Thursday, October 1, 2015

SLJ Leadership Summit Takeaways

I was one of four IASL Board members to attend this year's School Library Journal Leadership Summit in Seattle.  

In addition to meeting Neal Shusterman, Jack Prelutsky and Susin Neilsen, I also learned a great deal from my colleagues and the vendors and other professionals in attendance.  Here are a few of my takeaways.

Getting Admin on YOUR Side
No one likes a whiner, and no one likes to have to do their job AND someone else's. Instead of approaching an administrator with the question "how can I help," approach them and listen.  We learned a lot about the practice of Extreme Listening. Basically, you have to listen to what people actually say, not what you want or expect them to say. Listen to your admin/school board/legislator/whoever. Find out what keeps them up at night and offer them a solution to their problems through what you already do - it's all about how you frame it. They will see you as empathetic, trustworthy, and as a key player in their problem solving.

Being Prepared for Change - Extreme Listening
Extreme Listening can/should be a key part of making big changes. Overly simplified from the work of the amazing Marnie Webb, Extreme Listening involves first identifying the themes you need to listen for (i.e. bullying) and everyone who has any stake it the situation at hand (bullies, victims, authority figures, bystanders). Then, list everything that makes a situation hard - all of the "why not's" and reason something "won't work" (cultural differences, time constraints, lack of support). Then, put that list away. Be prepared to listen, and hear, without your expectations, biases, and roadblocks. From that extreme listening, you can then brainstorm solutions - imagine the impossible (best example: Traffic Mimes).  Accept that this will take time to implement. Set yourself goals, milestones, signs of making progress. Most importantly, "be hungry to know what happens next." Your motives can't be to be prove someone wrong, or to get glory. You have to see where the process takes you. Lastly, share "wildly!"

Advocate from all sides
Of course we have to be prepared to tell our own stories - ALL THE TIME. We are the only ones we can rely on to make sure people know who we are and what we do for kids. But I also learned that our vendors have more to offer than just a book order. All of the representatives at the Summit stressed that they want to help us. They know what we do, and how important we are for kids.  They all offered to set up meetings with our administrators to chat about libraries and what we can do. Your consultant can be another voice spreading our message.

Teach more, Librarian less.
This message was repeated.  Last year at IASL Conference, Jennifer LeGarde reminded us that Librarians should love kids more than they love books.  That it's more important to get back the readers than it is to get back the books.  This year, an additional mindshift was introduced to me: Leadership, not Service. Think of it this way: your school can survive without a service, but it can't survive without educational leaders. Be the one who leads your students and your staff. They called this the "Joyce Valenza effect" -  become a person so valuable, no school could ever imagine cutting what she offers.