Vision over Small Things

In 2010, I had the pleasure and honor of opening a new middle school in my district. I would be the first choir director of this school and would build its program. After two years, our first principal got a job as Assistant Superintendent for Student Engagement. Our new incoming principal, before the end of that year, sent a survey to the staff asking for our opinion as to the needs of the school or changes we would like to see. When we met him for the first time in the Fall, his observations of the survey were sobering. The feedback given by the staff, outlining changes they would like to see, were specific in nature, but did not address an overall vision of what the school and students in it could achieve. Later, he did something that would become an annual tradition during his tenure at our school. He read a book called, The Spyglass : A Book about Faith, by Richard Paul Evans. In this book, a king rules over a kingdom that is in ruin. A man comes to the kingdom and after having been given room and board in the palace, offers the king the spyglass. Through the spyglass, the king sees a bountiful and flourishing kingdom. This represents what the kingdom could be. The lesson of this gorgeously illustrated picture book, is that in order to achieve success or bountifulness, there must first be a vision.

In the brief, yet powerful IASL session, “Achieving transformational change in the school library,” Green states that if one wants powerful, meaningful change, a few things need to be realized:

  1. There are two types of changes
    1. First-order changes – small improvements but do not change the “system’s core”
    2. Second-order changes – “transformational” and are “deep and meaningful changes” in the system.

2. Change takes time – When one comes up with their vision, it may not take one, two or three years. It may be a goal and vision of one’s career

3. Try to align the library’s vision with the vision and strategic planning of the school, and/ or district. (Green, 2021)

When my new principal polled the staff about changes they would like to see, I suspect the responses he saw were “first-order” changes. For the staff, the annual reading of The Spyglass: A Book about Faith, was powerful. It demonstrated that in order to exact change, there has to be a vision shared with the community, in our case, teachers. This is powerful for current and future librarians, because as Green points out, it is likely that not everyone will support the changes you want. But if you share your vision and that vision aligns with their vision, insofar as the students are concerned, that will make your case more compelling and cooperative. That consequently, will help your vision become a reality.

This year will likely be my last year as a choir director before becoming a school librarian. In these last weeks of summer, it is easy to think of my beginning of the year to-do lists. It is easy to focus on second-order changes – how do we want to arrange seats, how should we go about “giving” music to students? However, through the lens presented by Green, I recognize the difference between these little changes and transformational changes. I am excited to spend ample time considering my second-order changes in addition to my first-order changes. What is my vision for this year and beyond? These reflections, musings, and short and long term goals will be the real precursor to change.

Green, L. (2021, July 12-16). Achieving transformational change in the school library. [Conference session]. IASL 2021 Annual Conference, Denton, Texas, United States.

Take Down the Celebrities, Display the Students

How have you displayed inclusiveness, cultural competence or a support of individual and group perspectives during your practicum hours?> What changes could you make to the library to make it more accessible to people with special needs

In one of my Master’s classes, we discussed various elements of library design, ranging from Universal Design for Learning, having a variety of spaces (ex. small group, large group) and how to utilize space.

One particularly poignant video I remember watching was how one library was redesigned to truly represent their users. One of the most poignant aspects of this was that students who attended the school were photographed in various poses. These photographs were them blown up and displayed on the wall of the library as a sort of mural. Imagine, then, having a library that not only strives to represent its students in the books they choose, but to have its very own users adorning the walls.

The casual chat

One day, when I was chatting with the librarian at my school, she mentioned that she wanted to replace the READ posters that adorned our library walls with more up to date posters. READ posters are from ALA (American Library Association) and tend to showcase celebrities reading or holding a book. She lamented that due to district vendor limitations, she was unable to order new ones to update them. I mentioned to her the idea of displaying students.

I asked my husband, who has an eye for photo taking and an owner of a camera of much higher quality than my phone, to help.

