K-12 without any Library?

by Dorcas Hand
This excerpt from a recent speech I gave concerns the gaps in library services in my district – perhaps it will offer ideas how other districts can improve their own school library staffing patterns.

Too many campuses in this ISD have no library, or only a room full of books with no librarian. In some neighborhoods, it is possible to go from Kindergarten through high school graduation without access to an open and staffed school library in any zoned school. How can the district let this happen? Students in these schools are left with only the books available in their classrooms- that’s little choice, much less among appealing options; and little incentive to become stronger readers or high achievers. What a waste. Houston schools are full of students with high potential if given a chance. Every student deserves a trained, certified librarian to build a school library program that fits the specific school community: a collection suited to the reading levels and interests of those specific students; a collection that takes teacher and curricular needs and translates them into titles and digital resources that will inspire students to WANT to grow skill and understanding. Schools with teachers standing in for librarians have certainly understood part of the message: access to the library matters, and libraries are teachers. It would be relatively easy to encourage these teachers to become certified through an online program. This coursework would fill in the gaps in understanding of library services so that the campus would get a more complete program in support of campus needs. Professional development is always a good thing, but even better when focused to the benefit of improved student achievement. Campuses with clerks on the job only understand that the collection of books needs to be supervised and open to students; these campuses lose out on the teaching aspects a school library should offer. Clearly there is a spectrum of possibility from no library available at all to a fully staffed and supported campus library program; clearly, students benefit most from the latter.

Yes, You SHOULD attend TLA Annual Conference – You are Worth It

By Jennifer LaBoon, Fort Worth ISD Coordinator, Library Technology

TLA Annual Conference is right around the corner! It’s time to get your travel plans to Houston finalized and get registered for what will be the best conference ever! 

A year ago, I wrote about the rationale for why school librarians must make the case to go to conference for the AASL blog.  Of course, in Texas we’re so very fortunate to have a world class conference right here in our state every year.  We have even more reason to make annual attendance a regular part of our professional development plans.  

Even with such an awesome conference nearby, I know many of us have a hard time making the case to attend.  Conferences are expensive, aren’t they?  Why spend that kind of money?

Because school librarians reach every student on our campuses.  We co-teach with, mentor, and model good teaching for other teachers.  We collaborate with librarians in other schools to leverage the learning to multiply the value even more.  We’re expected to recommend well-researched expenditures of campus funds on technology, print, and digital resources.   And even more so, continuing education is an expected part of any profession, and for most of us, our certification credentials require it.

Sadly, some members of our profession seem to feel that this sort of professional learning is a luxury that they can’t afford.   Maybe it’s because as librarians, we’re exceptionally careful with spending.  We are some of the most cautiously creative people I know when it comes to stretching a dollar, and it always seems like there’s less money to go around.  However, I’m here to tell you that you are worth it - and you need it to remain current in your school library skill set.  Demonstrate why before you go, while you are there, and when you return:

BEFORE you make your proposal to your administration about attending a conference, do your homework.  Study the program.  What workshops or speakers align with the goals of your campus?  Which ones will you be sure to attend?  How much will it cost?  What is the dollar amount for you to register and cover your expenses?  What is your district’s/school’s policy on travel and/or professional development?

While you’re there (aka DURING), make good choices about your time.  Author sessions were always so hard for me to pass by at first–I could have spent entire conferences going from author to author.  While those aren’t the meat of the conference, but rather the dessert, I was able to use those experiences with students and teachers to deepen author studies, liven up book talks, and be more knowledgeable with reader’s advisory (I also would get a book autographed for my principal as a thank you).  However, the sessions that challenged me with technology trends, pushed my thinking about advocacy, and informed my practice as a collaborative co-teacher were the ones that I made sure to attend.

Visiting vendor/exhibit halls is how you discover new products that can make your job easier or pique student interest in new ways. Make a point to visit the booths of companies selling products you’re in the market to buy – that’s useful research.  While you’re there, pick up posters or giveaways that you can share with your colleagues when you get home.  Sessions are the main course, but the exhibits are an important side option.

Networking is also a huge part of attending a conference.  Ask speakers or session seatmates for their business cards or contact information if they share something that you might need to follow-up on once you’re home.  It’s a huge compliment to a speaker to have someone ask for that information after a session, and a great way to build your network.

Don’t forget to use social media options such as Twitter to capture ideas that resonate with you and show those back home that you’re engaged in active learning.

When you return, (aka AFTER) prepare a quick thank you note (know your administrator’s preferred communication style and use that!) to your principal with three quick highlights that demonstrate what you learned.  Propose at least one idea that you can re-deliver to your staff in a short session during a faculty meeting or staff development day.  Then make sure to impress the heck out of those teachers away with what you show them.  Anytime you demonstrate something you learned to students or in front of your colleagues, be sure to mention where you learned it–seems simple, but being purposeful about how you’re paying forward that investment is how you’ll prove it’s worth it to send you back!

It really comes down to valuing yourself and your knowledge and the impact that you have as a collaborative member of your faculty.  Be an example of a good return on investment!

Personally, I can’t put a price tag on the renewal I get professionally from attending conference each year.  It’s what helps push me through to the end of the year, and keeps me thinking about new ways to make the next year of my career the best ever.

