TASL can Learn from ALSC: Advocacy for Youth Services

By Jenna Nemec-Loise (and Dorcas Hand, Editor, TASLTalks)

Jenna Nemec-Loise is one of my library rock stars. She is the Advocacy Queen for ALSC – I share her ideas often on TASLTalks. ALSC may be the Association for Library Service to Children which focuses on public libraries, but youth librarians are youth librarians no matter what kind of library. We work together because it best serves our students.

So today, I’m talking about her article in the Spring 2017 issue of Children and Libraries – yes, the one that just arrived in my mailbox. And folks who are not members of ALSC cannot just go read the article – so I will tell you about it while adding my TASL spin.

Jenna led a workshop in Lititz, PA entitled ”Why YS? Advocating for the Youth Services Profession.” She offered 6 take-aways for ALSC Everyday Advocates looking to up their game – and all of them apply to school librarians. We just add ESSA language and collaboration liberally to this already spicy stew for a show stopping entrée.

1.    Step outside your Comfort Zone.
School librarians – heck, all youth librarians – are not in fact wall flowers. We know how important our jobs are to student achievement in schools and to literacy rates in our communities. We know how to collaborate with teachers, how to reach the misfit kids who look to our library as a safe space, how to teach REAL news sources, and… We also know – even when we don’t want to admit – that if we don’t toot our own horn, we will not be nearly as successful because the adults outside our library space won’t know what we do. Step outside your comfort zone every day to tell someone on campus why you matter to campus mission, vision and goals. Every single day.

2.    Listen to understand, not to respond.
While your goal is to get those people outside the library to understand why you matter, your first goal has to be to UNDERSTAND what they need to hear. You only get that understanding if you slow down your brain to listen to what they are saying, rather than filling your brain with your retort so that you can’t absorb crucial information that will help you hone your message to be perfectly understood when you are able to voice it. It is really important that you tell people what they want to hear, with your library expertise as the topic – and no, that is not a contradiction. Use that fabulous journalistic term “spin” to translate your message to their vocabulary.

3.    Temper passion with reason.
Jenna must be a trained logician – I don’t know, but she talks about Aristotelian ethos (you and your credibility), logos (evidence presented through logic or reason), and pathos (an emotional appeal to your audience). And she talks about balance between too dry and logical or too wild and emotional. You need to offer your listeners the goldilocks formula that is just right, exactly what each of them needs to hear on this day – because you listened to them tell you what they needed you to know.

4.    Be the pebble.
A pebble thrown into a puddle or pond, ripples out farther than the thrower expects. Be the pebble by repeatedly offering your community ideas, information and data that demonstrates the impact of strong library programs on students in your specific campus or district. Don’t relax – keep it interesting. There are many ways to offer information, from letters and blog posts to infographics and events. Use them all to raise enthusiasm and awareness for your program so that administrators will hear from parents and teachers and even students if they threaten to cut your funding.

5.    Open doors wider.
Does your library entice EVERY student into your space, whether physical or virtual? Do you know what EVERY student needs? Reading level, research skills, personal interests, friends? There are not many librarians who could say “yes” – but that “maybe” or even “no” means that you have an opportunity to open your doors even wider, to find ways to welcome even more of your students, teachers and parents into your library collection and space. When every patron – or at least a growing number – are excited to learn how to locate what they need, then everyone will support your library program and begin to understand its impact on student achievement.

6.    Advocate, don’t justify.
Don’t get defensive – that leads to justifying. Listen to steps 1-5. Step outside your comfort zone, listen to understand, temper your passion with reason, and open the doors wider to welcome more and more students and teachers – and even administrators. Be the pebble. It isn’t as hard as you think. Lead with your passion – yes. But always leave room to hear what the community needs and to support your ideas with data and concrete methodologies that support the school’s mission and vision.

So, look for Jenna’s actual article (http://www.ala.org/alsc/publications-resources/cal ) thru your databases – her wording is better than mine. And implement as many of her ideas as you can manage – advocacy for youth services is essential in the current political climate. Use your enthusiasm and passion to lead your program forward wisely to a stronger footing on your campus. Persistence is power!

Thank you, Jenna – you are indeed my library advocacy rock star!

