December 14, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Post-AASL, Inspired Brainstorming at a Lilead Project Think Tank

 

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Following  the 2015 AASL conference (Nov 5–8), the supervisors gathered  in Columbus, OH, to continue their learning in leadership through the Lilead Fellows Program. The think tank session, facilitated by SLJ staff, was sponsored by Junior Library Guild (also owned by Media Source, Inc., SLJ’s parent company).

Led by Ann Carlson Weeks of the University of Maryland’s iSchool, the Lilead Project’s mission is to enable, empower, and equip the Fellows to make transformational change in their districts through library programs. Supervisors have a specific project that targets a need over 18 months. Connecting in mentor groups each month keeps everyone engaged  and supported. But the most significant learning takes place during periodic face-to-face meetings that focus on leadership practices.

Emerging trends

A highlight during the meeting in Columbus was the library supervisors sharing their projects in a lively succession of presentations. Several trends emerged. Transforming teaching and learning through inquiry brought attention to how library programs prepare students for success through engagement in critical thinking and problem solving. The digital transformation of education was evident as librarians look to lead in blended learning and 1:1 initiatives.

Supervisors are changing the perceived librarians’ role in schools by developing robust job descriptions, seeking the addition of certified school librarians, building meaningful evaluation measures, and identifying ways to elevate school-based administrators’ expectations. Each Fellow is working with the support of the University of Maryland Lilead Project team and a cadre of highly regarded mentors in the field as well as their cohort of colleagues supervising library programs across 17 states.

Dedra Van Gelder is the instructional specialist for library media at Charles County Public Schools located in La Plata, MD. In a school system of more than 26,000 students, Van Gelder looks to find ways for librarians to be effective leaders in her district’s instructional initiatives for college and career readiness. Her project focus evolved after receiving feedback from her Lilead colleagues and mentor.

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SLJ reviews editor Kiera Parrott notes big ideas from the Lilead gathering.

Finding and growing the leader within each librarian in Charles County was the first step in affecting positive change. Through her Lilead experience, Van Gelder learned that change isn’t easy, but it is possible with a supportive network of peers. “One of the most important things I’ve learned since starting the Fellows program is that in order for others to see you as leader, you have to see yourself that way first. It’s about believing,” she said. “It didn’t take long for me to realize that if I wanted my librarians to step up as leaders, then I needed to give them the tools to do so with confidence as well as providing them with opportunities and support—just like Lilead was doing for me.”

Like several Fellows, Rachel Altobelli, Albuquerque (NM) Public Schools’ director of library services and instructional materials, is examining the key role that librarians play in a district’s technology initiative. She credits the Lilead program for building her learning around leadership in ways that positively contribute to her district’s goals. “Lilead has inspired me, educated me, and transformed me,” she said. “It’s the kind of compelling learning we want for all our students.”

Outcomes-based planning; Marketing library programs

Outcomes-based planning is a key component of the Lilead program. As Altobelli’s district was purchasing technology and content for 87,000 students, she saw an opportunity to develop a strategy that targets specific outcomes. By integrating content, technology, and inquiry through the work of teacher librarians, she is focused on building capacity within the library program to connect directly to student success. “Lilead has given me the framework and support to push for lasting change in my school district,” she said.

Over the course of three days, the Lilead Fellows engaged in conversation around marketing library programs to stakeholders and “making the sale” when pitching ideas to decision makers. There were activities on how to build on strengths to overcome obstacles and planning specific short and medium-term outcomes that will lead to their project objective.

Participants had an opportunity to quiz superintendents and other division leaders about how to communicate in ways that will get positive attention and explored in small groups the dispositions of leaders that inspire others to follow. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Fellows were making plans to write articles and offer presentations to the school library community and beyond to share what they’ve learned and spread the message of strong library programs. Want in on the conversation? Tune in to the #Lilead Twitter chat November 17 at 8:00 p.m. ET.


Dando_headshot_2Priscille Dando is coordinator, library information services, at Fairfax County (VA) Public Schools and a Lilead Fellow.

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