Share Your Story! How Professional Writing Supports Yourself and Others

Once upon a time, when I was a wee library school student, I was also working on my Master’s in secondary education. (At my university in Omaha, NE, you earn a Master’s endorsement in school library, but with a few more classes can earn a Master’s in another educational area.) In one of those other education classes, we were required to write an article and submit it for publication. 

I had no idea at the time that this one assignment would lead to ten years of writing for school library publications. As a former English teacher and the editor of my high school newspaper, I may have had a bit more experience with writing than others in that class, but I certainly did (and do) not have a unique voice, talent, or experience. I honestly wasn’t sure if what I had to share was worthy of being published in a national academic journal. I did my best, hoped for the best, and was pleasantly surprised when the thumbs up came in. 

I’ve been fortunate enough to have articles published in several school library print journals as well as blog posts for a few of those same publications. Throughout that time I have learned many things about writing for professional publications.

Things I’ve Learned about the Publishing Process

1. Your story matters. School library publications are a fabulous resource for people already in or entering the field. BUT they are only as good as their content.

That’s where you come in. Your story is important. Whatever part of school librarianship that sparks your passion or that you are most proud of is something others would benefit from hearing about. We definitely benefit when we grow and learn from each other. I firmly believe that every school librarian has something to share, so take a chance and submit an article or blog post!

2. The editors of school library publications want to hear your story. They are always on the lookout for new voices and experiences. AND, if your story is the right fit for their publication, they will help you make it the best it can possibly be.

The editor of that first publication asked if I had anything else to share after my initial submission. If she hadn’t, I may have stopped after that first article. I am so thankful for her support and that of the editors for other school library publications over the years. I have been blessed to share my stories and am a better writer because of them.

3. Most publications have guidelines for submissions and possibly even an editorial calendar that lists upcoming themes. Look on the publication’s website to find out how to submit articles and what formatting is required. 

Word count is important. Depending on the type of article/post, the word count will differ. I am a VERY wordy writer. Bless my editors who graciously and frequently tell me to dial it back a notch. I’ve also had the great pleasure of learning how to create citations in Chicago, a citation type I was completely unfamiliar with at the time.

While I have learned a few things about the publishing process for academic journals and blog posts over the years, more than that, I’ve seen the benefits I personally receive from writing.

Benefits of Writing for Professional Publications

1. By writing about my experiences, I am forced to think more deeply about my practice as a school librarian. This is probably the most significant benefit. Writing about the lessons or systems or programs in the libraries I have worked in has made me examine my decisions and choices more closely, and, as a result, I have made minor and major changes to what I do and why I do it.

2. Because I have put my thoughts and rationales into purposeful words, I am able to be a better advocate for the needs of our school community. While simply having an idea shared in a national academic publication carries its own clout, going through the process of explaining the background and merits clearly and concisely has allowed me to be able to have better and more productive, critical conversations with stakeholders in my building/district.

3. I’ve gotten to know some people in the library world that I wouldn’t have otherwise, both editors and other writers. I have so much to learn from other school library professionals across the country, and I have truly benefited from not only what they publish but what we talk about when we get to see each other face to face or online.

If you or someone you know has a story to tell, please consider sharing it or asking them to share through a professional publication. And, don’t just limit yourself to school library publications. The incredible work school librarians do each and every day to support their school communities is something all educators and administrators could benefit from hearing more about. Plus, it is pretty cool when you actually get results when you search your own name in EBSCO.

I would definitely recommend applying to be a blogger for Knowledge Quest. It has been an absolute honor and joy to serve as one this year. Learn more about the process here: https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/bloggers/. You can learn more about how to submit to the print fKnowledge Quest here: https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/write/.

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Author: Courtney Pentland

Courtney Pentland is the high school librarian at North Star High School in Lincoln, Nebraska. She is adjunct faculty for the University of Nebraska-Omaha Library Sciences program and is the AASL Liaison and PD Committee Chair for the Nebraska School Librarians Association. Follow her adventures on Twitter @livluvlibrary



Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Professional Development

1 reply

  1. Great reflections and advice, Cortney. Your experiences reflect mine when I was publishing professionally.

    You did, however, forget to mention how writing for library journals is rewarded with big bucks, huge prestige, and pure adulation of millions of fans. While the limos, champagne on first class flights and attractive strangers constantly opening their bank accounts and boudoirs to me got tiresome at times, having my own line of fashion apparel saved me from having to shop for clothes.

    Keep on writing!

    Doug

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