TEDx & TEDED: A darn good idea

by Dr. Sara Duvall, Lead for Media & Technology, Skyline AAPS District Library Department Chair; Secondary Curator, TEDxYouth@AnnArbor

Hello Texas School Librarians! I’m up here in Michigan where the crocus started blooming in February. A chance meeting in an airport shuttle after an ALA Conference connected me with Dorcas Hand, TASLTalks Editor. And here I am to offer you some Big Ideas.

School Librarians consistently follow research on the impact of their work on student achievement and the learning environment (​i.e. School Libraries Work, etc.).  We teach a curriculum that supports 21st century fluencies and stretches students to think critically and problem-solve.  Our impact is statistically significant even in an organization where we see students only once a week for an hour or randomly throughout the week.  As the District Chair for Secondary Library Services, I seek out ideas...lots of ideas.  Big ideas. Small ideas.  Ideas for how school librarians can ​create opportunities ​for any and all students to practice self-motivated, responsible inquiry along with the 21st century fluencies (​Lee Crockett & Global Digital Citizens Foundation) - opportunities beyond the release time I am required to provide for my colleagues. Opportunity.  That’s my focus these days. 

Opportunity.​  How does a school librarian create broad impact on student opportunity in the school, in the community, in the world? To answer your immediate question - No, my friends, it’s not a question that’s too big for us.  We have to think like teachers of the future.  We have to BE teachers of the future, today.  I keep this short poem hanging at my desk. I read it every day.
What is a teacher?
What is a teacher? ​ A guide, not a guard.
What is learning?​ A journey, not a destination.
What is discovery? ​ Questioning the answers, not answering the questions.
What is the goal? ​ Open minds, not closed issues.
What is a test? ​ Being and becoming, not remembering and reviewing.
What is learning? ​ Not just doing things differently, but doing different things.
What is teaching? ​ Not showing them what to learn, but showing them how to learn.
What is school?​ Whatever we choose to make it. 
Allan Glatthorn from ​Literacy Is Not Enough by Lee Crockett, Ian Jukes, Andrew Churches

I am inspired by Allan’s precise spare poetry.  I aspire to fulfill that vision in the practice of my profession, in the evolution of my school. 

Action.​ So, today I want to talk to you about just one of the BIG ideas that I use to create opportunity in our school, the community and the world for all students. No kidding.  This BIG idea touches all the standards - ALA, ISTE, Common Core, state, etc. It moves students up to “Transform” on the SAMR model of technology integration.  It stimulates my natural role as “a guide.”  It insists upon student choice and promotes self-motivated inquiry.  It gives Youth Voice a global platform and stimulates community participation at many levels.  All of this is outside of the classroom. Whew!  That asks a lot of a single good idea. Here’s the story. 

The Activism Committee of our Student Action Senate (student government) wanted to reach out to kids from the dozen or so public and private high schools in our town to create a dialog among youth and figure out a way to amplify youth voice to impact the future of our city.  I don’t know about you, but on my ​Student Learning Network Resources  page I have always linked “TED Talks - Ideas worth spreading” in the Open Coursework/Experts category.  I watch TED Talks often and recommend them to teachers as appropriate for the curriculum.  I curated an independent TED event for teachers in my district to share good ideas and future forward practice. I had a pretty clear idea of what it would take to organize a TEDx event. So, I put the idea of an independent TED event for, by, and about ​youth on the table.  I didn’t give an “assignment” or defend the idea. I didn’t, in fact, say another word.  The kids in the committee pulled out their devices and began collecting information on how to get a license for TEDx (x = independently organized TED event).  One of the kids projected his favorite TED talk. They began a discussion of how they could attract kids from every high school to an organizers committee.  Without me saying another word - they took flight with an idea that intrigued them. This flurry of research and discussion became TEDxYouth@AnnArbor.

