Libraries and librarians play a critical role in every aspect of teaching and learning—discover what it means to be Future Ready

Defining Future Ready by reflecting on the past

Libraries and librarians play a critical role in every aspect of teaching and learning—discover what it means to be Future Ready

Confession: I’m a bit of a hoarder. I’ve kept every email, text message, and document I’ve ever written.  It’s probably the journalist in me. Or it’s being the daughter of two antique collectors and the granddaughter of a collector of everything. 

Yet quite often, calling on history can help us make more informed decisions about the present. 

As I reflected on the structure of this article, my archived files got some exercise as I reflected on the origins of Future Ready Librarians® and why the journey we took to create the program has never been more important than today. 

Let’s go back to October of 2012

In a panel discussion about the future of libraries in McHenry, Illinois, librarian, Future Ready Librarians spokesperson, and Washington State Teacher of the Year Mark Ray said, “There are forces coming that will change education independent of our control. How do librarians support where we need to be? The role must transcend the library and be thought of as an integrated piece. Not everyone will be able to make this transition.”

That was 2012.

Ray added, “What keeps the Department of Education and superintendents up at night? How can librarians and libraries solve those problems? What does leadership in the library world look like in the modern world – is it leadership beyond the library? Future ready librarians are informed but not defined by librarianship and they are doing their best work beyond the library. There needs to be a movement away from isolation. I see eight roles:

  1. Digital strategist
  2. Data and metadata mavens
  3. Teaching pioneers
  4. Technologists
  5. Virtual administrators
  6. Innovation integrators
  7. Blended learning baristas
  8. Online learning engineers”

Ray’s words took eight years to become reality. We can all agree, the future is here. 

Ray’s thoughts were visionary, and because of his and others’ commitment, advocacy, and work, today’s librarians have tangible tools to transform their roles into any one of those eight “job titles.” 

Future Ready Librarians becomes a reality

As a result of that meeting and many more over the past eight years, Future Ready Librarians became a reality. Our initial goal was to advise districts on what a future ready library and librarian should look like through updated job description templates and evaluation rubrics. That vision evolved into what is now the Future Ready Librarian framework: a guide to help librarians, principals, and superintendents define what they want their library to be in a future ready world, and how they want their librarian to lead. Not surprisingly, the wedges of the Future Ready Librarian framework look very similar to the eight roles Ray envisioned long before Future Ready and long before a global pandemic.

Follett, Ray, and other librarian leaders like Shannon McClintock Miller have worked with the Alliance for Excellent Education to bring the framework to life as part of the Future Ready Schools program. Ray explains, “Future Ready began five years ago when ‘the future’ was optional. Today, the future is not optional. We are redefining schools in real time. You’re either part of the solution. Or you’re watching the problems being solved around you. Schools weren’t ready for this future. But those who were professionally primed for rapid transitions are the ones leading the way now.”

Lia Dossin with the Alliance explains, “Being future ready isn’t about a sticker or a title, it’s about having a commitment to leadership, equity, and student-centered learning. It’s about a vision for re-imagining and re-designing schools to support student success, and to ensure that each student graduates from high school with the agency, passion, and skills to be a productive, successful, and responsible citizen. The role of the librarian, like many roles in education, is changing and adjusting as we reimagine what education looks like.”

What does it mean to be a Future Ready Librarian?

Librarian and Future Ready Librarian spokesperson Miller explains what it means to be a Future Ready Librarian as we emerge from the global pandemic. “Being a Future Ready Librarian means that I am continuously looking forward to how I can be the best at what I do, and what I can do to make my school community, teachers, and students ready for today’s educational world and for the future. Future Ready librarians play a critical role in the strategic work of schools and educational systems as we lead from the library; inspire and support the reading lives of both students and teachers; empower students as creators and learners; curate content; instill innovative instructional practices; build and foster community partnerships; and more.”

Miller continued, “We, as Future Ready Librarians, serve as the heart of the school, inspiring those around us to embrace the change we can bring through our roles as librarians and as leaders. Within the last year, as the world and education has shifted, librarians have become stronger, more innovative, and have taken the lead. It has been an exciting time for us and one that will empower us to shine even brighter. This is our time to shine, friends!”  

The future is NOW

As Ray and Miller have articulated, the timing has never been better to begin your Future Ready Librarian journey. As a result of state and federal funding, billions of dollars are descending upon education in the coming months and years. The Alliance explains that districts need a leader in every building who can:

  • Ensure students have access to a diverse collection of materials that is accessible on and off campus
  • Lead digital citizenship programming for both students and the community
  • Teach students and the community the importance of new literacy and provide the necessary tools and resources to support informed decision making
  • Collaborate with teachers to support high-quality and effective digital learning implementation that supports student success

And that’s Future Ready.

Watch for Part II of this article tomorrow, where I’ll share what we’ve heard from librarian and district leaders about where to start and the amazing tools that will help you along your journey.

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Britten Follett
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