How losing taught me more than winning ever did.
There are some pivotal moments in life when one experiences a loss. Most everyone has lost a job, which can be devastating and leave one directionless for a time. Many of us have pitched a presentation for a conference that wasn’t approved or selected. Some of us have worked hard toward a big award or grant for our library and not attained our goal. Many times these losses can cause us to feel down and not want to try again. But hopefully, the losses are something we learn from and move on to greater things.
The people we meet
When we have a loss, we lean on people and develop deeper relationships that get us through the tough time. In 2013, my library was in need of funds after a major fundraising effort fell through. Many of the grants that are out there for school libraries do not include private schools. I naively decided to self-nominate my library for an award. Through this process, I met a number of incredible people at AASL and specifically those on the committee for this particular award. Those people continue to be a great encouragement.
Check out the links below for information about grants/awards for school libraries:
- AASL Awards and Grants – most submissions due in January and February
- SLJ Awards – nominations typically open in March
Learning where to improve
Well, you may have gathered that we did not win the award. We came quite close to winning the prize; in fact, a team of six librarians from across the country traveled to the tiny town of Bell Buckle, TN, to look at our program. But after not winning we started to ask the hard questions. What went wrong? What is lacking in the program? Where can we improve? When we were honest with ourselves we found areas where we were just not ready for the recognition the award covered.
Deeply reflect on practice
So what were our library’s weaknesses? First, there was no record of all of the good work that we were doing with our teachers and students. Although, we taught, co-taught, and provided resources we were not keeping a visible record. We found that we needed a record or evidence of all of the teaching and learning that happened in and through the library. Second, students were doing incredible work in the library but we had no evidence of it in the library. The research projects, maps, art, and other student work that students had created with library resources and library assistance were displayed in the classroom but not in the library. Finally, though we could list ten points of reflection, the biggest realization was that the library should be more than just a building or a collection it should be a program and a group professionals striving for literacy and community.
What are some ways we worked to improve our practice:
- Blogging for the record–keeping an online journal of major projects.
- Developing LibGuides for further classroom connection.
- Attending a pivotal workshop about library revitalization with Pam Harland sponsored by the Bureau of Education and Research.
Eventually, lose the fear of rejection
Will we apply for grants and awards again? Yes, but always knowing that after the hard work the outcome is not certain. The best thing to do is keep working towards the library goals. Because whether or not we win or lose we always WIN when our program is better! Second place is certainly not the first loser, but it can be the biggest winner.
Yes, I have gained friends throughout the process of losing this award/grant. But I have also developed powerful contacts that take me far beyond my rural setting. I don’t know who approved my requests for writing both in the Knowledge Quest journal and eventually the KQ blog but I am grateful to them for giving me a chance. The opportunity to write keeps me on my toes. Most importantly my online library world helps me as a solo/silo librarian to keep up with the best practices in the industry.
Giving thanks this November
Thank you to my friends near and far in the library world who have encouraged me to keep growing after a loss–Pam Harland, Sabrina Carnesi, Pam Renfrow, and Laura Sheneman. Also, thanks to those who have been so helpful with writing and editing, especially KQ Editor Meg Featheringham.
Author: Hannah Byrd Little
Hello, I am the Library Director at The Webb School of Bell Buckle. I use my past experience in college and university libraries to help my current students in school libraries transition into college, career, and life. I am currently the lead Senior Class Adviser for the Capstone Project. I also served at the state level with the Tennessee Association of School Librarians executive board from 2009-2013 and was the TASL president in 2012. I am certified as a Library Information Specialist for PreK-12th grade, have a BS in Communications with a concentration in Advertising and Public Relations, a BS in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Education and Information Systems and a Masters in Library and Information Science.