Now in its fourth year, organizers are recruited to represent every high school (public and private). They form into sub-committees (Speakers, Tech, Hospitality, Marketing and Design). They plan and carry out every aspect of a one-day event according to the TED Guidelines.  They audition potential speakers from all the high schools (this year including middle schools) - all twenty speakers are students.  They mentor the speakers to develop the talks. The organizers recruit students to volunteer.  They speak with businesses, museums and the public library to set up active spaces for inquiry and exploration between sets of youth speakers. They train with the local Community Television Network to operate the cameras, direct the stage and record and edit the video for upload to the TED sponsored ​TEDx YouTube Channel.  They recruit musicians, dancers, poets - all youth.  They design the advertising, the set and themes. They make an introductory video. They decorate the venue and sell tickets.  They set up a webcast of the event 
(​webcast.tedxya2.org April 22, 8am - 4pm). They plan and execute advertising in print, on radio and online. Then they invite the community, their City Council Members, the Mayor, business leaders, the School Board, University of Michigan students and professors and other city leaders to come and listen to what they care about and what they think is important. The Youth Curator, usually an experienced senior, proposes and tracks the budget, holds the credit card and oversees the bank account, motivates grant-writing and fundraising, runs the weekly meetings and meets with each committee to track and oversee progress. I am the curator of record with TED, but I encourage the organizers to solve the issues that arise and point them toward resources. My standard response is, “I don’t know.  What do you think?”  Of course, I won’t let them leap off a cliff, but I do let them try out solutions until they find what works.  They keep detailed records each year so they can learn from past experience.  I look to their safety and encourage creative solutions. I sign papers when they need a legal signature. Other than that, I sit and watch and stand in awe of the capabilities and scope of interest of today’s youth. 

The enthusiasm is spreading.  This year we are launching our first ​TEDED Club at the elementary level.  The club meets for 13 weeks with a TED-planned curriculum to identify an idea the students care about and create a persuasive talk to share out.  The club experience culminates in a mini-TEDx event at the school with other students and families as the audience and the kids as the speakers. 

Okay.  TED.  That’s one BIG idea.  In my own recently launched blog, ​Invent the Future (http://www.a2saraduvall.com), I intend to highlight more big and small ideas - ideas that I’ve successfully tried in my ​iCommons and ideas that other brilliant school librarians share with me. Inventing the future of public education and school libraries is my passion. Follow my blog if you want to join the exploration. Also, follow me on Twitter ​@a2duvall

I want to leave my Texas colleagues with one last thought.  No matter our political biases, the students we guide today are the leaders of our democracy tomorrow.  ​Our work matters today as it never has before!​ Our role is to invent ways to expand our students’ experience, so that they can flex their 21st century skills into becoming ubiquitous.  To open minds not close issues. To guide not guard. To do different things than our predecessors to change the paradigm of school library services and promote what students actually need from their education today. We, individually and together, CAN make that difference.

Questing for Knowledge: An Online PLN Opportunity with Region 6 AASL Board Candidate

Professional Development Opportunity for Region 6 
by Lauren Mabry, Candidate, Region 6 Director for AASL Board
     Co-Librarian, United World College-USA, Montezuma, NM

IF you are an AASL/ALA member, please vote in the election. Ballots are live now until April 5 - every vote counts!

As librarians, we juggle a rainbow of balls and wear hat upon hat to offer the very best library program possible to our students—so much so, that it can be difficult to find time for professional development with our colleagues.  I’d like to elaborate on an idea that I had for promoting professional development within Region 6 if I am elected as Region Directoran online professional journal reading group. 

This reading group would meet asynchronously and center on Knowledge Quest, the official journal of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL).  While the online platform is yet to be determined, an asynchronous format would allow librarians to participate when it is most convenient for them rather than trying to find a common meeting time, a Herculean task when time zones and myriad busy schedules are considered.  We would center our discussions around Knowledge Quest because it focuses on issues pertinent to school librarians, and it is a direct communication line between AASL and school librarians.  I had initially thought to use professional books rather than a journal as group’s reading material, but revised my idea upon further reflection.  I am confident that each of us can find and read at least one personally relevant article per issue of Knowledge Quest and, as a result, be able to contribute to the group discussion.  Furthermore, journal publishers can rapidly respond to new developments to provide timely advice on hot topics such as ESSA and the new AASL standards that will be unveiled this summer. 

