The Role of Library Media Specialists as Decision-Makers

Instructor: Susan Graziano

Susan has taught high school English and has worked as a school administrator. She has a doctorate in Educational Leadership.

School library media specialists are school and district leaders. In this lesson, you will learn about ways that you can establish yourself in your role as a leader and decision-maker.

Collaborative Leadership

Cecilia is a library media specialist at a local high school. She collaborates regularly with colleagues, presents monthly reports to the school board, and frequently consults with the school administration to discuss possible improvements to her program. By all accounts, Cecilia is an involved staff member who truly values and enjoys her role in the school as the library media specialist.

Like Cecilia, most library media specialists underestimate their role as leaders in the school building and the school district. Effective library media specialists are collaborative. Highly effective library media specialists are collaborative leaders. Today, you will learn more about the importance of the library media specialist's role in shared site-based decision-making and ways in which school library media specialists can develop and foster their presence as leaders.

Leadership at the School Level

School staff members often view the library media specialist as the resident expert on media and information technology, for good reason. Library media specialists have received specific training on information resources, information technology, and best research practices.

Offer Support

School library media specialists should embrace this role as the expert and offer support whenever possible. You can offer to teach a lesson on research to students, visit classrooms to demonstrate navigating the internet or available databases, organize and conduct an orientation scavenger hunt for incoming students, and the list goes on. You, as a library media specialist, are a resource and a wealth of information.

A library media specialist can offer students a specialized teaching session

School Committees

Library media specialists should also volunteer to sit on relevant school committees. School committees are organized groups that meet on a regular basis to work toward a particular goal or set of goals. You are not limited to one committee per person, either. While you do not want to overextend yourself, it's a good idea to become involved in committees that are of particular interest to you. These may not be specific to the library media center. For example, your school likely has a school improvement team. Your voice is valuable at this table because you are part of the school's program and interact with the entire school population, both students and staff members. You can offer a school-wide perspective, while other staff members cannot.

It's also good practice to start a committee specific to the library media center. You are regularly making decisions that will affect the school community relating to the library's budget, the information resources available, and the ways in which teachers and students are able to access the resources in the library media center. As a result, you should extend the offer to collaborate with other members of the school community, including staff, administration, students, parents, and community members. This type of collaboration will empower you as a building leader.

Leadership at the District Level and Beyond

An effective school library media specialist will seek ways to empower the school community beyond his or her assigned school building. There are a variety of ways to make this happen. Following are some suggestions that may help you to establish leadership across the school district.

Monthly Board Reports

Board reports are reports that are prepared and presented to the school board to inform this decision-making body of the current status of a particular program or initiative. You want to go beyond a one-page document detailing your circulation and usage statistics. If possible, create a presentation that has student pictures, student work samples, student and staff testimonials, and results from a survey you recently sent out. You want to highlight your successes while focusing on continuous improvement of your program. If this is not possible on a monthly basis, ask the building principal if you could present on a semi-annual basis.

Professional Collaboration

Collaborate with other school library media specialists. This not only applies to your school district, but also to other districts. Thanks to the invention of the internet, you can virtually connect with people all over the globe. The more people you consult, the more ideas you will generate.

Network at Conferences

Volunteer to attend or present at county, state, or even national conferences. You are (or should be) a member of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), a national professional organization for school librarians. Use this to your advantage and start to cast a wider net than just your school district.

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