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CAL Conference Musings: Part II

Did you ever wonder what it would be like to have a supportive principal that really understood the work you do–and the impact that you can have on boosting student achievement?  Wouldn’t it be great if your principal could speak about your library program as passionately as you do!  Well –I was absolutely stunned to hear from four Colorado Administrators the kind of passion and vision that usually seems to be confined to our own profession.  What do prinicpals who “get” libraries have to say about teacher-librarian leadership?  Read on!  -Nancy

“Leadership: The Principal-Librarian Parntership” – Facilitated by Nance Nassar and Betty Bankhead.

A panel of Power Library administrators discussed characteristics of leadership in teacher-librarians, examples of how the teacher-librarian takes a leadership role, and answered questions from the audience.

Leadership characteristics of teacher-librarians:

  • Systems thinker
  • Schoolwide perspective
  • Ability to create need (so teachers want to work with you)
  • Deep understanding of their own learning style to understand learning styles of the teachers/administrator
  • Flexibility – recognize where teachers are at and take them forward from there
  • Organizational skills and ability to follow through
  • Reflective nature – coaching skills
  • Intimate knowledge of curriculum
  • Use of research-based instructional best practices
  • Recognize when to lead and where to lead
  • Deep partnership with the administrator
  • Ability to be collaborative
  • Tenacious  ability to move the unmovable
  • Teachers understand the teacher-librarian can help them improve their craft
  • Follow DuFour’s PLC model – literacy at every level
  • Technology leader
  • Cognizant of creating inviting environment
  • Creates community connections
  • Has a vision – linked to student vision, goals and student achievement
  • Active in school improvement initiatives
  • Teacher first –earns the respect of colleagues
  • Focused on what is best for students
  • Use teacher language –not library language
  • Library has influence in every aspect of school life
  • Understands and can use new and emerging technologies – and how to best use these with kids
  • Willing and able to provide staff development
  • Creates partnerships with parent community
  • Understands, models, and teaches 21st century skills

Examples of how the teacher-librarian takes a leadership role:

  • “Window to the World” –not “keeper of the books”
  • Standing spot on staff meeting agendas –never decline and always make it worthwhile
  • Be cheerleader along side of the principal in all school initiatives
  • Build advocacy team within the school
  • Understand lexiles
  • Help parents by providing safe place for them to get to know the school
  • Involvement in whole district initiatives
  • Involvement with helping/mentoring new teachers
  • “Allow” administrators to be stationed in the library on back-to-school nights
  • Co-writing grants with teachers
  • Knowing and using your administrator’s preferred style of communication

Audience questions:

How should the teacher-librarian encourage collaboration and how do you help with that?

  • Bribery works! (i.e. morning coffees)
  • Talk about successes in the teachers’ lounge
  • Get administrator to set the expectations
  • Stay positive!
  • Ask the administrator to take over a class so the teacher can collaborate with the teacher-librarian. They love this! Also, it is an advantage for the principal to be seen as a teacher!
  • During the teacher evaluation process, just ask the teacher, “How are you collaborating with the teacher-librarian?”

“With all of the initiatives going on in schools –where can the library fit?

  • It can’t be top-down –it has to be “side-by-side”
  • Show how the library helps with those initiatives!
  • Look again at Steven Covey’s work: What can you control? Where is your sphere of influence? Begin there –prioritize
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One Response

  1. As I read over the notes from this session on the CASL blog, I was struck by how closely the leadership characteristics outlined by the panel of school principals match the library literature on leadership. The advantage of this list, however, is that it is written in the lingo of administrators who “get it.” One could quickly convert the list into interview questions to be provided to other principals during the librarian hiring process.

    What communication channels could be used to reach principals or hiring committees statewide with a list of potential library leadership questions? Is it reasonable for CASL to provide such a list?

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