Saturday, April 30, 2011

The best way to ask

Not sure why I am currently reflecting on the 2002 Malaysian IASL conference so much, however I am going to share something I learned from Dr. Blanche Woolls at a pre-conferencw workshop titled "The best way to ask". Blanche has published "Grant Proposal Writing: A Handbook for School Library Media Specialists" 1986. (ISBN: 0313244405 / 0-313-24440-5) among other publications.

This was about advocacy and getting what you want from the system. It was about applying for funds, staffing, resources and getting what you need.

The first thing that was discussed was why don't we ask for what we want? Children ask and expect to be given... they know what to ask, how to ask and who to ask (Santa?). We usually do not ask because we are fearful of being rejected. Rejection is just another way of saying try again another way at another time.

The discussion then turned to how often we meet with our line managers and discuss what is happening in the library? (seems to be a constant theme), Blanch suggested that we have a brief outline or report of the previous month to give to the line manager outlining developments and problems or challenges that you encountered since the last meeting as a hard copy of the meeting discussion. Her reasoning was that people do not know your challenges unless you tell them, and if it is in writing, then they have a record and you can refer back to it. In this day of email, it could be an email follow up, or if you do not have a chance to meet regularly, a short summary could be submitted regularly.

An annual report is also imperative to help with your case.

If you have a paper trail of successes and challenges recorded, it allows for acknowledgment of the problems and successes and the long term record is noted. It also allows for a relationship to be built up.

The next part of her workshop was submitting a proposal to ask what you want and the steps in writing the proposal.

1st : Know what you want and why you want it. Is it a solution to a problem that you have had for a while? Has this problem been recorded earlier? How will changing things improve the situation? Will it lead to other problems or needs? Have you done any action research to document your cause? Do you need a survey? Counting heads? What data do you need and how will you get it?

2nd: Plan the proposal - there are a number of items that need to be included -
The problem / need, the solution, the cost, the benefits, long term cost, planning for implementation, how it will be implemented, who is involved, time line, deadlines if required, alternate options.

3rd: Write the proposal using business report styling and language. You may also want to present it in a different way such as a video, or presentation, but always have a written one as the follow up for the recipient.

4th : Timing is everything - submit it early in the week, early in the term or year, or at budget time the year before and submit personally to the right person. Who is the right person? That will be dependent on your school situation. A word of caution, if you need to ask the Parent body for money make sure you pass it by your line manager or Principal first - they do not like to be surprised in open forums!

Template idea: (Extracted from U.S.-Israel Science & Technology
Foundation : Tips on How to Write a Proposal

Executive Summary:The executive summary is a concise description of the project covering objectives, need, methodology, and dissemination plans. It should identify the expected outcomes of the project.
Need: Well-documented description of the problem to be addressed and why it is important. (need more staff? If you have volunteers come in do you log their hours? Document as much as you can) Has it been done before? Research what others are doing along the same lines and their results. Review and cite the research that has been conducted in this area.
Objectives: Indicate the expected outcomes of the project, preferably in measurable terms. What will be the result of these changes? In a school the argument is best addressed to the improved learning opportunities that will occur, a good tip is to also align it with a whole school goal for the year, or school mission statement etc. Make it pertinent.
Methods:This is the plan of action for how the objectives will be achieved.
Evaluation: Describes the means by which the grantee will know if the project has accomplished its objectives.
Timetable: Describe how long (days, months) specific tasks or components of the project.
Budget: Show the detailed annual and overall cost of the project will take.
I would also put in alternate solutions that have been considered and briefly explain why they would not be as effective, to show that you have thought this proposal through.

Some of the other considerations Blanche indicated that will help you in your cause are:
1. Be a good example of an information professional in every situation, at home, at work at meetings, at social events...
2. Love your library and be proud of your profession. Make sure YOU believe in the worth of your library and your services. Make sure you believe you should be telling others about it.
3. Know that you need to ask
4. Know that you are willing to ask
5. Know what you need to ask for and have supporting evidence for your request.

Another place to find a some ideas for what to cover in your proposal is here The Canadian Association There are many others that can be found online with a bit of searching.

An extract of a chapter on proposal writing can be found from the "The whole school library handbook" By Blanche Woolls, David V. Loertscher can be found on Google Books

On return to our school after the conference my then colleague Andrea Walker and I submitted a number of proposals for changes to the program, for staffing, and for funding and they were all approved. Empowering to say the least. I have since used the same method in applying for increased staffing, equipment, and professional development. I have not been successful in all my bids, but in most cases I have been.

Getting what you need or want takes time and planning - think long term, and think it through thoroughly ensuring you have all the data you need to make a compelling case.

Principals want solutions to problems, not to just be aware of the problems. If you have a problem, figure out the solution you want and how to achieve it, write a proposal to request it and you might just be surprised at the results. Otherwise, the solution that others come up with may not be quite what you expect or need.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Influence is ...

