Lack of Library Training Programs a Problem

This past Thursday I went to a dinner in honor of two good friends who are retiring after many years of service to my school district. I will truly miss Jackie and Michele.  They brought a lot to our program, and I learned valuable lessons from both of them.  They were two I could always count on attending our unpaid professional development sessions and two who counsel I regularly sought.

Replacing these ladies are two wonderful women who will work hard to continue the programs they inherited.  I have worked with Meghan this year and found her a delightful, dedicated National Board Certified teacher who is devoted to her students’ learning.  It was my pleasure to serve as her mentor this year, as I served as Gina’s last year.  Today, I met Jackie’s replacement, Wendy.  She was my cashier at WalMart, and as we were chatting, I discovered she would be the “new Jackie.”  I liked this woman and her attitude immediately, and discovering I would be working with her was a true delight.

My county will be welcoming two additional, brand-spanking new library media specialists this year, and I look forward to meeting them as well.  But I have reservations.  All of the media specialists who have been hired by my county in the last three years have received their certification by means of passing the library media Praxis exam.  In other words, they have received certification without taking a single class.  The circumstances leading to this is that West Virginia has only one higher education institution that offers coursework in school library media.

While I have no doubt that these women are excellent teachers, as Meghan has exhibited by achieving National Board Certification, I am concerned about a lack of foundation in the library profession. I try upholding the documents of our profession  to the fullest extent possible.  I know the precepts of the profession, the Code of Ethics, the Right to Read, etc.  When I stray away from these documents, I have an awareness that causes the decision to be uneasy and not likely one to repeat without intense scrutiny.  I know when I have strayed from a standard, from the sisterhood, if you will.  Will others lacking these foundations be as unwilling to stray?  Will they know when they have strayed?

I am excited to work with these women and will help them all I can.  I will do my best to make sure they are aware of the professional documents and understand their responsibilities to uphold them to the fullest extent possible.

Other concerns I may have about cataloging and other matters are easily taught and learned.  Basically, everyone learns mostly on the job, anyway. It’s not the mechanics or teaching that worries me; what worries me is the potential fading of the soul of our profession.


Being A Change Agent

Are you a change agent? While every change need not be embraced with equal enthusiasm, participation in school change is critical for school library media specialists. As our roles continue to be marginalized, it is essential that we are actively involved in any school initiative – especially if change is eminent. We must assert our position as school leaders, the highest ranking of the five roles of the school library profession.

Hassell and Hughes, in School Reform and the School Library Media Specialist, write, “successful change requires every person working in a school to be committed to change and to strive for individual and collective improvement.” (3) It is not enough for the media specialist to be merely accepting of change, but as a change agent to be cognizant about the nature of change and the change process itself. A successful change agent helps “fill the gaps in expertise and to assist in charting and implementing courses of action.” The media specialist is the perfect person to provide individualized support to those who need help in adjusting to change initiatives, as she is accustomed to continually meeting the individualized needs of all of her clients. The authors further stress the importance of collaboration in the change process, noting that there is a natural ceiling effect to how much any individual can learn or accomplish on his own and noting that none in a school setting are more prepared to be collaborators than the school library media specialist. (4, 9).

If school library media specialists are hesitant to take up the yoke of change agentry, it might help to know that among all teachers this is not uncommon. The Concerns Based Adoption Model, which indicates that among any faculty of any given size, only eight percent can be viewed as an innovator. An unfortunate consequence is that those who are identified as being innovators do not tend to be viewed as the most trusted among the rest of the faculty. Knowing that one’s ideas and contributions to the given cause may dismissed might help the reluctant media specialist accept that this is a natural occurence in a change cycle; it’s not personal.

The next level of change participation according to the Adoption Model is that of the leader. These people are most likely to be trusted by their colleagues and comprise 17% of any faculty. Early majority adopters, 29% of the faculty, accept and assimilate change after it has been validated by the leaders. Another 29%, the late majority adopters, follow. Finally, it must be accepted and expected that 17% of any faculty, the resistors, will not adopt the change.

When I first read about these stages, I considered my own faculty.  I found it was easy to categorize my colleagues in these areas, but now I am not so sure my assumptions would be correct.  In a time when when teachers feel they have been faced with a continuous parade of changes, some that contradict last year’s edicts, some may feel resistant to any change, simply for the sake of some continuity.

No one member of any faculty will always be locked into a role identified by the Adoption Model; these roles are fluid, and one’s participation might depend on any variety of factors. Let’s face it: some ideas are unworkable, some ideas are ill-timed, and some ideas are just plain dumb. People may resist for a variety of personal as well as professional reasons.

It is helpful to reflect on your comfort level with change.  Intitially I felt I was comfortable with change, but I realize now that I am only comfortable with change I effect.  How do I make sure I am comfortable with change?  I try my best to have a seat at the table when change is proposed.

What should you do if you feel you cannot support a proposed change? First I suggest you carefully examine the reasons for your resistance. Perhaps your concern is borne of the uncertainty that comes with doing things differently. It may help to do some independent research to learn more about a program or process. Facebook groups and Twitter abound with helpful SLMS willing to share their views and experiences.

Is the proposed changed in opposition to an accepted best practice of school library media services? If so, you owe it to your colleagues, your students, your profession and to yourself to make your concerns known. Be prepared to offer scenarios that will achieve the desired goal and not compromise the itegrity of the library program. Offer evidence-based practice and published data to back your point of view. Don’t whine.

Hughes-Hassell, Sandra and Violet H. Harada.  “Change Agentry: An Essential Role for Library Media Specialists.”  School Reform and the School Library Media Specialist.  (Principles and Practice Series #3.) Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2007.