and it reflects both the district and school mission. Before we can fashion our message, before we can align our medium with our message, we need a clear, transparent, strategic vision—a picture in words of what is important to us (how we will contribute to student achievement). As Stephen Covey (1989) states, “To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination… How different our lives are when we really know what is important to us, and, keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most (98).” With a clearly defined, articulated vision, we can ensure that impressions of our school libraries are congruent with the perceptions we intend to convey and that our medium is our appropriate message.
Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/glasses-spectacles-eyeglasses-789836/ License: CC Public Domain.
Covey, S. R. (1989). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. NY: Free Press.
Everhart, N. L. (2013, October). Defining a vision of outstanding school libraries. Teacher-Librarian (41)1: 14-19.
Hass, Glen R. (1981). Presentational strategies and the social expression of attitudes: Impression management within limits. In James T. Tedeschi (Ed.), Impression management theory and social psychological research. NY: Academic Press.
McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding media: The extensions of man. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Author: Anne Akers
Clinical assistant professor in the Department of Library and Information Studies at the University of NC at Greensboro working with school library candidates. Former elementary, middle, and high school librarian in Virginia, Mississippi, and North Carolina.