Improve Your Professional Practice with the AASL Standards and School Library PSELs

With Dorcas Hand, Sara Kelly Johns, and Susan Ballard

AASL’s National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries offers all educators a foundation for understanding the role of the school librarian. New standards heighten our individual awareness and encourage us to further examine our leadership and practice. A useful and related tool was developed last year for ALA Immediate Past President Julie Todaro’s presidential initiative, Libraries Transform: The Expert in the Library, which sought to build capacity in library workers of all types. The initiative’s school library working group, chaired by Susan D. Ballard, Dorcas Hand, and Sara Kelly Johns, compiled first an overview of useful advocacy articles, infographics and videos focusing on the value of the school librarian, then built a “personal professional growth tool” to encourage practitioners at all levels of experience to increase their expertise. The School Library Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (SL PSELs) is a valuable resource for all school librarians that can serve as a complement to the framework for school librarians found in AASL’s National School Library Standards.

The Expert in the Library school library group developed its main assessment tool based on the National Policy Board for Educational Administration’s Professional Standards for Educational Leaders, or PSELs. By aligning their work with the PSELs, the school library working group has provided a bridge to mutual understanding for educational leaders, helping school boards, administrators, and teachers to fully comprehend the roles that school librarians fulfill within their learning communities. The SL PSELs are the core of the “Self-Assessment Using School Librarian-PSEL Competencies 1-11,” which can become an easy “ready reference” for a school librarian’s job description.

The working group of 10 practitioners also constructed a rubric based on the eleven core SL PSEL competencies–competencies that echo and elaborate on those in the AASL National School Library Standards–with a bounty of supporting resources. The extensive list of citations and links point to a variety of resources thoughtfully curated by the working group. Many of these resources have been made available outside of firewalls for a limited time and are specifically for your use in understanding how to apply the SL PSELs to increase your professional expertise. A practitioner, whether new to school librarianship or with years of experience, can identify personal, specific areas to strengthen and can start their personal professional growth by reading the articles chosen to address those competencies and their level of expertise to inspire reflection and development. There are eleven competencies, each with four levels of expertise; each level has at least two linked readings–not to mention additional general readings that feature AASL resources.

A first step into personal implementation of the new AASL Standards might be a self-evaluation using the SL PSELs, reading and reflecting on some of the corresponding articles for areas needing strengthening, and then immersion in the new AASL National School Library Standards’ richness and depth. You will find that there is a natural overlay of the SL PSELs and the school librarian framework. One of the Standards portal’s one-pagers for school librarians, “Reflect and Refresh,” recommends reflection as a start for engagement with the AASL Standards. Just like the National School Library Standards, the SL PSELs provide an arsenal of carefully selected articles to deepen professionalism and enhance personal practice.

For example, the Key Commitment for Shared Foundation VI, Engage, in the AASL Standards is to “Demonstrate safe, legal, and ethical creating and sharing of knowledge products independently while engaging in a community of practice and an interconnected world.” A school librarian who feels that he or she needs a deeper understanding of library ethics can read and reflect on the articles and position papers curated for SL PSEL #2: Ethical Principles and Professional Norms – Effective School Library leaders act ethically and according to professional norms to promote each learner’s academic success and well-being and/or practitioners’ professional success.”

The AASL National School Library Standards (2018) offer competencies that interweave learners, school librarians, and school libraries while the School Library PSELs offer a focus to improve personal practice. As learners, school librarians strive for continuous improvement to further develop their skill sets and build on their expertise throughout their careers. School librarians will want to explore both the school librarian framework found in the AASL National School Library Standards and the School Library Professional Standards for Educational Leaders.


Author: Steven Yates

Steven Yates is an assistant professor and coordinator of the school library media certification program at the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alabama. He earned a doctor of philosophy in instructional leadership with an emphasis in instructional technology in 2017.

Categories: Community, Presidential Musings

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