Tough Questions?

3534516458_48e4e8595f_bAbout a month or so ago, I was having a conversation with my principal and another teacher, I don’t even remember about what, but the conversation came around to end of school closing and when I’d be closing down the library for inventory.  I joking said I’d been given permission to not do inventory this year.  My principal looked taken aback and asked who had given me that permission.  I then told him about this article I had read by Dr. Joyce Valenza about resolving to only perform activities that impact my own and/or student learning this year.  I sent him the link to the article and highlighted the following passage:

This is the year to learn and share new skillsRetool. Update your practice.  Improve your web presence. Expand your online instructional voice. Shake things up. Lobby for 2.0 tools as an intellectual freedom issue. Speak, write, blog, tweet, publish, invent, create.  Publish your students’ work. Move yourself higher up on the revised Bloom’s taxomy. (In fact, investigate Andrew Churches’ Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy.)

But don’t work harder, work smarter.

Stop doing some of the things that no one else cares about. Things that make no impact.

For instance, resolve not to:

1. Inventory.  Yes, we do need to assess what is there and what is not, but do we need to do the whole collection or even part of it each and every year?  Skip 2010.  You have my permission.

In the past, I have closed the library during the last two weeks of school.  The next to last week is senior exams (administered in the library) and the last week is underclassman exams.  I use the time to complete inventory, prepare hold slips, and generally close down the library for the year.  This year, instead of closing early, I’m considering remaining open right up until the last day of exams.  I have even been toying with the idea of allowing students to checkout books for over the summer.  I do it for teachers, why not for students?  Should the book remain sitting unread on the shelves or be out in students hands?  They need things to read in the summer, too!

I also figure if my Type A personality can’t handle not having done an inventory, I can work on it over the summer.  I already come in once a week or so to take care of the mail (ie: get the Entertainment Weekly!) and can work on a section or two each week – in shorts and a t-shirt!

But this post isn’t really about inventory, it is in reaction to my reading A Nation without School Librarians: Shonda’s crisis map and thinking about all of the librarians out there being let go, of all the school libraries closing, and about the students who are, once again, the ones who will suffer.

I’ve been thinking and asking myself what can I do to make sure I and my library program aren’t on the chopping block (worst case scenario) due to all of the budget cuts being made by our district.  Will my principal fight for me – if he’s given the opportunity?  Have I given him reason enough to fight for me/my program – have I had an impact on student achievement and learning?  If so, how?  In this Internet age, why am I still relevant?  Do people just think of me as the keeper of the books?  Also, how are the other media specialist in my district perceived?  Will their actions/inaction reflect back on me positively or negatively?

And then I circle back to Joyce Valenza’s words again: “Let’s focus on those things that make an impact on learners and learning.”  I need to document and advocate for how I and my program are essential to my students and school.  I need to answer those tough questions.

Photo Credit: FlickrCC “Question Mark” by Marco Bellucci

8 thoughts on “Tough Questions?

  1. Definitely tough questions to ask ourselves, but it is imperative to do so. The book I bought at the SCASL conference, “21st Century Learning in School Libraries,” (Libraries Unlimited, 2009) grabbed my attention from the get-go when I saw there was a section entitled “Assessment.”

    As an English teacher, I was assessing constantly and had proof of it in my gradebook. But what proof do I have of my library program’s impact on student learning? This is an area I MUST work on – and one of your tough questions.

  2. Certainly does bring to mind a call to arms. I do not even feel Im safe in my job, sad to report. If I had to ask what three things my admin sees value in the media center, Im afraid one of the top ones would be that we are open for supervision of students before school and at lunch. Even though a good number of those same kids come for school work purposes, they see through their own rose colored glasses, which Im afraid see our willingness to have students in the morning and at lunch merely as a way to lighten the load in the holding areas during those two time.

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  4. The link to the map was shared on our State librarians listserv. Liz Hood shared the following and graciously allowed me to re-post here. …

    “The map is truly enlightening…thanks for sharing!

    … I think we (as a profession) have to claim some responsibility here. Why are we viewed as a non-critical component of the educational process? Because we (as a profession) have not cohesively integrated ourselves into our schools and the larger school community as a crucial element in the educational experience of our students. Not that many of us are NOT (or at least working as hard as we can to do so), but when you have library media specialists who spend the majority of their time checking books in and out, rather than working as an instructional partner; library media specialists who spend the majority of their day in their office removed
    from their school communities; library media specialists who remain mired in 19th and 20th century pedagogies and literacies; library media specialists who became librarians because they do not enjoy interacting with the school community (and these are true perceptions floating around EVERY state) well…the buck stops here doesn’t it? Even if every
    school district in the nation has only ONE who engages in ONE of the above, that is all it takes isn’t it?

