Dorcas Hand, with help from presenters Mary K. Biagini and Debra Kachel
Looking at our current school library world with ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) on the horizon, I find myself thinking how to put the campus library in the category of essential programs, and the librarian in Essential Personnel as stated in ESSA. And I remembered a program from the AASL Conference this past fall – its content speaks directly to what folks need to remember. Find the related PowerPoint and supporting resources.
This image reminds us how important it is to offer our administrators the info and language they need and will understand. Our libraries answer many of their needs but they may not realize it until we make it clear, repeatedly and with variety. We have data that supports our stories. We do impact test scores and graduation rates, as well as success higher up the academic ladder. We are directly mentioned as Essential Personnel in ESSA, the successor to NCLB. We support state standards and offer professional development for teachers. And we help school have great relationships with parents and community groups. You already know what we do – but you might not have seen yourself as resources in Indiana Jones’ administrative tool belts.
To be better prepared, every librarian needs to do homework. What are your principal’s goals and objectives for the year? How can you directly answer those with library support, examples of existing library programming that encourages these goals? Build your case. You will need to be persistent, reliable and creative in your presentations. Random conversations that aren’t random on your side; newsletters and programs that illustrate your essential role in the school’s success; collaborations campus wide that also illustrate your commitment to student achievement and teacher success.
Build Trust in every way you can – build it patiently. And build awareness of all library programs. Be ”People Smart” as explained in the PowerPoint. Discover your Principal’s preferred communications-paper, email, meeting… Make sure all your communication is interesting and exciting - and clear. Always keep students at the center of the conversation – you are doing what is best for their academic success by selecting the best resources, planning the best lessons, encouraging that love of reading and learning. Promoting your impact supports them further. Don’t hide in the Library – be sure you are seen around campus working with students and teachers.
And here we are at the beginning of Spring, buckling down for the last few months. Before it is the final sprint, take time to plan your Annual Report. This opportunity is available EVERY year, and offers huge benefits – especially when it summarizes all the highlights in a form easy to hand to district leadership and even community groups. Everything in this post supports what you should put in your Annual Report. Just take the ideas and begin to expand your partnership with the principal and everyone else on your campus – one day, one conversation, one newsletter at a time. Make sure everyone knows what you and your library contribute to student success.
Remember the Bonus: This awareness campaign also puts you in a better place as the ESSA comes online. We need to lay the groundwork early so that district leadership is more ready to implement school librarians as Essential Personnel.