Preach to the Nonbelievers - The School Library Choir Already Knows the Tune

By Len Bryan, School Program Coordinator, Library Development and Networking Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission

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!

TASL Talks: Attend TASLA - Becoming a Leader, Part 1

By Donna Kearley, Coordinator for Library Services, Denton Independent School District

As Joan Rivers used to say, “Can we talk?”

Advocacy is all about being a leader on your campus, in your district, or maybe even as a district Library Leader someday.  Why lead?  It is our job to educate our administrators on what we bring to the table.  Unfortunately, administrators don’t learn that by osmosis, and they have absolutely no training in libraries.   So in order for our program to flourish, we have to teach them. 

Some of us are very comfortable with leading, others...not so much.  So “let’s talk” about ways to coach ourselves into being the leader we need to be.  Remember the saying, “Fake it until you make it?”  Here are some suggestions of ways to build leadership skills.

The Texas Association of School Library Administrators (TASLA) Conference.  This conference is designed for Lead Librarians, Sole Librarians, Managers, Supervisors, Coordinators and Directors of School Library Programs.  But it is also a good way to build leadership skills for future leaders. 

Registration this year is $75 plus your hotel bill.  Meals are provided.  The 2015 conference dates are June 16-18, 2015 in Austin, Texas.  You can find information on registering at  The draft schedule should be posted soon and includes workshops on Communicating Your Message and Grassroots Advocacy.   Past topics include: Coping Skills for Today’s Challenges, Envisioning Solutions and Translating Ideas and Strategies, I Do Make a Difference, Personnel, Advocacy, Professional Practice:  Where Standards and Dispositions Meet. [Dorcas highly recommends this conference - biggest bang for buck around!]

The Texas Library Association.  Did you miss conference this year?   If so, make plans for next year.  Where can you find leadership training at TLA? Webinars - Ted Wanner puts together some wonderful webinars for little or no cost.    Most are recorded, so you can watch them later if you aren’t available to watch live. Examples include  Dr. Julie Todaro’s workshop on Digital Age Management and Leadership:  Five Critical Steps to Integrating Digital Age Techniques into the Workplace. (April 7, 2015, 1-2 PM CST).  The webinars in the archives include Gretchen McCord’s workshops on Copyright and Joel Castro’s  Are we Speaking the Same Language?  Librarians, Principals, the School Library Program, and Taking the Lead.  These are only $10 in the TLA store.

The Tall Texans Leadership Institute is led by a nationally recognized leader in building leadership.    This year’s attendees have already been selected so start putting together a plan to apply next year.  Tall Texans serves all types of libraries so if you don’t get in the first time, try again.  Ask another librarian to read over your application and give you some critical feedback before submitting.  Many Tall Texans applied more than once before being accepted.

The Program Committee works hard to bring in nationally recognized leaders for all program tracks including management and leadership. Look at sessions offered, but choose wisely. Just like you wouldn’t eat a steady diet of cake, broaden your horizons and attend sessions that are tied to your district goals.   Then, bring reports and staff development sessions back to your campus to share with teachers and administrators.

We will continue our conversation in the next part as we discuss regional and social media options for building leadership skills.