ESSA Survey for TEA – NOW! Spread the Word WIDELY

by Dorcas Hand, Editor of TASLTalks, with help from Jennifer Rike and Wendy Woodland

ESSA – Every Student Succeeds Act – is the buzz this fall. Signed into federal law last December, every kind of K-12 educator wants to be included in this potential pot of money. The process of being approved for funding is in full swing, to be immediately followed by the application for funding. School Librarians are included in the actual language of the law, for the first time – but to actually get benefits, we have to convince our principals, district leadership and – most immediately – the TEA Team working on the state plan to name us in the state ()nd later the local, plan.

TEA has decided to send a survey out to everyone – a scattershot approach most likely to reach upper-level education administrators. The survey does not mention the word library – surprised? But a team of folks with TLA and TASL have developed a set of Talking Points to help respondents include libraries in many answers. Great – we have the tools we need.

What’s missing??? Lots of respondents willing to do this. Translate that to YOU – and all your parents, teachers, community, … Every person you can convince to respond should – and should mention libraries as many times as possible.

On the survey, key questions for us are:
Q3: What should Texas adopt for its measure of school quality or school success?
Q5: How can we ensure that all Texas students have a quality education that prepares them for success, especially students with disabilities or various backgrounds (e.g. poverty, English learners, and foster care)?
Q6: What knowledge, experiences, and skills should Texas students possess to be ready for success in college, careers, and/or military?
Q7: A goal of our state is to ensure that all students – and especially our most vulnerable students – have great teachers and principals. What strategies can we use to ensure all students have access to high-quality teachers and principals across the state?
Q8: What are the important things we can do improve struggling schools?
Q9: Do you have any additional input for Texas’ ESSA Consolidated State Plan?

Each question has a place for a short answer – use it. Tell them what we, the school library community, needs them to hear. (3) Effective school library programs make a difference in student achievement – tell them how. (5) We are always talking about Equity. (6) 21st century skills, research skills, … - be specific about life and career ready. (7) Back to Equity – Book deserts, technology deserts, digital resource deserts… (8) Community learning centers wit enrichment already in place. (9) Effective school library programs close student performance gaps and increase post-secondary readiness… tie it up with a big red bow. Copy/paste from the PDF – or, even better, use your own words and examples.

Most important – get lots of your local stakeholders to help. We want to inundate TEA with responses that talk about how school libraries matter. Click here to open the survey - ASAP. By November 18. No time to waste!

Leadership Opportunity: TLA's TALL Texan's Program

How many of you set professional goals?  I always have; they give me something to strive for and keep me focused on growing as a professional. Becoming a school librarian was one goal that I accomplished in 2001.  But there was still more to do.

2009 was a pivotal year for me as a school librarian and as a leader.  I had just finish my 8th year as librarian and had crossed off the professional goal of opening a new school.  During this year, I also decided to apply to the TALL Texans Institute, a leadership development institute.  I had always been fascinated and curious about leadership so applying for this just seemed like a natural next step.

Attending the institute truly changed me as a leader-it also allowed me the opportunity to connect with other librarians in the public, academic, special, and school library fields while also connecting be to the larger network of library leaders in Texas. But hey, don't take it from me; let's let other TALL Texans share their thoughts.  I reached out to past Tall Texan attendees Priscilla Delgado (San Marcos CISD), Christy Cochran (Austin ISD), and Lisa Kulka (Northeast ISD) to get their insights:

What initially caused you to submit an application to attend Tall Texans?
TALL Texans had been on my radar since I was in library school.  I remember one of my professors talking about it in class one day, and I took an interest and made a mental note to look into it once I became a school librarian.  A few years later, after graduating from the School of Information at UT and teaching for 3 years, I was at a conference and there was a session about TALL Texans, which I attended.  Again, I made a mental note to apply for the program once I had 5 years of library experience under my belt.  This past year was my 5th year as a school librarian so I applied, and was fortunate to be one of the 24 librarians selected for 2016.

