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2011: The year to be FIERCE

I checked the Urban Dictionary.  It lists three definitions for the word fierce.

1. term that gay men used in the late 1990s and early 2000s to describe absolutely everything that was of “exceptional quality”.

2. being bold, displaying chutzpah, especially relating to fashion, clothes, hair or makeup. Girl, work those heels! fierce!

3. term used in fashion for cool, sexy, awesome, or any other positive remark about something. it is most famously used by Christian Sirianos, Project Runway winner, and Tyra Banks. Damn that dress is so fierce! I love it! Look at that model and her fierce little strut!
I have no positional power to declare such things, but I’d like to go ahead and try anyway.
I declare 2011 as the year for teacher librarians, for librarians across the board, to be fierce.  To be fierce and to make this the year we own power, clearly define our roles,  design our future.
Buffy is unquiet. Gwyneth is daring. Jenny is shifted.
This year I plan to be even more fierce.  And I invite you to join me in this branding.
Back in March, 2007, before this blog moved to SLJ, I posted New Rules for 2.0 Guerrilla Practicea, some Bill Maher-type, slightly subversive, new rules to live by.

I present here an update, a few rules for fiercer practice:

You can’t be fierce in a holiday sweater.  No one values comfort more than me, but I know when to pull out the LBD and the pencil skirt, the very cute power jackets, and yes, even heels when it matters.  (Guys, you know the equivalents!)  When it matters, put the sweater down. Rock your look. Check the mirror. Make sure you don’t look like they think a librarian should look. Look fierce at those Board meetings and when you meet people who make decisions at Central Office and beyond.


Ask Later: Fierce librarians never say, “But I can’t” or “But what about. . .?” You are working ahead of the rules. So, if what you plan to do is instructionally sound. And, if you are not actually breaking any rules.  And, if no children will be hurt in the process. Exercise your fiercest sense of academic freedom. Do it. Make it a success. Do it before someone thinks of a reason why you should not. If you wait for explicit permission, you will absolutely miss the bus.

Don’t Stop at NO:  Sometimes the people who will tell you “no,” are completely unfierce.  Consider no as just a little bump in the road. You can work towards getting to yes by presenting information and evidence of success, by teaching.

It’s Okay to be BETA:  You can be fierce, but you can’t always expect to be perfect right out the box.  You’ll need to take a few risks and forgive yourself and experience the collateral learning that happens when things go slightly wrong.

train2.jpg Train Thyself: The stuff we are working with is pretty new. No expert is going to visit your school and tell you how to be a TL in 2011.  So, don’t wait till the big expert comes to town with the most convenient workshop. Fierce librarians cannot wait for the annual conference.  Visit any conference that interests you via webcast.  Join the Geek Tribe.  Visit and lead at our TL Cafe and TL Ning and check out the fierce events hosted by the SIG_MS Wiki on a regular basis. Follow the #tlchat hashtag on Twitter.  Check the TL Chat Daily. Read a few key bloggers.  Add you work to the list.  Find someone else–someone perhaps, who is even more fierce–who wants to learn, who may know a little more and train each other. Seek the training you need and learn it yourself. And this is related to another new rule. . .

You Can’t Punch This Clock: I can’t even imagine being granted prep or workshop time to learn all I know I need to learn, as well as what I don’t even know I need to learn. No one can really fully teach you how to integrate wikis or other collaborative writing tools in YOUR classroom, for YOUR learners. You cannot learn  what you need to know about digital storytelling in a one-hour workshop. You’ve got to expect to invest the time it takes on your own time. Folks who expect release time will absolutely miss the fierceness bus.

beds4.jpgDon’t Make the Beds: Intrepid pioneers don’t worry about clean sheets. Fierce librarians question the value of routine tasks vs.  opportunities with true learning punch.   Ten years ago when I discovered the impact of what I was doing on the Web, I knew I had to give stuff up. I don’t do inventory every year and I don’t make my beds everyday. Those activities are the antithesis of fierceness. My closets are hopeless, but I am getting to be a way better teacher and librarian.

