Library Leadership Council (and Happy Half Birthday Harry Potter!)

This year we started a Library Leadership Council (LLC) for middle school students. Book Club was a huge hit last year, and many of my regulars wanted to do more for the school and for the library.

For our first project, we partnered with community service for our school’s first Post-Halloween Candy Drive. We had all the meetings in the library and used the library as a collection location for all the candy. We also made posters to display around campus and made announcements in chapel. Our goal was to collect 150 lbs., and we easily exceeded our goal! Our students were able to donate candy to Homes for Hope, an organization where students from our school travel to Costa Rica to build homes for those in need. We also donated to area veterans groups for Veterans Day. Additionally, we sent toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss. 🙂

Spurred by their efforts, the LLC wanted to do more! For our next project we made thank you/holiday cards for our community members that work in dining, facilities and security. These people work tremendously hard, but they also work hours and in places where we don’t always get a chance to say thank you in person. We promoted the event by making posters and also made a presentation at a middle school assembly. We then set up a table in the library for a week where students could come and make the cards. Over 100 cards were made, and it was an honor to deliver them to our fellow community members.

These projects not only gave Book Club students more leadership opportunities but they also brought additional students in the library to participate in activities….and hopefully pick up a book or two while they were here. 🙂

In January we are doing something more literary-related and celebrating Harry Potter’s Half Birthday.  We celebrate half birthdays here for our summer student birthdays, so this seemed like a natural fit. We are organizing a writing contest (What would happen if Hermione Granger went to ESD??) and having a half birthday party before school complete with trivia, games and treats. Our Harry Potter Half Birthday celebration was a big hit last year, so we are really looking forward to our event this year!  (Photo from last year!).

Finally, this all started with Book Club last year, and this year students are the leaders of our book club. They select the books that we read, create questions and then facilitate the discussions. The discussions are lively, fun and engaging, and I enjoy seeing what our student leaders can do when you give them the chance. I especially like these types of programs in the library since they are low risk and low cost with additional benefits (reading! Not eating ALL your sugary Halloween candy! Good manners!).

I am encouraged by the participation in the Library Leadership Council, and I hope this allows students to see the library in different ways and lights. My goal is always to get the community in the door, and then I hope that they will be library supporters for life. 🙂 On that note I am definitely interested if you have library groups at your school.  What kind of activities or programs do you offer? We are definitely a grass roots start up and are always looking for innovative ways to connect with our school community. Thank you!!

Library Leadership in a Digital Age

Last spring I was fortunate to be able to attend the Library Leadership in a Digital Age (LLDA) program at Harvard University. Before the program began we were assigned readings to complete in order to prepare for our classes/sessions which were held over three days in Boston. Immediately, I liked the serious nature of this program since I knew that we would be focused on relevant library issues and that we would be kept on-task by experts in the education, library and digital fields. Some of the session leaders for my program included Howard Gardner, David Ferriero and John Palfrey. The program is offered to only around fifty participants each year, so we were able to discuss thought-provoking questions and share potential big ideas in a classroom-type setting. The session leaders did a tremendous job encouraging us to think and stretch the boundaries of how we view libraries and our role in libraries as we move forward in the digital age.


Needless to say I returned back to campus with a wealth of knowledge and information to share and implement. I read John Palfrey’s book, Born Digital, in graduate school and read his most recent release, BiblioTECH, before attending the conference at Harvard. Palfrey’s works are especially intriguing to me since he is the Head of School at Phillips Academy in Andover, an independent school. Not only is he a leader in independent school education but he is also an avid supporter of libraries and the work that librarians do. I highly recommend both books and returned to campus with (signed!) copies for my colleagues.


In the new school year, the benefits of LLDA are extending far beyond what I ever imagined. For example, Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair recently spoke at my school, The Episcopal School of Dallas. Unbeknownst to me before her presentation, Dr. Steiner-Adair previously worked at Phillips Academy and recently visited the Phillips Academy campus to continue her research. She is focused on areas of research such as the explicit marketing and unsavory aspects of adult culture that students are exposed to in the online world. She is also studying how the tech revolution impacts students and families and the role that schools play in potentially mitigating pitfalls in the use of technology.

In her presentation to our staff and faculty community, Dr. Steiner-Adair mentioned her work at Phillips Academy and John Palfrey’s book Born Digital. Colleagues immediately looked over at me since I had given them copies of Palfrey’s books or they had read some of the information I shared with my school community from LLDA.  I was not expecting Dr. Steiner-Adair to mention Phillips Academy or John Palfrey, but I immediately felt “in the know” and like I had done my research thanks to LLDA. Knowing that I have worked with experts in this area makes me a viable resource for my school community not only as a librarian that recommends books but also as someone who is prepared to help students navigate the digital world. For example, I am currently working with our Director of Educational Technology to create a presentation about cyberbullying and how teens use social media. While this was not an expected impact of the LLDA program, I am finding my experience at Harvard is proving valuable in ways that I never could have imaged when I decided to attend.


If you are able to partner with your school and attend LLDA, I highly recommend the program. Due to my experience in the program I am a more confident librarian in the digital age and am able to serve as a resource for my school in impactful ways. If you have any questions about LLDA please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you for your time, and Happy Halloween from Ms. Back and her fifth grade advisory, all of whom are dressed as crayons today 😉