“I am so smart! S-M-R-T! I mean…” -Homer Simpson
This September will be my first as a school librarian, after a mid-year switch early in 2022. After 23 years of writing professional development plans (PDPs) and student growth objectives (SGOs) as a classroom teacher, this fall I will have to craft SMART goals as I consider how the school library can help improve students’ educational outcomes.
I’d argue these accountability tasks are easier to do in a classroom than a school library. Many of the tasks are set up to be annual; but libraries should be more long-term than single years. Most school librarians should develop a multi-year plan, which could potentially be turned into SMART goals and PDPs. It might need to be modified or adjusted year by year, but tracking the successes and setbacks would make great goals.
A friend recently mentioned how tough it can be to figure out workable goals, PDPs, SGOs, and whatnot for school librarians. I figured I’d share some of my brainstorming in case it might inspire folks!
No matter what letters are used, all of the accountability requirements boil down to one bedrock set of essentials: Where are things at right now? What could be done to change, and hopefully improve, that situation? How did that plan work out?
Whatever type of goal-setting happens, numbers are necessary. Percentages, counts, lists, averages – there are plenty of data points to be found in a library. School librarians can take advantage of this to align their “required paperwork” goals with meaningful consideration and expansion of the school library and materials.
To my mind, surveying students and faculty should be a no-brainer. Even without looking at what the survey is about, looking at response rates alone can provide some sense of how much school patrons engage with library initiatives.
Of course, what gets asked is also rather important! Culture and climate surveys might suggest goals and plans for displays, programs, or space use redesigns. And seeking input for collection development can be a goal in itself, and can complement other collection-related goals. How many books are students or staff requesting? Are there any trends in their requests? How might the school library provide additional supports for those interests, beyond books?
My school library does not have a very robust fiction collection. Expanding the collection is definitely a goal of mine. This could translate into before and after data on volume counts, average age, genre analysis, EDI analysis, weeding. These are low-hanging fruit, ready to go right out of the box. There’s data to be mined and plans to be built from it.
The next level is looking at circulation statistics, and figuring out plans to try to improve it. This might be for the collection as a whole, or for certain sections that seem to be underutilized.
Depending on how a library is set up, it can be tough to know how many staff and students utilize the space. But setting aside some time to do either random or scheduled “census taking” could provide valuable data about who is using the space and why. This, in turn, can be used to increase communication and outreach efforts, and might suggest changes needed to policies, procedures, or materials.
Creating a plan for how to figure out physical space use might in itself be a goal.
Are there any outside groups or organizations that use the school library space? Is this an area that could be expanded as part of a library outreach program? Helping the community see and understand the school library space can provide many benefits.
Usage isn’t limited to spaces or materials. Gathering data on how frequently the school librarian interacts with students and staff, and what assistance is offered, can form the basis for a wide range of goals. Do these interactions suggest areas of the collection in need of expansion? Do they provide ideas for creating more efficient programs, clearer signage, easier information access?
To my mind, school libraries are extraordinary spaces because they offer students a “third space”, something that’s not home and not a classroom. School libraries can – and should – be a place for student social-emotional learning. Books might accomplish this purpose. But, there are many other ways we can assist students in this realm. How accessible are passive and active programs for students? How many types of programs and materials are available? How might these options and opportunities offer insight into the program through their usage?
A healthy school library relies on communication. Do you have a newsletter? If not, consider creating one. If so, are you using a newsletter tool that lets you gather data on how often that newsletter is viewed? I started using Canva for a weekly library newsletter, ignorant of the fact that it provides viewing statistics. Once I found this feature, I started looking for trends. I can craft goals about my newsletter’s views and what information or sections it includes.
Emails are another communication tool too frequently overlooked when it comes to annual goal setting. Communications about school libraries can reach beyond the school building. Great goals could include Initiatives to connect with public libraries, community groups, and local organizations and businesses. Keeping a record of how many emails are sent or received about particular programs can be a useful piece of data!
