Illustration by David Flaherty from SLJ
The school holiday break is providing an opportunity to follow up items I've saved to Instapaper for reading later. This post reflects on Principal's perceptions of school librarians compared to how the librarians saw themselves in research conducted by Tricia Kuon and Holly Weimar. Published in the School Library Journal blog, 12 September 2012, the article is entitled: How does your boss see you?: Proof that principals value librarians.
Having visited school libraries in both the US and Canada over the past two years, I'm aware that, on the whole, we are in a far better position here in Australia. Generally speaking, we have more library staff and better budgets, although both are being closely monitored and library services reduced as in North America. In reading this article from an Australian perspective, I also read the role of 'librarian' as the full range of models from teacher librarian as library manager through to technicians in that role.
Authors, Tricia Kuon and Holly Weimar have explored their evidence to provide a signpost of attributes for librarians to adopt a leadership role within their schools. Principals are looking for that leadership, especially in relation to technology. Marcia Mardis, associate director of the Partnerships Advancing Library Media (PALM) Center at Florida State University says some school librarians don’t feel comfortable labeling themselves as leaders—but it doesn’t mean they’re not acting like ones, “Leaders are as leaders do.”
The authors lists of 'Librarian's top 10 tasks' from a Principal's, compared with Librarian's perspective, is particularly significant. The Principal's view is broader and management-focussed, the librarian's is narrower and task-focussed. In these few weeks we have off over the summer Christmas break, it's worth taking time to reflect on our roles. Don't just shut down and wait till we go back and start the year in the same way.
Reflect: What takes up the time in your day? What tasks could you do more efficiently? What could you abandon completely? What does your Principal value most about your role? How does the library team contribute to the discussion? Does everyone have a voice?
To quote (from the article) retired school librarian, Alice Yucht, 'it’s important to promote the library, not yourself—and to know the difference between promotion and advocacy. “You cannot self-advocate. You need to create satisfied customers and users who will then advocate for the library.”'
So I invite you to join me in reflecting during the break, ready to return to school with a 'plan for action' in 2013. In the week the New York Times Room for Debate topic: Do we still need libraries? stimulates discussion, take time to reflect and plan.
I found this article valuable reading. Thanks Tricia and Holly.
PS: As a benchmark against our own practice, further recommended reading is the School Librarian Evaluation Rubric recently released by the New York State Department of Education (SED) through submissions from Section of School Librarians (SSL) of NYLA and the NYS School Library Systems Association (SLSA)..