Looking Back @ Strategic Planning for a School Library Program

Looking Back @ Strategic Planning for a School Library Program - Strategic planning is an effective tool for a School Library Program if it includes: defined beliefs, a broad vision, and a clear mission; significant concepts, a vision, a mission, and goals; and an action plan with specific action steps to organize time, materials, and personnel.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 strategiesOrganization 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

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 PowerAASL 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:

  1. Continuously improve instructional practice.
    Library Objective: Emphasize library program over library facility—program and access are more important than place.
  2. 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.
  3. Continuously improve operational effectiveness.
    Library Objective: Get rid of tasks that don’t make a difference in student learning, information access, or program efficiency.
  4. 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.

Here is an example of a recent Strategic Plan:Sample 3-Year Strategic Plan: Action Plan for Current Year.

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!Sample text-based and graphical reports to principal.

The templates for Strategic Planning and Report to Principal are included with my NoSweat Librarian’s Handbook, available in my TeachersPayTeachers Store.

Looking @ Best Online PLC for Librarians

Looking @ Best PLC for Librarians - So much of the knowledge and many of the ideas I've gathered over the years are a result of, not formal professional development, but rather my online Professional Learning Community! Come see my list of blogs, Facebook sites, and other communities that have been the most influential for my Library Lessons and School Library Program.As I was writing my series about the 5 Essential Literacies for Students—reading, content literacy, information literacy, digital literacy, and media literacy—I realized so much of the knowledge and many of the ideas I’ve gathered over the years are a result of, not formal professional development, but rather my  Professional Online Learning Community!

School Librarians need to keep abreast of changing subject and library standards, of useful strategies for research & information skills, and for new technology. Membership in my State library association and in ALA/AASL are advantageous for that, but the international LM_NET and Texas State TLC listservs provide my most valuable learning about how to infuse Information Literacy into my Library Lessons. In addition, my district Library Director schedules monthly meetings for our district librarians, and we learn about and discuss issues that affect us, such as educational trends or curricular needs/changes for different grade levels and subjects.

Another wonderful organization for school librarians is edWeb.net. Through their School Library Network and Emerging Tech for Schools and Libraries communities, they offer at least one FREE webinar every month on new ideas, best practices, and valuable resources. School Librarians need to keep up with the constant innovation and diversification of technology, and to keep our professional skills one step ahead of students. I seek out new tools to integrate technology into assignments and ideas for new or better ways to implement my technology lessons. I do take advantage of district training, but online videos and Webinars from vendors, curriculum providers, online services, and professional organizations help me learn much more.

Next to my listservs, my most essential professional learning tool is an RSS feeder that allows me to subscribe to and gather together blogs about School Libraries, education, and technology.  I’ve used feedly for several years and recently began also using Bloglovin’; through them I can read numerous blogs that provide insight and ideas for improving my Library Lessons and my School Library Program.

My Favorite Blogs:

Jennifer Gonzalez, blogger/author at Cult of Pedagogy.Cult of Pedagogy — Jennifer Gonzalez, education specialist and National Board Certified teacher. Best overall teaching blog ever, plus great technology implementations.

Joyce Valenza, blogger for Never Ending Search at School Library Journal.Never Ending Search — Joyce Valenza, the guru of all school librarians, writes this blog for School Library Journal. She’s a long-time tech leader and co-creator of #TLChat, TLChat Live, and TL Virtual Café. First as a high school librarian and now as professor of library science at Rutgers University, she keeps us all on our toes!

Stony Evans, librarian/blogger at Library Media Tech Talk.Library Media Tech Talk — Stony Evans, librarian at Lakeside HS in Hot Springs AR and a certified Microsoft Innovative Educator, offers great ways to use technology in the library to engage students and expand their global connections. Every blog post is a new inspiration!

Naomi Bates, librarian/blogger at YA Books and MoreYA Books and More — Naomi Bates, a Texas high school librarian with a wide range of knowledge about books and reading, library skills and technology. One of these days I’ll get in my car and drive across town to visit her library!

Doug Johnson, technology director/blogger at Blue Skunk Blog.Blue Skunk Blog — Doug Johnson writes on all things library and technology. I became inspired by Doug during a group chat in one of my library courses. For many years he had the closing article in Library Media Connection [now School Library Connection] which was the first thing I read when I received the magazine!

500 Hats image.500 Hats — Barbara Braxton, an Australian school librarian, has 3 Master’s degrees and over 40 years experience. Her posts on the LM_NET listserv always offers excellent professional guidance for school library programs.

