I started running back in October, and have really been enjoying it. A couple of weeks ago, I ran 9.5 miles in snow and rain on a Saturday morning, with a group of people I pay to run with.
If you'd asked me a year ago if that would be something I would do, and like, and pay money to continue to do, I would have said "shut up and turn the light out when you leave," and pulled the covers back over my head.
And not only do I go on long group runs every Saturday at 8am, I also joined a speed training class, where we get together every Wednesday for all kinds of running torture, like hill sprints, timed mile (flashback to junior high PE class!), and uphill runs. It's not actually fun. There's a lot of huffing and puffing, and it makes me wish my Garmin also tracked heart rate so I could get an idea of how close to death I actually am, because it sure feels like I could just keel over at any moment.
I talk myself through it, though, and say things like, "This will get better. You will get stronger. This will get easier and more fun."
But I had a thought yesterday, about a mile and a half in--this kind of speed work will never get easier. It will never be more fun. It might make my long runs easier and more fun, but hill sprints are always going to suck.
Because if they ever become easy or fun, I need to be running faster.
I think I need this reminder a lot professionally--because making a conscious effort to isolate skills and get better at them is always going to feel like hard work. Some work is fun, and some work is just...work.
What are the things you do to get better that are worth doing even though they are never easy or fun?
From an email yesterday:
Question: I'm speaking on a panel at a media literacy education conference. What do I need to know about how libraries foster media literacy skills?
Whew. I had to think it over for about 24 hours. Here's what I came up with:
Hi, _______, thanks for reaching out on this. I've had to think quite a lot about how best to answer your question.
School libraries are often at the forefront of comprehensive media literacy education because being "media literate" encompasses everything from locating books in the library to source evaluation and citation to finding the right keywords for online searches to understanding your digital footprint. It gets to be a hard question to answer because it's exactly what school libraries are intended to do.
Because media literacy is such a huge topic, within libraryland our key challenge is just a smaller version of what in my opinion is the central challenge for everyone--when there's so much of something, how do you know what to focus on? How do you go from billions of results to just the ones you need? In a landscape that is so cluttered, so noisy, so saturated, where do you even start?
Clay Shirky describes the situation best: The problem "isn't information overload. It's filter failure."
That's a long convoluted way of saying, "hey, glad you asked. Libraries do a lot to foster media literacy skills. So much, in fact, that it's a really hard question to answer because you could go into any school library right this minute, and whatever students are doing, that is media literacy." It's an especially tough question to answer with specifics given that Idaho has no skills continuum, no curriculum, no grade level outcomes or expectations, no common framework for these skills for us to talk about where we currently are, what we're doing, and how we could be doing it better or more consistently.
But we're here, we're doing it every day, and we're eager to help.
Sound about right?
I fell into the quicksand again last night. Some bank tellers in Post Falls thought it would be awesome to dress as the Jamaican bobsled team (that would be awesome, actually, those guys are great!) by coming to work in blackface.
Last week, I was introduced to the idea of leadership as nonstop whitewater.
As you can probably guess, this metaphor resonated a lot with me. I'll let you read the whole article from the Center for Creative Leadership, or give you the TL;DR list:
I have some deep issues with the "banning" of To Kill a Mockingbird in Biloxi schools. They're not what you're probably thinking you'll find on the blog of a librarian person.
There. I can take a break from arguing with people on the internet today.
Clean Slate Day will be a one-time opportunity for each child in our school district to receive a completely clear record and experience the same checkout privileges. Every child will have an equal opportunity to check out the same number of books as their peers. It is an opportunity to make good on the idea of libraries as a level playing field for all students, regardless of circumstances. (This is going to be hard, I know! But it's an important gesture that lets students know they have equal rights and responsibilities in their library community.)
Clean Slate Day will not be announced; students will not be aware that it is coming. Only after fines are waived will students be aware that their accounts have been cleared and they now have unrestricted checkout access. During the weeks leading up to Clean Slate Day, librarians will lead a push to locate and return as many missing items as possible by distributing “Did You Check Here?” checklists and other class- and schoolwide recovery activities.
Moving forward, elementary library policies have been adapted to continue to provide the most access possible for our students while helping them understand the role of responsible stewardship of shared resources. The emphasis is on restoration, not punishment. Students who lose or damage library books will have the option to create alternate plans for book check-out, such as limiting the number of books checked out, leaving them in the classroom or library at night, or choosing from a collection of less in-demand titles. Fines to cover the replacement cost of lost items will still be assessed, but librarians are encouraged to work with students and classroom teachers to devise work activities so that students can give back to their library community in other ways.
We hope that Clean Slate Day and these new restorative justice practices will help develop a community mindset surrounding the school library and its resources. We look forward to nurturing cooperative relationships with students and fostering a deep respect for shared public resources, including libraries.
I am deeply appreciative of the feedback I received last spring when we first began talking about this initiative, and how positively the idea was received. It feels scary to put yourself in a place where you could be taken advantage of. It's a difficult balance between being democratic and inclusive, and preserving collections so that students continue to have access to materials. It's going to be hard to check that brand-new Wimpy Kid book out to the student we're pretty sure isn't going to bring it back. It is my hope that we can help students feel what it is like to be included, to be a part of, to share community rights and responsibilities. I believe the ultimate effect of this shift in attitude will reap wonderful and unexpected rewards in our schools and our libraries.
