In a FB discussion yesterday, a number of us (Buffy Hamilton, Diane Cordell, Beth Friese) were interacting in a post about the frustrations of collaboration– feeling the lack of an understanding between ourselves as librarians and the teachers we work and plan with(a lack on both sides), a wondering about what the balance is with our instructional role, and exploring the contrast between what library schools teach librarians about collaboration and teaching as a integral part of their roles and what new educators (or even experienced ones) and administrators believe and learn in colleges of education about our roles. This creates a tremendous conflict for those of us who feel that collaboration is significant to student learning on our campuses.
I’m not really blaming anyone because it’s hard in any type of school transformation to change the status quo or to completely understand all of our different “silos”. But we all do have the same educational mission, and I just want us to understand each other better and what we all have to offer to one another.
If you are not a librarian, this is a call to be aware that there is a tremendous amount of angst in the library field about these issues. We are all teachers by degree and experience with a strong identification with that role. We see ourselves as general experts across the curriculum; possibly the only one in the building other than the principal. We know the importance to our students of real world information literacy skills. We have a great deal to offer and sometimes we do not feel like that is seen. We really want to work as part of a team with teachers in our buildings. For some reason, that process doesn’t come naturally and so it compels us to ponder the concept of collaboration continuously, and ask how we can be both managers of facilities and programs and also co-teachers. I’m sure these may be similar questions to the ones technology integration teachers may ask themselves as well.
If you are a librarian, I’ve long been of the mind that while our profession has evolved and defined our instructional role, our outreach to administrators and colleges of education hasn’t evolved that much at all. How can we impact the thinking and decision-making of those who will be our future co-teachers or our principals or superintendents? How can we work with universities? How can we impact our professional organizations? How can we play a stronger role in content area organizations?
I do believe there are some “future-active” things that we can do, each of us, to further change. So here are a few ideas to start with:
1) Contact your local school of education at a nearby university or contact an online education university. Find out who the key professors are who are working with teacher training. Strike up a dialogue with them and find out if they include instruction about library collaboration in their teacher training programs. If not, offer yourself as a guest speaker or offer for their class to take a “library field trip.” Offer yourself up as a role model to plant the seeds of what a librarian can do.
2) Contact the library and information school from which you graduated and speak to the dean or some key contacts there. Ask how their program interconnects with the College of Education. Do they have a joint meeting of an education class and a library school class? Could they? Do they go speak with future teachers? Can the LIS program create some ties with the College of Education or create materials about 21st century libraries that they can share with future teachers?
3) If a professor can’t bring a class, ask a few education professors to come meet with you in your library; observe you teaching a class, or have some dialogue about the changing roles of librarians and the imperative need for teacher/library collaboration. Help them become aware of the AASL standards and the NETS if they are not.
4) Speak at education conferences, not library conferences. Each time you do that, you help establish the expertise of librarians to other educators. There are many to choose from both in your state and nationally for most subject areas. Why can’t a librarian speak at an art teacher’s conference, NCTE, NCTM, etc.?
5) Speak at administrative conferences. NASSP, TASSP(in Texas), the state School Board conference, the state administrative conference about the role of librarians, new information literacy tools they should be aware of, how teachers and librarians can collaborate, etc.
6) Write for education journals, technology magazines, and administrative journals, not just librarian journals. The articles can speak to anything, from the role of librarians to different web 2.0 tools useful to educators or administrators, etc. Help create the sense of expertise and collaboration that librarians have by sharing in a wide variety of publications.
7) Join FB groups for the professional organizations of all kinds, NCTE or NASSP for example. post ideas from the librarian’s vantage point and use these sites as a way to socially connect with others.
8) On Twitter, follow professors of education, principals, and teachers–expand your network to include a variety; again, you can make contacts this way and share the concerns and issues facing librarians and students.
9) Create a “library of the future” Pinterest page or Tumblr page or wiki and invite teachers and principals to contribute to it (instead of just librarians).
10) Foster relationships with new teachers methodically. Hold breakfast or luncheons for them, share with them how librarians and teachers can work together and solicit planning with them. Go observe their classrooms and make clear you want to be a partner and support person for them during their first year.
11) Ask your state library association to make a plan for reaching out to colleges of education systematically to build strong partnerships between educator training programs and librarians.
12) Help your state library organization start workshops like the one that the Texas Library Association conducts called Strong Libraries, Strong Scores–it’s strictly for administrators and happens just before the annual conference. TLA invites speakers like Keith Curry Lance to spend a day with administrators learning more about data on libraries and student academic achievement and to inspire their support of their library program. Any librarian in the state can nominate their administrator to attend and then TLA invites the administrator formally.
13) Realize that you, too, have power to change things, power to urge your organizations to change things, and that your individual acts of leadership and expertise help the profession as a whole.
I’d love to hear other ideas you might have about helping to create better partnerships and understanding. Perhaps these ideas are grass-roots, and perhaps they are naive, but by reaching out beyond our own professional spaces, we can have an impact. It’s difficult because it’s spotty, it’s gradual, it takes time, and sometimes we aren’t even somewhere any longer to see the payoff. But even though the changes needed are immediate, change takes time, and it benefits us to be active partners in improving communication and connections within the education community.
I’m interested in your feedback–so please, share your ideas as well. Or if this spurs you to do something, come back someday and share what you did.
….stepping off my soapbox now 😉