Last month, I penned a blog post about librarians and leadership as it pertains to school librarians being Total Leaders. My thoughts were based on the framework by Charles J. Schwahn and William G. Spady. To recap, when someone is a Total Leader, they ensure that things that matter actually change. Total Leaders improve results, work to ensure more effective operations, make enhancements that benefit everyone, and ensure that changes that happen are lasting. I ended that blog post with the assertion that school librarians are Total Leaders.
I’d like to continue the conversation about school librarian leadership as it relates to being a Total Leader by thinking about leadership through the lens of productive change.
There are five pillars that make up productive change. Purpose, vision, ownership, capacity, and support. Let’s break these down in terms of school librarians and leadership with some examples of what the pillars look like in the world of libraries.
Why do you come to work in your school library every day? Is it because you have a passion for books or because you have a passion for teaching and working within a vibrant school community? The first step to creating lasting and productive change is to understand what your purpose entails. This often requires some soul searching–digging down and finding your purpose for the school library. A great place to start is with the TED Talk by Simon Sinek, “Start with Why.” If you have more time, the book by the same name is a fabulous read and breaks down finding your purpose exceedingly well.
Once you have found your purpose, you can move on to finding and developing your vision. You might already know your purpose for librarianship, this process can work extremely well when you want to make a lasting change in any area of your library. For example, if you decide to genrefy. The first step is to understand the purpose behind that decision.
Challenge: Find you why. Write it down. Why are you a leader? Why are you a school librarian?
If you don’t have a road map for how you are going to create the change and take the leadership role that you desire, now is the time to create one. When I’m reading or watching TV, characters often reference creating a vision board or a dream board. It’s a great idea. Take all the ideas that are now swirling around in your head and put them into words and images. What is your vision, your path for creating the space that is filled with learning? How will you lead to get there? What specific steps might you take? My suggestion would be to set some goals for yourself. Make them measurable. Make them doable. Perhaps one goal to start would be to set up a recurring meeting with your building administration. Or, you might want to start showing your leadership by setting a goal to join a committee in your building or at the district level.
Challenge: Create your road map. What do you want to accomplish as a school librarian leader this year? How will you get there? What steps will you take?
If you don’t take ownership of your leadership, who will? We can wait for something to happen to us, or we can come in and jump-start our leadership journey. As school librarians we must invest in the commitment to our purpose and our vision–making it visible to the entire school community. This may mean that you step out of your comfort zone and present at faculty meetings. It could mean presenting at a local, state, or national conference. For some school librarians, leadership may come in the form of writing grants to increase the collection size in a building. However you choose to take the lead, own it!
Challenge: Try writing a grant if you have not or asking to attend a leadership meeting. Been there done that? Join your state association and become part of a committee.
In order to lead you must have the capacity to lead. For school librarians we are lead learners in our buildings. We build our capacity by creating robust personal learning networks on social media. We attend conferences. We read professional journals. We pursue blogs written by other school librarians. We attend Twitter chats and Facebook live sessions. The point is, we continue to grow by learning and learning translates to leadership. If we have learned the skill set, we own the knowledge, we can be a leader in school librarianship.
Challenge: Read a new book on leadership. There are many amazing books on school librarian leadership to choose from such as:
- Empowering Leadership: Developing Behaviors for Success by Ann M. Martin
- Leading for School Librarians: There Is No Other Option by Hilda K. Weisburg
- Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy by Judi Moreillon
We can think of support in two different ways. In one way, support is having the resources you need to lead. In another, support is finding the people around you who can enable you to become a leader. When you have the vision, the mission, the ownership, the passion, the purpose, and the drive, there is nothing you can’t do when you have the right support. As a school librarian, you lead in making the love of reading come alive in your building. You lead in defining information literacy so that we ensure our students are college and career ready. You lead in teaching the skills needed for a well-rounded citizen. Having that support around you makes it possible. You may need to find that support in many different places–it’s there! You just need to look.
Challenge: Create an infographic or a one-page document that shares the support that a school librarian and a robust school library provides for the school community. Show how you lead and share it with your administration, teachers, and your community.
Tying Them Together
When we can tie purpose, vision, ownership, capacity, and support together in our roles as school librarians or district-level leaders, we are capable of making lasting change. As we reopen schools virtually or face to face in the coming weeks, my wish for myself and for all of you is that together we find our vision, our purpose, we take ownership. My wish is that we build our capacity and we support each other!
Author: Jennifer Sturge
Jennifer Sturge is a Specialist for School Libraries and Digital Learning for Calvert County Public Schools. She has been an educator and librarian for 28 years and is always looking forward. She is a member of ALA and AASL,was the 2020-2021 President of the Maryland Association of School Librarians for 2020-2021, a 2017-2018 Lilead Fellow, and Chair of the AASL Supervisor’s Section of AASL..