Whether you're planning a Reading Month promotion, designing a new layout for your nonfiction book collection, or developing a technology plan for your entire school district, the problem solving process is the same.
Of course the length of the process and complexity of the solution will vary depending on the project, but the data that you collect and the stages you go through will be similar.
When is planning important?
Program planning is not a "one shot" activity done at the beginning of the year or when applying for a grant. As you consider all the aspects of your role as a library media specialist, always keep in mind the importance of taking a systematic approach to problem solving.
Example - as you design your materials collection, you'll need to identify the strong and weak areas of your collection, establish program goals, make selection decisions, acquire materials, and evaluate the collection.
Example - as you develop a volunteer program, you must identify where you need help, recruit potential volunteers, match people with tasks, provide training, and examine the results.
Example - as you plan your budget, you should examine the financial needs of the program, establish priorities, make decisions, and refine the budget.
Example - as you collaborate with teachers on unit planning, you'll identify standards, analyze learners, select materials, develop lessons, and assess students.
All of these planning activities involve collaboration with various members of the learning community.
What are the steps in planning?
Regardless of whether you're planning a lesson, presentation, event, or promotional activity, the process is the same.
- Connect to mission (objective, goal)
- Analyze needs
- Explore evidence-based approaches
Connect to Mission. The foundations of your program can be found in your mission statement and supporting materials such these documents from the American Library Association:
- How does your program mission connect with the overall mission of the school?
- Example - the superintendent is heading a program focusing on student motivation. The teacher librarian sees a connection with Information Literacy
- How does your program mission connect with departments and areas within the school?
- Example - both the library media specialist and the guidance counselor are concerned about social responsibility of students
To learn more, explore the section of this course called The Library Media Program.
Analyze Needs. Conduct an analysis of those activities that are already established in your school. There are probably many excellent projects and promotions already happening on your school's calendar. The annual science fair and media fair are two examples. Your school may have a long traditional of promoting Reading Month or Black History Month.
- What activities, projects, or promotions are already established in your school?
- Example - each semester your middle school focuses on a curriculum-wide theme such as recycling or respect.
- How could you collaborate with these established programs to address your mission? How could you apply the strength of these activities to your program activities?
- Example - the library media specialist is collaborating with the science teacher on ideas to connect information inquiry with scientific inquiry related to science fair projects.
- What major events or concepts are overlooked? Which of the information literacy standards is not being applied in a particular curriculum area?
- Example - all the high school teachers are concerned about plagiarism, but no one is really leading an initiative to address the issue. The teacher librarian decides that this is the time to take a proactive role.
- What could you initiate that might get others involved in one of these under served areas?
- Example - the county zoo has a new director. After years of neglect, they plan to turn the zoo into a nature preserve. You initiate a project with the environmental science teacher that involves students with authentic data collection and knowledge generation (Information Literacy Standard 6).
Library Advisory Council
In similar vein to" it's a good idea to have someone (your advisor, a friend who is an experienced school librarian) look over your resume before you actively begin your job search", once you have that library media job, an advisory council for your school library program is strongly recommended. Advisory groups are known by various names; i.e., council, committee. They are not just for public and academic libraries. School libraries need them too.
Include representatives of teachers, administration, students, and parents.
Who would you have for your library?
How often would they meet - monthly, 2 or 3 times per year, once a year?
Involve them with short and long term planning process?
Get more ideas about a library advisory group. Find why a library advisory committee is recommended and how to get one started. Read Natalie Teske's (Jan. 2010) article: Library Advisory Councils. Library Media Connection; 28(4), 40-1. (Access requires login).
Advisory committees work best if they are given clear directions and know that their input and advise is needed and appreciated. However they are not a group for making final decisions; rather they are used to get a more rounded perspective and to advise the school library media program.
Explore Evidence-based Approach. Explore all the potential ways that you might address the need you have identified. Then, select an approach.
- What practices, techniques, and strategies have you tried in the past?
- Example - you've found that the local public library is easy to work with and willing to get involved in projects.
- What evidence have you collected that supports the approach you are considering?
- Example - although you'd prefer a Monday meeting, you've found that teachers in your building are more likely to attend a short after-school in service workshop on Tuesday than any other day of the week. You schedule it for a Tuesday.
- What does the research say is most efficient and effective?
- Example - the research shows that audiobooks are an effective tool for increasing reading fluency. The project will use the READ 180 Scholastic program.
To learn more, explore the section of this course called Evidence-based Decision making.
Plan. Collaboratively develop a blueprint of your lesson, presentation, grant proposal, event, project, or activity. This may involve a formal committee of people or an informal group of interested members of the learning community. The key is to build buy-in from all the parties that will be actively involved. Everyone should have a sense of ownership and commitment to the success of the project.
Your plan should address the following areas:
- What are the goals and specific objectives?
- Example - students will connect the events of the Civil War to local issues and events of the time period.
- What are the activities?
- Example - students will work with the local historic society to create a digital record of the Civil War collection.
- What is the timeline (i.e., schedule, person with responsibility)?
- Example - Historical society representatives will be working at stations in the library from 1-4PM each day for the second weeks in October.