You can subscribe to the print edition of Knowledge Quest in two ways: by purchasing the subscription independently, or by joining AASL.  Why become a member of AASL?  As a member, you have access to a rich variety of professional development resources, opportunities, and supports: a suite of amazing advocacy materials, opportunities for national committee membership and professional service, eligibility for grants and awards for both you and your library, free professional development webinars and materials, and much more.  You have the opportunity to connect with librarians across the country, to develop your professional learning network, and to guide the profession by voting in AASL annual elections.  Member discounts are available at the ALA store and for national conference registration.  Capstone Publishing even offers members 10,000 rewards points redeemable for free books through the Capstone Rewards Program.  Most importantly, your membership fees support government lobbyists as they advocate for school libraries and the library profession to lawmakers, an especially important task as ESSA is implemented across the country.  Membership fees also support the Office for Intellectual Freedom, an essential voice and resource for protecting freedom of information access. There are tiered membership rates depending on your employment status and length of membership, and even bridge scholarships available to help with membership fees.  I have found membership to be personally and professional enriching, and highly recommend joining AASL to all school librarians. 

If you are interested in participating in a Region 6 online professional journal reading group, I invite you to show your support by voting for me in the 2017 AASL Region 6 Director election and/or by following me on Twitter at @Library_Lauren for reading group details and updates.

Your Vote Matters - TLA, ALA, Community

by Dorcas Hand, Editor, TASLTalks

The TLA Election is in process – ballots close on March 14. The ALA Election about to start. I’m here to remind everyone to VOTE! Actually, I want to remind you to vote at every opportunity. It matters – every time.

In ALA elections, the average participation in recent years is 20%. 80% of members don’t vote. And the percentage of voter participation is even slimmer for AASL members at 14%. That is crazy!

So, if 20% of total membership is about 10,000 votes, and there are 4 candidates pretty equally popular, every vote would matter MORE. Choosing not to vote because it doesn’t matter is counter productive – and could put a candidate with whom you disagree in an important position.
When Julie Todaro (Texas’ own! and one of those 4 candidates) was elected, 28.6% of 10,367 votes won. Her next challenger had 28.4%. The difference was 22 votes. Julie is doing a great job – but the 80% of ALA eligible voters who didn’t vote lost their chance to have a say.

If AASL total membership is about 6700, 14% is 938 people. That's how many voted in the 2016 AASL election. This year there are three candidates. If only 14% vote again this year, a person could win with only 314 votes – if the vote was the tightest possible. That is 33% plus one vote of that 938 people. Does it seem right to you that 4.7% of membership should be the final answer? In the year that I ran for AASL President, only 976 voters participated. Audrey church won 540 votes while I had 401. Audrey has been a great AASL President, but I wish more members had stepped up to confirm her.

In a recent Houston ISD School Board election runoff, the winner won by 29 votes of 6543 votes cast. There were 178,717 eligible voters. That is crazy – and I am thrilled that Anne pulled it out. But I am discouraged that so few thought the local school board not worth their voting time.

The PewResearch Center ranks the United States 27th in voting rate compared to voting countries around the world. And Follow My Vote reports that only 36.3% of American registered voters came out for the 2014 midterm elections.

Sometimes, the ballot seems daunting – in all elections. But if we want our library association – or our community – to have the best possible leadership and be accountable to ALL voters, then a bigger chunk of eligible voters need to step up. 

Please be one who exercises your membership right to vote 
in TLA, ALA, and community elections. 
It matters. 
When you don’t vote, YOU ALLOW someone else’s vote to MATTER MORE 
– is that really what you mean to do??? 

Information Overload

Sabrina D. Baker-Henderson, Reading Interventionist/Librarian, Charles Atherton Fine Arts Magnet School (Houston ISD)

Often times as a librarian I get anxious about the massive amount of data, statistics, and inventions that I will have to stay up to date with.  Do I twitter, hashtag, pictogram or should I Facebook, create a website, and go to a number of community events as a volunteer.  Blog, what possibly could I say that would be of interest to my patrons or anyone else?  How do I know what information to reveal, what strategies to promote, or know how to determine, as our Presidential Leader states, “FAKE NEWS”? 
All of this is what I call INFORMATION OVERLOAD, especially to a beginner librarian.  So, what do you do? Adhere to the following:

1. BREATHE.  Focus on the information that is of interest to your patrons and community. This can involve assisting them in the tools they utilize on a day to day basis.  You can familiarize yourself with recommended products from your peers and instructional specialists.  Also, evaluate a new technological program every two to three months.  This way, you can get your experience, stay connected, and continue to grow your program with the new technology.
      2. DANCE.  Blogging, Twitter, hashtag and most social media is like dancing.  You may not know the steps, but let the rhythm and energy of what is around you guide you, and you will soon learn the dance.  Thus is the same for all social forums.  Hey, you can’t miss the step unless you don’t get on the floor.  Sometimes throwing yourself out there will help you, and partners along the way (professional peers, instructional specialist, community sponsors) will guide you around the Social Media Tango.

