The 2016 ALA/AASL Election is quickly approaching. AASL is using this public forum as an opportunity to introduce the candidates running for office to all members. Each candidate was given the opportunity to respond to this question: If elected, what will you do to advance AASL’s new mission to empower leaders to transform teaching and learning? Read their responses and vote beginning March 15.
As we continue seeing school librarians’ positions cut back or eliminated in districts around the country, it is apparent that our advocacy efforts have not been entirely successful. In order to empower leaders to transform teaching and learning, I would work to ensure that school librarians have access to a wealth of advocacy tools, along with leadership training, so that they can craft a clear advocacy message that will resound with stakeholders at the national, state, and, most important, local levels.
While many school librarians play a significant role in fostering critical thinking skills and in providing the frameworks and tools students need to achieve at high levels in school and beyond, becoming transformational leaders in teaching and learning demands that school librarians go beyond what they are already doing. It is a call to action for school librarians to stay abreast of cutting edge technologies, to become experts in best practices of teaching, to move students from passive learning to active engagement that emphasizes inquiry, critical thinking and interaction with others, and then going the extra mile to ensure that stakeholders are aware of the impact and value of our work and will support the important work we do.
If elected, I will work within AASL to ensure that the bounty of resources and professional development opportunities they provide are made readily accessible to school librarians. I have been an active member of my state associations, and I currently serve as president of the Nebraska School Librarians Association. I am privileged to serve as the district supervisor for library services in the Omaha Public Schools overseeing nearly 100 librarians in 85 buildings. Both of these roles have prepared me well for serving school librarians at the national level.
Region IX encompasses a wide, wonderful swath of Midwest/Western cities, suburbs and rural America and, as in many AASL regions, it’s easy to become isolated and overwhelmed; feeling there is no way for an individual or collective voice to be heard at the building, district or state level. It is vital that our members, and our school library community as a whole, develop strategies to not only become leaders within our professional organization but to lead in our own school environments. In the book The Many Faces of School Library Leadership (Libraries Unlimited, 2010), Kansan Sharon Coatney invited Ken Haycock, among others, to reflect on the school librarians’ leadership role. His advice is to “be there” (at the table) to develop the trust, honesty and respect necessary for a vital leadership role. But how do we accomplish that and help our colleagues to do so?
As a regional director, my focus would be on how each state presently reaches out to members and non-members alike, supplies them with tools (i.e personal mentors, advocacy toolkits, social media connections) for leadership advocacy, and how librarians in their state use those leadership positons to improve teaching and learning. At AASL’s recent conference in Columbus, for example, the traditional Poster Session was transformed into the IDEA Lab, promoting best practices in school libraries. What a terrific idea to bring back to our state conferences and to our own buildings/districts!
Having taught in towns large and small in Nebraska and Kansas, I often had to pursue opportunities to connect with other librarians but was fortunate to be mentored by district and state leaders I got to know through my professional network. I hope to find pathways for all school librarians to embrace leadership and their part in the important conversations taking place in our schools.