Transformation: The Importance of Stakeholders
When I think about transformation, I think about people, not the facility or the stuff. Don’t get me wrong, those things have their place and often there is great need for updating and making them more useful for students and staff. But, when I think about transformation, I think about our stakeholders: administrators, teachers, students, etc.
First and foremost, the school librarian needs a vision. Where do you want the school library program to go? I say school librarian, but really that vision needs to include a plethora of stakeholders. But there has to be drive and passion for the program, and often that initially lies with the school librarian. As that vision is developed and refined as other stakeholders come on board, it creates a path or direction for moving forward.
Bringing on board stakeholders can often be the most difficult part, but here are some ideas to consider:
Administrator’s vision – I always knew that my principal’s most important focus for the school is literacy. So, one of the first things I pondered when working to get administrative support was, “How is the change or program I want to implement going to help or improve literacy?” Latching on to his or her agenda could sometimes help to move my agenda forward much more quickly.
Think small – Anytime I was bringing on great change to our building, I never presented it to a large group. I tried that once, and I’d never do it again. Instead, I’d meet with small groups of faculty/staff by grade levels, departments, or programs. I found in those groups, I could answer and work through concerns or issues that were specific to their areas. It often solved most of the issues so we could figure out how to make the change work for everyone that way.
Listening – I think anytime you make change, you have to listen to what others think. Sometimes just that simple act of listening and letting them get it off their chest can do a lot to help smooth ruffled feathers. I might not be able to solve every issue or concern they had with a change, but at least I validated their thoughts and let them know I did everything I could to consider it.
Fun – Anytime you can incorporate some fun into change, do it! It can be food, events, socializing, music, etc. Find how your staff enjoys spending their free time, and try to build that into the implementation of a change. I had a principal that said, “Change is FUN when everyone has the right attitudes!” So, having a little fun can help with the attitudes.
In order to be a successful school librarian, you have to know your administrator and your staff. Some of these things might work with them, and some won’t. Use your knowledge of the staff and administrators to help figure out how you can best bring them along the transformational journey. If they are a part of the journey, it will make arrival at the destination all that more wonderful.
Carl A. Harvey II is an instructor of school librarianship at Longwood University and co-editor of School Library Connection. He is a past-president of the American Association of School Librarians.