Being
Indispensible: A Librarian’s Guide to Proving Your Value and Keeping Your Job
            ALA Editions eLearning taught by
Hilda Weisburg
            We are living in challenging times
in education, facing budget and program cuts across all disciplines including
media center services.  It is simply not
enough to do a good job and expect to avoid the chopping block.  This course provided many valuable tools to
help secure your place in your building or district.
            One of the most important tools was
to increase visibility and purpose both physically and through the internet and
social media. Hilda stressed the importance of having a clear and defined
mission statement in under 50 words for your media center.  The participants in the course weighed in to
fine tune mission statements specific to their media centers. The following are
several examples:

  • The mission of the ____ Media
    Center is to provide an
    all-inclusive environment integral to the school curriculum,  empowering
    students to be lifelong learners, critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers,
    skillful researchers and ethical users and creators of information.
  • The ___
    High School Library
    Program provides a welcoming environment in which students and staff are
    afforded equitable access to the resources and skills needed to be critical
    thinkers, ethical users of information, enthusiastic readers and lifelong
    learners. 
  • The
    mission of the ___
    School Library Program is
    to establish students as effective and efficient users of information,
    technology, and to foster the lifelong love of recreational reading.  The
    program also develops critical thinking skills through 21st century
    research skills, while students learn how to evaluate various print and non-print
    resources.
            The second idea was to have a
tagline, use it on your web page and other printed materials. Some of the tag
lines suggested include:
·       
Let
the library open the door to your future
·       
It
All Happens in the Library
·       
Library
without walls, Learning without end
·       
—-
School Library — Where knowledge and imagination happen one page at a time

            A
third important component of visibility and purpose is to establish and post
your core values for the media center. These values and beliefs determine how
you operate your program.  If they are
not established it is difficult to determine if you are meeting the goals of
your program or focusing your efforts in the proper areas.
            Example 1:

·       
Providing
Positive support for all students and staff
·       
Respect
of the media center resources and the rights of others
·       
Demonstrate
Integrity in all actions
·       
Embrace
the Diversity offered in print and non-print resources
·       
Enthusiastically promoting your learning

            Example 2:

·       
Lifelong
Learning
·       
Intellectual
Freedom and Curiosity
·       
Responsible
Citizenship
           
            Example
3:
  • A
    welcoming environment that is student-friendly, parent-friendly,
    staff-friendly and community-friendly.
  • Providing
    equitable access to the best information resources available for
    recreational and academic purposes.
  • The
    ethical use of information resources.
  • Instructional
    programs that support school and district missions and provide students
    with the resources they need to succeed in school and in life.
  • connecting
    learners with ideas and information, and
  • Preparing
    students for life-long learning, informed decision-making, a love of
    reading, and the use of information technologies.
            From
these core values you would develop a vision statement. They also should be
under 70 words, posted on your webpage for all to view and become the standard
to base the focus of your program.
·       
The
School Library Program is the hub of our community of leaders and learners,
where creating, connecting and collaborating is at the heart of all we
do. 
·       
The
vision of the __ High School Media Center is to create and maintain a welcoming
learning environment that is integral to student achievement where students and
staff benefit from equitable access to the highest quality research and
pleasure reading materials and emerging technologies. School library media
specialist staff collaborate learning experiences to ensure that school
community members have the opportunity to be effective and ethical users of
ideas and information, develop critical thinking skills and an appreciation for
literature.
·       
The
School Library Programming integrates information literacy and reading
engagement across the curriculum and grade levels to ensure that students are
college and career ready, empowering their learning by incorporating inquiry,
reading and critical thinking skills to develop  21st century lifelong
learners.
            The
next point of discussion is the need for an elevator speech, prepared and ready
to deliver when you have small snippets of time to promote your program.  It is important with an elevator speech that
you focus on the most significant aspect of your program.  Many feel that you should start your speech
by citing a statistic about the correlation between student achievement based
on higher test scores and a library media center staffed by a full time
licensed media specialist. Other suggested topics include new additions to the
media center, collaboration ideas, ways you can help students achieve. Here are
a few examples:
·       
We are fortunate to work in a county where citizens support the
education of our students. In 2013, the citizens voted in favor of a property
tax increase and that means the students in our schools now have the expert
guidance of our media specialists in learning to access, evaluate,
communicate,
and produce information as they become college, career, and world ready.
 If you are interested, I would love to have you visit my media center —
or check our web page to see what students are doing.
·       
Can you imagine a school without a library?  Who will teach
the kids how to question what they read?  Or get them that book they want
to read? Or how to use that new iPad to find that book?  Oh you don’t know
how to do that?  Well let me show you — just stop by.
·       
A
school media specialist is the “Seri” in the educational environment.
We have the professional experience to assist students and staff with their
most difficult challenges, be it a research question, recommended read or
technology dilemma. How can I assist you today?
·       
Did you know that a librarian is the ultimate search engine? 
            In
order for you program to be successful, become indispensible, you need to
assert yourself into a leadership role in your building, district and
potentially state and national professional organizations.  In order to do that, you need to assess your
strengths and weaknesses to determine your approach to becoming a leader or the
go to person in your building. You need to view your emotional intelligence as
well as your personality traits when determining your course of action.  We viewed desirable characteristics of a
leader with the following being most important: kindness, compassion, great
listener, knowledgeable, forward thinking, great communicator both orally and
written work, passionate, approachable, trustworthy, confident and open to
others ideas. Since most of the day media specialists work directly with the
population of a school or community, emotional intelligence is front and
center. The big EI traits are self awareness, self control and management of
emotions and feelings, empathy for others and advanced levels of social skills.
During a typical workday we are challenged with dealing with all of these
traits as we instruct, provide one on one assistance with a patron or simply
listen in a situation a student or colleague is experiencing with the hope of
arriving at a solution for the problem. Equally as important are the
characteristics and EI skills that relate to working independently such as
motivation. Recognizing your strengths and weaknesses will provide you with
areas to improve and guide you to formulating a plan of action that best suits
your skills, aligning for a more successful delivery of services and promotion
of your program.
            The
last section of the course focused on determining your audience or
stakeholders.  The list of people you
need in support of your program include students, staff, building and district
administrators, school board members, parents, community members, business
community and state and national representatives who can lobby for
funding.  This list includes many members
outside of the building community, all holding key roles in the survival of
media centers. Many of these people view our positions as the stereotypical
librarian from their past and feel that there is no longer a need for that
position with the age of electronic resources and libraries without walls.  As we all know,  nothing could be further from the truth.  If we don’t teach the 21st century technology
skills needed to access, evaluate, create and process available data, who will?
            There
were many significant ideas presented in the class, however one of the most
reaffirming messages is that it takes time to establish your presence in a
building as indispensible.  It is not
something that can be accomplished in a year. 
You need to build the program one teacher at a time, develop
collaborative projects that are successful and spread the word on your web page
or school newsletter.  Teachers by nature
like to work alone in their own domain so breaking into their world can prove
to be a challenge.
            Being
indispensible takes planning and work. 
For many of us who work alone in our domain it means going outside of
the walls of the media center to promote what you have to offer, engaging a
network of people who support your vision and mission and who are willing to
collaborate for the ultimate goal of student success.