      3. ADVOCATE.  Now you know how important your job is, but many people around you don’t.  Librarians are still just seen as the big glasses person, whose head is either in a book or they are “shshing” you about your noise level.  Promote yourself by volunteering for tasks, spearheading committees or just assisting those to design websites.  Not a coder? Pick your niche, but the key to being an effective librarian is being versatile, skillful and creative.

Everyday Advocacy – ALSC Offers TASL a Model

by Dorcas Hand, Editor of TASLTalks and retired TX school librarian

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) is a division of the American Library Association that offers all youth librarians a variety of free resources – check out the ASLC website.

Even more useful is their Everyday Advocacy page.
We’ll talk about the EA Challenge in a minute – but first, let’s spend that minute on the four foci of ALSC’s advocacy effort: Be Informed, Engage with Your Community, Speak Out, and Get Inspired. These are really the same foci TASL Talks works to encourage with its variety of advocacy ideas from many voices.  

Here is a wider view to use for ideas.
Be Informed: The Everyday Advocate – YOU! And more
Get Inspired: Your Advocacy Stories and Model Administrator Advocates (Remember to look at TASL Administrator of the Year honorees in recent years for examples to use with your district leadership.)

Everyday Advocacy Matters offers you a FREE newsletter with updates and ideas, once a month. Take full advantage. Even though this is aimed at public librarians, there is much here that we in the schools can adapt to our own campus and district situations.

And now, finally, let’s look closely at the 2017 EA Challenge, a 4 step effort to raise personal advocacy efforts. While the some of the dates of the EA challenges have passed, the challenges themselves will work nicely for Texas school librarians who want to engage in the state legislative process, now in session.

Week of Tuesday, January 10: Write a brief elevator speech to introduce yourself to a local elected official - no more than a sentence or two—to help you introduce yourself to your library community's alderman, the town mayor, or local government staff members. You’ll be able to use this with everyone from School Board members to state legislators.

Week of Tuesday, January 17: Deliver your introductory elevator speech to a local elected official or staff person. Make a phone call or in-person visit to a local official's office to introduce yourself, including the elevator speech you wrote during Week One. 

Week of Tuesday, February 7: Send a handwritten note to a local elected official or staff person. Send it to that same official with information about how your library supports student progress. It’s great to invite them to visit – but that may be complicated by important campus administration permissions. Don’t let that stop you – be in touch with positive insights into your program. Sort snippets the official(s) can use in their thinking and future speaking engagements. Or send it to several people! 

POST CARDS are best – they don’t get hung up in envelope inspection for untoward contents. Possibly, print the postcard with a photo of students engaging with library resources – and explain the scene in your note. Have students draw images for you! 
Why a handwritten note? Given the large amount of phone calls and e-mails your elected officials receive, your personalized note on a creatively designed card is sure to stand out.
Week Four is not yet posted, but Week 3 hinted that it will suggest you engage with your community by inviting kids and grown-ups to share the reasons why they love your library and make sure that love gets noticed.

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) is a division of the American Library Association, like the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). Both groups do work in behalf of youth librarians across the country, in schools and public libraries. The third ALA youth partner is the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) which also offers useful resources – but that’s for another day and blog post. Membership in these organizations offers a high return on investment in professional support and development tools – if you can possibly afford to join, do. Yes, some of our membership dues support the many youth librarians who cannot join – but more members will always be better. Think about it.
I do understand that, in this era where our school library jobs are not secure, you may not feel that these dues are in your budget. I get it. You should still check out the resources available without charge to anyone who visits the ASLC website. Bookmark it so you can find it easily, as often as you need a little kick of new ideas or inspiration. Yes, YOU are the BEST ADVOCATE for your library. SPEAK UP OFTEN, to everyone about why your library, your teaching skills and your energy matter to all the students on your campus but especially those who do not have books or internet access in their homes.