Delegate Up, Down and All Around the Library: You don’t need to be the best at everything. You will be an impostor in some arenas and it is okay to admit it. You can’t do everything yourself.  It is definitely okay to recognize and celebrate the talents of experts who may be 14-years-old. Let them help. Let them lead. Let them be fierce too and celebrate it.  And when you have a brilliant volunteer, of any age, don’t make them continually shelve.  Shelving is unfierce and it may be a waste of critical creative talent.

Teach Outside the Library: Be fiercely present on your learners’ home desktops, their iPhones, and iPads, and all their mobile devices.  Make your library portable.  This is the year to create your fiercest instruction and pathfinders and guides. To answer questions and instuct online.  Go fiercely outside of your doors and down your halls. Visit those labs and one-to-one classrooms. Be wherever your learners and users are.


Get Up, Stand Up: What is your vision for 2011? For 2020? Develop it.  Refine it.  Revise it. Share it. If you don’t stand up at this moment, you will lose a critical opportunity to define what a fierce school information professional looks like. You will lose turf that should be yours.  No one will know your importance.

Stop Watering the Rocks: We can’t continue to put wasted effort into working with those who refuse to grow.  Water the flowers first.  Help them be fierce too.

Access to the New Tools for Learning=An Intellectual Freedom Issue:  You’d fight like hell if folks threatened to challenge the books on your shelves.  This year we need to be as fierce about students’ limited access to the information, collaboration, and communication tools of their time.  All students deserve appropriate, equitable access.  This is a librarians’ banner to wave.  Let’s wave it fiercely.

There is No Box:  For those of you who are thinking about beginning to look outside the box, think even fiercer.  There is no box for fierce modern practice.  We are redefining what things like collection, reference, collaboration, instruction, writing, and even what literacy looks like.  Look to other leaders, not a textbook, for your ideas.  Share your fastest ideas with the community.  This is a year to be fiercely creative.

Go out and . . .

Lead Fiercely from the Center! You don’t need to be principal to lead your building.  You don’t need to be president to lead your state organization.  Build your tribe and lead from the library information/media center or your network.

Fierce power is implicit.

(Some of these images were created using ImageChef.)

“Watering Rocks.” Langwitches. 13 Jan. 2008. Web. 22 Feb. 2010. <>.

Scheufele, Chris.  “DSC02934”  n.d. Flickr Blue Mountains. 2 Jan. 2011. <>.

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Great “how to”! I intend to be FIERCE in and outside of the library and now I know how to do it. THANKS!

  2. Joyce –
    I applaud your article and wholeheartedly agree with your call for us to “be FIERCE” in 2011 ! With educational budget cuts across the US, we all need to expand our programs, shout out our efforts/successes and show how we are a crucial backbone for our students AND our teachers!

    Happy New Year,

  3. All right!
    I’ll put on my makeup and heels and dress and go out and be fierce!
    Should I shave?

  4. Thanks, Joyce!
    Just what we need to be reminded of as the new year begins.
    Keep rocking our world–fiercely!

  5. Sorry, Richard, and all my dear male colleagues! Sometimes I get carried away with the What Not To Wear thing.

  6. Thanks so much Joyce for an inspiring post!

  7. Thank you Joyce! I’m honored for the mention. This is a rousing manifesto for all educators! Sure, some of what you say is TL specific but all Teachers & Ed Tech educators can be inspired to be FIERCE! [snaps in a TL formation] Our Tribe grows from TL’s to inspire and include all educators! Go Tribe!

  8. Thanks Joyce for your fierceness and time you take to prod the rest of rest with your ideas.

  9. Awesome call to action, Joyce, with concrete steps to take.
    The one I look forward to repeating: there is no box.
    The one that made me smile: it’s OK to be BETA.

  10. SWEET!!! Rock out 2011!

  11. Jeanne Nelson says:

    Thanks! For defining where we need to be going in 2011 and what it takes to move in that direction. Fierce is a fabulous approach, requiring that we do our homework and let go of the soothing trivia that holds us back. Here’s to 2011, looking fierce, thinking fierce, and BEING fierce.

