PTA and MSLA Rally for Reading in Swampscott

A prompt response by parents to proposed library budget cuts last year in the Swampscott School District led to a recent Grand Opening Celebration at the Hadley Elementary School.

“We have come a long way!” says Melissa DeFilippi, PTA co-president and a leading voice for reinstating library services. Today they have 7,000 books logged in a new e-catalog at Hadley, all done by hand by parent volunteers. The e-catalog is installed at all schools in the district. There are drop-in hours and after-school hours at Hadley, a high school librarian this year, and a promise on one at the middle school next year and elementary the year after.

Sharon Hamer and Judi Paradis, MSLA Executive Board members and library advocates, presented at Swampscott School Committee following the budget cut announcement to convince them of the vital importance of a strong school library program.

According to DeFilippi, MSLA was “a big part of our success. We could not have lit the fire without your support. There is library buzz at Hadley. The parents are excited, the teachers are excited, and best of all, the children are excited.”

Read more in a recent SLJ article by Lauren Barack:

http://www.slj.com/2014/12/schools/school-library-renaissance-in-ma-school-district/

Signs of Pride
Signs of Pride
Clifford Return Box
Clifford Return Box
New Arrivals
New Arrivals
Nonfiction BEFORE
Nonfiction BEFORE
Nonfiction AFTER
Nonfiction AFTER

 

 

Cozy Seats
Cozy Seats
Donation Bin & More
Donation Bin & More
Celebration Activity
Celebration Activity

 

 

 

 

Meg O’Neill is the Learning Commons Director at the Pingree school in South Hamilton

Advertisements

President’s Update

Starting with the end in mind gets the best results, according to Stephen Covey; and we all know that backward design produces a great project. So, each year, I ask the MSLA Executive Board to sit down at our September meeting and set priorities for the coming year so that we have a strong focus for our work.

Last year, a strong focus on legislation led to the passage of a bill in the Massachusetts legislature this summer establishing a commission to evaluate school library programs. In addition, focused work by our Executive Board led to DESE accepting a rubric that administrators can use to evaluate school librarians using both teaching and program administration guidelines. We also worked hard to provide our members with a range of professional development offerings, including our annual conference, our first unconference this summer at Westborough High School, and a collaborative workshop with MassCUE in September. Finally, we set up a pilot ELL training course for school librarians that will be offered through EDCO in the Spring of 2015.

As we began the 2014-15 school year, the MSLA Executive Board met again to set priorities to guide our work. At our first meeting, we agreed that we would like to focus on four key areas:

Legislation: Representative Sean Garballey is chairing a commission this year that will evaluate the status of school library programs in Massachusetts. This is an incredible opportunity for school librarians and our students. The commission is charged with collecting key data about library staffing, hours, and collections. We have had lots of anecdotal evidence in the past decade that there is inequity from district to district in school library services. Collecting specific data will finally allow us to make a case for school library equity based on concrete facts. As the commission looks for assistance in collecting data, providing analysis, and lining up testimony, MSLA stands ready to provide assistance.

Membership: We want to make sure that members remain at the center of our work. Our advocacy committee and area directors intend to take a careful look at how to retain the members we have, reach out to those with lapsed memberships, and recruit those new to our field. As part of this work, we will look at how we can enhance the services and experiences we offer to our members.

Outreach: In a survey taken last spring, MSLA saw that members value the opportunities we provide for them to stay connected to one another such as the listserv and Forum newsletter. We are also pleased that members connect often through the MSLA Facebook page and Twitter feed. I am delighted that Jennifer Dimmick and Katherine Steiger have agreed to take on the Forum this year and I look forward to seeing it develop into another vehicle that we can all use to share great information and improve our practice.

Professional Development: MSLA wants to remain the first place school librarians go for professional development, and we want to make sure we get both the topics and delivery right. We are going to take a careful look this year at the options open to us. Our traditional annual conference and area director gatherings remain popular with many members. Yet, we also know that members have responded well to one-day workshops, unconferences, and informal sharing on Twitter. We also know that we have many natural partners for PD, from MassCUE to MLS to MLA. So, we are planning to look at the many ways we can offer professional development, the time and energy we have, and see if we can come up with a plan that makes sense for all of us.

Of course, we do have an annual conference planned on March 1 & 2, 2105. The theme “Fill Up Your Toolbox” speaks to the practical aspects of the event, which will focus on sharing tips and tools that you can implement in your own practice immediately. Holding the conference at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst also means we have access to some pretty wonderful speakers and settings, and you will certainly want to attend. Registration for the conference opens up on November 1.

Now this means that we need to hear from you. If you have any strong ideas or opinions on any of this, do let us know—we’re easy to find (you can even comment on this, or any other Forum post!). It also doesn’t mean we won’t do other wonderful things—we know there are opportunities and events that come up throughout the year and we’re ready to respond to those that will make a difference for school librarians.

Judi Paradis is the President of MSLA and the librarian at the Plympton Elementary School in Waltham

The Perceptions of Principals

All school libraries are not created equal. There is one single indicator that predicts success, beyond community income levels or the skills and charisma of the teacher librarian. The academic research shows that single greatest factor in establishing an effective school library is the perception of the school principal toward the school library and the teacher librarian.

