Sparking Innovation and Creativity in SCASL through an Emerging Leaders Program

The South Carolina Association of School Librarians (SCASL) launched an emerging leaders program in January 2019 with the help of the ABC-CLIO Leadership Grant. School librarians with 5 years of experience or less applied to the program with a principal recommendation. We selected 8 applicants who represented all parts of the state, exhibited strong desires to become leaders beyond the school level, and had robust recommendations from their principals. The inaugural cohort for the program has been a successful endeavor on many levels.

To kick off the program, we had an informational session at the 2019 Annual SCASL Conference in March, which focused on the logistics of the program and leadership opportunities within SCASL. Cohort members were introduced to SCASL Board members and drafted goals they wanted to accomplish with the support of this program. The kick-off concluded with an evening team-building activity over dinner. As the creator and facilitator of this program, I worked with leaders in North and South Carolina to provide professional learning opportunities for cohort members every other month throughout the year. Speakers for our meetings included Bitsy Griffin, past president of NCSLMA; Tiffany Osborne, associate principal in Anderson; Elizabeth Gregory, retired section chair of SCASL; Martha Taylor, former SCASL President; Valerie Byrd Fort, former SCASL President; and Tamara Cox, South Carolina’s School Librarian of the Year. I thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with all these diverse leaders and learning from them as well as the cohort members. During our meetings, the special speakers offered information and insight on serving as leaders, and then the cohort members discussed their progress toward their goals and offered suggestions to each other. Most of the emerging leaders meetings were held online, but halfway through the program, we met in person over brunch to discuss progress on the cohort members’ goals.

This year’s cohort members have set goals for themselves and their schools, and have been working together to help each other accomplish them throughout the year. Many of the librarians in the cohort have goals to increase collaboration with teachers, among students, and within the community. Lindsay Beaman at Mauldin High School worked with two teachers at her school to host their first-ever college, job, and career fair, connecting students with businesses and schools in the community. Mandy Stallard at Sue Cleveland Elementary School had students collaborating on a scavenger hunt to learn about using Destiny to locate books in the library. Kelley Rider at Pendleton High School has a newly remodeled library and is collaborating with teachers to offer more relevant services for students. Michelle Spires at Gray Court-Owings School and Joanna Watkins at Palmetto High School are increasing collaborations with their teachers by attending and leading professional learning community meetings. April Bates at Fort Mill High School is building relationships with her teachers by establishing herself as an instructional leader and increasing collaboration between students with research projects. Heather Peters at Guinyard-Butler Middle School is connecting with students and teachers through technology by sharing instructional videos with them and flipping the library, reaching beyond the library’s four walls. Elizabeth Ryan at Murray-LaSaine Elementary is continuing to develop the community relationship with the local Montessori school.

Collaboration makes our jobs as school librarians more relevant, fun, and effective. While we enjoy working with others, students are the true benefactors of all these partnerships.

This year’s program will conclude at the 2020 Annual SCASL Conference in March when the outgoing members will present what they have accomplished and begin mentoring the incoming members. Members of the 2019 and 2020 emerging leaders cohort will participate in a half-day pre-conference session (funded by the grant) to learn from each other, learn about the program, and work on goals for the upcoming year. The ABC-CLIO Leadership Grant has enabled SCASL to kick off this new program in style without breaking the bank.

The creation of the emerging leaders program has enabled SCASL to find new school librarians who want to develop their leadership skills, and mentor them through this development. Librarians who are chosen to participate in this program learn about the association; how they can get more involved at the district, state, and national levels; and connect to other SCASL members. Already, the emerging leaders, with the support of the ABC-CLIO Leadership Grant, has made gains in advocating for school librarians and association members.

As the program continues, SCASL will see new school librarians actively participating in committees and serving on the board of directors, sparking innovation and creativity in our association. We believe the emerging leaders program will continue to increase our membership numbers, collaborations within and beyond the state, and positive impacts on student achievement.

Author: Heather Thore

Categories: Awards Spotlight, Community

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