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On innovative practice: There is no box!

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 9.23.07 AMA few years back, I was stuck in an airport on a long layover. I found myself chatting over dinner and wine with an extraordinary woman who excitedly described the new business empire she was building.  I said, “Wow, you sure think outside the box!”  She responded: “Joyce, what makes you think there’s a box?”

For years, I tried to apply that “no box” thinking to my practice.schoollibrarianmindset-page-0

Working on an article on innovation over the last few weeks got me thinking again about the need for agility, growth and innovation in our field as we translate traditional practice for new information and communication landscapes.  There is no longer any excuse for isolation. The affordances of the tools we have for sharing and networking make it impossible to feel alone and uninspired.

There is also no one right way to do school library.  Yes, we are guided by standards and core values and our school’s mission and vision, but because we have more flexibility than our classroom teacher partners. we can choose to make magic happen in hundreds of creative ways.  We can afford to take responsible risks, to test our best ideas. School library NOT is brain surgery; no patient will die. We can demonstrate to learners that that growth is connected to risk and that missteps and reflection are part of the innovation process.

In fact, in some schools where testing culture has narrowed curricula and forced standardization, the library may be the only space in which innovation can flourish.

In our libraries we have opportunities and we have obligations to do right things. Our influence spans grade and ability levels and disciplines. We can model what it looks like to be a learner for both younger and older learners.

We can do things better. We can create zones of innovation, where the curriculum is wide, where the learning is personalized, where the needs and interests of the whole child are valued.

For that article I wrote, I interviewed a number of truly creative practitioners; I returned to Carol Dweck’s work on mindsets; I read George Couros’ inspiring The Innovator’s MindsetTo clarify my own thinking, I pulled together a Mindset for School Library Innovators infographic from what I gathered.  Hope you find it useful.

(I couldn’t embed, so click to look at the larger image.)






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. […] is no box. Joyce Valenza, school library superstar in the US, wrote an blog post last year that has helped to define my professional outlook. And while the article focuses on […]

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