I heard of TALL Texans my first year in the library and I wanted to get as much PD about being a librarian as possible. Unfortunately, I had to wait a few years to get my feet wet, but it was always in the back of my mind. Recently, a friend and colleague of mine was a part of TALL Texans Class of 2015 and personally invited me to apply because she saw the value in the program and knew I would feel the same. I wanted this opportunity to become a better library leader and more familiar with Librarianship at the state level as well as greater exposure to TLA and its offerings. 

In the first few years of being a school librarian, you learn SO MUCH!!  However after being on the job for a while I felt that I wasn't growing professionally as much as I did in those early years.  Because of that, I'm always looking for opportunities for growth.  The opportunity to "Accelerate my leadership skills" really appealed to me, but I'll be honest, the application was daunting!  I'm glad a pursued it and so appreciative of those who pushed me to apply for this opportunity. 

How has attending Tall Texans impacted you in your library profession?Priscilla:
TALL Texans came at the right time in my career; it has allowed me be more vocal and successful in advocating for not only my school library, but the libraries in our school district as well as our public library.  It has deepened my partnerships with the greater San Marcos community and has opened doors with other opportunities in my field of work.  

First and foremost, the professional connections with so many different librarians with diverse library backgrounds   has been invaluable. As a school librarian, I have the privilege and honor of now collaborating with public, academic, and special librarians to continue vertical alignment of information literacy at all ages and stages of life. Second, I feel I have more confidence and information on how best to advocate for my program and the field of librarianship

The biggest impact of TALL Texans has been through the relationships that I made during those 5 days.  I REALLY feel that my fellow TALL Texans are "my peeps" for life!  They are some of my main "go to" people when I need to bounce ideas off of someone.

What has surprised you most about the training you received?
One thing they told us on the first day was to "lean into your discomfort." Before attending TALL Texans, I very much stayed in my comfort zone.  However, after the TALL Texans institute, I have really taken that phrase to heart, and I have found that I am embracing any discomfort I might feel and looking at it from a different perspective.  Leaning into my discomfort allows me to grow and experience things I otherwise wouldn't. It's been quite liberating and satisfying!

The thing that surprised me the most was the immediate collaboration and involvement we all had in the program. As a group we bonded very quickly and challenged each other to stretch past our comfort zones in a safe and encouraging manner. This is so important for such a limited time period! Also, I was surprised by the consistency and cohesiveness of the entire training over the 4-5 days of learning that was happening. Everything built on each other and was relevant, no matter where your background in librarianship. 

I loved the Strengths Finder tool that we explored.  It has helped me understand the way that I work with others and evaluate changes I need to make in the way that I operate.   

So there you have it-3 perspectives from past TALL attendees-it is readily apparent that their take-aways will carry them forward in their leadership development!

Curious to learn more?  Click HERE to obtain additional information about the TALL Texan application process.  You can also sign up for the online program on October 24 to learn more about the application process. Also, if you've attended TALL Texans, please share your thoughts about attending and what you gained-we'd love to hear from past attendees!

Get Future Ready! Jump Start your Advocacy Efforts

By Jennifer Rike, Timberview HS, Mansfield ISD; Co-Chair, TASL Legislative & Advocacy Committee

Advocacy is a quirky term for which there is no synonym.  Who knew? Yet the word has a capacity for great power.  The definition in The American Heritage Dictionary is “The act of pleading or arguing in favor of something, such as a cause, idea, or policy; active support”.  

School libraries can definitely use active support.  We often speak of advocacy in terms of what we can do.  Today I’d like to share with you some active support we are getting.  The Alliance for Excellent Education and the Department of Education launched an initiative called Future Ready Schools (FRS) on November 19, 2014. The goal of this initiative is to help school districts prepare students “for success in college, a career and citizenship”.   

This is a great and lofty goal, but how does it support school libraries?

Imagine my surprise when I was reading through one of the FRS documents and stumbled upon the word librarian.  I sat up straighter and looked again.  Sure enough I had read correctly.  School libraries and librarians were included in developing Future Ready Schools. WOW!

I could go on forever about what I read.  However, we librarians know a primary source is always better than a secondary source, so I encourage you to take a look for yourself at Future Ready Librarians.

