Hindsight is indeed finally 2020. Happy 2021! (I didn’t even make it to 10pm but did watch Sweet Home Alabama in pajamas with my mom and the dog. Please confirm that I’m not the only person who spent the last 20 years thinking Matthew McConoughey was the Southern husband.)
Many members have already seen the email on the 1st about the board’s strategic planning survey. Basically:
Every five years, the board asks members to complete a survey that will guide us in our planning for the future. This survey is organized around the categories of demographics, position information, professional development, and ideas for the future. We will be sharing aggregated statistics related to questions about variances in librarian roles and position expectations to the listserv this spring, and we are going to review your experiences with past professional development and hopes for the future so AISL can continue to be a valuable resource for members.
Every September when renewals are due, the board declares the $30 membership fee the best professional deal around, and this year’s half day virtual conference will be an included member benefit as a thank you for your support and dedication to the profession during the challenges of 2020. If I needed a reminder that librarians are phenomenal, I sent the survey email at 5pm on Friday, New Year’s Day, and by Monday morning we already had over 60 responses! Can I say holiday weekend? Thank you to those who have already provided their feedback, and for those who haven’t yet done so, it can be found through February 1st on the AISL website once you’ve logged in with your account.
The remainder of this post will relate to three specific survey questions I’ve been mulling over throughout the design process.
Most Helpful Professional Development this Year
The “right book at the right time for the right child” cliché corresponds perfectly to my thoughts about this year’s professional development. My most fun professional development was certainly the AISL Zoom sessions. AISL members are my friends and my global support network. I don’t think I’ve yet asked a question that didn’t get a thoughtful response. But that doesn’t feel like it answers the question the survey asked about what was most helpful this year. I spent a lot of time listening to webinars for administrators, specifically the ones through the virtual school One Schoolhouse. Throughout my career, I’ve been part of multiple conversations where librarians lament that administrators don’t understand (*best case) or appreciate (*worst case) the role of the library. This groups discussion topics included admissions, standardized testing, accreditation requirements, finances, safety protocols, scope of the school’s reach, parent communication, mission alignment, and yes, also curriculum. Librarians balance a lot within our libraries, but we generally don’t have to think through all the details of running a school. None of the presenters seemed to have come to administration through the path of librarianship. As they, like us, balanced their “new normal,” there were plenty of logistical hurdles, and libraries, specifically well-run libraries, weren’t on the top of their minds. I’ll continue to think about advocacy, as I don’t have answers yet, but I found it incredibly helpful to hear directly from administrators about what’s on their minds when they talk to each other. This isn’t an opportunity I would have had – or sought out – in other years, but it’s one that was impactful.
Identify Your Strengths as a Leader
As president of this organization, perhaps I should feel qualified to quickly check some of the boxes where I self identify as a leader. This is simply asking for a self assessment. No one is going to question the check marks. Heck, only the AISL board will even see the results! Yet my self identification falls more to the girl hugging a dog in the photo and less towards my linkedin profile. Is this related to age? Gender? The way I was raised? This is another paragraph ending without definitive answers, but if you’re someone who experienced the same hesitation, you’re not alone.
Is there an AISL member you admire?
Yes! Too many to name in the survey and too many to name here. For members who have attended conferences, the friendships made during those days together are what cemented AISL’s value. And this is a year that lets us connect more frequently and easily, but only mediated by computer screens. It’s not the same.
Last week, I read The Drunkard’s Walk by Leonard Mlodinow about the effects of randomness on our lives. (Case in point: an alum brought a friend to an Academic Team meet where she was reading a book with a cool cover. Based on that cover, I read Subliminal and wanted to read Mlodinow’s other work. I mentioned it to my dad over the holidays, and he happened to have a copy given to him by my father in law back in 2008. Random…) Which is to say that I ended up as a librarian in Florida in 2007, never imagining I would settle in the state. I was introduced that fall to our regional BAAIS group and CD McLean. At the time, CD was a board member of AISL and encouraged all the Tampa Bay Librarians to join the group. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t until 2013. That’s the year the conference was being held in my hometown of Baltimore, the same week as my college reunion, giving me almost a week to hang out with my parents and college friends. I still remember calling CD and asking why I should pay for a hotel when I could borrow a car and drive 45 minutes into the city each day. Yet from that first bus ride and breakfast at St. Paul’s school, it was obvious what I had been missing without AISL. CD encouraged me to get more involved, and she’s always taken the time to problem solve with me when I’m stressed at work. Among many other librarians, thank you CD.
If you filled out the survey and have a librarian you admire, I’d encourage you to reach out directly and let them know. This has been a tough year. It can feel a bit vulnerable, but can you think of a time when those affirmations wouldn’t have been appreciated in your own life? Little actions, random though they might seem, can make a difference.
I wish everyone a smooth semester two no matter how you’re returning. I’ve been talking throughout the fall with some of the department chairs about how we don’t want to be told to care less, even when we’re complaining and stressed. We’re in this profession because we care about our students, and they are experiencing this pandemic in a way that is likely much more distinctive to their schooling experience than it is to ours. How can we care strategically about our students, our libraries and ourselves? The answer to that is unique to each of us, and I hope it’s something you can find as we begin 2021.