On Returning to School

Social media, while it has its share of detractors, has been great about keeping me in touch with many of my colleagues and professional friends who are turning their sights toward the end of summer and the return of another school year. As a full-year central office employee, I cannot help but be a little jealous of my friends’ opportunities to rest, reflect, recharge, and prepare themselves for a new year of working in the best place on the planet–the school library.


As we prepare to return to our campuses, one thing I think we should consider is that we are not the same people who locked the doors to the library back in May or June. Our students and colleagues are not the same people either. Hopefully, we have all read a few books, attended a conference or event or two, or done something that shook up our worldview and how we view our work, at least a little bit. While there is always a TON going on in our work, here are a few recent school library developments and what I am currently thinking about how they affect my work:

2019 Best Apps for Teaching & Learning and 2019 Best Websites for Teaching & Learning. Our colleagues on the committees that selected these resources have done critical curation work, sifting through the dizzying array of apps and websites that claim to be good for students to find the best of the best. Furthermore, they are now aligned to AASL’s National School Library Standards, giving us an even firmer footing in promoting and using them with our educators and learners. I am planning to do a lot of promoting these resources with our digital coaches, encouraging them to incorporate them into their toolkits for teachers.

Diversity in Children’s Books 2018This graphic tells me our friends in publishing still have a very long way to go in creating books in which our children see themselves. As we develop our collections, we must add our voices to the call for more authentic, diverse titles that speak to the lived experiences of all of our learners. I am blown away by our collection development team, who has been working on diversifying our schools’ collections for a long time, and have made this vital practice a central focus of their work. My technical services team works hand in hand with them to ensure great books get into the hands of all of our learners.

Information Literacy. This topic is still very much at the core of the work we do. No matter which way the educational winds blow, someone has to take up the mantle of teaching our learners (and usually adults too) how to be ethical, responsible, productive members of our democratic society. Fortunately, Jennifer LaGarde and Darren Hudgins published Fact vs. Fiction: Teaching Critical Thinking Skills in the Age of Fake News. If this book is not yet in your hands, please stop reading and get it right now. Practical approaches to discerning fact from fiction in this multi-media age are always needed, and this book is my go-to resource in tackling this extremely thorny issue. I’m hoping to do more instruction this year; I truly miss working directly with educators and learners!

What has changed you this summer, and how will you be a different, better librarian than last year?

I am entering my second year in my role of technical systems manager for Denver Public School’s Libraries. I have become more comfortable in my new city and job, and I will be advocating even more strongly for our learners and their access to the very best resources available. I am resolved to finish my contribution to the AASL Standards Shared Foundations book series, and I hope to knock people’s socks off when I present on data informed library advocacy at our AASL National Conference & Exhibition in November. I am energized by some of the changes I have seen in our work over the last year or so, and I feel a new sense of urgency to do my part in helping the 93,000 learners I serve in Denver leave our schools with the knowledge and tools they so desperately need to live happy, fulfilling, successful lives, both now and after they graduate. I also want to ensure I am giving back to my professional association, which has given me so much over the last eleven years.

Reflecting on my work has changed me, and time will tell if that change is for the better. How have the events of this past summer affected you? How will you be a different, better librarian this year?

Author: Len Bryan

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Collection Development, Community/Teacher Collaboration

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