School library blog making connections

Kim Yeomans is the teacher librarian (TL) at St Martin of Tours, Rosanna, Melbourne, where she has been full-time in the LRC (Library Resource Centre) for the past 11 years. Kim teaches 21 classes each week and considers it a privilege to be part of every student’s reading and learning journey. Kim believes it is an exciting time to be a TL and she is regularly searching for new ways to use both books and technology to inspire her students. Kim began the LRC Blog in 2009 and below tells us how the blog is being used to make connections, and inspire students.

At our Library Resource Centre we say “The LRC is the place to be” and these days that is both physical and virtual.

During 2008 my eyes were opened to the world of Web 2.0 when I completed the “SLAV Re-imagine” course. As a result, our LRC Blog was created in February 2009 with high hopes of using it as a means of connecting with our students, the wider school community and eventually the global community. Today I cannot imagine having a library without a blog as it is such a vital conduit between the LRC and our school community, particularly our students that I only teach weekly for 45 minutes. It has also provided a means for me to connect professionally and share ideas with other blogging TLs which is invaluable when you are the only TL at your school. Since I have started blogging I have spoken at TL Networks about the benefits of a school library blog and actively encouraged and mentored teachers in my school to create their own classroom blogs.

When I began the LRC blog I started small, had a clear purpose and made a commitment to write a weekly post (except on holidays) and to reply to every comment. It is important to promote your blog and I regularly link to posts in the school newsletter and introduce it to new parents at Prep Orientation. I also show the latest blog post to relevant classes at the beginning of lessons and students can follow up in their own time. We now have a number of students and parents who subscribe to our blog.

Over the past five years the LRC blog has been a wonderful vehicle to promote books and reading and share our work. It has also connected us to some of our favourite authors. Some of our boys met Jeff Kinney after I posted details of his visit. There was also great excitement when Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton left us comments about our 124 Flavour Icecream and Andy recently answered a letter sent by one of our Year Three students. Our blog has allowed me to promote many events for participation by students. These include Book Week, Premiers’ Reading Challenge, Melbourne Writers Festival, The Children’s Book Festival, National Year of Reading, The Reading Hour as well as our Book Fair, and challenges for Book Week including our Reading Minutes and Shelfies this year.

Our LRC blog documented the building of our new LRC (unfortunately some of our PhotoPeach slideshows are missing). It also conveyed the news of our Christmas Day Flood in 2011 and demonstrated the global connections we have made when Julie Hembree our blogging buddy in Seattle, Washington. Compassionately Julie came to our aid via her Bulldog Readers Blog and parcels of books arrived from library friends both overseas and local. Our blog has in turn also allowed us to reach out to others in Japan and Bangladesh.

As the LRC Blog has evolved students have written guest posts and new pages have been added as I discovered new things to share. One of my favourite pages is the LRC Snapshots page which is linked to a Tumblr blog. I always keep my camera handy to take photos of students who have shared something with me or incidental moments in the LRC before and after school or during lunchtimes – these are a collection of the precious connections you make as a teacher librarian.

The LRC Blog has ensured our library is no longer confined to four walls and is open 24/7, though recently I have found I needed other ways to provide for our students’ needs and interests. Last year I used a Wiki to create a page of links for Authors and Illustrators to link to the LRC blog. This year I discovered Weebly and began our LRC Website which is also linked to our blog. I have begun adding links to Search Engines and Creative Commons websites that I teach in class and students can access when needed from school or home. The LRC blog is now morphing into our online library hub.

This has been a great opportunity to reflect on our LRC Blog and I am amazed at how much of our library journey over the past five years has been recorded there. As you can see I could not function without it! Today the LRC Blog is embedded in both our library and school and has regular local and global visitors searching for how to draw Greg Heffley, Anzac Day resources or simply reading the latest post. The day I heard two of our Year 6 students telling prospective parents on a school tour “Our library even has its own blog” I knew I was on the right track!

My dilemma now is what will happen to the LRC Blog while I take leave for 2014…

Kim’s creation on an ‘online library hub’ that is making connections through the school community and beyond is inspiring. For further information and ideas from Kim, visit Kim’s Corner.

 

 

 

Finding time to build influence

In the final post in her series on advocacy in libraries, Catherine Hainstock discusses the eternal question – how do we find time to build influence when we already feel time poor.