Shannon McClintock Miller, teacher/blogger at The Library Voice and spokesperson for Future Ready Librarians and Follett.The Library Voice – Shannon McClintock Miller, school librarian and currently the Future Ready Libraries & Project Connect spokesperson. She offers great resources for school librarians to become leaders in the digital transformation of learning.

Hilda K. Weisburg, author of her name blog.Hilda K. Weisburg — another long-time guru, Hilda is a retired school librarian with over 25 years experience. She has a way of making us see the big picture!

Nikki Robertson, librarian/blogger at The Absolutely True Adventures of a School Librarian.The Absolutely True Adventures of a School Librarian – Nikki Robertson, a Georgia school librarian and Instructional Technology Facilitator, is co-creator of #TLChat LIVE! and TL News Night.

Gwyneth Jones, librarian/blogger at The Daring Librarian.The Daring Librarian – Gwyneth Jones, a teacher librarian in Maryland, has a passion for edtech and shares all her creative and wonderful lesson ideas with the rest of the library world.

Diana Rendina, librarian/blogger at Renovated Learning.Renovated Learning — Diana Rendina, a media specialist/teacher librarian in Tampa, Florida is the guru of Makerspaces. Her ideas for redesigning the school library into a participatory learning environment with hands-on STEM learning experiences are the best!

Larry Ferlazzo, teacher/blogger at Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day.Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day — This long-time ELL/ESL/EFL teacher is a librarian’s best resource for online curation. He has thousands—yes, thousands—of sites organized in dozens of categories on his website and in his Pinterest boards. He’s better than Google!

Richard Byrne, author/blogger at Free Technology for Teachers.Free Technology for Teachers — Richard Byrne in Maine. The very best resource for all things technology, he also has a channel on YouTube with dozens of video tutorials for tech tools. My go-to guy when I need to know how to use a tech tool!

Educational Technology and Mobile Learning - logo.Educational Technology & Mobile Learning — Meg Kharbach, a doctoral researcher with 10 years of classroom experience, writes from Nova Scotia, Canada about dozens of technology tools for iPads, Smartphones, and Google/Chrome/Chromebooks. You need it, she can recommend something!

PLCs on Social Media

Many librarians rely on Twitter, but I’m not as enthusiastic, though I do follow a few dozen folks. I’m also starting to follow more librarians through Pinterest. My main social media outlet for library learning is Facebook and these 4 Groups consistently provide great professional learning ideas and links:

I just recently transitioned to my new Facebook professional page at www.facebook.com/barupatx because my personal family stuff was getting lost among so much of the phenomenal library and education information coming to me!

I hope these online professional communities help you as much as they’ve helped me. Happy Professional Library Learning!

Looking @ 5 Essential Literacies for Students: Part 5 – Media Literacy

Looking @ 5 Essential Literacies for Students: Part 5-Media Literacy - In our modern world students need to understand and be proficient in 5 Essential Literacies, and School Librarians need to integrate at least one Library Literacy component into every class visit. In Part 5 we look at Media Literacy as a way that students can be successful in future coursework and as global citizens.In our complex, information-rich, culturally diverse world, students need to understand and be proficient in these Five Essential Literacies:

  • Reading and Writing (the original literacy)
  • Content/Disciplinary Literacy (content & thinking specific to a discipline)
  • Information Literacy (the traditional library curriculum)
  • Digital Literacy (how and when to use various technologies)
  • Media Literacy (published works—encompasses all other literacies)

As School Librarians we need to integrate at least one Library Literacy component into every class visit to the library, so I’m addressing each of these literacies in a separate blog post to offer examples/suggestions about how we might do that. Previous blog posts covered reading, content/disciplinary literacy, information literacy, and digital literacy, so this final post of the series looks at Media Literacy.

Media literacy during the last half of the 20th century focused primarily on print and television advertising, but in the 90s, with the growth of computers and the Internet, organizations such as the Center for Media Literacy appeared and promoted an expanded view of media literacy. Still, for the first decade of the new millennium, media literacy took a backseat to digital literacy and digital citizenship.

When introduction of the iPhone (in 2007) and Android phones (in 2008) put ready access to social media in the hands of teens & children, media literacy became a major issue for educators. And the “fake news” epidemic surrounding the last presidential election thrust media literacy into the spotlight and brought about its current “hot” status.

