by Dorcas Hand, with help from AASL presenters Mary K. Biagini and Debra Kachel
Looking at our current school library world with ESSA on the horizon, I find myself thinking how to put the library in the category of essential programs and the librarian in Essential Personnel. ESSA does recognize that the instructional role of the school librarian is an essential and integral aspect of student education, and therefore eligible for federal education dollars. I am reminded of a program from the AASL National Conference in Columbus in 2015 – its content speaks directly to what folks need to consider as they set their campus up for stronger library support with the implementation of ESSA. Find the related PowerPoint and supporting resources at PA School Library Project. I refer you with the authors’ permission.
Despite its focus on principals, this slide reminds us how important it is to offer our administrators of ALL levels the info they need – and I note additionally how essential it is to provide that info in the language and format they will most easily understand and find useful. Our libraries answer many of their needs, but they may not realize it until we make it clear.
- We have data that support our stories – check out this example from Libraries in HISD.
- We impact test scores and graduation rates as well as student success in other areas—check out Strong School Libraries Build Strong Students.
- We support state standards and offer professional development for teachers. In Texas, librarians look to the state curricular standards as they plan lessons, especially in support of STAAR test successes. They can point to the specific standard a lesson supports.
- We help schools have great relationships with parents and community groups.
You already know what we do – but you might not have seen yourself as resources in your Indiana Jones’ administrators’ tool belts.
To be better prepared to speak to your administrator’s interests, you need to do your homework. What are your administrators’ goals and objectives for the year – or any year? How can you directly answer those goals with library support and existing library programming that encourages their success?
Patiently build awareness of all library programs. I hope you have taken time to browse the PowerPoint and have noted the need to be ”People Smart” (slide 10). Discover your district leadership’s and principal’s preferred communications styles – paper, email, or meeting. Make sure all your communication is interesting and exciting – and clear. Keep the students at the center of the conversation – you are doing what is best for their academic success by selecting the best resources, planning the best lessons, encouraging that love of reading and learning – and promote your impact. Don’t hide in the library: be sure you are seen working with students and teachers – and at district meetings, even school board meetings, identified as a voice for libraries even when you aren’t speaking.
And here we are in spring, buckling down for the last frenetic weeks. Before it is the final sprint, take time to plan your Annual Report. This opportunity offers huge benefits – especially when it summarizes all the highlights of library activities and initiatives in a form easy to hand off to district leadership and even community groups. Make sure everyone knows what you and your library contribute to student success and that the absence of school libraries and school librarians leaves a real hole in their educational success.