A “To Be” List for School Librarians

Earlier this year, a local Superintendent, faced with four retirement notices, asked my advice on what to look for when hiring new school librarians.

She sought me out because I shared my ‘outsider’s” perspective on librarians in an article I wrote years ago for Forbes, and it went viral. Though nearly every word of it remains true, before I met with the Superintendent, I updated my perspective by asking a question on the Future Ready Librarians Facebook group.

Several people suggested hiring based on character and personality. Recognizing the wisdom of these responses, I borrowed a framework from my former colleague Angela Maiers, who urges us to focus on who we want to “be,” rather than what we aspire to “do.”

At the bottom of this post, I ask you again to contribute your opinions, and examples, of what a school librarian should BE – what traits and qualities a librarian must develop and practice each day.

In presenting to this Superintendent and her team, I said that I believe that a school librarian should BE each of the following:

A bold and vulnerable Leader in the digital transformation of learning in the district, one who embraces the Future Ready Librarians framework and works unceasingly to bring others aboard.

The Fulcrum of the school:

  • Plays an essential role by actively engaging with all faculty members to determine how to best support them.
  • Understands the time pressure on teachers, and that “leveraging technology” and “sharing digital resources” are not among the checkboxes on any state evaluation form.
  • Does not take a “one size fits all,” shotgun approaching to sharing resources, but rather seeks to share specific, invaluable resources with a particular teacher or group of teachers at the optimal time.
  • Helps teachers incorporate these resources into a lesson plan, by, among other things, finding other examples of teachers who have done so.
  • Knows that it is essential that classroom teachers enforce and reinforce the instruction and “rules of the road” that students learn in the library.

A savvy, passionate Marketer, of the librarian, the library, and its offerings:

  • Markets the library so that every person in the district knows the products and services that the librarian and the library offer.
  • Know that students can be guided to use this technology to learn and grow, rather than solely to entertain themselves.
  • Understands that with the primacy of digital discovery tools, many people believe – quite wrongly – that libraries and librarians are obsolete. In fact, librarians with “the right stuff” are more relevant than ever, and indeed are indispensable.
  • Takes every opportunity to “sell” students on the joy of reading, researching, discovering, creating and sharing.
  • Employs interesting signage, special events and hours, screensavers, invitations, announcements, personal interactions in the hallway and social media tools, which are but a few of the arrows in a librarian’s quiver.

A curious Learner.

  • Our society has reached the “Future Shock” predicted by Alvin Toffler in a 1970 book. Orson Welles describes it as “a sickness which comes from too much change in too short a time. It’s the feeling that nothing is permanent anymore.”
  • Anyone who believes that learning ends with the granting of a degree is a day behind the world the next day.
  • The best librarians learn something profound every day of their lives, and share their love of learning with others.

A thoughtful Connector:

      • Learns daily from a PLN that is a well-chosen, actively engaged, and broad array of other librarians, other educators and non-educators alike.
      • Believes that, as Clay Shirky says, “we systematically overestimate the value of access to information and underestimate the value of access to each other.”
      • Knows how to mine and employ hashtags on Twitter to seek and share information. These include #tlchat, #aasl17, #FutureReadyLibs.
      • Continually searches for the best ways to connect with others, and to help students connect with outside experts.

A discerning Curator:

  • Finds, evaluates and “markets” authoritative and relevant information resources, in any form.
  • These include physical and digital resources available through the local or state public library, other databases, or on the Internet.
  • The term “resources” now includes the wide array of mentors and experts who are willing and able to provide guidance in a way that no content course can, and, more importantly, teach students and educators how to learn directly from another person.

A Nurturer:

  • Knows that cultural change often begins with a few determined people.
  • Does not waste energy on rocks that refuse to grow.
  • Instead, a focuses energy on the “first follower,” and the second follower, by, among other things, publicly celebrating the magic they found when they stepped outside their comfort zone.
  • Soon, there is a movement.

A Contributor.

  • Is aware that a teen with a Smartphone today has more power to organize than a medieval king, yet only one percent of Internet users actively publish content.
  • Worries that even fewer know how to convey a message in a way that breaks through the clutter in today’s very crowded media landscape, and can rally a community.
  • Contributes knowledge to the community and creates opportunities for colleagues and students to do so as well.

Now I want to hear from you! I’ll be editing this post or creating a new one, and publishing a video. Send me a note or a video explaining:

  • What you believe a school librarian should BE – it can be a trait not mentioned above, or it could be a better way of explaining one of the above.
  • What you do each day to BE that person, or other examples of librarians who exhibit these traits.

I am at #AASL17 through Sunday, so say hello if we connect and I’ll record the video right there! I can also be found on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or ( markemoran – Gmail )

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Mark Moran founded SweetSearch in 2007 to help educators and students use the Internet effectively and responsibly. Mark is also the author of a course that helps students become self-aware, passionate and empowered change agents who know they matter and have a contribution to make to the world. Previously, Mark spent 15 years as a corporate attorney and 8 years as a financial analyst. Mark has a law degree from Fordham Law School, an M.B.A. from Fordham Graduate School of Business and a B.A. in Economics from the University of Virginia.