How many classes can you offer your staff and students? Although faculty might not always be able (or willing) to collaborate as much as you’d like, that doesn’t mean a school librarian shouldn’t have a “bag of tricks” ready to roll. Documenting lessons one can provide shows the effort and consideration being utilized to support learning, even if the lessons aren’t deployed as frequently or deeply as one might like.
It’s also worth considering self-contained, self-guided lessons users might access through the school library website. Adding one self-paced lesson a quarter might be a stretch goal, as well-built lessons take time that can be scarce in the school library, but school libraries are all about providing learning opportunities!
Even building or updating a website can be a solid professional goal. How many pages does the current site have? What topics are or aren’t covered? Is the site used by all learners, students and staff? How could it be improved? This is another area where surveys and communication can provide useful data for planning and goal-setting.
Student growth objectives (SGOs) can seem daunting for classroom teachers who instruct students daily. For school librarians required to have SGOs, it might seem doubly so. But bear in mind that a central component of the SGO is “growth”. Having students take a pretest, then providing engaging lessons and materials, then giving a post-test will almost always show student growth. The goal is for students to learn. Ideally, this happens through some face-to-face instruction, perhaps in collaboration with a classroom teacher. (In fact, it may be worth considering collaborating with a classroom teacher to establish some mutually-beneficial SGO goals for students.)
But even if a school librarian doesn’t get much (or possibly any) face-to-face instructional time with students, it’s still possible to set up some self-paced online lessons for students to explore. Pre- and post-assessments can be built right in on either end of the lesson.
And assessments come in a nearly infinite variety. Sure, quizzes are a type of assessment, and they can easily be built into lessons. But they are far from the only assessment possibility.
Imagine students recording short introduction videos of themselves that included what they know about a particular topic – maybe how to identify a reliable source of information. This would only take them a minute or less to create, and the videos could be viewed when one has the time. This could provide a baseline for what students know about the topic. Building a lesson to extend their knowledge can happen as time allows. Afterwards students can interact with the lesson via whatever method fits the school librarian’s schedule and preferences or students could record a follow-up stating what they learned. This can make a great beginning-of-year and end-of-year activity – having students watch their own videos and record responses helps them reflect on their growth, and provides educators with assessment information – it’s win-win!
There are SO MANY possibilities when it comes to PDPs, SMART goals, SGOs and all the other accountability requirements that have become part of education. Here is a list of some other options to consider:
- Review and/or revision of policies and procedures
- Number of:
- grants submitted – and hopefully awarded!
- reviews written
- student book reviews written
- workshops and learning opportunities attended outside of school hours (because most of the school librarians I know spend plenty of their own time improving themselves)
- Displays: How many, what type, frequency of change
- Student assistants: how many, tasks they do, how they contribute to the culture, climate, and atmosphere of the library
- Collaboration: Who’s it happening with? Can it be expanded with teachers? Departments? Administrators? To other buildings? To parents and community organizations? To other districts? Other school librarians?
- Site visits: visiting other working school librarians in their spaces, or having them come for a visit.
- Personal increase in involvement: Joining professional organizations, volunteering, writing articles or blogs, giving workshops, presenting or organizing an edCamp, starting a podcast
For more ideas on professional development goals, SGOs, and more, look at your current professional/personal learning network (PLN). Heck, PLN development could be a goal! Consider how your PLN can be expanded, count how many other people you interact with, track how many ideas you are able to share, and how many from others you’re able to put to practical use!
When it comes to data there are lots of things that can be counted. Have a baseline, take some action, get a post-action reflection – you’re 90% done with a professional goal!
What did I miss? Share your suggestions in the comments – we can all help each other!
Author: Steve Tetreault
After 24 years as a classroom English Language Arts teacher, Steve became a school librarian in January 2022. He has earned an M.Ed. (2006) and an Ed.D. (2014) in Educational Administration and Supervision, and completed an M.I. degree in Library and Information Science (2019). He is certified as a teacher, school library media specialist, supervisor, and administrator. He is an old dog constantly learning new tricks!
Categories: Professional Development