As each new school year approaches we are all thinking about what we want to change and improve on and setting new goals for ourselves. For many years I have heard the ideology that our school library positions are an island. However, most school librarians are the conduit and critical key to an entire building! We are specialists that know our content, but what we are thinking, talking, and reading about is geared differently than the rest of our building’s classrooms and content-specific teachers. How can we turn our respective islands into a peninsula and develop outside collaboration and discussion that is specific to school libraries? Forming connections to the mainland is critical for us to stay informed and feel fulfilled and connected in our positions.
Connect at the District Level
Creating relationships between schools in your district and developing connections to the staff and teachers in other schools is a great way to start the process and build a foundation. Even if you are the only high school, middle school, or elementary building there are commonalities that can be shared in libraries across all levels. Having the ability to collaborate with and feel confident in asking for help with other staff members, bounce an idea off of other faculty in other building, or just talk district-specific initiatives is key.
Connect at the State Level
Joining a state-level library organization can be a land bridge into a wide world of collaboration and professional learning. Most state organizations have free resources and low-cost workshops available statewide. Choosing to become a state library organization member offers more resources and offers venues for committee appointments and other ways to get involved. When you’re researching you will find state library organizations as well as state school library organizations. Both offer great resources and a wealth of information. If you are wondering how to help libraries locally or expand your professional network, this is a great starting point. Check out this ALA Directory to find your states’ organizations.
Connect at the National Level
The best way to hear the pulse of libraries around the country is by becoming part of a national library organization. These organizations, similar to those at the state level, will provide free resources, with an added bonus of materials and webinars and opportunities to volunteer on committees for paid members. ALA is the largest and most well known. Through ALA many specialized national organizations are available as well. For school librarians AASL is an organization focused on the topics relating to all levels of school libraries. If you are a high school librarian YALSA provides a link between library issues country-wide with a focus on serving young adults. Whatever academic area you specialize in you will be able to find a national organization that fits you best.
Feeling like you are an island isn’t easy. None of us wants to feel lonely or without others to talk to that share our passions. Engaging with other library professionals at the district, state, and national levels will help make that bridging connection to land. Through collaboration, professional development, and power of meaningful conversation we can grow ourselves in our professions from an island into a peninsula.
Author: Elizabeth Pelayo
Elizabeth Pelayo is the library media specialist at St. Charles East High School in St. Charles Illinois. She currently writes book reviews for School Library Journal. She is a member of the AASL AAUP Book Selection Committee. Also, she is a member of the nominations committee for the ISLMA Abraham Lincoln Book Award.