In my last post I explored some basic strategies teacher librarians can use to build influence; behaviours and practices that can open doors, rebuild and strengthen our place at the heart of the school. But building influence requires more than being likable, reliable, knowledgeable, and competent. We know that even wonderful TL’s and school libraries can be overlooked when it comes to school planning. Not only can we be overlooked – we often have to deal with people’s outdated perceptions of our role. But with so much to do, we feel we have no time to change perceptions or raise awareness. The harsh truth is that the worst thing we can do is wait for someone else to fight for us.  If we do nothing, there is an increasing risk of downsizing or closure. Let’s not kid ourselves, the change we want will only begin through our actions. We are, after all, leaders and owe it to our customers and profession to:

  • provide and maintain a vibrant, enchanting and relevant service and,
  • make sure everyone is aware of it and engaging with it and invested in it.

Building influence requires time, and our time is scarce.  The only way to make time is to re-examine what we already do and make some changes. In 2010, Lyn Hay and Ross Todd published  A School Libraries Futures Project: School Libraries 21C, a report on the status and future of school libraries in New South Wales. The report’s focus is evidence-based practice (EBP) as a tool for building influence (you can find out more about EBP here):

In my experience one of the things preventing library development …  is the difficulties that many school librarians have in thinking and acting strategically rather than operationally. (Discussion participant)

How much time do we spend on strategic thinking compared to operational activities? General management duties like shelving, covering, cataloguing, creating displays, purchasing, resourcing (need I go on) often fill up our days. While these jobs need to be done, arguably they are not a teacher librarian’s core work.

Time spent shelving or cataloguing doesn’t improve our influence or position us as leaders in the school but it keeps things running smoothly. (It’s like housework – it’s important but no one appreciates or notices the effort!)

As we start to look for time, we need to think laterally about other resources available to us. Perhaps the book club might enjoy creating displays or a group of parents or students could learn to shelve and cover books. People are often happy to help but we need to invite them into the library and give them the opportunity to participate.

It might not be as simple as that, but it’s a good place to start. By prioritising some duties over others we can begin to ‘create’ time. Steven Covey’s  Time Management Matrix from  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People  is a wonderfully simple and effective tool. You can use the matrix to quickly identify low priority tasks and feel better about giving them less time. It also reinforces the idea that it’s essential to focus on planning and relationship-building if we want to be leaders. Lifehacker’s article Why You Shouldn’t Check Your Email First Thing in the Morning might provide another simple yet powerful solution to time management.

And what do we do with this hard won time? The NSW School Libraries Futures Project reports that:

Operational actions without the visioning, strategic thinking and long term planning were not seen as particularly effective. Strategic actions start with teacher librarians thinking through key actions which contribute to raising their profile in the school, being proactive within the school, and showing leadership, and being proactive in their leadership role, in order to facilitate change, library improvement and capacity building.

Simply put, use any time you can find to lay plans and build influence. Time can be a barrier, but there are ways to improve our situation if we’re willing to look for opportunities and change the way we operate. No matter what the obstacles, we must try to stay positive and be active in our advocacy efforts. We need to maintain our respected role at the heart of the school and work to build relationships with others as we chip away at the things that are holding us back.

Other posts in this series:

Image Credit: (ca. 1930), Arnold De Biere’s crystal clock and crystal bell act , State Library of Victoria Pictures Collection.

Opportunities for Building Influence

In the second post in our series on advocacy in school libraries, regular Bright Ideas contributor Catherine Hainstock shares strategies for building influence with colleagues.

The degree of influence a Teacher Librarian feels they have will depend on individual circumstances, but I believe we all have more than we think.

Take a minute to make a list of all the people you have affected today through your actions and words and how you interacted. It could be as simple as the smile you gave someone in the corridor, the great link you found and sent to a teacher, or the students who are now looking forward to attending the Book Club meeting you just promoted in the newsletter (oh, and you need to include any negative influences you may have had on people too). Now make a list of the people who have influenced you today and how they did it. These lists are not just to make you feel good or bad about your day but to demonstrate the capacity and the opportunities available to influence others in the school community. Every time we come into contact with someone, we can influence them. The trick is to harness those opportunities and make them work for us and for the good of our service.

John Kotter suggests that within any organisation, it’s helpful to understand which people are important to you. These are the people we want to influence. Try drawing an Influence Map as suggested by Gary Hartzell in Building Influence for the School Librarian. It can be very enlightening!

