If we don’t know where we’re going, we won’t know how to get there. In the case of School Librarians, we need to develop an overall concept of what we want our School Library Program to be in order to make decisions for a day, a week, a month, a semester, a school year, or for the future. So, how can we conceptualize our School Library Program?
Any organization or program is only effective if it has 3 elements: defined beliefs, a broad vision, and a clear mission; if any of these are missing, the program suffers from indifference, mistrust, and confusion. Yet, I struggled with beliefs, vision, and mission for a few years—and my library program suffered—until I began using Strategic Planning. With strategic planning we envision a desired future and, working backwards, define goals to achieve the end-result over an extended period of time. Since “backward planning” is how I create Library Lessons, it makes sense to apply it to a whole school library program.
While the Vision and Mission Statements and a Strategic Plan are very important, they aren’t useful as a day-to-day working tool. Only after I’d firmly established my Library Lesson Matrix and my Personal Management strategies—Organization Categories, Library Lists, and Personal Philosophy—could I develop my Vision/Mission/Strategic Plan and also create a “reporting” document to tell others what I’m doing in the library.
Strategic planning recommends a 3-5 year period of time. For my Strategic Plan I choose a 3-year period because, as a middle school librarian, I want a picture of what I can accomplish with incoming 6th graders by the time they leave at the end of 8th grade. I tweak my plan periodically, but I strive for a learning program customized to the 3 grade-levels in my building.
I find it desirable to align my strategic plan with current national, state, or local initiatives, so over the years I’ve used Information Power, AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner, my State’s school library standards and guidelines, and my district’s strategic plans. With the release of the new AASL National School Library Standards, I begin my current Strategic Plan with the new Common Beliefs and then translate them into Significant Concepts for planning my program.
AASL Common Beliefs
My Significant Concepts
The school library is a unique and essential part of a learning community.
|Library Lessons are the foundation of a valued school library program.|
Qualified school librarians lead effective school libraries.
|The primary purpose for a School Librarian is educating our youth.|
Learners should be prepared for college, career, and life.
|Information literacy skills prepare learners for the critical thinking and problem-solving needed to succeed in our global digital society.|
Reading is the core of personal and academic competency.
|Reading is a window to the world.|
Intellectual freedom is every learner’s right.
|Intellectual freedom supports democracy and a democracy needs intellectual freedom.|
Information technologies must be appropriately integrated and equitably available.
|Cloud computing provides equitable physical and intellectual access to visual, aural, and textual resources and technological tools.|
(I record my Significant Concepts onto my Library Lesson Matrix, so I can keep them in mind when planning Library Lessons.)
Create a Vision, Mission, and Goals
The next step in strategic planning is creating a vision, a mission, and goals; I think of them as “what we want,” “what we do” (purpose), and “how we do it.” As a School Librarian and Teacher, my desired ideal is focused on students, not the library, so I ask, “What do I want to instill in my students?” Here is an example of my response for the Vision and Mission Statements of my Strategic Plan:
Vision Statement: Our students will enjoy a meaningful 3-year library learning program of information literacy and enriched reading that builds a global awareness of the cultural, economic, and environmental aspects of our planet Earth.
Mission Statement: Our school library provides a service-oriented center with print, audio, video, and digital resources for reading, research, and production that enables students and teachers to communicate effectively with text, images, sound, and video.
As a framework for Goals I also align with current initiatives, and in my district we were encouraged to use the goal and guiding objectives of our district’s strategic plan: High achievement for all students by continuously improving instructional practices, the learning environment, operational effectiveness, and community support. I add my own school library objective under each of the district’s 4 objectives:
- Continuously improve instructional practice.
Library Objective: Emphasize library program over library facility—program and access are more important than place.
- Continuously improve the learning environment.
Library Objective: Expand library services throughout school and remotely—resource access online is as important as the in-house collection.
- Continuously improve operational effectiveness.
Library Objective: Get rid of tasks that don’t make a difference in student learning, information access, or program efficiency.
- Continuously improve community support.
Library Objective: Make purposeful and frequent communication through various media—videos help tell stories.
The Action Plan
An Action Plan is the short-term part of strategic planning and details how to reach the Goals. It prioritizes tasks needed to reach each objective, and identifies who will do what by a certain deadline—in other words, it organizes time, materials, and personnel. My Action Plan lists my 4 School Library goals and objectives and under each objective lists the Action Steps that I’ll take during the current school year. I do limit myself to just 1 or 2 Action Steps for each Goal/Objective, otherwise I can’t complete them all (not good for evaluation at the end of the school year!). To stay on track all year, I enter Action Step Task Details on my Library TO DO list, and when I complete something I open up the Action Plan and record the date.
Each year I change Action Steps (and sometimes an Objective) to add new tasks, and at the end of the 3rd year of the plan, I spend more time developing the next 3-year plan. I give a print version to my principal at the start of each school year and submit a print version—updated—just before my evaluation at the end of the school year.
Speaking of reporting, my preferred document is a “Report to the Principal” that I prepare at the end of every grading period. This document shows what’s happening in the school library—and what I’ve been doing when no one’s around! I use the same 4 Goals as the Strategic Plan to organize and report library and librarian activities:
- circulation statistics and carts of books distributed to classrooms
- teacher collaborations and Library Lessons taught
- class visits, incidental walk-ins (I keep a tally sheet), and other uses
- books and other materials purchased
- various administrative and management tasks I’ve completed
- professional development (my own and presented to others)
- non-library school-related activities I’ve performed or participated in
To create my grading period Report to the Principal, I use my accumulated Library Lesson Planners and information from my Library TO DO List. I created a text-based report for years, but eventually created a stylish new graphical report to make information clearer and more appealing. My principal liked the new infographic so much he taped it to his office door so other staff members could see what was happening in the library!
The templates for Strategic Planning and Report to Principal are included with my NoSweat Librarian’s Handbook, available in my TeachersPayTeachers Store.