- What is the budget (i.e., item, justification, department account, specifications, cost)?
- Example - the American Founder dolls will be purchased with book fair budget money and used as part of the primary source documents learning station (Social Studies - Grade 4).
Implement. Do it. Hold the event, teach the lessons, or submit the proposal. Follow the plan and revise it as needed. Collect data along that way that can be used to make future evidence-based decisions.
- What data will be collected during implementation?
- Example - students will keep an inquiry journal.
To learn more, explore the section of this course called Approaches to Data Collection.
Evaluate. Collect data about the strengths and weaknesses of the program. Reflect on the experience and consider the future.
- What were the strengths and weaknesses of the program?
- Example - it took students longer to build their concept maps than we had anticipated.
- Based on the experience, what should be done next?
- Example - the media fair was a success. Next year we need to recruit more high school level entries.
Do I need a master plan that encompasses everything?
When library media positions are eliminated at school board meetings each spring and budgets continue to be cut, a good plan can determine the life or death of your program. Planning is essential for survival in a rapidly changing world. Your center needs a master plan that can serve as the overall guide for program operations. This plan will guide the problem solving process for other projects and ensure that your individual projects and programs all fit together into a unified voice.
Comprehensive. A comprehensive plan must be far-reaching and encompass the entire learning community. Rather than focusing on the details of book collections or library promotions, a comprehensive plan provides a big picture of the key elements that contribute to an effective library media program.
Example - the teacher librarian develops a wheel diagram with the children in the hub, five spokes representing five goals, and the learning community as the rim.
Collaborative. A teacher librarian can't develop a comprehensive plan in isolation. Partnerships must be established with all the members of the learning community connected to the library media program.
Example - the library media specialist develops an advisory team including teachers, administrators, students, parents, and community members. Rather than traditional meetings, a discussion forum is established for sharing ideas and reviewing drafts.
Long-Range. A teacher librarian needs to think in terms of both short and long term goals. Rather than a series of initiatives and projects, consider developing a program that evolves over time and builds on the growing skills, experiences, and resources of the learning community.
Example - the library media specialist teams with the public library to develop an ongoing relationship that begins with sharing resources and evolves into the development of cooperative programs over several years.
Read School and Public Library Relationships: Essential Ingredients in Implementing Educational Reforms and Improving Student Learning (2000) (Access requires Login) by S.A. Fitzgibbons in School Library Media Research; 3. This paper explores the range of successful, cooperative relationships between public libraries and school library media centers.
Strategic. A strategic plan not only details goals and objectives, but also places emphasis on specific activities and actions. This plan involves an assessment of current strengths and weaknesses, identification of specific goals, an examination of opportunities, and immediate and future calls for action. Focusing on the dynamic nature of your center, a strategic plan explores all aspects of your program including staffing, budgeting, programs, and technology.
The strategic planning process calls for much more than a document. It calls for:
- Analysis and Assessment - identify current conditions, strengths and weaknesses
- Strategy Formation - create plan
- Implementation - develop programs and take action
- Evaluation - monitor progress and make adjustments
Example - the teacher librarian create charts within the plan detailing the who, what, where, when, and why for each activity planned.
What do school library media plans look like?
What is the mission of the library media program? What are the goals and specific objectives for the library media program and how will these be evaluated? What does an action plan look like?
Examine the following resources. Compare the elements of each plan.
Select an action plan to evaluate. Critique this action plan.
What are the strengths and weaknesses? What suggestions would you provide?
Bennett, Harvey and Everhart, Nancy (Oct. 2003). Successful K-12 Technology Planning: Ten Essential Elements. Teacher Librarian; 31(1), 22-26.
Oberg, D. & Easton, E. (1995). Focus Group interviews: A Tool for Program Evaluation in School Library Education. Education for Information; 13(2), 117-129.
From the analysis of the focus group interview data, six themes emerged: taking a leadership role, developing the school library program, managing the program, coping with technology, sequencing of learning, and modeling and mentoring.
Hartzell, Gary (Nov. 2002). Controlling Your Own Destiny.
School Library Journal; 48(11), 37. (Access
Why vision and mission statements are indispensable.
Hartzell, Gary (Dec. 2002). Promises You Can’t
Keep. School Library Journal; 49(12), 29. (Access
There's only so much a librarian can realistically accomplish.
Friends Groups: Critical Support for School Libraries (2013) from United for Libraries: The Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations
IMPACT: Guidelines for North Carolina Media and Technology Programs from
the Instructional Technology Division, NC Department of Public Instruction
Minkel, Walter (Sept. 2002). Charting a Clear Course. School Library Journal; 48(9), 60. (Access requires login)
Curriculum mapping takes the guesswork out of what students are learning-and what they're not.
Preservation Services at Harvard Library.
School Library from the Iowa Department of Education
The Iowa Department of Education and the State Library of Iowa Task Force that included teacher librarians, AEA media professionals and others developed these supporting materials to help school librarians and school districts implement the Teacher Librarian Guidelines.
School Library Media Center Long-range Planning Guide (1999) for Massachusetts School Library Media Centers (PDF doc)