Here’s how:

  • Draw a central circle and label it with your title (Teacher Librarian)
  • Place people/positions around your service and indicate how important their support is to you and your service’s success. You might want to think of them as Important, Very important, and Critical eg. the Principal would rank as Critical to Teacher Librarians – our success and existence as a service depends on their support. Think about Heads of Departments, admin staff, parents etc. and people who may not hold formal positions of power but are influential in other ways. (I’ve colour coded the diagram below)
  • Now review the strength of the connection you have with each person on the map and indicate whether there is a close connection, medium, or loose connection. (I’ve used the thickness of the line to indicate the strength of connection in the diagram below).

Partially completed Influence Map
Red = Critical, Green = Very Important, Blue = Important

 

This mapping exercise gives some sense of where to work on relationships. It’s important to focus on those people identified as critical or very important to your success but with only a weak connection.

Building connections involves connecting and communicating with those people you would like to influence. It doesn’t hurt to have a plan but even small efforts can begin to strengthen relationships:

  • use a different entrance to school so you can run into those people
  • pass through the staff room on the way to the library
  • bump into people in car park
  • go for a short walk, stop in on a class (you heard they were presenting projects!)
  • attend different meetings (even if you are not invited) – tell them you’d like to know more about their department/subject/group of students. You are looking for ways to support them with resources etc.
  • plan to feature different classes’ work in library or promote subjects in the library (eg. Numeracy Week, Geography Week)
  • invite different departments or cohorts for morning tea in the library. Our Head of Library does this and we enjoy connecting with teachers who don’t normally get time in the library and helping us to support them better.
  • keep a book to write down any resource wishes you may overhear and provide them where possible

These informal strategies are all about building connections but they also invoke the Reciprocity Principle; the belief that people should be paid back for their kind actions. Hartzell thinks reciprocity is one of our strongest tools and recommends we actively cultivate it.  He offers suggestions to immediately get it working for TLs:

  • offer what people need before they think to ask (eg. resources for a new assignment, PD or demonstration about some resource/tool/concept with which you are familiar, library orientation sessions for new staff)
  • involve yourself in tasks critical to the success of others (and make your contributions clearly visible)
  • search for problems to fix (carry out user surveys, identify emerging trends in education, become knowledgeable about them and promote)
  • do the unexpected (create new traditions, draw on your individualism, be a role innovator)
  • work to increase the amount of resources over which you have control so you have more to offer (eBooks, authors, volunteer readers, pathfinders)

Ultimately the more we can build our influence as Teacher Librarians, the more we embed our services into school culture and planning.

Other posts in this series:

Influence and Enchantment

As part of a new series on advocacy in school libraries, regular Bright Ideas contributor Catherine Hainstock shares her reflections on how school librarians can assert their place at the heart of the school.

The School Library Association of Queensland in partnership with the Queensland University of Technology has recently published research on the important contribution that school libraries and teacher librarians make to literacy development. This excellent report reinforces the findings of decades of research on the positive influence a well-resourced library with a qualified teacher librarian has on student achievement.

I read this report in tandem with Guy Kawasaki’s book, “Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions”. His book is about promotion and customer service and even though a school library is not a business, I believe it’s a useful model to explore. At the end of the day, as a teacher librarian I feel I am here to help others. The better our service, the better the result. I am also interested in how we promote what we do because no matter how much research is released, how well supported a school library is, how well it is resourced, or how qualified the teacher librarians are, there is no immunity from decisions to down-size or side-line a library service.

We must make our contribution to school life and student outcomes evident and our influence felt by everyone who comes into the library. Kawasaki’s book helped me understand that my ultimate goal is not about improving customer service, it’s about enchanting people with our service.

[Enchantment] is more than manipulating people to help you get your way. Enchantment transforms situations and relationships. It converts hostility into civility. It reshapes civility into affinity. It changes skeptics and cynics into believers.

— Guy Kawasaki

Kawasaki’s book goes right back to basics (and that’s not a bad thing). He reveals the foundation of enchantment as ‘Likeability’. You can’t enchant people if they don’t like you or your service. (I still haven’t forgot the tyrannical librarian in the public library when I was a child!) Those lady-dragons in pearls may be extinct now, but we want students and teachers not just using our services, but raving about them. Here’s a short list of points from the book that I found relevant to school Library/Information Services (and check out this infographic for more):

  • smile (and be polite)
  • accept others (and sometimes give them a break)
  • get close (get out of the library and make contact)
  • project your passions/find shared passions
  • create win-win situations
  • adopt a Yes attitude

Kawasaki also points out that likeability only goes so far – people need to be able to trust you and your service. In a chapter on the importance of trustworthiness there’s some excellent food for thought about:

  • focussing on  goodwill
  • living up to and fulfilling promises
  • giving people the benefit of the doubt
  • the importance of expertise and competence  (like keeping abreast of basic ICT skills for us)
  • showing up (physically and virtually interacting with our clientele)

Reading these two publications at the same time brought into focus the influence we have (or can have) as teacher librarians and how important it is that we recognise and actively cultivate opportunities no matter how big or small.

