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April 24, 2014

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School Librarians Must Be Assertive Leaders, Technology Experts | SLJ Summit 2013

Librarians and principals both live in complicated worlds, where they must make critical decisions using complex scenarios, according to Joel Castro, associate superintendent for the Lubbock, Texas, School District. “We may think we are speaking the same language, but we are often not,” he told attendees at School Library Journal’s annual Leadership Summit in Austin in September.

JoelCastro 600x400 School Librarians Must Be Assertive Leaders, Technology Experts | SLJ Summit 2013

Joel Castro, associate school superintendent in Lubbock, Texas, talked librarian/administrator collaboration at SLJ‘s Leadership Summit in Austin, Texas. Photo by Jack Plunkett/AP Images for SLJ.

In his presentation, “Are We Speaking the Same Language? Librarians, Principals, The School Library Program, and Taking the Lead,” Castro implored librarians and administrators to work hard to find common ground and ways to work together. He said he feels it is critical that the school administrator is completely involved in the role of the school librarian, and that the librarian find ways to become completely involved in the role of the administrator.

Why? We each have a shared role with respect to student achievement.

In an age of accountability, administrators are looking for every program to prove their school’s worth in terms of student achievement. Librarians can be strong instructional coaches and have great levels of expertise and sound, effective methods for helping students learn, Castro noted.

But not all administrators see this, he admitted, offering insights into what administrators look for in an effective school library program.

  • Librarians need to create and promote the library as a vibrant, learning environment. It should be the center of the school.
  • Librarians have to be instructional leaders in their buildings. They have to sit on the leadership teams and work with the campus improvement plans.
  • Librarians must be assertive. Castro says, “We have to encourage all school librarians to get in the room with seats at the right tables.” Make your worth known to the principal as a school leader and as a 21st century librarian.
  • Let the staff and administrators know how librarians are impacting instruction in positive ways. Be transparent in the work, share the outcomes with the teachers you worked with, and the students impacted by the instruction.
  • Librarians should provide evidence of their work with students using 21st century skills via blogs, wikis, and blackboards. Principals need to touch, feel, and see students interacting with the resources from the library.
  • Librarians have to be technology experts. The administrators have to see librarians working with students with technology, databases, and other tools. Show how librarians are valuable assets to the building in assisting teachers with integrating technology effectively in their curriculum.
  • Document how others value what the librarian does for the school. How many classes has the librarian collaborated with? Do others speak about the library’s value? Is the librarian so valuable that they would be the first person an administrator of a new school would hire?
  • Show administrators how librarians positively impact student achievement.

Castro urged librarians to take these practices with them when they are making connections with their staff and administrators. Librarians need to be visible in schools, finding subject areas that are seldom visited, taking on leadership roles and sharing data that shows the impact they are making on student achievement. Finally, they should find ways to promote what is going on in the library while demonstrating how the librarian is an indispensable leader.

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