2019 AASL Affiliate of the Year Shares How Curiosity and Confidence Impact Its Work

In my second week as president of the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association (PSLA) and in the midst of our strategic planning summit, the teaching and learning committee co-chair jokingly said to me, “Allison, you don’t have to do everything in the first two months of your presidency.” There is always a bit of truth hidden in humor, and he had me pegged. I am a “driver-guardian”; an analytical thinker, direct and transparent, meticulous and detail-oriented, looking for patterns in complex systems with a high tolerance for risk when analyzed as logical and rational (Johnson Vickberg and Christfort 2017). I always hope to cultivate curiosity and creative confidence in others.

Now, I am able to reflect upon my working/decision-making style and appreciate how it intermingles with the styles of those who served as PSLA leaders during the 2018–2019 year when PSLA won the 2019 AASL Affiliate of the Year Award. Through their own work styles, the board members, committee co-chairs, task group coordinators, and committee members brought their “useful perspectives and distinctive approaches to generating ideas, making decisions, and solving problems” (Johnson Vickberg and Christfort 2017). We found the perfect chemistry of pioneers, guardians, integrators, and drivers.

It was a year of looking back and moving forward. Through an intense and meaningful strategic planning session, our organizational strategic priorities became apparent and showed up in the work we did throughout the year. Additionally, the release of the National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries truly helped guide the way.

The drive to become the Affiliate of the Year required PSLA leaders and members to build upon the association’s strong foundation, which had been paved by previous leaders. During 2018–2019, we identified and updated the way we worked—from the focus of our board meetings to the work our committees were doing to enhance the association’s value. Transparency and clear and meaningful communication were key goals in our efforts.

Some accomplishments include the following:

  • The communication committee made sure our members received information about local, state, and national school library news and events through PSLA’s various social media accounts, an updated PSLA website, and the newly created PSLA Pulse blog. As president, I wrote the “Behind the Scenes” column on the blog to promote transparency and ensure clarity of actions and purpose.
  • To support the professional growth of our members, the teaching and learning committee highlighted the AASL Best Digital Tools for Teaching and Learning (formerly best apps and websites) on a regular basis and developed a vision for drafting the application for the AASL Past-Presidents Planning Grant for National School Library Standards (which was ultimately awarded to PSLA in honor of E. Blanche Woolls, AASL Past President and PSLA Distinguished Service member). The PSLA Teaching and Learning – Literature Review Blog continued to share carefully written book reviews.
  • Following the lead of AASL, the awards committee restructured the PSLA Awards and framed the award applications and rubrics with the Shared Foundations. The Pennsylvania Young Readers Choice Awards Program promoted reading quality books to young people.
  • The conference committee hosted a preconference and concurrent sessions during the annual PSLA Conference, with strands based on the AASL Standards’ Domains (Think, Create, Share, Grow) and Key Competencies of the Shared Foundations (Inquire, Include, Collaborate, Curate, Explore, Engage). Subsequent regional trainings, funded by a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, were offered throughout the commonwealth.
  • In addition to a membership drive and the development of a PSLA Affiliate Task Group, the operations committee focused on gathering information and creating procedures to preserve our institutional history and ensure organizational sustainability.
  • The local and state advocacy special committee was established to spearhead PSLA’s local and state advocacy efforts regarding passing state legislation specific to school libraries, funding, and staffing. Community engagement efforts resulted in House and Senate bills in support of “One Certified Librarian per Public School” in Pennsylvania. Both pieces of library legislation were reintroduced in the current session.
  • The Leadership Development for Pennsylvania School Librarians, a collaborative initiative of PSLA and the University of Pittsburgh School Library Certification Program, continued to provide professional growth opportunities for Pennsylvania school librarians through the financial support of a LSTA grant.
  • PSLA partnered with the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Office of Commonwealth Libraries, to craft and publish the Guidelines for Pennsylvania School Library Programs (2019).

Even with the best mix of people, it is not always easy. Everyone doesn’t always agree; however, in PSLA disagreements are seen as opportunities for growth. Being named 2019 AASL Affiliate of the Year meant asking people to be vulnerable. Brené Brown tells us “to fully show up, to bring [our] whole selves including [our] unarmored, whole hearts—so that we can innovate, solve problems, and serve people—we have to be vigilant about creating a culture in which people feel safe, seen, heard, and respected” (2018). The PSLA Board of Directors met this challenge. We keep our school library community at the heart of our decisions, which brought meaning and pride to our work.

Seth Godin uses a roads or buildings analogy to remind us about what it takes to make long-term impact (2019). Godin asks, “How do we do things around here?” In the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association, we do things the best we can. PSLA leaders may set the groundwork to construct some buildings, but we are dedicated to building roads—to leadership, to sustainability, to professional growth, to relevance, to community.

Works Cited:

AASL. 2018. National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. Chicago: ALA.

Brown, Brene. 2018. Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations, Whole Hearts. New York: Random House.

Godin, Seth. 2019. “Roads or Buildings?” Seth’s Blog (June 3). https://seths.blog/2019/06/roads-or-buildings/.

Johnson Vickberg, Suzanne M., and Christfort, Kim. 2017. “Pioneers, Drivers, Integrators, and Guardians.” Harvard Business Review.  https://hbr.org/2017/03/the-new-science-of-team-chemistry.


Author: Allison Mackley

Allison Mackley, National Board Certified school librarian, is the K–12 Library Department coordinator and instructional technology coach at Hershey (PA) High School in the Derry Township School District. She is the immediate past president of the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association. An AASL member, she serves as the Region 2 Board Director and the board liaison for the AASL Digital Tools for Teaching and Learning committee. She served on AASL’s Standards Implementation Committee and as its liaison with the Presidential Initiative Task Force and the Crosswalk Task Force. Allison currently serves on the Pennsylvania Department of Education Governor’s Advisory Council on Library Development, and she is a member of the ISTE Librarians Network Leadership Team. In 2017 she was a finalist for the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Teacher of the Year Award. She was the 2019 AASL Social Media Superstar Leadership Luminary, and the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association (PSLA) won the 2019 AASL Affiliate of the Year during her presidency. She received her Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh. Follow her on Twitter @amackley.

Categories: Awards Spotlight, Community

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1 reply

  1. This is a great post Allison with lost of embedded leadership resources I’ll be checking out! Thank you for sharing!

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