I am in the middle of the dubious pleasure of having to pack my house up to move out for some serious renovations, and in doing so I have thrown a lot out, and come across things that had been placed somewhere and forgotten about.

One of this hidden treasures was a handout that Suzette Boyd produced for the IASL Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2002 (way before conference material was put online for access later). This was my first conference as a TL, first IASL conference, first time presenting at a conference, and first international conference. What myself and my then colleague Andrea Walker learned at this conference helped us to change the way we worked in the school we were at, and, to achieve quite a few milestones in our library programme.

Suzette ran a workshop on "Power is not a dirty word" using Gary Hartzell's book "Building Influence for the school librarian" (Linworth Press. 1994) as the basis for her workshop. I did purchased the book after the workshop, and it has also been a huge influence on how I think and work at all the schools I have worked in. Suzette has also published her own work on building influence in a school The Connected Library If you are new to the school library scene, or need some help in figuring out how to get what you need, I suggest you find yourselves copies of these books and read them.

I am going to recreate here some of the questions from the 2002 workshop and Hartzell's book for your ponderings....warning they do require some deep thinking ....

1. Who influences you? Select three people who influence you not because of their authority over you, but because you like what they offer, you listen to them and admire them because of their personal characteristics or attributes. Can you name 5 characteristics about these people that together explain their ability to have influence with you?

Of these characteristics you have identified, how many do you think you have?

2. Who do you influence in the work space? Why? How do you know this? What characteristics do you have that make others want to be influenced by you?

3. How do you demonstrate influence as a teacher librarian within and outside your school?

4. Are their parts of your library program of services that the school community is indifferent to? If yes how do you know this?

5. What strategies have you put in place to ensure there is a minimum of indifference toward the library in your school?

6. What is your most effective sphere of influence outside the library and within the school?

7. Have you ever written an article for publication in a non-library journal, or presented at a non-library conference?

8. Do you take part in school politics / decisions? If so, are you comfortable with this? Are you in a leadership position in the school, outside of the library?

9. What tactics have you used to try to influence the behaviour of teachers? How successful were you?

10. If you had more influence in the school, what would be different?

11. What do you do to become personally visible at school?

12. What do you do that takes you out of the library role? Do you volunteer for things that may not be what you usually do?

13. What have you done to capture the support of parents?

The Principal
1. Do you believe the principal is aware of the real nature of your job?

2. What sort of feedback do you get from your Principal?

3. Do you have regularly scheduled meetings with your Principal?

4. How does the Principal support the library?

5. What strategies do you use when seeking support from your Principal?

Can you think of an occasion or incident when through your influence as a Teacher-Librarian, something changed, an innovation was introduced, or a problem was solved for the whole school community? If yes, how did you do it? If no, why not?

Can you increase your profile in the school to make yourself indispensable?
If you leave, will there will be huge hole left that will be hard to fill on a personal and professional level??

Finding these questions again has allowed me to pause and reflect on what, where and how I could improve. I wrote brief notes on the handout which include "need a well planned strategy", "ask forgiveness not permission", "be a risk taker" and "I have been appointed to implement change and this is part of my strategy". All very powerful statements on their own.

I also stumbled up this website The Nine spheres of influence which has a nice breakdown of the spheres that we can work in to increase influence with attached guidance on how this can be achieved. I think the spheres of expertise, coaching, relationships, vision and positive reinforcement are something that everyone in this field can be doing without trying too hard. Then you are only left with charisma, persuasion, authority and punishment - hopefully the last one won't be required.

There is also a quite amazing visual mindmap of how to become a person of influence. It has many verbs on action that can be taken, with very practical advice in the website IQ Matrix blog (you may want to explore this site for more amazing mindmaps).

Your School Library recently held an online conference on Evidence and Image, you can access the papers and conference discussion for $50USD. Gary Hartzell was one of the presenters along with Stephen Krashen, Keith Curry Lance, Buffy Hamilton, Carolyn Foote plus many others.

Having influence as a School Librarian makes a huge difference to what you can achieve, if you have a vision and influence, people will join you to help you achieve it if they believe in you and what you are doing.

"Influence: What you think you have until you try to use it." Welsh, Joan

Sigh ... back to packing boxes now to see what other gems I can find.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reader beware

Picture from 怀墨

As news unfolds about Greg Mortenson on 60 minutes and his alleged misrepresentation of himself and his story of "Three cups of tea" in Afghanistan, it brings to mind the book "Honor lost : love and death in modern-day Jordan" and how it was discovered that this 'true' story was a fabrication. Also, the book "A Million Little Pieces," by James Frey that was hailed publicly by Oprah as one of the most tragic lives and one of those books that could not be put down, was also found to be a work of extreme embellishment and fiction. There have been others that faced similar controversy, including "A Child called it" and its sequels.