    I was HORRIFIED just a month ago when I spoke to a teaching colleague in another district who had had an intern last year for her ESL classroom. Her intern told her she (the intern) had decided she did not
    like working with children, so she was going to attend grad school to get her MLIS so she could work as a K-12 school librarian…I am in hopes attending USC’s MLIS will change the intern’s perception of a school library media specialist.

    1. what steps can we (as individuals) take to change this (mis)perception?

    2. what steps can we (collectively) take to change this (mis)perception?

    We have the same conversations repeatedly and while it is great to commiserate…actions speak louder than words. We have shared some great ACTION ideas here, let’s keep them rolling.


    My posts reflect my opinion only not necessarily that of my school district. My opinions are based on training, research and best practice advocacy.”

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  6. Okay, still more discussion going on over at our Listserv. Here is a post by Fran Bullington (I hope she doesn’t mind since I didn’t ask her permission!)

    “In an earlier post today I shared some information on the CSLA website where I found a great document for groups of media specialists to use. When I reread my post, I realized that I may not have made myself clear with one of my last statements. I referred to Heather Loy’s recent blog post entitled “Tough Questions?” and said that a couple of her questions really struck home.

    These questions dealt with how the other media specialists in our districts are perceived and how those perceptions may affect the way our programs are perceived.

    The reason these really struck home is not because any of the media specialists in my district are not doing their jobs, but because I have always thought of advocacy for my program – not for all of those in my district.

    I realized that this is one of the problems with others like me who are very concerned about advocating their own programs: don’t overlook the other excellent programs in your district and the built in support group you have with those professionals. Who else to better offer suggestions for advocacy than those who know your community?

    My district group will be meeting again next month and I look forward to asking for their suggestions.”

  7. Here is the response I wrote back to Fran….


    Thanks for the plug on my post.

    I also, was not trying to say that any of the librarians in my district aren’t doing their job – as honestly, how would I know! I am referring (mostly) to the fact that we tend to work in isolation – only focused on our own school/students/teachers/etc. What can we celebrate and/or commiserate over? I don’t know what is happening in the libraries of my colleagues – even those who are just down the road from me!

    That is why a few of us high school librarians have tried to get together two or three times a year in order to share, seek advise and plan programs together. Unfortunately, this year has proven difficult for us to meet. (And I really miss our get togethers Sue Anne!)

    Speaking of those other librarians just down the road. We’d talked earlier in the year about vertical teaming in order to coordinate what we are teaching our students. We were all excited, but once again, busy schedules and time seemed to have slipped by without our ever getting together!

    I also feel that our district organization hasn’t been active this year – meeting only twice (I think) this year. I’m also pretty confident that our president is getting tired – having served 3 (or is it 4 now) terms when she originally only signed on for one term. Why wont anyone step up and take the reins? And don’t point the finger at me, I was the prez the two terms prior to our current prez. There are 40+ LMSers in our district – someone needs to step up! — Note: our current prez is AWESOME and I think she’s done more than anyone in promoting us at the district level – especially since there isn’t a district level person there to advocate for us!

    I guess what I’m getting at is that we all need to communicate more – share, share, share!!! We need to meet frequently – either in person or electronically – to share, discuss, advocate, publicize, etc. what our successes are, what our needs are, and what our programs are all about.

    A teacher who gets moved from one school to another (because of budget cuts and reshuffling – of which we have a couple) should be able to expect the same great library program that he/she had in their previous school. The same goes for students.

    We need to insist that the induction teacher training includes a section with a librarian(s) – to insure teachers know what resources and services should be available in their school libraries, as well as, to promote collaboration with these teachers. We want them to expect to collaborate! Don’t you think they’d be happy to know that they have someone there whose willing to assist them from the get go!? We need to document our programs, especially with regards to student achievement. How do we do that, I’m not entirely sure, and would love to work with others to develop those methods. And we should be working together. As the saying goes, two (or more) heads are better than one. Why should be combining our efforts.

    Anyway, that’s where I was coming from with what I wrote. Sorry to be so long winded, but brevity isn’t one of my skills!


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