We included the information in the announcements which ran for two weeks. It read as follows:

“Attention Students. Do you love to read? Do you want to share your love of reading? The library would like to update their READ posters that are on display in the library. These are the posters that reason on teh bookshelves and are of various celebrities, from cellist Yo-Yo Ma to actors from the Twilight movies. We would like to update these posters to showcase actual students holding their favorite book. If you are interested in a chance to be on display in teh library for years to come, please see us. You will need to fill out a form and permission slip.”

A total of 14 students submitted permission slips.

In addition to students, the library came up with the idea that showcasing our past and present principals would also be awesome.

The day of the photo shoot arrived and students and principals arrived with their favorite books in hand. Students and adults posed proudly with their favorite book around the school and in various places in the library.

After a few follow up photos of students and adults that could not make the initial shoot, we wrapped up our photos and our CTA began printing.

The result was incredible and feedback has been extremely positive.

Meet and greet …and elevator speech

Today, teachers were invited to meet and greet some new members of the district who work in the administration building. When I walked into the “meet and greet,” I walked straight to my former principals, laughing, catching up and saying hello. I shared with them that I was completing my Masters to be a librarian. To this, another staff member who was nearby, said what I have heard before, which is that libraries must be quiet spaces. I laughed and responded with, “actually, libraries are really more like learning commons and learning centers where engagement should be encouraged.” So there it was, not a defiance, but informing a stakeholder that libraries are different.

These are going to be realities I face, and I am so pumped to start changing mindsets one elevator speech at a time. Things to consider:

  • I need to brush up on my elevator speech.
  • Once I get my first position, I need to make a plan for how and what data I will collect to share how the library adds value and impacts student learning.
  • I need to have a quick succinct verbal example of what evidence I have collected to tell stakeholders.
  • I need to keep a friendly and cool countenance and work to not get defensive.

Is blogging really the way to go?

It has been therapeutic, challenging and rewarding to maintain this ePortfolio. Is blogging really the way to go? Even as I went over the bloggers I had initially started following in 2019, many of them are no longer blogging. One person, said, I blog for money now, and directed their readers to a professional journal. I wonder, would it be better to podcast? Or should I consider posting my work and thoughts on instagram or twitter? Something to consider.

Creating a welcome place for Staff

During our Fall social emotional learning (SEL) professional development, my co-worker and I moderated a community circle of a small group of staff members. The purpose of this community circle was to “unpack” our experience with doing a privilege walk with these fellow staff members. Our community circle questions included:

1.     What happened

2.    How did this exercise make you feel

3.    What were your thoughts as you did this exercise

4.    What have you learned from this experience

5.    What can you do with this information in the future

Many staff members were candid, honest and vulnerable about how the privilege walk made them feel and various staff members shared about their experiences. In regards to the final question, of “what can you do with this information in the future?” many staff members talked about how they wish/would like to speak more regularly to other staff members. One of these people was librarian at my school. 

After the SEL professional development, I asked her if she would be open to hosting a type of meet and greet with treats, inviting staff members to come to the library. The purpose would have the following goals:

  1. Offer the experience to staff members that the library is a:
    1. place to socialize and mingle
    2. place that offers reading for pleasure
    3. place that offers literature on professional development topics
    4. increase circulation of professional non-professional literature from staff


A few of the standards this event addressed were:


Before the event, Karen polled the staff with a google form asking:

  • My favorite Middle School book or series was:
  • My favorite book or series as an adult has been
  • The most helpful book I have read and used during my educational career has been

From here, Karen made a display and eventually pulled books for our display to the staff.

The day before the event, we went to the store and purchased a box of pastries, marshmallows, and hot chocolate mix. I locked my keys in my car as well, which was a type of fun.

We did not have a very high expectation for turn out. It was the day before Winter Break and teachers were MAP testing, which means they needed to be in their rooms to get ready for students to arrive to test. In addition, in my own mind, with all sorts of treats in the lounge, I thought the teachers might be burned out on more treats.

What happened was magical. As soon as we opened our doors with our little spread, a little Christmas tree and Holiday music playing in the background the teachers started coming in. In total, almost 20 staff members showed up.

I had four conversations with staff members not only about their favorite books, but about their journey in their love of reading. Our librarian also had a few casual converstations about books with other staff members. At one point, in the first time I can even remember, a group of teachers sat themselves and chatted.

