The Superhero Librarian Within | Take the Lead

Perhaps you feel unworthy or unready to be a leader. But you can do it. You must: people are counting on you.
dedra_headshotThe day you became a school librarian, the universe put a spectacular opportunity into your hands, giving you the power to affect what people believe about libraries and librarians. If you think that makes you sound a bit like a superhero, you’re right. You possess unique knowledge and skills—no one else in the school does exactly what you do. The five roles of a school librarian, according to the American Association of School Librarians, include leader, instructional partner, information specialist, teacher, and program administrator. While it seems easy on the surface to embrace some of these, many struggle with that “leader” one. Perhaps you feel unworthy or unready.  But you can do it. You must: people are counting on you. It starts with looking inward. Stop focusing on what you can't do, and concentrate on what you can. My Lilead experience introduced me to the concept of strengths-based leadership. When you work from your strengths, you unapologetically give the world your best. Being aware of your strengths and identifying how they can be used to move school and district priorities forward helps ensure you’re an essential part of your school's instructional leadership team. Take time to talk…and listen. Have conversations. Good leaders exchange ideas with the people they follow and hope to lead. Honest dialog builds connections. As a supervisor, I try to communicate with my librarians as much as possible. Yes, I use email and social media—but I also make a point to get out and visit schools. I pick up the phone and talk to my librarians when they need support, clarification, or just a reminder about why they rock. I model what I want them to do in their own buildings. Instead of feeling like the sad kid who didn’t get a party invitation, ask to attend team/department meetings. Instead of waiting for teachers to collaborate, pick up the phone or walk down the hall to their classrooms. Schedule a meeting with your principal to discuss your goals for the year, even if it is just for 15 minutes. Your voice will make a difference. Make your leadership visible…to yourself. Leaders come in different varieties. People who lead quietly and behind the scenes are just as important as those who are loud and proud. Document your efforts—the failed attempts and the successes. Take time to reflect and reassess. Not only will your leadership log make a great artifact for your portfolio come evaluation time, but on those days when you feel like you are falling short, it can be a visual reminder of the work you are doing. There’s nothing wrong with starting small. Every blooming flower started out as a tiny seed! Embrace the power of positive peer pressure. Everyone needs support and encouragement. Whether it’s meeting up with a few folks for coffee or creating a closed Facebook group, the important thing is to have people you can reach out to and to whom you are accountable. Bounce around ideas, share frustrations and celebrations, and push one another to stay the course. I send out a monthly newsletter to my librarians. But the work is not all on me. I encourage them to send items—reflections from conferences, photos of their libraries in action, articles about new things they’re trying. The benefits for librarians are twofold. First, celebrating and sharing the work you do makes you feel proud. Second, when you read about the fantastic things going on in another library, you might just have a moment: "Hey... I could do that. Why haven't I tried?" Leaders need to be inspired in order to be inspirational. Your students and colleagues deserve the benefit of you giving them your best. Just like any other superhero, you have strengths and special skills. So find the librarian leader within. People are counting on you.
Dedra Van Gelder is the instructional specialist for library media at Charles County (MD) Public Schools.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.
Sorry !!! Your comment is not submited properly Or you left some fields empty. Please check with your admin

Liz Mabey

I work in a medium-sized K-8 district with 9 sites all staffed by paraprofessionals, and no District librarian. I think our need for a newsletter is the opposite of yours: instead of a central expert disseminating info to staff, we need to consolidate news of the work we're doing and get it in front of principals, administrators, and BOT. Thanks for the pep talk and the good idea!

Posted : Oct 26, 2016 11:43

Dedra Van Gelder

I love your spin on how your district could make a newsletter work for you. I didn't include this in the article, but I actually use our newsletter in a similar way. Each month when I send it out to my librarians, I also send it to my supervisor and the deputy superintendent. This way they get to see a snapshot of the efforts we are all putting in, the successes and the collaboration, , and the direction our program is heading. The reaction from my supervisor each month is fantastic. She is always so impressed with the work being done in each school, and she has really become one of our strongest advocates.

Posted : Oct 27, 2016 05:40

Becky Calzada

Dedra-your passion shines through! And I know you live this because you shared many of these things when we sat at dinner during the SLJ Summit in Washington, DC. Thanks so much for sharing and putting out the challenge for us all!

Posted : Oct 26, 2016 05:31

Dedra Van Gelder

It was wonderful meeting you at SLJ Summit! I know we all talked your ears off about Lilead; so thank you for letting us share our experiences with you. I learned about strengths-based leadership from our first Lilead meeting and it stuck with me something fierce.

Posted : Oct 27, 2016 05:31

Mandy O'Neill

Dee this article is right on point. Thank you for always being so positive and encouraging. You rock!

Posted : Oct 26, 2016 01:07

Dedra Van Gelder

Thank you so much for reading the article. :)

Posted : Oct 27, 2016 05:28



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing