Today, I’m pleased to say that I have a guest post for Show Me The Awesome.
Give a warm welcome to Leigh Woznick!
I am a middle school librarian/media specialist, excited to participate in the “Show Me the Awesome” initiative by Kelly Jensen, Sophie Brookover, and Liz Burns. Thanks to designer John LeMasney for the graphic. Follow the posts on Twitter, Tumblr, Vine and Instagram with the hashtag #30awesome.
The posts so far have been impressive and inspiring. Librarians are very good at sharing. With that in mind, I’d like to talk about professional development: the formal kind we can put on our resumes and the informal kind that looks to our families like reading or hanging out on Facebook or Twitter, instead of doing the dishes. I’m no expert, but I’ll happily share what I did this year to better myself.
Last week a student asked me to define the word “repertoire”, and I thought: how á propos for my post today. We each have a repertoire of knowledge and skills: books, authors, lessons, tools, resources. The nature of the librarian is that while (to paraphrase Macklemore) we are…awesome, we still strive to learn and explore the next new thing, to continuously add to our repertoire.
Two major technology changes significantly affected my work this year. Our district adopted Google Apps for Education and we migrated to a new library automation system (Destiny). These two projects resulted in countless hours of meetings, trainings, teleconferences and tasks. I have been designated a district leader for both projects, teaching both programs to my (approx. 1500) students and serving as troubleshooter and mentor to staff across the district. If you’ve been through a transition to a new library system, you know what an enormous undertaking it is. I am coordinating the technical aspects of the transition and will help train the other librarians. But at least I had some formal training on Destiny. Google is a do-it-yourself kind of operation. I’d used Docs & Forms for years, but Google Sites was new to me. I set up my own site, adding user-friendly and appealing digital/video and embedded content that never worked well on our old system. It’s pretty intuitive and the help functions are good, so don’t be too impressed. Finally having the capability for ‘virtual’ instruction, such as with video demos, has been a boon — I had 93 classes last week alone and can’t physically be with every one. While frustrated with some of the limitations, I’m excited to see what new ways we can use it next year.
My district offers some pretty good free PD (some even count as CEUs). I took a workshop on LGBT issues, worked on a Writing Across the Curriculum Committee, and attended curriculum meetings. In the interests of sharing my repertoire, I also taught PD to staff: Google Apps, Easybib, and Engaging Readers. When offering PD to teachers, I recommend seeking approval for it to count as official PD, relate it to curriculum and supply reproducibles. Also, snacks don’t hurt.
Professional organizations offer myriad PD, both formal and informal. I am a member of: NJASL, AASL, YALSA, ALA, LibraryLinkNJ, Mystery Writers of America, and NJEA. Reading their magazines, attending conferences and webinars and getting involved in listserv conversations result in great things. This year, I participated in or attended: NJASL and IRA’s Enthusiastic Reader contest, World Book Night, The Horn Book Awards & Symposium, Edgar Awards, NY Comic Con, BookExpoAmerica, LibraryLinkNJ’s Handhelds in Libraries Unconference, Booklist webinars, Google Power Search training and SLJ’s SummerTeen virtual conference. OK, I’m a little nuts, I know. But all of these are chances to meet my peeps, hear what they are doing, track new trends, recruit authors for school visits and get free stuff! You never know when one of these connections will bear fruit.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel or start from scratch. I read “Ermahgerd: Memes in the Classroom?” by Patricia Bruder in the February issue of NJEA Review, herself inspired by Stephanie Richter’s Prezi. Galvanized, I created a web page with examples and links, and convinced a teacher looking for a creative writing project to try it out. It was a huge success, and her enthusiasm will entice other teachers to try it. You can read more about my lesson in the August issue of School Librarian’s Workshop and do it yourself! We all build on each other’s knowledge.
At the NJASL Annual Fall Conference I learned from author/artist Robert Sabuda how to make simple pop-ups. I shared those techniques in an annual program I give for students who don’t go on the camping trip. At past conferences, I heard about contests and programs such as Predict a Snow Day and Blind Date with a Book, and adapted the ideas into fun annual events for my students. I have presented at the conference myself a few times. This year, I offered a workshop on Stress-busters. Don’t be afraid to present something you’ve used or done in your library — someone else can learn from your experience — think of it as share and share alike.
Sometimes PD can help your personal advancement. I am my district’s representative for LibraryLinkNJ. I was appointed as a ‘virtual member’ to the Joint YALSA/AASL/ALSC Committee on School/Public Library Collaboration. I published two chapters for professional library publications for MacFarland (in press), one on middle school clubs & activities and the other on librarian stress, and just got another proposal accepted, on women using the Internet for philanthropy or social change. These projects all came through professional connections like LMNET. They don’t make me any money, but do make me feel like I’m contributing and making a difference in my field.
INFORMAL PD OPPS
Like lots of other librarians, I participate in listserv, Facebook, Twitter & blog discussions, and read YA & middle grade books to keep myself, if not on the cutting edge, at least up-to-date. Though my family teases me about being surgically attached to my iPhone and iPad, they are my direct conduit to what I need to know. The generosity of my fellow librarians is amazing. Librarians may be all over copyright and plagiarism when we’re teaching our students to write & cite, but we’re much more open source when it comes to ideas for how to reach & teach. Many of us are overworked and understaffed and/or underfunded, so we are more than willing to help each other out.
Links and posts have recently led me to new tools, like Smore, an author visit from Paul Janeczko, a Therapy Dog lesson/program inspired by a program at my daughter’s college library, and videotaped focus group reflection on the research process modeled after this one by my idol, Buffy Hamilton. (Lesson learned: don’t do it all in one take!). Facebook connections helped make my BookFest a reality a couple of years ago — 35 presenters on one day!
I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT
Exhausted? Me too! Full disclosure: my kids are (mostly) out of the house, and I have a library secretary who is a godsend. I put in extra hours at work most days and spend a lot of my personal time networking. AND I LOVE MY JOB!!!
Most of the PD I do is absolutely free, and those I do pay for are so much fun I can’t complain. They help me do my job better, make me look good and make me really, really happy. But it can get overwhelming. Our field expands and changes almost daily, and I sometimes feel like I can never reach the level of library luminaries like Buffy, or Joyce Valenza. I came to librarianship as a second career, and will never learn half of what they’ve forgotten.
One of the teachers I was working with last week helped me put it in perspective. She was reflecting how much the library has changed in the 7 years I’ve been there, impressed with my knowledge of resources and technology (we did an Edmodo project together last year). She’s a friend, so I told her my feelings of inadequacy. “You don’t know what’s out there!” I whined. She said no matter how far behind I thought I was from the ideal, I am still light years ahead of what she and most of her colleagues knew. So whatever I had to offer was gold.
Remember that! It’s impossible to do it all, but if you soak as much as you can in, something will stick, and you’ll be able to use it. And to paraphrase John Green, Don’t Forget You Are Awesome.