The literature indicates a persistent problem of perceptions among school administrators regarding the impact of teacher librarians on student achievement. A qualitative study followed the results of the 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) that gave schools the choice of whether or not to employ school library media specialists. Ten years after KERA, principals from the 64 districts in 176 schools were surveyed, and indicated that they did not perceive the school library media specialists as essential to the success of their schools (Alexander, Smith, & Carey, 2003). This finding stood in contrast to the perceptions of school library media specialists in Kentucky who perceived their role as very essential to student achievement and the overall success of their schools. While teacher librarians may view themselves as indispensible, school principals often do not share that view. This discrepancy in perceptions is problematic because it explains the decision making of principals in determining staffing, budgeting, and instructional leadership that are foundational to a successful school library program.

The perceptions of school principals with regard to school librarians are determined by four factors: their own experiences as children where the school library was peripheral to the classroom, professional training that did not include the school library or informational literacy, the nature of the work of school librarians which is to empower others, and the overall low profile of school librarianship in educational literature (Hartzell, 2002). These perceptions are compounded by occupational invisibility within the school that is caused by under-staffing that prohibits the teacher librarian from leaving the library to attend collaborative planning meetings and other opportunities for leadership and professional growth (Johnston, 2012). The school community acknowledges discipline area teachers as having direct impact on student learning, but because instructional support and co-teaching with the teacher librarian is collaborative those contributions tend not to be recognized or collected as evidence-of-impact on learning, which further reinforces occupational invisibility (Martin, 2011).

The gaps that exist in the perceptions of principals can have a long-term impact on schools when it comes to hiring a teacher librarian, especially because of the solo-practitioner status of the position. A qualitative study was conducted that included school administrators, library school faculty members, and library school students that was designed to probe preferred characteristics based on five categories: education, experience, recommendations, involvement, and compatibilities (Roys & Brown, 2004). Results indicated that school library students had a better idea than library school faculty about the characteristics sought by school administrators during hiring, but that school library faculty had a better understanding of the skills and characteristics required of an ideal candidate. School administrators registered a very low understanding of the characteristics and skills needed in a teacher librarian to fill the role effectively. Principals don’t really know what they want us to do, or what they should look for in a candidate.

A mixed-methodology study surveyed principals in South Carolina on their perceptions of teacher librarians, their hiring criteria, the competencies they considered important, and levels of satisfaction with their current teacher librarian. The premise of the study was that the school library program relies profoundly on the support of the school principal in terms of budgeting, staffing, the role of the library in the overall school culture, and in providing leadership opportunities for the teacher librarian (Shannon, 2009). The conclusions of the study were that principals generally rated themselves as “very satisfied” or “satisfied” with their teacher librarian, and that their prime source of information about the value and impact on student learning of the library program came directly from the teacher librarian in his or her own building. The chief source of education on characteristics of effectiveness is the building-based teacher librarian, indicating a need for additional research on themes of the teacher librarian as an effective communicator, as having strong inter-personal skills, and the need to build strong relationships with building principals and school administrators.

The findings of a quantitative study on the ability of teacher librarians to expand their role as instructional leaders concluded that the single most important requirement was a supportive principal (Martin, 2011). The variables that were identified as indicators of support were determined to be the size and currency of the library print and digital collection, the hours of available service, the size of media and technology support staff, adequate library support staff, and the availability if a full-time certified LMS; all tied to budget decisions made by the principal (Hartzell, 2003, as cited by Martin, 2011). Developing strategies to disrupt and change the perceptions of principals is a high priority for teacher librarians seeking increased opportunities as instructional leaders with effective school programs.

It is necessary for teacher librarians to become more active in instructional leadership to facilitate the integration of information literacy and technology skills across all areas of curriculum. To achieve this goal it is necessary for teacher librarians to adopt new techniques, strategies and theories that will change the perceptions of principals and administrators, and create the conditions necessary for instructional leadership to take place (Castiglione, 2006; Johnston, 2012).

This is the time to assess the perceptions of our building principals towards the role of the school library in our schools, and take proactive steps to influence those perceptions. The research literature is clear that it is up to us to educate our principals through providing evidence of our impact on student learning, by sharing academic research that clearly states the critical role of effective school libraries on achievement, and to have goal-based budget discussions to improve library resources. (These goals should include adequate staffing in order for the teacher librarian to participate in curriculum planning instructional leadership opportunities.) If we don’t work to influence the perceptions of our principals we will continue to see inequities in school library service for the students of Massachusetts.

Works Cited

Alexander, L. B., Smith, R. C., & Carey, J. O. (2003). Education reform and the school library media specialist: Perceptions of principals. Knowledge Quest, 32(10-13), 10-13.

Castiglione, J. (2006). Organizational learning and transformational leadership in the library environment. Library Management, 27(4/5), 289-299.

Hartzell, G. (2002). The principal’s perceptions of school-librarians and teacher-librarians. School Libraries Worldwide, 8(1), 92-110.

Johnston, M. P. (2012). School librarians as technology integration leaders: Enablers and barriers to leadership enactment . School Library Research, 15(), 1-33.

Martin, V. D. (2011). Perceptions of school library media specialists regarding the practice of instructional leadership. Advances in Library Administration and Organization, 30(), 207-287.

Roys, N. K., & Brown, M. E. (2004). The ideal candidate for school library media specialist: views from school administrators, library school faculty, and MLS students. School Library Media Research, 7.

Shannon, D. M. (2009). Principal’s Perspectives of School Librarians. School Libraries Worldwide, 15(2), 1-22.

Robin Cicchetti is the school librarian at the Concord-Carlisle Regional High School