We were sitting in a meeting room at the Region 10 Service Center in Richardson, Texas attending the AASL Fall Summit virtually. It was a terrific conference, and I recommend attending one if you ever have the opportunity. We had a good mix of people there; district library coordinators, campus librarians, and even a few folks from Louisiana and Oklahoma. One of the best features in this virtual conference was designated breaks for local attendees to workshop ideas, visit, and most importantly – have a snack. It was during one of these breaks that we got to talking about communicating the library’s mission, specifically with our campus administrators.
Communicating the library’s mission means a number of things to different people, but for me, it means having professional relationship with the people who make a difference in your community and maintaining open lines of communication with those people. We talked about all of the great things that librarians are doing on their campuses, and how many people outside the walls of their libraries never hear about them. Our conversation moved on to how those personality traits that are extremely helpful in our work – attention to detail, innovative thinking, creative problem-solving, a love of information and literacy in all of its forms – don’t always lend themselves to being effective communicators. Many (I would argue most) school librarians are introverts – myself included – and, while we can put on a good show of communicating, an expressive storytime or information literacy lesson, active participation in a technology committee, hosting book clubs, etc. activities tend to wear us out.
We do not, as a species, actively seek out opportunities to tell our administrators what we can do, what we should be doing, and what we need to create the school library as the center of teaching and learning for our campus. Instead, we tend to wait passively for the next budget cycle, hoping our budgets remain intact, or at least suffer from minimal cuts. We often feel powerless as communicators. We are well aware of the power of a well-funded, well-staffed school library program and its impact on student achievement, but we don’t know how to get this message across to the people holding the purse strings. We attend library conferences to gather with other librarians and talk about all of the cool stuff we do in our libraries. We present sessions, share ideas in the halls and at social events, and excitedly tweet all of the cool stuff we’re doing to the entire planet, but we don’t take that enthusiasm home with us and park it in the principal’s office, one place our enthusiasm definitely belongs.
So I volunteered to create an online course Communication for the Teacher Librarian that might help us get to the root of the issue and create some specific strategies to help us all become more effective communicators. I used the Gibbon platform, which made it easy to curate 10 chapters of materials of all types and add Teacher’s Notes (their term) to each resource. I created a Google Doc with open-ended questions for each chapter to help people reflect on each chapter of the course and develop a plan for action. The other nine chapters include articles, videos, and inventories to help us define our communication style(s), the effects our styles may have on others, and specific strategies for improving our professional communication. The course ends with a reality check and rousing call to action. Check the course out. My hope is that my colleagues across Texas and beyond use this course to become more effective communicators and even more able and willing to share their library’s story with their communities.
What a great summer PD option - challenge some colleagues to join you!