Leadership is at the forefront of what we do as school librarians. Almost every single day, we exemplify leadership. And because we are librarians, we have leadership opportunities that few in the school may see. Through the lens of our six Shared Foundations, we lead others to:
- Inquire by asking questions that challenge the status quo.
- Include, appreciate, and respect multiple points of views and opinions.
- Collaborate with students, teachers, principals, other librarians, and community members.
- Curate resources and teach others how to curate resources important to them.
- Explore ways to develop personalized learning adventures.
- Engage others in ways that allow them to participate in informed decision making about their learning.
What an exciting list! Who wouldn’t want to be a school librarian knowing this is the path they could take? But the leadership path of a school librarian can be exhausting at times. Moreover, we go in so many directions and meet so many needs that at times it’s overwhelming.
When you put on too many hats, it’s easy to become fatigued doing good work. There are a couple of overarching reasons for this.
We are frequently isolated. School leaders are few in numbers, and school librarians swim in an even smaller pool. Consequently, we need to interact with other leaders in meaningful ways.
Lack of leadership training. Often, we are the ones in our schools and districts developing and leading training. I love leading training, but sometimes I need to be trained. As a matter of fact, when we are on the receiving end of training, it is frequently not specific enough to meet our unique leadership needs. The knowledge received is not worth the time invested. And we all know as leaders, time is at a premium.
Leadership Institutes and Academies
A program with a leadership emphasis might just be what you need. Of course, ALA provides an extensive curation of library leadership training resources. Here you’ll find leadership programming available through divisions and state affiliates.
In North Carolina, the North Carolina School Library Media Association (NCSLMA) offers a leadership academy specific for school librarians with five or more years experience. In addition, the North Carolina Library Association (NCLA) also has a leadership institute that welcomes school librarians. As a matter of fact, I became involved with NC school librarians through an emerging leaders program.
Try a Leadership Book Club
If you can’t find a leadership program in your state or at a convenient time, there are some wonderful leadership-focused books in the ALA store. Here are just a few of the titles you’ll find
- Maximizing School Librarian Leadership by Judi Moreillon
- Leadership: Strategic Thinking, Decision Making, Communication, and Relationship Building by Ann M. Martin and Kathleen Riopelle Roberts
- The Many Faces of School Library Leadership by Sharon Coatney and Violet H. Harada
- Leading for school librarians by Hilda K. Weisburg
Those are my favorites, but there are many others from which to choose that address our unique leadership needs. Consider starting a book club for librarians in your district or region to help grow your leadership skills. While these books are all great resources, it’s the personal aspect of meeting with others that enhances the lessons learned!
Sometimes we don’t have to look outside our districts for leadership programs. Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools (WSFCS) has a great opportunity for leadership and training through Teacher Academy*. Under the guidance of Donna Cannon, Beth Ausley, and Sally McCombs, Teacher Academy provides support for teachers that will in turn improve student outcomes. Who provides this support? Well, you need a core team of teacher leaders. And that’s where both of our unique needs (isolation and leadership training) are met.
In WSFCS, we have 100 teacher leaders who are no longer working in isolation. Meetings and retreats coupled with more informational events allow us to get to know each other, become friends, and provide each other with an internal support system that equips us to meet the needs of teachers across the district.
In addition, specific leadership training is provided. In August and November, two groups of teacher leaders went to the Teacher Leader Institute at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) led by Bill Miller.
- Knowing our why for what we do
- What sets leaders apart from managers
- My leadership potential
- Personality types
- Levels of leadership
- SWOT analysis
- Group dynamics
- Critical friends protocols
At this point, I have a confession to make. I almost didn’t take this journey. Like so many of you, I’m busier than any human should be. Between family, school, and other commitments, I was afraid this would be the over-extension that would topple me over the ledge. After a great deal of reflection, I decided to risk having to let something else go. Has this been worth the extra time and effort? Oh, yes!
What will I do next?
- Think: The importance of building relationships cannot be stressed enough. How will I do this in new and exciting ways?
- Create: I can’t wait to problem solve using the Critical Friends Protocols, and I developed a SWOT analysis of my library and library programming that will be useful in writing long-range plans.
- Share: My favorite! We are not lone leaders! We belong to a community. There are teachers and librarian leaders in every district and state who can support each other.
- Grow: I learned a lot about myself as a leader! How will I use this new information to not only help me continue to grow but also help grow others?
*Teacher Academy is funded by a grant from The Winston-Salem Foundation.
Author: Bitsy Griffin
Bitsy Griffin is the school librarian for Chatham Grove ES in Chapel Hill NC. She has 25+ years experience in elementary, middle, and high schools as a math teacher and librarian. She is active in AASL and the North Carolina School Library Media Association. Find her blog at http://www.bitsygriffin.com .