May 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Bringing a Better You Back to School | Editorial

A new school year always inspires rounds of creativity, as librarians and teachers prepare to engage students in the work and fun ahead. This year is no different, with librarians around the country stepping up programming across a number of topical areas connected to learning goals.

Check out 33 of them in April Witteveen’s whirlwind tour of school and public library initiatives. The Brookdale School in Bloomfield, NJ, for instance, will have a hydroponic garden system, connecting students in hands-on learning tied to the Next Generation Science Standards. Meanwhile, in Texas, Jaime LeRoy, library media specialist at Cross Timbers Middle School, is making literacy connections for kids—creating “a place where ‘book nerd’ has a positive connotation,” she says. In Virginia, students at Virginia Avenue Charlotte DeHart Elementary are getting a deeper STREAM (adding an “R” for “reading” to STEAM) experience with maker projects tied to stories. Public librarians are in the mix, too, ramping up to support kids in schools and beyond.

Most of the programs spring from effective collaboration with teachers, and many integrate parents as well, building important links to the home learning environment. Across the board, they promise to raise the game for kids, and the programs take some real skills to pull off effectively.

In this dynamic, rapidly changing profession, keeping up with that evolution—with professional development—is crucial. And in school libraries, the pressure is on to evolve in unison with the standards that inspire and support success in their schools. Now, some might say that there is little that is “­inspiring” about standards—but I find inspiration in, for instance, the new Standards for Educators from ISTE.

Released at ISTE’s annual conference in June, the standards neatly frame the seven leadership capacities that educators should embody to be both “empowered” and “learning catalysts.” The standards call on individuals to be learners, leaders, citizens, collaborators, designers, facilitators, and analysts. Talk about a full package. Yes—and so is an effective librarian.

As learning curves go, however, keeping up can be steep. A new tool to help school librarians manage was recently rolled out by the school library committee formed to respond to “Libraries Transform: The Expert in the Library,” an initiative launched by Julie Todaro during her tenure as president of the American Library Association. The committee, chaired by Sara Kelly Johns, Susan Ballard, and Dorcas Hand, compared the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (PSELs) with the AASL Standards for the Preparation of School Librarians to scope what they have called the School Librarian Competencies based on the PSELs. I swear I’m not getting dizzy.

Even better, they created a rubric to self-evaluate one’s abilities, with a spectrum ranging from “ineffective” through “emerging”’ to “effective” for each of the 11 competencies. Then, they paired those stages of professional skill with resources in a LibGuide to help you improve your skills. It’s pretty cool—and I especially respect that this tool acknowledges that “ineffective” happens…but isn’t the end of the road. Instead, it’s a very optimistic approach that enables self-directed PD. (AASL will also release updated learning standards this fall.)

Are you an empowered catalyst? Do you know where your weaknesses are on the path to being effective and even highly effective? What do you need to learn to be able to better align in the areas where you don’t yet? Answering these questions, and investing in the time to build your skills, will help you bring ever-stronger impact to your schools.


Rebecca T. Miller

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This article was published in School Library Journal's August 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Rebecca T. Miller About Rebecca T. Miller

Rebecca T. Miller ( is Editorial Director, Library Journal and School Library Journal.

Building Literacy-Rich Communities
Hosted by Library Journal and School Library JournalStronger Together is a national gathering of thought leaders and innovators from across the country who will share where and how partnerships between school districts and public libraries are having success. Join us May 10–12 at the University of Nebraska Omaha, as we explore the impact these collaborations are having on the institutions, communities, and kids they serve.
Maker Workshop
In this two-week online course, you’ll create a maker program that aligns with your budget and community needs, with personal coaching from maker experts—from libraries and beyond—May 23 & June 6, 2018.
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