We used to say the library was the heart of the school; a place for students to learn, inquire, read and enjoy. But with all the technological changes occurring in education, school libraries are no longer contained within four walls. Perhaps the focus can finally shift from the physical space to the real heart of the library – teacher librarians and the services they provide. Over the next few posts, I hope to explore the idea of teacher librarians at the heart of the school. I’d like to reflect on what that can mean for us and how we can continue to grow our influence.

Other posts in this series:

Image Credit: (ca. 1910),  Interior of The Queen’s Hall, showing a member of staff sitting at the Enquiries window, State Library of Victoria Pictures Collection.

Be in control: participate in the new age of school libraries

On May 24th, SLAV hosted ‘Be in control: participate in the new age of school libraries’, a conference for library teams. In this post Cindy Tschernitz, SLAV Executive Officer, reflects on the day. The Bright Ideas team also interviewed delegates at the conference and you can listen to the recording here.

What a fantastic day for all delegates. We embraced the year’s theme of ‘Participate, engage, shine – you, me, us’ with a great level of engagement, interaction and enthusiasm. Delegates don’t want to be passive receptors of information and we need to engage, challenge and involve which we did at this conference. It was particularly heartening to see and hear from library team members who learnt from each other and spread the word beyond Melbourne Park through Twitter.

You can see a Camilla Elliott’s Storify of tweets from the day here.

Speakers were outstanding. James Laussen Principal of Overnewton Anglican Community College and Joy Whiteside, Head of Library (a very active SLAV member and John Ward Award winner) did an excellent job setting the scene for the day. Jim gave us an overview of where education is going and Joy followed with her well researched paper on where school libraries are going. She told it as it is, no holds barred and really allowed all to reflect on their role in the school library and greater school community. We had a solid basis for the rest of the day.

Michael Jongen discussed the issues around how we can best provide access to all types of digital content. What struck me was the complexity of improving access and the more Michael spoke, the more issues were raised. As many of the delegates were involved in technical aspects of school libraries, like cataloguing, there were many many questions raised. To some degree it appears that the new cataloguing rules, RDA (Resource Description and Access) will need ongoing revision and adaptation to keep pace with digital content.

From the feedback we received, the concurrent sessions were very engaging. Thank you to Joyce, Michael and Renate and the one I attended, Management 101 presented by Janet Blackwell. Janet spoke with experience, wisdom and honesty. Telling it like it is should have been the theme for the day. Janet led us through her toolbox, showed us the tactics that she has used to ensure that the school library she is responsible for gets the credit and dollars that it  deserves by making it an indispensable part of the school community. Jane gave us some fantastic quotes which I would encourage all to look at via the days Twitter hashtag #SLAVconf.

The partnership between SLAV and the State Library of Victoria was highlighted by the afternoon’s session led by Kelly Gardiner and Cameron Hocking. The panel discussion of PLN participants and stakeholders gave some insight into the value of the PLN. It was great for those of us who are PLN dropouts to know we’re not alone and even more importantly that there are ways we can improve our time management strategies to help complete the course next time. The hands-on demonstrations exploring search strategies, curation, social media and workflow were also excellent. Next conference we will make sure that we have more time so people can attend more than one practical session.

To finish the day and highlight the importance of SLAV’s partnerships with both ALIA and other state school library associations in the Australian arena, Sue McKerracher spoke about a number of initiatives particularly the The Future of the Profession project and the 13 Project. These projects bring together government, school library associations and other agencies in an initiative that will support the school community but will also provide an important platform for advocacy for school libraries.

If I had only one word to describe the conference it would be ‘invigorating’. I am looking forward to the next one on August 15 Transliteracy: who do you ask and how can you participate? which features Professor Kristin Fontichiaro, University of Michigan, School of Information in her first Australian visit. Hope to see you there.

School Library Plans into Actions

A Peter Drucker article read for uni many years ago ended up influencing me immensely as I started my first job running a primary school library. I was on my own, in a part-time position and was very passionate about effecting change to the service.