Mortensons' story is used in our school as part of the 'Power of One' unit of inquiry with the year 5's, along with John Wood's "Room to Read" journey. It is extensively referred to in our secondary community service programme as how one person with a good idea can make a difference if they follow through with action. Mortenson's story is a good one, and one that is inspiring, so why are there parts of it that have been allegedly made up and, if this is case - who did add the fiction? Was it Mortenson? Was it the publisher? Does it matter?

I have been teaching evaluating information this year to years 7-10. Part of what I teach the students is that printed books generally go through editing and evaluation before they are published. All the checks and balances have been done by editors and researchers, so we can usually rely on the authenticity of the printed non-fiction word, whereas internet publishing does not go through so many checks, so we need to be the ones who check authenticity and accuracy after the publishing.

This latest controversy is a very sad state of affairs for not only publishers who do not perform the checks and balances, but for all of us who have read these books in the belief they were true, because the people we trusted told us they were.

We need to remember that the publishers are in the business of selling books, the more amazing story, the more books will sell, the more money will be made. We cannot seem to trust them with the research of autobiographies or biographies to check their authenticity and we need to rely on other agencies who have their own agenda such as 60 minutes, to try to keep the publishers honest. However, remember too that they have their own agenda - the more sensation - the more exposure, the more money.

As educators it has become even more urgent and important for us to be helping those under our charge to be critical thinkers, to question and to be aware of possible bias, agendas, lies. They need to approach everything with a little bit of wariness and discrimination.

I don't know what will happen with the allegations against Mortenson's story, I hope it is found to be as true as it can be, not only for the charities he has created and the people he helps, but so faith can be restored in the publishing industry and so young (and old) people can trust again.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

QR codes are go....

I have been thinking alot about QR codes for a while now, and how we could apply them in our library to start with, and then widen their use across campus. I wanted it to be something meaningful, that students would want to connect to, rather than just a fun or novelty thing to do that was cool without much substance.

I was checking reading age on some new books that had arrived, on the CMIS Evaluation website (which by the way is the most amazing database of childrens books esp for YA). As I was checking the information I thought that it would be interesting to make some QR codes that linked to the CMIS database reviews for each of the books. I opened a QR code generator randomly found on the internet Kaywa, placed the URL in the required space and generated a QR code. I then copied the QR code onto a word processing document and did the same for another 10 or so books and printed them off.

I then reflected on what I had created and if it was really what I wanted. I wanted students to have access to more than one review, preferably by their peers. I was racking my brain as to how to create such a beast without having to create a website for every book we have and then students having go to yet another place to review.

A light bulb went off in my head as I realised that we were already doing this in the form of Goodreads, which I have been encouraging the secondary students to use as a reading log. Now I had real purpose in my quest for creating QR codes to link with books.

I went back to the books I had already done, redid the QR codes to have a link to the individual book pages on Goodreads, copied and pasted them onto a word processing page and printed them out. Now what to do with them?

I wanted them to be attached to these new books, but the codes I had made were too large to place on the outside of the book, so I then had to find how small they could be to still be useful and work, but large enough to be noticed. Using my iphone QR reader i-nigma 4 I checked various sizes and found that about 2.5cm squared was just the right size to place on the back of a book. We then cut them out and glued the codes onto the books in the bottom left hand corner on the back of the book, ready for cataloging and covering.

Linking the QR codes to Goodreads will allow the students to see the book description and reviews and when they have finished, to scan the QR code and enter their own review, making the process of keeping a reading log so much easier.

The process is somewhat labour intensive, as you need to go to Goodreads, search the book title, copy the URL, open the QR generator window, paste the URL, copy the QR code image, open a word processor window, paste the QR code image. Continue until all the books have been processed in this way, print off the page or codes, cut out the code (we could print them straight onto stickers) and paste it onto the back of the book. Is it sustainable? Will the response / interest of the students be enough to warrant the effort? We will be doing a pilot with about 40 books to start with, and see where it goes.

We are going to start launching an education campaign on QR codes next week - where I will make the QR codes I created larger, place make them into a 'New book' display, without the titles or covers. This should raise some questions, inquiry and get them interested. For book week we are planning to create a QR code treasure hunt, along with some other QR marketing activities. Many of our students have smart phones or itouches, so this should be a fun way of helping them to understand QR codes and what they do.

Now I have found one useful purpose for the QR codes, my imagination will just go wild building on this.

Check out the Daring Librarian's Comic Tutorial on QR codes

QR Codes uses in libraries A long list of how libraries are using QR codes.

Here some other places to see how QR codes are being used in education...

40 Interesting ways to use QR codes in the classroom - led by Tom Barrett

QR Codes InEducation a livebinder collection by Steven Anderson


This is the QR directing you to the Goodreads site of this book ... what is the title??

How are you using QR codes in your library?

: I have learned in the past 24 hours that Goodreads has its own iphone app and scanner where you can scan the isbn barcode and it takes you to the Goodreads page.It can be purchased for 99cents. (13 April 2011)