February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

The Indispensable Library and Librarian | Tech Tidbits

I’ve had a lot of conversations recently about what school librarians currently do and what they will be doing in the future. For me, it all boils down to making the library and the librarian indispensable. We are in a service industry. We have to continually learn what our students, teachers and administrators need and want. Of course it is vital that we offer the print resources that our patrons have come to expect from libraries. We must also continually evaluate and offer a wide variety of subscription databases. More and more, however, our patrons are demanding skills in addition to tangible items. We librarians need to excel at assessing our schools’ strengths and needs and figuring out exactly what we can contribute, coordinate, and develop to take our staff and students to new heights.

Our best librarians are constantly adapting and learning. The future is rich and full of possibility for librarians who are willing to continually assess and respond to their schools’ needs. This might mean building a “reading challenge” program to respond to falling reading and literacy scores. It might mean taking a leadership role with staff evaluations and peer mentoring—or focusing on staff development to support a school transitioning to a 1:1 device program.

In my school, with the influx of lots of new technology, our teachers need help and support in using their online textbooks and their new Mac Mini desktops and iPads in their instruction, grading and communication. So we’re offering meaningful, deliberate professional development opportunities that, in true librarian fashion, I stole from another librarian. In building a schedule for staff trainings, I solicited feedback from my teachers so I can tailor training topics to their interests and needs. I’m offering flexible meeting times and multiple opportunities so staff can access training on their own terms.

An action plan for change

While planning with my district professional development staff for this, we’ve been resourcing the Knoster model for managing complex change, developed by Tim Knoster, professor and chairperson in the College of Education in the Department of Exceptionality Programs at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.


His theory is that when you have a Vision + Consensus + Skills + Incentives + Resources + Action Plan, you can then effectively experience Change. We are early in the stages of using this model, but already we see that if any single component is missing from the change model, the outcome will fall short of the desired goal.

For example, we are working on to meaningful 1:1 iPad training and classroom integration while consistently referring to the vision of our district’s Learning Technology Plan. When we asked teachers what incentives would encourage them to participate, the results were surprising. Offering the right mix of credit, tech gadgets, or even snacks was critical. But improving their ability to help their students be successful was even more desirable.

Perhaps most importantly my staff is really appreciating the ongoing, relevant conversations that lead to consensus. We don’t always agree, but the discussions reflect our rich diversity and help teachers better understand how these issues can affect our students in positive ways. It is clear that without this model, and a feeling of ownership among teachers, our training will fail.

What I’ve learned, after 12 years as a high school librarian, is that no two libraries are the same. While there will always be universal goals, we must acknowledge that individual school libraries are most successful when they define themselves according to the needs of their unique patrons. One library may successfully market the traditional model focused on building a thriving community of readers and book clubs. Another library may charge boldly into the future as a maker space complete with 3-D printers. It’s possible to quickly become exhausted by the demands placed on libraries these days. It will be the librarians who consistently meet the needs of the patrons they serve who will not only continue to be relevant in their schools, but who will also redefine what it means to be a librarian in this digital age.

Phil Goerner is a teacher librarian at Silver Creek High School, Longmont, Colorado.

SLJTeen header

This article was featured in our free SLJTeen enewsletter.
Subscribe today to have more articles like this delivered to you twice a month.

Phil Goerner About Phil Goerner

Phil Goerner is the teacher librarian and tech innovator at Silver Creek High School in Longmont, CO. He can be found on Twitter @pgoerner. Phil is also an adjunct professor with University of Colorado at Denver in the School Library and Instructional Leadership program.

Facts Matter: Information Literacy for the Real World
Libraries and news organizations are joining forces in a variety of ways to promote news literacy, create innovative community programming, and help patrons/students identify misinformation. This online course will teach you how to partner with local news organizations to promote news literacy through a range of programs—including a citizen journalism hub at your library.