Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Librarians and Leadership: The Change We Seek

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Librarians and Leadership: The Change We Seek

Article excerpt

School librarian preparation programs must prepare the twenty-first century school librarian to confront the evolving changes that are facing our profession. The need for change in our traditional roles to meet demands of our profession is evident, and we have opportunity to shape the change we seek by developing emergent school library leaders during their pre-service library education programs. In this study, the researchers surveyed a sample group of school librarians about their perceptions of leadership development within their graduate education program. The results of the study suggested that increased emphasis on leadership development in graduate school library programs will more effectively prepare school librarians for service as educational leaders, change agents in the curriculum and instructional process, and partners at both the local school and wider global communities.

Introduction

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change we seek.

- President Barack Obama, February 5, 2008

Change in the 21st century is front-page news. The need to adjust, evolve, respond, and react to both positive and negative influences demands changes in the ways we work and play. Effective change, however, requires effective leadership. A looming question for those in librarian preparation programs concerns whether or not our graduate programs are adequately addressing the concept of leadership. What defines leadership for the librarian working to effect progressive change for schools, and how can that leadership be instilled? The optimum future development of library science skills and practices in conjunction with the development of leadership skills depends upon an answer to these questions.

Like the doomed fishing boat, the Andrea Gail in Junger's The Perfect Storm, school librarians now face their own "rogue wave" in the form of fundamental changes to their traditional roles. Our own perfect storm is driven by the digital revolution, "No Child Left Behind" (2008), severe budget deficits, competition with singularly focused charter schools, burgeoning media access and evolving literacy issues. In order to prevent the profession from suffering the fate of the Andrea Gail, every effort must be made to develop effective librarians who will be powerful leaders within their schools. To explore concerns about leadership development for school librarians, this study examined the extent to which a sample group of practicing school librarians in the southeastern part of the United States believed they were prepared for leadership through their academic preparation.

Realities for 21st Century Practice

School librarians must adapt rapidly to fundamental shifts in the environment, or the profession risks being marginalized. The best, perhaps the only way, to weather our own perfect storm is by developing emergent school library leaders during their library education. Plummeting budgets, increasing demands, failing schools, rising drop-out rates, out-of touch administrators, legislators, and other principal leaders, are among the factors creating the need for a re-examination of the concept of leadership in schools educating students 4-18 years of age. A sense of urgency should pervade professional school librarians as we meet these challenges (Valenza & Johnson, 2009).

Historically, the school librarian's role has centered on the promotion and use of resources and media accessible within or from the library. This role has expanded along with learners' access to all forms of ubiquitous information media. The greater emphasis today on teaching students to learn to think critically demands increased interaction with other professionals, including teachers, administrators and peer librarians. The need for change in our traditional roles to meet demands of our profession is evident, and we have opportunity to shape the change we seek through knowledge, skills, and leadership. …

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