“Show your work!”: why it’s important to keep a portfolio

While school librarians are busy with collection development, cataloging, programming, planning library lessons, collaborating with teachers, or fixing the copy machine, some may roll their eyes at the idea of keeping a portfolio. It’s yet another thing to have to do. Who has time for that? Right?

Well, there are many reasons for keeping a portfolio….and they don’t necessarily have to take a lot of time. Portfolios can be as simple as a 3-ring binder or more high tech such as a Google Site or a Weebly. Work in the medium in which you are most comfortable. I am all about going digital; however, when I walk into my end-of-year evaluation with my supervisor, I seem to get a better reaction to the resounding “thud” my binder makes when I drop it on the table. My higher ups already know I am tech savvy, but the big, thick portfolio is a visual representation of the depth and volume of my work.  

So back to the “why”:  

  • The standards: Just as classroom teachers need to reference curriculum standards when teaching lessons, it’s important for school librarians to keep sight of their goals. Whether you use the AASL Learning Standards and Program Guidelines, ISTE standards, or the standards provided by your state department of education, it helps school librarians to align their practice with their professional expectations. It’s easier to stay the course when you know what your destination is.  
  • Evidence: It’s not enough to say that you met a particular standard. You need to show proof. If the standard you are trying to meet is about leadership, don’t just check the box. Include a link to your presentation, a meeting agenda, or copies of emails that show how you achieved that goal.  
  • Advocacy: Librarians are always having to justify their jobs. How many of us have been accused of reading books all day? With a well-organized portfolio, stakeholders can see at a glance the important role that you play as an instructional leader in your school.  
  • Reflection: Keeping documentation is not only helpful for others to see your achievements, but it’s also a great tool for reflection. If you notice halfway through the year you are heavy in one area, but light in another, change your trajectory. Portfolios help us stay accountable for our professional standards. At the end of the year, look back at all you have accomplished. Pat yourself on the back. And consider each achievement to see how you can improve upon it next year.  
  • Evaluation: Most of us are evaluated professionally from time to time; however, many administrators are unaware of the scope of a school librarian’s role. Maintaining a record of your achievements, showing how they align with the standards, and how that impacts students is just the kind of data that school administrators are looking for. Your evaluation is your opportunity to shine!  

Finally, some tips on keeping a portfolio:

  • Start a new one each year. Keeping evidence from 3 years ago doesn’t demonstrate how you are impacting students now.
  • Pick a platform and stick with it, whether it’s a website or a 3-ring binder
  • Review it often.  Set yourself a monthly reminder in your calendar to check your portfolio.  A lot can happen in a few short weeks!

Author: Sedley Abercrombie

Sedley Abercrombie is the district digital learning and library media programs specialist for Davidson County Schools in North Carolina, an NCSLMA executive board member, and an adjunct instructor at East Carolina University.

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics

1 reply

  1. Being only a few weeks into my first Media Specialist position, I don’t have much in the way of visual representation of my work yet. However, I keep a Google Doc, which is essentially a plan book broken down the way our school schedules our days, and I document everything I do in a given day. Some entries are vague (sent emails; tended to managerial tasks) because I don’t have time to detail the minutia, but after setting up the doc, my daily time investment is minimal. Works great!

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