In total, only one YA Historical Fiction book was circulated, but with engagement, discussions about literature and creating relationships, it was a great start.

Staff Members AttendedNumber of Materials Circulated
Chatting in the library #librarymagic
Fellow teacher browsing our little book displays
My music team, stopping by to support me


While there was only one book circulated during this event, I believe that the impact was incredibly positive and powerful. During the event, for the first time since the pandemic, I saw teachers mingling among the books, sharing their love of reading, and just chatting. Comments from emails included, “Thank you, it truly was a great way to start the day,” “Thank you for hosting,” and “Thank you for doing this” (J. Boutemy, S. Brozak & V. Franco, personal Communication, 12/16/2021).

Going forward, I plan to co-host and organize monthly staff events. The next one will hopefully be:

I look forward to not only promoting the services of the library, but changing the perception of some very important stakeholders, the staff.


American Association of School Librarians. (2018). AASL Standards Framework for Learners. In National School Library Standards.

National Policy Board for Educational Administration (2015). Professional Standards for Educational Leaders.

Say what now?

How would you react to ideas that go directly against what you thought to be true? In my time while obtaining my master’s in library science, I have come to consider the library the beacon of truth, a place that fights injustice and promotes equality. In addition, to this, my idea of the library has been a romanticized by my experiences. In my mission statement when I submitted my entrance documents to become a student at UNT in the library science master’s program, I stated that the library is a “piazza.” Weigand’s keynote address, and follow up comments and reactions from other library professionals challenged some of my preexisting views on the library, its history and its role in the school.

Romanticized library history

One of the things that Weigand points out is that his book American Public School Librarianship: A History, to come out in the Fall of 2021, there has not yet been a comprehensive history of school libraries in the United States. In his research, he found instances in which the library, “Most of our history shows our professional discourse to be very positive, to be cautious of addressing issues that perplex us.” (2021, 01:20). He then goes on to talk about a story of a black library supervisor, Carrie Coleman Robinson (See Image 1) who was in charge of black segregated libraries in the south. When bringing to light discrimination, and filing suit. Weigand points out that up until this point, the library associations had not dealt with the issue with segregated schools. Then, when the Black Caucus asked the ALA to make a statement about Robinson’s case, they refused. In my mind, this casts a dark shadow on what I believed about the school library as an organization. In one of my first blogposts, I commented on how impressed I was about the comprehensiveness of the ALA and AASL resources and statements. It is important to note, however, that these organizations have evolved. When George Floyd was murdered, and the Black Lives Matter movement was again in full effect, organizations, such as the ALA issued statements about this movement, definitions of terms, and links to resources to take action, from police reform to racial equity in the library. In addition, the ALA admits that in terms of diversity, “the librarian profession suffers from a persistent lack of racial and ethnic diversity that shows few signs of improving” (“Libraries Respond,” 2021). This, now to my understanding, is a transparency that is necessary to uphold the so called values of the library.

Carrie Coleman Robinson, Image 1

The Library is the Heart of the school?

The second challenge to my mind is the tendency to compare the library to a human organ. Ross Todd said, “I have read the school library being the heart…brains of the school….I cringe when I hear these terms…I think it is a really timely challenge for us all to think about the language and labels that we ascribe to what we value (01:54). Ross then goes on to suggest that using this way in referring to the library “puts us in competition…[and] isolates us rather than integrates us” (Ross, 2020, 01:55). When he said this, it really stopped me because for the past three years, I have been espousing this idea that the library should be the heart, and hub and brain, and piazza and skeleton of the school. While I still need time to reflect on these comments, I agree with Ross’s statement. Aren’t we lessening the vitalness of the music class, the ELA class, the science class. Perhaps then, we as librarians should start to view each class as its own person, as its own body with a heart, brain, etc. I don’t have an apt metaphor for the library in this new view that I have, but I’ll be working on that.

