Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Librarians and Administrators Working Together: Marla McGhee and Barbara Jansen's Message

Recently I was moved and inspired by an inspiring and thought provoking conference presentation. Every February in Austin, TX, Texas Computer Educators Association, TCEA, has one of the biggest and best edtech conferences in the nation. A vital and growing subgroup of this organization is LIB SIG, Librarian Special Interest Group within TCEA. This year we had close to 200 attendees who gathered to talk about important issues involving technology and librarianship. As we entered the room we were greeted by my favorite song by my favorite Texas musician, Robert Earl Keen's "Feelin' Good." We enjoyed refreshments, fellowship, and door prizes, but most of all the presentation.

Marla McGhee and Barbara Jansen are indeed an amazing duo. They wrote a much needed book, The Principal's Guide to a Powerful Library Media Program, Linworth Press. Marla speaks as an administrator and Barbara as a librarian. They have a positive message about how these two professionals, who both have good intentions and want the best for students, can work together for literacy and strong library programs. The gist of this particular presentation was a report on a survey that they conducted in fall 2007, asking librarians to share the five things they most wish their principals knew. The responses, they reported, coalesced around these five points, expressed in the first person and speaking for each librarian who contributed to the survey:

1) The most important part of my job is my instructional and collaborative role. Librarians need to communicate that they are prepared and dedicated to working with all patrons to support their schools' curriculums, to foster a love of reading, and to support colleagues in all their efforts to offer students the best possible experiences.

2) I am knowledgeable about curriculum and the 21st century learner. The information explosion that has occurred and continues to happen in today's digital world demands that as educators we must teach students to be discerning and disciplined in the face of so much data on any imaginable topic, much of it questionable. Librarians must lead the way in showing how to evaluate sources and find the best information for their needs.

3) An effective library media professional impacts every student and faculty member. We are already doing this, but we need to make our administrators and colleagues aware that every student is our child, that every staff member from custodian to principal is our patron, and that we stand ready to also serve families and communities.

4) The library program is critical to literacy. Clearly we need to continue to stress the importance of research that proves that schools with strong library programs produce students who perform better on tests, who can think constructively, and who have an ongoing love of reading.

5) Some aspects of my job may be done behind the scenes. On a personal note, once when I was to be evaluated, rather than put on a demonstration lesson, I invited my administrator to just follow me around for an hour or so on a typical day in the library. She was astounded at the variety and magnitude of demands that confront a librarian on such a day. We need to educate administrators about the multi-faceted nature of our jobs.

As Barb told me in an email about their efforts to educate administrators about these points, "We took a 'show and tell' approach to demonstrate how to talk about these points with a principal." Reading their book is a good start. Taking these five points to heart and moving forward to share them with all our colleagues is a good resolution to make in this relatively new year.

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