There are definitely times when people need to cover up. However, there are also times when we need to unmask. Over the past two days, I have attended three meetings during which school librarians have shared the essential contributions they are currently making in support of teachers and students in an online learning environment. They shared ordinary and extraordinary practices as they spoke to other school librarians. That is wonderful, and we, the “members of the choir,” greatly appreciate and will use the ideas that were shared.
Now, that we have shared our contributions with each other, I challenge all of you to share beyond “the choir.” The people who need to hear how you support learning in a digital environment are the decision-makers.
Schools are digital at this moment in time, and many are talking about hybrid models for the coming school year. Decision-makers are faced with difficult decisions as the economy is shrinking. Students and teachers cannot afford to lose the support that you, an information professional, are uniquely prepared and qualified to provide. You must make the decision-makers aware of how you support digital learning so you can keep serving your students and teachers. It is time to pull the mask off of all you do.
During the meetings I have heard fellow school librarians share how they support learning in a digital environment. Here is an outline of some of the ways our profession is supporting, providing, and enriching learning in a digital environment. It also highlights some of the unique skills we bring to an online learning environment:
- Curating content resources–finding, identifying, selecting high-quality, appropriate, and relevant digital resources that are developmentally appropriate, relate to the curriculum, and connect to student and teacher interests, while supporting academic, social, and emotional needs
- Organizing and making content resources accessible to students and teachers
- Supporting the use of content resources
- Facilitating/Managing access, use, and implementation of digital environments and tools by supporting access to and use of information; providing copyright guidance; and supporting a range of technology tools (equipment, programs, and applications)
- Providing technology support
- Offering online teaching and student engagement, including professional development; information, media, and technology literacies instruction/support; and book clubs; and facilitating special groups and other creative activities
- Providing reading materials for checkout, curbside service, book delivery, and online book options
- Supporting social and emotional well-being for students and teachers
As you review this list, think about what you, personally, are doing. Think about the difference you are making. Sharing this is NOT self-promotion; it is providing valuable and valid data that your administration needs to make an informed decision.
There is no one way to share data. Just like educators differentiate how we communicate with students, librarians need to look at how best to communicate with specific administrators. Is the administrator a text, e-mail, social media, Zoom, or phone call person? Do they focus more on hard data or anecdotes or a combination of the two? In some situations, the best way to communicate might be statistical reports with data tracking information, such as the specific types of services provided and the use of library-provided tools. Anecdotal information can be extremely powerful and effective. If it is a good fit for the targeted administrator, consider pairing statistical reports with anecdotal data. In some instances, the anecdotal information may be the key part of the message. Perhaps, a report format would be a great fit.
School administrators are currently being bombarded with information and needs. Whenever possible, position information as support, rather than as a need. Subject lines or opening text messages, just like content, should be designed for specific administrators and should be solution-focused whenever possible. Some possible subject lines might be “Data for your documentation efforts”; “Possible solution”; or “Today’s chuckle or smile.”
Depending on district and building policies, some administrations appreciate good publicity and the high visibility that can be achieved through the press or social media. Align these messages with building and district goals and use the appropriate tags. This will also provide community members with an awareness of how their tax dollars are still supporting children.
During AASL’s town hall meetings, we have shared with “the choir.” Now, it is time to share with the people who need this information. Sharing may be uncomfortable, but it is also child-centered. This is for your students. Unmask your school library and your contributions.