Maybe we shouldn’t consider the library as the heart of the school…just saying.
Image by un-perfekt from Pixabay


Weigand, W. (2021, July 12-16). Conference opening ceremony and keynote address by Wayne Weigand and panel [Virtual presentation]. International Association of School Librarianship, Denton, Texas, United States.

Libraries respond: Black lives matter. (2020, June 3). American Library Association.

Separate – and unequal. (2020, October 6). American Libraries.

Adovcating the library to … your parents

Under slept from a year of baby #2 who struggled immensely to sleep through the night, and trying to be relaxed as I faced my last summer of courses for my master’s, we climbed into the Nissan Rouge, my husband, my 1 year old and my 3 year old, and our 17 year old Dachshund on a 516 mile journey to the Rio Grande Valley, the place where my husband and I are from. In this plan, my children and I will be staying with my mother for four weeks – mainly to achieve two objectives – having the kids spend ample grandparent time after a year of quarantine and for help watching them while I worked on my classes.

It proved to be a good choice. Each day, one set of grandparents helped watch the kids for a few hours while I got classwork done. Good memories were made as well.

My little guy sweeping my moms kitchen.
A weekend trip to South Padre Island.

However, some of the most notable memories were are related to my parents and their view of the library. This summer I am taking INFO 5420: Introduction to Youth Literature, where, you guessed it, there is quite a bit of reading – 25 books total (although 15 of those are within the Pre K-6th range). This proved to be quite challenging for two reasons:

  1. Not every book I needed/ wanted was available as an ebook or audiobook
  2. I am not a resident of Edinburg, Texas, so cannot check out books.

If I am being completely honest, I could get away with checking out books in another city. Plano libraries have kiosks where one only has to put in their library card number and last fours digits of their telephone and off they go.

So, in order to check out the books I needed, I had to ask my parents to take me to the library. My parents do NOT frequent the library in any capacity.


When I first arrived to Edinburg, I first wanted to go to the library not to obtain books for my class, but to obtain books to read to my daughter and son. My mom paused and looked at me quizzically, “Vanessa, I have all the Golden books from when you were a child!” It took me a moment to bounce back from this. While that may be true, I had some questions –

Where are the stories of Latinos in the Golden Books of yesteryear (1980s)

Where are the representations of Native Americans, Black Americans, Asian Americans, LGBTQ communtity, people with disabilities?

Where are the representations of science, and more acutely, the representations of women in science?

Where are the representations of being kind and good to yourself and others?

No, the Golden Books are not good enough for me, and they are not good enough for my kids and they are not good enough for young people.


My dear dad did not finish high school, but he reads everyday. He reads the newspaper front to back and had been, surprisingly to me, a champion for underrepresented people and minorities. I ask him for help, trying to give my mom a break for waiting for me as I browse the library. My dad arrives and helps me out my pushing the baby around in the stroller, an impressive feat for him, who never changed a diaper in his life. I find the books I wanted and we both go up to the circulation desk. It turns out that he already had a library card, but needs a replacement card. I pay for the replacement card. After the staff check out my/his books, my dad asks:

“So how what do we owe you?”

“Excuse me?”

“How much for the books?”

“Oh, sir, they are free”

“Wow, well that’s just great. Thank you very much.”

So there it is. My dad did not know that library books are free.

This anecdote, unfortunately, is representative of a much larger demographic.

How does one, whether a person, school library, public library or academic library, advocate for the innumerable benefits of the library? Through the lends of brand advocacy, where the library is conceptualized as a capitalistic establishment that has tangible value. In the article, “Community connections: Advocating for libraries through effective brand advocacy,” Singh and Trinchetta focus on three strategies to this brand advocacy – word of mouth, branding and advocacy. The first of these “represents one of the most influential sources of information transfer by consumers” (Sing & Trinchetta, 2020, p. 296). Though literal word of mouth is of tremendous benefit, a strong social media presence is essential.

” branding can evoke a memory,
a collection of feelings, associations, experiences, and behaviors – a perception,
when people think of their libraries

School libraries can be extensions of advocates for the public library. In one librarian’s web page, there were easy to access links to the plano public library. In another, I saw public library summer reading challenges offered to students in their last days of the school year.