I will leave you with the thought that while we need to be advocates, we also need to know there is support out there.  Even before we were included for the first time in over 50 years in a federal education document - ESSA, Future Ready School initiative was already providing active support. To sum it up, they are advocating for us.

By the way AASL is a National Partner.  In case you haven’t read it in a while check out AASL’s definition of advocacy which involves enlisting HELP for your advocacy, something the Future Ready website gives you language to accomplish more easily. Happy reading!

"Advocacy Dictionary Definition | Advocacy Defined." Advocacy Dictionary Definition | Advocacy Defined. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.
Future Ready Schools. Take the Pledge. Future Ready Schools. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.
Future Ready Schools. Future Ready Librarians. Future Ready Schools. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.
“What Is Advocacy?” American Association of School Librarians (AASL), American Library Association, 2015,


TLA Library Snapshot Day is NOW!!!

by Dorcas Hand, Editor TASLTalks

So, keeping it short today but getting this reminder out. The official date for Library Snapshot Day is Monday, Oct. 31 – but you can designate any day in October as your Snapshot Day. This day offers a fabulous opportunity to photograph your library program in action as well as in data and anecdotes. Use this aggregated info to bolster your advocacy efforts all year long – campus newsletter articles, conversations with stakeholders, seeds of new ideas to work in later this school year, …. You can also strengthen TLA’s presence as an advocate for ALL libraries in Texas by uploading your info and images to TLA’s links:
·        offers links to send your info and to access the flikr feed for upload. Look in the top right corner.

TLA has sponsored this event since 2010 – you can see the original 2010 summary here: 
It is fun to see the collected numbers of users, circulation, and activities to get a sense of how important libraries are to Texas residents. It is also important to be sure school libraries are well represented in these figures because TLA can use that when they go to legislators in our behalf.

To see the photo feed. 

The 2015 data and anecdotal summary is also posted.

So, what can you do? Pick a day in October that looks really busy – exciting can be fun, but even a day where you see many groups of children back to back works. Count how many kids, how many teachers, how many campus administrators, how many books read aloud, items circulated, research or other lessons taught, books shelved – don’t obsess about precision, use round numbers. Keep it easy!   What can you count? And what stories come from your day – the student who never remembers their overdue does and is thrilled by a new selection; the teacher whose unusual request you can satisfy; … Anecdotes can be just as effective as raw data. If you want to look at the survey first to see how TLA asks the questions, do that – or just collect the data.

After you contribute your info to TLA, think of a display for your own library featuring how much you do in a day to support student growth in literacy, information skills and love of learning. It isn’t really work when it gives you the pleasure of bragging on your library program – which will also give parents, teachers and principals a chance to do the same. You might even send a summary to the PTA officers, the district, your school board rep. Take full advantage of the data with every audience you can think of.

Have fun! Be creative. make this work for you as well as your colleagues across the state.

Growing Library Leaders: SXSW Edu

By Laura Stiles
This post is adapted from her presentation at the TASLA Workshop in June, 2016. She is Librarian at Canyon Vista Middle School, Round Rock ISD; part-time reference librarian at Austin Community College; a TALL Texan; past chair of TLA District 3; recipient of ALA's Frances Henne Award. Laura has written articles for School Library Journal and Knowledge Quest. Follow her on Twitter at @cvmslibrary.

Obtaining professional development as a librarian in Texas is almost like being a kid in a candy store:  with all that the Texas Library Association (TLA) offers, what more could a librarian want?  Each year TLA presents librarians, library staff and volunteers with an abundance of webinars, online training, District meetings, Round Table meetings and, of course, our fantastic state-wide annual conference.  “Annual,” as it is known, holds true to the familiar saying, “Everything’s Bigger in Texas;” our state conference is bigger than many national conferences.  The more than 7,000 attendees each year are treated to more than a thousand speakers and hundreds and hundreds of vendors.

I tell people that attending TLA’s annual conference is like being in a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book.  Upon walking in, it’s decision after decision about which wonderful thing to attend: see the latest furniture on the exhibit floor, or attend an author signing?  Hear from the recognized expert about social media, or learn how to promote the latest hot titles?  It’s a librarian’s adventure wonderland, and is not to be missed.

