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