The teacher librarian must be an active professional.

climb ladderBeing part of a profession is more than just having a job, diploma, and certification. Professionals are active and involved. They are advocates, mentors, authors, and peers.

Do I have to wait until I graduate to become part of the profession?

Don't I have to be important to present a conference session?

No one would want me as a mentor!

There's not a formal ceremony that will turn you into a library media professional. Once the library bug bites, you're already becoming part of the profession. Whether you have two months or twenty years on the job, you have something to share with others.

View the video clip: What Does A Teacher Librarian Really Do? Ask a TL! (6:40 minutes).

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Why get involved with the profession?

Explore the following ten reasons you should get involved:

  1. learn from others
  2. gather innovative ideas to keep your program fresh and exciting
  3. get legal, financial, and moral support and advice on issues such as copyright and intellectual freedom
  4. locate a mentor or become a mentor for others
  5. stay current on issues and legislation that impacts your job
  6. build networks with other professionals
  7. collaborate on projects that wouldn't be possible alone
  8. share your ideas with others
  9. make the world smaller through global connections
  10. meet new friends with similar interests

eye means readRead Get Involved! by C. Harvey II. Teacher Librarian, April 2005; 32 (4), 32-3. (Access Requires Login) This article provides information on ways to get involved in activities of the school library profession.

Read Your Ticket to Success by P. Milam. School Library Journal, Mar 2005; (51)3, 52-4. (Access Requires Login) This article discusses the steps to qualify as a National Board-certified media specialist.

Also read J. Valenza and D. Johnson's Things That Keep Us Up at Night from the School Library Journal (Oct. 2010).

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What professional resources are available?

There are many ways that people get involved with their profession. You may volunteer for a committee in a state organization, attend a national conference, or judge your local media fair.

Start where you feel most comfortable. However don't stick to the local level. There is a tremendous need for leadership at the state and national level. If you don't have the time and money to travel, consider volunteering through the Internet. Contribute to listservs, write journal articles, or share ideas through email groups.

Use the following resources to help you build professional connections:

Professional Organizations. States, national, and international organizations provide a wonderful way to networking within the profession. These groups play a critical role in legislation, advocacy, and professional development.

eye means readExplore our page listing Professional Organizations for more information. Join your state and national organizations of choice.

Professional E-Communication. Electronic communication has become an essential tool for the library media professional. Without leaving your library, you can share ideas with other practitioners around the world. In addition to maintaining an email list of colleagues, you'll also want to join listservs of interest. If you prefer the web-based threaded format, consider periodically reviewing the professional forums.

eye means readExplore our page listing Professional E-Communication for more information. Join one of the listservs or forum and spend some time learning about how they function. Which do you prefer as a tool for professional communication: email, listservs, or forums? What are the advantages and disadvantages or each?

Professional Journals and Books. Journals can be found for all aspects of the library media profession. Some are more scholarly, while others are more practical. As you explore the options, be sure to consider the perspectives provided. Some are sponsored by organizations, while others are subscription based. While many incorporate advertising, others prefer to use subscription fees for revenue.

Many journals and books are now available in both web-based and paper versions. If you are relying on a particular format, check with the publisher to determine whether the web and print materials are the same or different. Sometimes additional articles are available on the Internet. In other cases, the paper version is complete and only the abstract is available online.

eye means readExplore our page listing Professional Journals and Professional Books or more information. Create a personal professional pathfinder listing key professional resources.

Professional Websites. Many websites provide valuable information for the library media professional. Some are maintained by schools, public libraries, and agencies, while others are developed by individuals. You can often get ideas for your own website, by exploring the work of others. Why reinvent the wheel? Consider linking to those websites you find most valuable. However, be sure to get permission before reposting original content.

eye means readExplore our page listing Professional Websites for more information. Add your favorites to your personal, professional pathfinder.

Notable Professionals. There are many individuals who stand out in the library media profession. These people have a wide range of experiences and skills. While some focus on research and theory, others have made significant contributes to practice. You need to know the key people in the field. Many of these people maintain personal, professional websites where you can learn more about their work and contributions.

eye means readExplore our page listing Notable Library Media Professionals for more information. Add your favorites to your personal, professional pathfinder.

Government Resources. Many government agencies maintain quality resources useful to school library media specialists. These resources can be found at the local, state/province, national, and international levels.

eye means readExplore our page listing Government Resources for more information. Add your favorites to your personal, professional pathfinder.

Collection Development Resources. Whether selecting books to purchase or evaluating electronic databases, the library media specialist uses a wide variety of tools in collection selection, acquisition, and use.

eye means readExplore our page listing Collection Development Resources for more information. Add your favorites to your personal, professional pathfinder.

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Words of Wisdom

Becoming an active member of state and national professional organizations is critical to personal, professional development.

practitionerRead the perspective of one library media specialist:

I think one of the critical things is networking with colleagues and being involved in the professional organizations. AIME, AASL, etc. I can't tell you how invaluable it has been to me to be involved in AIME and AASL. I enjoy the friends I've made, the chance to share and learn from others, and the connections it has provided for future projects and ideas has been unbelievable.