However, this year I attended something new and so very different: South by Southwest EDU (SXSWEdu).  If one views attending TLA’s annual conference as being akin to being in a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book, one can argue that attending SXSWEdu is like being in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.  SXSWEdu was so unexpected, with so many avenues for education and engagement, and surprises around every corner, much like the Chocolate Factory. 

The conference is built of many components but my experience at the 2016 Conference can be generally broken down into two parts:  the Playground and the Sessions. 

The SXSWEdu Playground is a casual area within the conference center that offers hands-on presentations that highlight maker activities, STEM vendors and activities, gaming, virtual learning, arts integration and more.   

At the same time that hundreds of enthusiastic conference goers are (literally) trying their hands at merchandize and software like 3Doodlers, Kahoot! and drag and drop programming, casual talks given by experts in a range of subjects are being given.  The speakers use microphones but don’t expect a silent or still audience, and the seating is made to be flexible and moveable.  Speakers’ faces and presentations are projected onto a big screen. 

One riveting talk that I attended, “Sheriff Bus to Library: How Kids Remix Social Good,” recounted the experiences of a group of teens and adults that transformed a 1988 sheriff bus into a mobile library for use in rural Guatemala.  Another talk detailed NOVA Labs’ latest games and videos created to promote scientific exploration, and included information on how educators are using NOVA Labs as a learning tool in classrooms nationwide.

Like TLA’s Annual Conference, the sessions at SXSWedu differ in duration and the level of audience participation; unlike Annual, SXSWEdu’s sessions are primarily scheduled by community input via a tool called Panel Picker.  The sessions that receive the most votes by the community-at-large are the sessions that are ultimately presented. 

Because such a diverse group of people attend SXSWEdu, and because much of the content is chosen by popular vote, the programming is diverse.  According to the SXSWedu website, of the almost 14,000 attendees at the 2016 conference, there were people from thirty-eight countries representing government and non-profit agencies, public and higher education, and a multitude of business and industry affiliates.

SXSWEdu divides the conference sessions into tracks, which include the big trends that we would expect to see at TLA’s Annual Conference, such as Early Learning, Leadership and Continuing Education, as well as some less expected tracks, such as Entrepreneurialism and Special Needs.                  

Each listing for a program is then tagged (sound familiar, librarians?) into familiar categories, such as blended learning, digital citizenship, critical thinking, STEAM, tinkering and more.  But, SXSWEdu doesn’t stop there – there are lots and lots of unexpected tags: things like design sprints, behavioral economics, neuroplasticity, future trend mapping, upskilling, nutrition, campus carry, edtech ecosystems and more.   

One morning I found several sessions of interest that all began at the same time:  one, hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, focused on how to negotiate barriers to educational success.  A second session featured a panel discussing eliminating sexual assaults on higher-ed campuses; a third session focused on education and peace in Afghanistan.  The power of music in STEAM education was the topic in another room.   A film titled, “Oyler,” about educational equality in an urban Appalachian neighborhood, was being screened at this time, and conference keynote speaker Jane McGonigal was signing books then, too.  Unfortunately, attendees can only be in one place at a time.  Maybe we should put Willy Wonka to work on figuring out how to duplicate ourselves - ? 

In Cinema Revisited: the everlasting appeal of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (, Jordan Adler describes Willy Wonka’s dreams-turned-into-reality as “complete with chocolate waterfalls, lickable wallpaper and labs filled with Rube Goldberg-like contraptions.”  While SXSWEdu didn’t boast chocolate waterfalls or lickable wallpaper, there really was a room filled with contraptions (remember the Playground?), and I wouldn’t have been surprised to come across a fantastical element overflowing with ingestible goodness or wall coverings that were edible.  

I encourage you to attend both TLA and SXSWEdu.  Just be prepared for a Wonka-esque experience at SXSWEdu; to quote Willy Wonka, there are “surprises around every corner, but nothing dangerous!”   Hope to see you at the Austin Convention Center March 6-9, 2017.  Just look for the librarian in the Oompla Loompa suit.