Cultivating a Practice of Reflection, Collaboration, and Conversation (and a Little Friendly Competition)
Originally written for the Knowledge Quest blog at http://knowledgequest.aasl.org/cultivating-practice-reflection-collaboration-conversation-little-friendly-competition/.
After reading The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg over the summer, I thought about whether there was a single practice I could adopt for the 2016-17 school year that could transform how librarians in our district worked together. Duhigg gave several examples of revolutionary business leaders who changed the way their companies worked just by implementing what sounded like a very simple practice, but created a ripple effect throughout the system, and I wanted to try it.
The lament I hear the most from my staff is that they feel isolated and overworked. My hunch was, by bringing everyone together into a shared learning space on Schoology, our district’s LMS, we could accomplish a couple of things:
The question was, how could I encourage the habit of regular sharing in Schoology? I needed some kind of payoff that would provide enough motivation to get through the initial reluctance and encourage regular use of Schoology.
Enter the Weekly Win.
I challenged librarians to post a Weekly Win–whatever small victory they were proud of–to Schoology each week. Anyone who posted 3 updates during the month would be entered into a drawing for $200 to spend in their library however they chose.
Librarians are often a competitive bunch, so several ears perked up at the mention of a monthly drawing. There was some nervousness in the room, several rumblings along the lines of, “but I don’t do anything spectacular, I just have time for regular library stuff.” I clarified at the outset that I was just looking for small moments, and made myself a habit of posting wins for myself that were things like, “I got a script on a spreadsheet to work after watching 4 different YouTube tutorials and tweaking the code,” or “Every purchase order I got today was paperclipped, not stapled!” Finding and celebrating our wins got a little less intimidating after that. A few brave souls even dared to share their “Weekly Fail,” some project that had started with such promise but failed so spectacularly that there was nothing to do but laugh about it and move on.
Eight months in, the Weekly Win is growing every month, up to about 75% of staff with some degree of participation, and a little more than half posting enough to qualify for the drawing. Even those who aren’t posting are still following pretty regularly, and even incorporating some of the shared practices into their own libraries.
It’s definitely helped at the district office, too. I now have access to a regular stream of stories and images of all the different kinds of activities happening in our libraries to share with building and district administration. I create quarterly reports with a combination of statistics and stories that reinforce our important role in our schools.
Most recently, we’ve helped librarians add a second step to their sharing habit by teaching them how to quickly and easily post their Weekly Win both to Schoology and somewhere else–Twitter, their school’s Facebook page, or in an email to their principal or the person who compiles the school newsletter. That’s helped get our stories out into more places, without adding what feels like a whole lot of extra work to our routine.
Okay, so some of the most exciting parts of my life are emails. Certainly the most stressful parts, some days.
A couple of Lilead fellows are hard at work writing up a presentation proposal for the AASL conference next November in Phoenix. I really like this conference for a couple of reasons--it's a good mix of theoretical, big-picture ideas and things you can implement immediately, it's big without being too big, and most importantly, it's focused on issues relevant to school librarians. Our practice is so much broader and less technical than that of other library professionals. We often find ourself in the position of having to know a little bit about all the things, rather than knowing everything there is to know about a single aspect of librarianship, and that makes conferences like ALA feel really overwhelming.
As library administrators, we often find ourselves in the positon to need to explain what it is exactly that school library programs actually DO--and tailoring that message to the concerns (and vocabulary!) of each audience. The message the Fellows involved in this planning are most interested in in this post-election world is this:
How are library programs uniquely situated to help our communities develop critical literacy skills necessary to navigate a post-truth world?
If this feels like pavement we've pounded time after time already, it is. But there's a new sense of urgency behind it now. The fact is, even adults are not immune to information overload, filter bubbles, and the preponderance of false news reporting. However, if the recent election has taught us anything, helping people develop and use these skills has to be a partnership--we can't go around telling people they're doing everything wrong without encountering pushback.
What helps school libraries now is that we've spent decades positioning ourselves as educational partners. We're often perceived as nonthreatening, aggressively helpful, and neutral in our support of improving educational opportunities for all students. This is a great place to be working from!
I'm really excited to be fleshing out this proposal alongside a group of library leaders in whom I have the utmost confidence! I know there are other important issues facing school library administrators right now, but for me this is something that has come immediately to the forefront. THIS is why we are working so hard integrating school library programs into state ESSA legislation. THIS is why we are working to get every student in every school access to a certified teacher-librarian. THIS is why we are working to increase funding for access to current, relevant research databases and nonfiction collections. THIS is why we are (still) working to change teacher and administrator perceptions of the school librarian as the tech guru or guardian of the books (or, worse yet, a holdover from the ancient era of print).
And this will be what gives me the courage to keep knocking on the doors of influential people and showing up to the table without an invitation.
Two awesome things have happend in the last couple of weeks in regards to school libraries in Idaho.
ONE, Rep. Julie VanOrden (R-Blackfoot) was promoted to chair of the House Education Committee of the Idaho Legislature. VanOrden was Idaho Library Association's Legislator of the Year in 2015, and is a passionate, outspoken advocate of school libraries and literacy initiatives.
TWO, Idaho's most recent ESSA draft specifically allocates state Title II-A funds for professional development opportunities for school librarians. Idaho Commission for Libraries will be able to expand its annual School Librarians Summit, inviting 20 additional participants. ILA presented the ESSA committee with more than 10 additional recommendations to the first draft of the plan, and will be joining with other educational organizations across the state to continue to advocate for student access to quality school library programs.