Hope to see you in April!

Why a Master’s Degree for Librarians?

By Dorcas Hand with help from TLC
Special thanks to Terri Stamm, SHSU student; Barbara Paciotti, retired, Barbara Bush Middle School, Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD; Cathy Delafield, Hargrave Librarian; Rosalia Rohr, McAllen TX; Valerie Loper, Clear Falls HS, Clear Creek ISD for their permission to include these comments.

A post on TLC last week caught my attention –and maybe yours. Terri Stamm is a brand new SHSU Library student. We need to take her cue and ALL get up to speed on the answer to her question:
I am excited to be taking my first graduate class to become a librarian. Just today, I was asked by three different people, "Why does a librarian have to have a Master's Degree and a teacher doesn't?" I really didn't know how to answer that other than "those are TEA guidelines". One was a parent at my school. She said, "Oh, I figured a librarian would only need a GED." Does anyone have a better answer than that?

This post is important for several reasons:
1.   We have missed the boat getting the word out. Every one of us needs a strong answer to this question ready before it is asked.
2.   We have not carefully articulated to ourselves, much less our allies and stakeholders, what we do.
3.   We have not distinguished the differences between degreed librarians, certified librarians, teachers in libraries and circulation clerks. This is a spectrum of training – schools gain expertise in support of student achievement at the degreed and certified end; schools are only getting partial service (mostly clerical) without that training.
The key question: what do librarians KNOW that makes what we do more effective than someone without our additional training? The answer to this question is especially important as we look at the implementation planning for ESSA, a process that will rely on administrators at all levels understanding the potential they are missing without a trained librarian on their faculty.

Because these answers were all so good, this post is longer than usual.  Please take the time to read all five perspectives. As you head out to school this week and every week, be sure you are telling people why your spot as a school librarian is essential to every student on your campus – and possibly their family. Tell them both in words when you have in chance, but more importantly in actions every day with every student and class. Be especially sure your campus leadership understand. Don’t assume people know. It never hurts to give them a new point of reference.

I have excerpted the five replies I saw - apologies if there were any I missed.
Valerie Loper: A few points
o   We have to have been teachers, and we are still teachers (everything from teaching research skills, literacy skills, media literacy, and more to overseeing state testing). 
o   We are expected to know how to find the answers to anything.
o   We do not just check out books - that's clerical work, which does not require a degree. 
o   We must select the materials for recreational and research reading; that's a pretty high level responsibility. 
o   We are good stewards of our school district's money (the net worth of the items in your library probably is worth several hundred thousand dollars).  Who do they think selects and purchases those materials? 
o   We are responsible for any challenges a parent may submit to the campus.
o   We are the copyright queens, knowledgeable of all citation styles.
Of course we have Master's degrees.
Cathy Delafield: To be honest, I was surprised when I started looking into the field.  I figured it would take extra work but did not expect to earn a Masters.  Now when people ask me why (usually after they have just asked me to do something for them, ironically), I always tell them 3 elements:
1. I have to be able to assess and provide reading materials that my students need for school and want for fun.  I have to constantly be able to track the market, find the best product and then make them available to the kids. 
2. I need to know best practices for research and be able to provide useful tools, as well as teaching them to use those tools.  I have to be able to assist both teachers and students in this.  I know what research skills students will need when they go to college and make sure they know how to use databases and other reference materials. 
3. I approach running my library somewhat like a business. I'm "selling" the most important product: the love of reading and lifelong learning. Trying to get teenagers to buy into that is challenging.  I have to market my library, provide incentives to come in, raise support through my teacher community and be able to acquire funds if necessary. You wouldn't expect a successful business owner to not be educated.  Your specified degree hits all these points so that when you're finished, you can also be a successful librarian!

Rosalia Rohr: I have also heard that question before, and I honestly did not feel that librarians required a master’s degree. My perception changed when I was hired as a permanent substitute for the librarian at an elementary school. I can assure you that you gain a lot of hands on experience, but without proper schooling, I feel that a librarian will not be able to perform well. There will always be innovative ideas that one would never be aware of if we did not obtain a Masters in Library Science.                              
Barbara Paciotti: School librarians need a Master's degree because having a teaching certificate & years of experience isn't enough to manage a whole school library program.
o   we must have an in-depth understanding of national/state curriculum.
o   standards to fully integrate library skills into classroom activities.
o   we must know how to build an extensive collection of library.
o   materials in a variety of formats to meet the needs of every teacher's curriculum, and to meet individual students' reading needs & preferences.
o   we must have a comprehensive understanding of intellectual property, copyright, and fair use guidelines for purchasing a variety of materials and to advise teachers and administrators on their proper use.
o   we must have the specialized technology skills to manage and use audio/video/digital  equipment & applications.
o   we must have financial skills to administer a budget and take advantage of outside funding opportunities.

Dorcas Hand: Think of all a librarian needs to know about books and digital resources, about teaching kids, about curriculum and collaboration, about inspiring student to be curious, about stewardship of limited resources to strongest support of student growth, about working with campus and district admins, and more.... It's really a wonder we don't need a PhD!

SPREAD THE WORD. Library certification and master's degrees are important to student achievement.