My parents might not become “Friends” of their library or help volunteer at events, but perhaps their summer exposure introduced them to what the library can begin to offer.


Singh, R. & Trinchetta, G. G. (2020) Community connections: Advocating for libraries through effective brand advocacy.  Public Library Quarterly, 39:4, 295-309, DOI: 10.1080/01616846.2019.1613626

You need a degree for that?

I was on my way to get a haircut after nearly 7 months of neglecting to do so. 

I had chopped my hair off to make my life easier for my current chapter of my life (work, school, kid, trying to live healthy). While I take time to workout, cook my meals and sleep, I do not take the same time to cut my hair, do my nails, go shopping. So, I made an appointment with my hair dresser and here is what transpired, in the form of a play:

Scene One: Saturday afternoon, unnamed Salon and Spa, woman’s head is resting on a shampoo bowl, another woman is starting to wash her hair.

Hair Stylist: What’s new with you?

Me: You know, working and I’m still working on getting my Master’s in Library Science 

Hair Stylist: You know, if I were to make any cuts to the federal budget, that would be one of the first two things to go: library and postal service. I mean, we should just get rid of the mail getting delivered on Saturdays

Me: ….. [surprised, but calm] Ok, do you every go to the library?

Hair Stylist: No, I haven’t set foot in the library in years. 

Me: I’m excited about it because the library serves so many in the community. It is a place where you have access to Wi-fi, books, and all these services for people with different needs

Hair Stylist: [changes subject]

Scene Two: Sunday evening, house of my relative, eating barbeque, potato salad and grilled vegetables

Me: So I’ve decided to get my Master’s in Library Science, to become a school librarian. 

Relative: A librarian? You have to go to school for that? ….Listen, all you need to know is this, “Shhhhh!”

Me: [chuckles uncomfortably] Actually libraries are super different now, they are places to meet and learn and create and they offer lots of services to people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to them.

Relative: [changes subject]

As a musician and educator, I never remember feeling that someone verbally lessened my career. When I experienced these interactions above, I was not shocked, but mildly surprised. In INFO 5001, I was exposed to ALA’s elevator speeches. I noted how proactive ALA was about forms of advocacy such as these.

 Here are the questions that quickly came to my mind upon further reflection:

Were my responses to these comments succinct, thoughtful? Were they a positive, and compelling response? Was I responding as an advocate for the library?

Am I prepared, verbally, to react to comments such as the ones above? 

These people were close and comfortable being open and honest with me. How can I be proactive about advocacy about a large community that might not be as vocal about their thoughts on the library? 

Advocacy or #whendidthe AASLgettheirducksinarow?

As a non-native to the literacy teaching world, I am impressed with the content to which I have been led by Module 5: Advocacy. I am checking out all these toolkits that they offer: “School Librarians Role in Reading Toolkit”, “School Library Health and Wellness Toolkit” and “Parent Advocate Toolkit”, just to name a few of my open tabs.

The link I have just spent a few moments on is entitled, “Elevator Speeches.” The criteria to be an elevator speech is a speech that is 100-150 words and answers questions such as, “What the product, service, or project is” and, “Who you are and why you will be successful.” As you scroll down, you then see actual examples of what your “elevator speech” can be depending on the audience. 

Where were these elevator speeches when I first started teaching? I remember so often in my first years of teaching trying to come up with words to get my message of music advocacy across. I always felt it came across as jumbled and incoherent. Even now, I don’t think I could give an elevator speech for my craft. 

Dear AASL, 

When did you get your act together? When did you realize that in order to keep the school library relevant, you needed to make all sorts of tool kits? When did you realize that with all the things a teacher librarian has to do, creating sites that can quickly address advocacy to stakeholders was something that you’d take care of for all of them? 

AASL, I know you are not one person, but I like to anthropomorphize organizations like you. You’re so amazing. You know your purpose. You are here to help. You are here to serve the world of library. You are here to serve students. As some of my colleagues say, “Yaaaasss!”