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Are you a Future Ready Librarian?

Future Ready Librarians have a variety of top-notch skills and abilities. See if you possess those skills

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.

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.

Be brave before perfect
My colleague, teacher librarian Traci Chun, coined this phrase as a means to empower her colleagues. The motto is intended to empower librarians to release responsibility for perfection and to embrace risk-taking and professional stretches as educators. Chun is a full-time high school teacher librarian and also serves as a teacher librarian lead, working closely with me to support and develop our teacher librarians. Currently, she and I are promoting tools and strategies for librarians to offer more making opportunities in our libraries. This year, we gave away bags of Legos and Makey Makey kits, promoted Hummingbird robots, and rolled out Sphero classroom kits to every library in the district. Some of our teacher librarians are embracing students as creators and promoting making in the library. And some are still uncertain. But all of them know that we are learning together, risks are okay, and perfection is less important than iteration.

Don’t lose sight of That Kid
I recently wrote an article examining the challenge of personalized learning, a familiar item on strategic plans and edtech marketing brochures. As we embrace data-driven learning, learner dashboards, and district scorecards, we cannot lose the trees for the forest. “That Kid” represents the uniqueness and specificity of each student in our school, especially those trees who are overlooked, a different variety, or shaped differently from the others. A Future Ready Librarian recognizes that the library has always been about equity, fairness, and opportunities for every child. That Kid may need a book, a wireless hotspot, or simply a safe place to be whomever they are. Future Ready Librarians look out for That Kid.

Embrace connection development
If I had a tattoo, it would read, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” After 25 years in education, I have learned that I am only as good as those around me, whether they are in my office or part of my LinkedIn feed. Recognizing and embracing the library and librarian as the hub and core of a school, I have been advocating #connectiondevelopment. Historically, librarians have been responsible for collection development, the curation of a library collection to support the learning needs of students. In addition to connecting a child to the right book, Future Ready Librarians cultivate, maintain, and leverage networks and relationships for the benefit of students, teachers, and administrators. Future Ready Librarians can and should be what Malcolm Gladwell describes as connectors, a social equivalent of a computer network.

More stories of success
VPS is not alone in leveraging Future Ready Librarians to empower change and innovation. Thanks to Project Connect, dozens of case studies and leadership profiles further document Future Ready Librarian success stories and lessons learned from around the U.S. You can see those encouraging stories here.

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