By Sara Kelly Johns, Susan D. Ballard, and Dorcas Hand
The ALA Initiative “Libraries Transform” has been further defined during this past year by ALA President Julie Todaro as “Libraries Transform: The Expert in the Library.” This is because of the recognition that the professional is the key ingredient to ensure library success; and the same is true for school libraries. They can transform students, curriculum, teachers, campuses, and communities – but not without an expert librarian.
In developing her initiative, Julie tapped the three of us to join her task force and chair the school group, and we in turn tapped a group of respected practitioners to build a set of resources to define and support the professional growth of school librarians. We began our task with the understanding that outstanding school librarians consistently improve their practice to offer the most skillful expertise they can every day of the year, but what competencies define that expertise? While the full breadth of our work–the “big reveal” as we have named it–will be made available at ALA Annual this week, we want to give you an advance preview here in the hopes that you will be able to use this resource to step up your game and begin to develop your personal playbook over the summer.
Our team’s initial work involved searching for articles and AASL position statements to define Dispositions and Competencies for effective practice, Leadership and Collaboration to strengthen impact, Value and Measurables to offer administrators and policy makers, and Advocacy tips to benefit community awareness. As we began to make progress, we became aware of the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (PSELs) developed by the National Policy Board for Educational Administrators (NPBEA). We determined that they paralleled many of the areas of competence that reflect what effective school librarian leaders also do, and realized we could use the vocabulary of school administrators to describe our work.
Next we took the School Librarian Competencies based on the PSELs (April 2017) as the core of a rubric for self-assessment for school librarians. If you follow the School Library Connection blog, you may have already seen references to this. We identified 11 competencies – the original ten from NPBEA plus Literacy – in a scaled format from Ineffective to Highly Effective (4 levels) with curated resources for every level to support scaffolded professional development. There is no scoring system, but there is an implied invitation for every school librarian to choose a place to begin, read widely, reflect accordingly, and develop a personal learning plan to improve practice. We have been gratified to have the support of AASL headquarters and the editorial staffs at Knowledge Quest, School Library Connection, and Teacher Librarian in this endeavor as they have been more than generous in sharing access to their content to benefit rubric users. The School Library Journal articles included are all open content already.
As of the Town Hall program at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, the Todaro initiative will be linked on the ALA Human Resource Development and Recruitment page under the “About Us” link. There will be some reference materials that do require membership or subscription passwords – but those are indicators that practitioners need AASL membership to participate in our community of expert practitioners. We are so excited to finally share our work with all of you, and hope you share it further with colleagues.
Many thanks to our remarkable committee: Kathy Burnette, Angela Hall, Ric Hasenyager, Kathy Hicks-Brooks, Jennifer Jamison, Debra Kachel, Joyce Valenza, and Kay Wejrowski, as well as our expert panel reviewers, Debbie Abilock and Blanche Woolls. We also thank Julie Todaro for giving us this opportunity and Janice Welburn and Beth McNeil who chaired the Initiative Steering Committee.