Defining Media Literacy

  • Media literacy is the ability to identify different types of media and understand the messages they’re sending. Common Sense Media
  • Media literacy encompasses the practices that allow the media consumer to access, critically evaluate, and create media to improve their communication effectiveness. Wikipedia
  • Media Literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, communicate and create using all forms of communicationNatl. Assoc. for Media Literacy Education

Here is the definition of Media Literacy in our National School Library Standards:

  • Media Literacy is…a framework to access, analyze, evaluate, create and participate with messages in a variety of forms—from print to video to the Internet. Media literacy builds an understanding of the role of media in society as well as essential skills of inquiry and self-expression necessary for citizens of a democracy. Center for Media Literacy

Media is one of 5 specific literacies defined by our new National School Library Standards. Along with information literacy and digital literacy (defined in earlier posts in this series) the NSLS includes:

  • Text literacy: ability to read, write, analyze, and evaluate textual works of literature and nonfiction as well as personal and professional documents. [related to my earlier post on reading]
  • Visual literacy: ability to understand and use images, including the ability to think, learn, and express oneself in terms of images. [related to my earlier post on content literacy, i.e. charts, graphs, maps, etc.]

Media literacy encompasses the other 4 literacies—either by type of material or by skills needed—as well as civic responsibility, so I believe we can have a broader appreciation of media literacy by encompassing it within UNESCO’s definition of Literacy (as do the National School Library Standards) and its 5 Laws of Literacy.

The United Nations 5 Laws of Media & Information Literacy

click to enlarge

Literacy: the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, and compute, using materials associated with various contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society. (UNESCO 2006)

Integrating Media Literacy

School Librarians may wonder why the sudden pressure for media literacy—surely our Information Literacy lessons on evaluation help students decipher the true from the not-true resources. Such is not the case for two reasons: first, school librarians rarely have an opportunity to deeply immerse students in Information Literacy skills, and second, students often lack the command of subject matter that sifting information requires. No amount of website evaluation—RADCAB, or CRAAP, or my own ABC—overrides well-rounded knowledge of a topic or issue, and a particularly interesting article explaining that is Yes, Digital Literacy. But Which One?

A lack of full understanding makes it all the more important to integrate our Literacy Lessons with classroom content, with the standards and objectives the teacher is using for the unit, and to coordinate our lessons with classroom activities. We need to not only teach students how to analyze media, but also how to effectively and ethically communicate their own narratives through various forms of media.

As I said earlier, media literacy encompasses all other literacies: reading skills for printed media, information literacy for analyzing information, content-area literacy to understand concepts and place them in context, and digital literacy because so much media is now digitally presented. Thus media literacy can be incorporated into any and all of our other literacy lessons whether we have students using print, audio, video, or graphic media presented through books, newspapers and magazines, social media, games, radio and television, or videos and movies, and particularly when students are creating products using these presentation formats.

Integrating media literacy can be a 5 minute “media moment” or an entire unit, depending on the purpose of the library visits. When creating these lessons, I focus on the 3 concepts of Media Literacy:

  • Media Forms – including signs on businesses and billboards on the highway
  • Media Messages – including ads and celebrity endorsements to persuade us to purchase
  • Media Memories – personal communication, using social media

Recommended Online Resources

I haven’t yet created many media literacy lessons for students, but I am curating online resources for creating them and have a few that I can recommend to help you construct your own Library Literacy Lessons.

Civic Online Reasoning or COR uses everyday digital content, the COR paper, and online assessments to engage learners in credibility decision-making around three COR Competencies: Who’s behind the information? What’s the evidence? What do other sources say? The free assessments include Google Docs assessments to copy and digital rubrics to download. These tasks are perfect for learning across the curriculum and especially for librarian-led learning.

Common Sense Education's News & Media Literacy Curriculum Resources Common Sense Media’s News & Media Literacy Curriculum Resources offers strategies to equip students with the core skills they need to think critically about today’s media. Built on more than 10 years of expertise and classroom testing, these lessons and related teaching materials give students the essential skills to be smart, savvy media consumers and creators. From lesson plans about fact-checking to clickbait headlines and fake news, we’ve covered everything.

Project Look Sharp is a media literacy initiative of Ithaca College that develops and provides lesson plans, media materials, training, and support for the effective integration of media literacy with critical thinking into classroom curricula at all education levels, including integration with the new common core standards.

In an EasyBib blog post Identifying Fake News: An Infographic and Educator Resources10 Ways to Spot a Fake News Article, Michelle Kirschenbaum states, “You want to be informed, but a good deal of the information out there is incorrect or biased. Here are some things to keep an eye out for when reading a news article.” The infographic at right was created from the article.

The National Association for Media Literacy Education sponsors a yearly Media Literacy Week in the U.S. and Canada during the first full week of November. They have events and resources that can help introduce media literacy to your students early in the school year.

I hope this blog article is helpful. I’ll continue adding resources to this list as I develop my own media literacy lessons for middle school students.

This concludes my series of blog posts on the 5 Essential Literacies for Students. I invite readers to offer comments and suggestions about any or all of these literacies.