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 😉