For 20 years, I was a teacher librarian and worked in elementary, middle, and high school libraries. In 2012, I was selected as Washington State Teacher of the Year. And for the last five years, I’ve been a district administrator, including almost two years as chief digital officer overseeing IT and educational technology operations for a district of nearly 24,000 students. To some, I represent the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse—a librarian in charge of IT.

In 2013, I was asked to be part of Project Connect, a Follett School Solutions initiative exploring the role of school libraries and librarians in 21st-century schools. That pioneering work led to Future Ready Librarians, an extension of the national Future Ready Schools initiative at the Alliance for Excellent Education. In my 2016 TEDx talk, I explore both the past and future of school librarianship, challenging educators to see librarians as innovative leaders in 21st-century schools.

Despite seeing glasses as half-full, I will acknowledge that not all school librarians are Future Ready. And yet Future Ready Librarians are essential leaders and educators in 21st-century schools. They offer students, teachers, and administrators an inimitable combination of skills and abilities. In Vancouver (WA) Public Schools (VPS), we enable and empower Future Ready Librarians. Speaking both as a librarian and a district leader, here are a few lessons learned along the way.

Lead beyond the library
This is the most essential and fundamental role of the Future Ready Librarian. Librarians must see themselves as leaders, conceive their work as connected to systemic initiatives, and then act collaboratively with fellow colleagues, principals, and district leaders to effect change. It’s simply no longer enough for librarians to run a great library program. A true Future Ready Librarian leads, teaches, and supports work beyond the physical walls and conceptual boundaries of the school library.

Are you a Future Ready Librarian?

In the last year, the teacher librarians here at VPS have served on state committees revising educational technology standards, led making/coding explorations in their schools, and taught classes alongside teachers in their classrooms.

Embrace change, navigate transition
Author and organizational consultant William Bridges argues that change occurs outside of our personal control; transition is how we perceive and navigate the changes that occur around us. Future Ready Librarians both recognize and accept change as historical and inevitable. Then they roll up their sleeves and figure out how to navigate the transitions impacting students, teachers, and school leaders. Future Ready Librarians recognize that technological and cultural forces are changing the way we read and access information. And they recognize that they are perfectly positioned to help their patrons make sense of the changes and effectively navigate the transitions which learners must make.

About the Author:

Mark Ray is director of innovation and library services for Vancouver (WA) Public Schools and Future Ready Librarians Lead.


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