It Is All about Relationships

Relationships Matter

This year I had a fantastic time at the 2019 AASL National Conference. Conference sessions centered on the National School Library Standards. The general sessions noticeably covered the Include Shared Foundation, and typically, I gravitate toward concurrent sessions with the Inquire Shared Foundation. However, this year, I came away with the vital message that relationships matter.

Key to Strategic Planning

I attended a session at the conference about strategic planning from the award-winning crew at Fairfax County. Their administrator Deirdre Lavery joined librarians Priscille Dando, Lisa Koch, and Mimi Marquet for the presentation. Their advice was to look at your school to see what is ideal for your library. The librarians encouraged us to find a voice with all stakeholders. Furthermore, they encouraged attendees to seek windows of opportunities with parents, administrators, students, alumni, and the school board.

After making these essential connections, they crafted a commitment statement for the library that supports the school and district goals. They also provided additional advice to start with the AASL’s School Library Evaluation Checklist. From the checklist, they recommended looking at your school’s strategic plan. In addition to the evaluation checklist, this group also used the Future Ready Librarian Framework to help set action goals.

Though the librarians inspired me, I found inspiration from the administrator as well. Deirdre Lavery has the philosophy that with vision, resources, and support, librarians and other educators can be amazing. She sees that her librarians have clarity around the vision, so with that solid backing, they are free for instruction and programming. Lavery concluded with the advice that a key to influence and advocacy is our relationship with our administrators.

Key to College Transition

Another session enhanced my thoughts about the high school transition. During the session “Collaborating to Bridge the Gap between High School and College Level Research,” Kerrie Burch talked about academic and school librarians working together. Burch did not describe a college preparatory program or process carried out in the school library; instead, she spoke about our relationship with college librarians. Outlining the scope and sequence of high school curriculum to college curriculum is vital for students making the college transition. The best way to determine the path between high school and college is for school and college librarians to talk to each other! Burch described a series of events where college and school librarians came together to discuss challenges and opportunities to help students make the college transition.

Key to Leadership

A new feature of the AASL National Conference this year was the Research to Practice sessions. Pam Harland presented her research about school librarian leadership. Harland studied Nancy Everhart and Melissa Johnston’s proposed theory of school librarian leadership. From this and other experiences, she developed research criteria for identifying librarian leaders. Harland then narrowed the research subjects and chose three librarian leaders to investigate.  She followed early-, mid-, and late-career library leaders.

Harland’s findings included what she described as a school librarian leadership triangle. The three sides of the triangle are Relationship, Communication, and Confidence. Harland found differences and commonalities among the leaders. Some common traits included risk taking and being vulnerable. One idea that stood out was the idea of “job crafting.” This concept is where librarians match their skills to the needs of the institution. If you are interested in job crafting, Harland recommends the Barrett Values Center Personal Values Assessment.

Conceptual model of school librarian leadership. Everhart & Johnston

Conceptual model of school librarian leadership. Everhart & Johnston

Harland plans to offer the research as open access. She has created a portrait of a school librarian leader. Harland will provide her resources to school librarians, educators of school librarians, and administrators of school librarians. These resources may also include a list of leadership opportunities and possibilities.

Relationship Wrap-Up

The wrap-up session at the conference was great fun with a microphone ball and tabletop discussions. I found this valuable, and I made connections with librarians that continued on Twitter and Facebook.

I encourage those attending to reach out to the librarians that you met at the conference and extend your learning network. Not able to participate in the conference this year? Go over to Twitter and check out the hashtags #AASL19 and #notataasl.


Author: Hannah Byrd Little

I’m a dedicated Library Director at The Webb School of Bell Buckle, leveraging my background in higher education libraries to guide students through the crucial transition from school to college and beyond.

I am honored to have served as the AASL Chair for the Independent School Section in 2023 and am excited to begin my upcoming role as Director-At-Large for the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) later this year, following my previous experience as a Member Guide in the AASL Emerging Leaders program. These appointments reflect my commitment to advancing library education and professional development on a national scale.

With experience in state-level leadership through the Tennessee Association of School Librarians (TASL), including serving as TASL President in 2012, I bring a wealth of knowledge to my role. My educational background includes certifications as a Library Information Specialist for PreK-12th grade, a Bachelor of Science in Communications (Advertising & Public Relations), a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Studies (Education & Information Systems), and a Master’s in Library and Information Science.

Categories: AASL National Conference, Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Community, Community/Teacher Collaboration

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