  12. This: “You will be an impostor in some arenas and it is okay to admit it.” and this: “it’s OK to be BETA” (and, because I can be a bit impatient when I get a new idea: Ask Later) are quickly taking a place at the core of my professional practice. When I started (first as a teacher, then later as a librarian), I felt like I had to know EVERYTHING in order to do ANYTHING. But, I soon figured out, with that approach NOTHING gets done. My type A personality is not always the most comfortable out here, but I figure if I want my students to take risks in their learning, the least I can do is take a few of my own.

    And I have always eschewed holiday sweaters. 🙂

  13. Thanks for getting me even more fired up about this year! I am so excited about 2011 and I definitely plan to be FIERCE (and mighty, probably a little feisty too)! I am so proud to be a member of this tribe, which gives me the opportunity to learn and grow with people who understand my passion and enthusiasm. I second Gwyneth…Go Tribe!!!

  14. Mark Williams says:

    ALL RIGHT! You go, Joyce!

  15. Leslie Caldarera says:

    GREAT IDEAS! I’m going to be FIERCE, FIERCE, FIERCE! Watch out!

  16. Thanks for your call for teacher librarians to be Fierce. Your post is being widely shared widely in California.

    I especially love your nixing of holiday sweaters, going mobile outside the library and your statement that Folks who expect release time will absolutely miss the fierceness bus.

    Thanks for all that you do.
    Best wishes. Be Fierce. Have Fun!

  17. Joyce, to carry forward your What Not To Wear connection:

    We can have our own CTPS: [color, texture, print, shine] 🙂


    Let’s all make 2011 the best year yet.

  18. Joan Kramer says:

    Great great great!! Just exactly what we need for inspiration, Joyce.
    I was trying to write something similar for Los Angeles teacher librarians who are
    being threatened with more cuts. Thank you Thank you Thank you!
    Just one question: what does “lead fiercely from the Center” exactly mean?
    I have to say that it brought to mind a rather middling position as opposed
    to a strong one. And the rest of this blog is so FIERCE!!

  19. Joan Tracy says:

    I can do all of this, except put on the heels. That didn’t even get past alpha as it was too unstable.

  20. Linda Mcsweeney says:

    Grace Potter rockin out in concert last night in Burlington VT and Joyce Valenza today–perfect combination of inspiration for a New Years resolution. Grace + Joyce = Fierce in an ‘ooh la la’ fun kind of way!

  21. This is fantastic!! I was screaming YES! YES! YES! as I read your post! We need t-shirts. Loving your comments that “it’s okay to be Beta” and that “there is no box.” Please, continue to encourage us all to be FIERCE as we go through the year and beyond.

  22. All resonate, but this is critical…

    …. You’ve got to expect to invest the time it takes on your own time. Folks who expect release time will absolutely miss the fierceness bus.

    Happy New Year, Joyce!

  23. Beautifully written! So much clarity for so early in the year – 2011 WATCH OUT!

  24. Inspirational as ever Joyce. I’m growling, I feel so fierce!

  25. Kelly Brannock says:

    May the FIERCE be with us! Thanks for keeping these ideas and energy rolling! As sad as it may seem, some need permission and encouragement to fulfill their potential. As for the rest of us, we can be fierce together because we know how to leverage one another’s strengths… we’re learners and collaborators!

    Proud to be part of this Tribe 🙂

  26. Isabel Costa says:

    Joyce I’m a portuguese librarian but I agree with you. I intend to be FIERCE!

  27. Great article, Miss Valenza. I want to be a Fierce librarian when I grow up, or at least marry one. You Rock!

  28. mariajosevitorino says:

    We were reading your post all together at Mafra-Lisboa (Portugal). 20 teacher librarians agree with you! Let’s make ourselves more fierce and BETA, and proud to be leading… and, of course, not perfect!


  1. […] part of our library’s strategy to be “fierce” (Dr.Joyce Valenza), to become experts in e-learning and to suggest tools to help develop information literacy school […]

  2. […] for a couple weeks, I’m left with the challenge and question: How can I be brave (or fierce as one of my role models, Joyce Valenza says) in an educational climate that is based mostly on fear? How can I inspire and educate students […]

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