Carl A. Harvey II
Library Media Specialist, North Elementary School
& President, Association for Indiana Media Educators

North Library Media Center Webpage

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Check Your Understanding

info powerInformation Power: Program Administration - Principle 8. Ongoing staff development - both to maintain professional knowledge and skills and to provide instruction in information literacy for teachers, administrators, and other members of the learning community - is an essential component of the library media program. (p. 100, 110)

You MUST know the key professional resources. Review the lists of professional resources. Many teacher librarians create and maintain a professional pathfinder that connects them to websites including blogs, wikis, podcasts, etc. that they consider to be foundational resources for their work. Examples of things that might be included are connections to national and state organizations, listservs and discussion groups, online journals and seminal articles, quality library media center websites, connections to notable persons, key selection tools, position statements, policy documents, connections to online vendor, etc.

Join a listserv or participate in a professional forum that is directly related to the school library professions. Spend the first few weeks just observing (lurking) and learning the 'culture' of the particular group. Determine the traffic load, and if it is heavy, see what tactics you can employ to deal with that information load. After several weeks, assess the experience. First, describe your experience, summarize the interaction, and identify what seemed most important to you. Explain why you feel this was or was not a good use of your personal and professional time.

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Make It Real

Leslie PreddyThe photo on the left shows an active Indiana professional. Leslie Preddy is a school media specialist and past president of AIME. She frequently speaks at state and national conferences. She has written and published numerous articles and a number of books and a book chapter. She is one of the several 'movers & shakers' in school library media in Indiana. Find out more about Leslie at her information-rich website: Leslie is the library media specialist at Perry Middle School in Indianapolis.

You may start out attending regional meetings, helping out with the annual student media festival / fair, going to state conferences - - but eventually you need to become more actively involved in your professional community. You might volunteer to help plan and coordinate a conference. At first you'll attend conference sessions, but someday you'll be facilitating events and presenting information and ideas to others. In class you're reading journal articles, but someday you'll write them.

Develop a plan for your own professional development. Where do you see yourself in two, five, and ten years down the road? How do you envision your role in the profession evolving?

What organizations will you join now and in the future? What conferences will you attend?

What will you do this year? Ideas: student festival judge, a conference volunteer .

No, you do not have to be well-known or established to propose and present a conference session. You do not have to wait until you have decades of experience. You just have to identify important ideas and information that is needed by colleagues in the profession.

More Words of Wisdom

If you do not already think of yourself as a teacher librarian, then its time to make the jump. Yes, do that now - - you don't have to wait until you have the piece of paper in hand. Hopefully you have gained ideas and information that will serve you in your career. But this course can not cover everything. Here are a few small tips to consider; ideas aimed toward putting your career in school media on a fast track:

Tackle a few, a handful of changes at a time; that is make some priority choices based on your identified needs and goals and concentrate of getting them into place. Analyze and plan carefully, but take a few risks. If you see a change that needs to be made in your library media program, get going with it. If it fails, you have learned something and don't let that stop your strive for continued improvement.

If you are not already, (I sense that many of you are) become a lifelong learner. Keep up-to-date on the trends and issues in school library professions and education. We are information professionals. Skim and scan the journals, literature, and develop your own personal learning environment that supports your career and personal interests. Today's technology makes that possible.

Get involved with professionals outside your building. Network with your colleagues in the district. Join the school library association in your state; strongly consider national membership also. Many of us work in buildings where we are the only library media professional. Make sure that you do not isolate yourself.

Many of these recommendations are aimed at establishing you as a leader in your school and district. But if you want to extend to eventually leading at the state and national level:

Develop a presentation proposal; submit  a session proposal to a conference. Get on the program at ILF or another organization. AASL meets every two years. Put together a detailed and logical plan - - persons reviewing proposals only have your documents to make a judgement about how well your presentation will be.  Once you have been accepted (you may have to submit more than one time to get on a program), then follow through with an outstanding presentation. Over plan rather than under plan, anticipate need for contingencies - plan for unexpected events. If you use a PowerPoint presentation,  insure that it is rich and detailed, contains lots of visuals, and does not overly rely on text bullet lists (there are lots of good resources for designing and developing presentations). Incorporate appropriate multimedia elements (audio, video clips) in addition to images, photos and graphs. If the same information remains on the screen too long (15-20 seconds or longer), know that some of your audience's eyes and minds begin to glaze over. Break up those audience-losing-spans by chunking the information into bite-size amounts, inserting lots of examples, and providing a different viewpoint for the same concept or ideas. Remember that many people never make a presentation; the more that you do . . . the better you will become. And some of us begin developing those skills first in our school and school district by taking a role in staff development.

Volunteer for a committee or task in your professional association; i.e., serve on a committee (contact the President or President-elect and make them aware of your interest), help with a student media fair / festival, get involved with planning / facilitating a professional conference or meeting. Again this will add to your professional support network and expand your leadership skill and experience.

Write an article for a professional journal. Find and follow the online guidelines for each specific publication. Editors of School Library Monthly (formerly SLAMM), Teacher Librarian, School Library Journal, Crinkles, and other publications are looking for new material with fresh viewpoints, ideas, and examples. Don't forget the journals of your state associations.

Create, develop, write. Keep a professional journal; write down your thoughts and ideas. That can be a private journal or a public blog or website. Again writers become better writers how - - by writing. I'm largely thinking of writing in the arena of the school library media professions, but don't bound yourself there if your interest takes you to other fiction, poetry, non-fiction writing.

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Read More About It

Harvey II, C. The Rookie. School Library Journal, Sept. 2004; 50(9), 50-53. (Access Requires Login)
This article has several strategies to help school library media specialists survive in their first year of work.

Johnson, D.. Where to Start as a Writer for Professional Publications. Blue Skunk Blog (Dec 2009).

Become familiar with the following professional resources (Introduced earlier on this webpage):

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