In the article written for Harvard Business Review, Drucker revealed that the best/most effective directors in business differed in personality, values, attitudes and styles of management but all of them were found to follow eight practices. They:

        • asked, “What needs to be done?”
        • asked, “What is right for the enterprise?”Photo by UQTR via Flickr CC
        • took responsibility for decisions.
        • developed action plans.
        • took responsibility for communicating.
        • focussed on opportunities rather than problems.
        • thought and said, “we” rather than “I”.
        • ran productive meetings.

If you translate these practices to the school library then the first two practices apply to the school library’s vision and its place within the whole school’s strategic plan. You can read more about these here.

The last three are to do with influence (which I’ll blog about later).

The middle three points are about turning those visions and goals into effective plans. 

A Word about Decisions and Communication

Most people have heard of the SMART guide for planning. They are important elements, but Drucker’s article highlights another aspect that is critical to effective plans; responsibility in the decision process.

Have you ever been in a meeting where a decision was made/a plan was approved but never got off the ground because no one was in charge or no one was accountable for certain steps? How often have we heard of something that affects us at work in a by-the-by fashion, after the decision has been made or on the grapevine instead of being included?

Responsible decision-making means you will improve your plan’s ability to succeed by:

        • making sure all of  the relevant people are involved in the decision process,
        • responsibility is taken for each aspect of the plan,
        • someone is responsible for effectively communicating about what’s going on throughout the process to all the relevant people (they may be different from the ones involved in the decisions).

Plans: Effort and Returns

Once you have your goals set and some plans in the works the next decision is, what to do first, what to do next? Prioritizing when your library is a busy place or if you are the lone Librarian is crucial.  An Action Priority matrix is a simple tool that can help you to spend your time and energy on the right things. It allows you to map your plans on the quadrant according to the amount of effort involved in relation to impact/return you’ll make (perhaps especially important when you are first trying to make an impact with your service). I like the matrix on this website; the labels and explanations are clear and relevant to any profession. There are also some excellent tips on how to score your plans and activities.

Action Priority Matrix

References

Drucker, P. (2004, June 21). Peter Drucker on Making Decisions. Retrieved February 4, 2013, from Harvard Business School website: http://ubswk.hbs.edu/archive/4208.html

The Action Priority Matrix [Fact sheet]. (2006). Retrieved February 4, 2013, from Time Analyzer website:  http://www.timeanalyzer.com/lib/priority.htm



 

New Year, New Resolution

Every year brings new challenges to school libraries; whether it is budget cuts or 1:1 technology roll-outs or something else. In the current education climate it is vital we all continue to demonstrate how our services benefit the school community and improve teaching and learning. This article is the first in a series that will focus on supporting Teacher Librarians in their leadership and advocacy roles.

 Resolution: noun. 1. A firm decision to do or not to do something. (Google definition)

I’ve been on school holidays, but like every other Teacher Librarian I’ve been making plans for the next year. I’m looking for ways to encourage students to read more and learn how to put information into their own words. I’m planning a Tumblr site for students and staff as we launch the iPad program plus a whole lot more. And now here it is – the start of a brand new term.

We all know that keeping New Year’s resolutions is hard. Staying committed to new plans in the library can be just as hard. They get lost in the day-to-day scramble to meet the needs of students or staff, or they get side-tracked by other ideas that crop up. It’s easy to slip into a reactive mode of operation rather than a proactive one, and that’s not good for a school library’s image. So how do we maintain our resolution and realize our wonderful plans? First, we need to lay some foundations.

Compass

Image Credit: Compass by Walt Stoneburner on Flickr

Build a Vision, State your Mission
Have you got a vision for your school library? Visioning may sound like day-dreaming, but it is a vitally important proactive step for school libraries. The vision is how you see the library in the future, it is your inspiration. It is also how you aim to meet the future with your service.

Without a vision, things can be confusing (or worse). You may find members of the school community have out-dated perceptions of the purpose of the library, the role of the Teacher Librarian and even the relevancy of the service. Share your vision and refine it with principals, staff, students, community members; it will improve your library’s position and help it to become important to the school’s overall vision and strategic planning. Now commit to the vision with a Mission statement. (No, they are not the same thing; you’re going to need both!)

Mission statements spell out how you intend to turn the vision into reality. The statements you make in it are your approaches or strategies so think broad rather than specific for this. Once you have good mission statements, you can use them to help you prioritise and decide on goals and the actions/programs to achieve your goals.

If you’ve never written a vision or a mission statement before, there is plenty of help at hand.