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Leading in a Culture of Change: Is this possible for school librarians?

Updated: Jun 1, 2018

Many of the school librarians I know are very passionate about what they do but what if that just isn't enough? The online book club I run for school library staff #nonfbc has just read Leading in a Culture of Change by Michael Fullan. The book and discussion, which can be read here, was a challenge for us because it focused on business and school's and was not from a school library perspective. One thought kept coming back to with me whilst reading; are you able to effect change if you are not in a leadership position? Many school librarians aren't so what use would this book be to them?

When I read the chapters about relationships and knowledge building I began to see the relationship between leading change and school libraries. Firstly, school librarians are all about relationships. Relationships with the students, the teachers, the parents and yes even the resources. Secondly, our bread and butter is knowledge or at least our ability to find and supply information that supports and builds knowledge is.

What then is the problem? During one part of the book discussion I asked "are we in a position to help others manage change if we can't do it effectively ourselves?" so with a little encouragement from Annie (see below), I thought I would explore this.

Many school librarians are not in leadership roles so are we to assume that it is impossible for them to effect or support change? According to Fullan, there is a "need for leaders at all levels of the organisation, in order to achieve widespread internal commitment". I personally think this means that we are or can be leaders, so how can we make sure we are part of the story? Over the last 15 years that I have worked with schools I have seen many changes and through this change the school library has had to keep pace by changing and evolving too.

Learning from School Librarians

This has not happened by magic. School librarians have watched, read, learnt and tried different ideas through sharing what we do with others. Understanding what is going on in the library world beyond your school library is a huge step towards leadership. Understand what CILIP #GreatSchoolLibraries campaign is all about and follow great school librarians will help you know and learn from what others are doing. I follow a lot of school librarians and here are a few to start you off:-

These all have amazing twitter accounts and are worth following and as you can see I don't stay within the confines of the UK either. There are so many interesting school librarians out there willing to share their knowledge it is just a case of getting out there and looking.

Facebook Groups

I also follow some great Facebook groups that are run by school librarians, again you just need to find the groups that work for you but here are the one's I keep an eye on:-

  • Future ready librarians

  • The school librarians workshop

  • Int'l school library connection

Higher Educators

If we are getting our students ready for further education then it is also a good idea to know what is happening in Higher education too so following people like:-

  • Jane Secker @jsecker (Senior lecturer in Educational Development)

  • Emma Coogan @LibGoddess (research fellow)

  • Tara Brabazon @tarabrabazon (Dean of Graduate research and professor of cultural studies at Flinders university)

  • Martine Ellis @MartineGuernsey (teacher trainer)

Reading and understanding what they are talking about will enhance your own ability to talk to teachers about the need for your skills in supporting students going on to further education.

Teachers and Educators

Finally and probably most importantly follow and learn from the teachers themselves. How can we possibly lead without an understanding of the changes and problems that teachers are facing. I follow many teachers and educationalists both locally and further afield so to name a few:-

They all share their thoughts and ideas about education and it is great to learn from the people we are working alongside. As you will notice this goes well beyond understanding what the English department is doing although I do have many English teachers who I follow too.

Twitter Chats

One other place I spend some time is joining in education twitter chats. #satchat #sunchat #NT2t #Leadupchat #ukedchat #Leadupchat all allow me to listen in and take part in educational conversations that otherwise I just would not be part of. It helps promote the school librarian but it is also a place of great learning too.

So once we feel confident that we have enough knowledge to support or effect our ability to lead what's next? Our unique role in a school tends to prevent access to leadership discussions, unless of course the school librarian has been employed as Head of Department. It is important that we have access to curriculum discussions but if we can't get there now how do we get a foot in the door?

What next?

I love to send my senior leaders articles I find which discuss the role of the school librarian. This enhances my argument, demonstrates my own research and supports their knowledge. It shows that I know what I am talking about and is an ongoing conversation throughout the world. I talk about them being leaders of change through understanding the role of the school librarian. This is the latest one I shared. Do I feel guilty that I am constantly reminding them how important school librarians are to their If they don't like it they can always ask me to stop and at least we can have a conversation about it .

What if we can't get anyone to listen? George Couros put it really well in his latest blog post The Push and Pull of Leadership "Just remember that the next time you get frustrated with someone seemingly not moving forward [or listening to you], don’t try to figure out what is wrong with them or their attitude. Figure out what you can do to support them on their journey.  Complaining about what is wrong will never make it right". We need to find a way to work with our senior leaders and teachers and if it does not work the first time find another way.

I do believe that through advocacy we are able to start the conversation, so much so that I wrote a blog post about it. However, listening and understanding the needs of our teachers and students will also help move towards leading in a culture of change. If we know and understand education and the curriculum we can figure out how to support them. Ask yourself a couple of questions:-

  • What are you offering as a school librarian?

  • What do your teachers and students need from you?

  • Do you purely focus on promotion of fiction and engaging reading for pleasure and literacy?

  • Do you just teach information literacy and research skills?

If any of these questions makes you wonder and want to know more, what will you do about it? Is this where we need to look at ourselves to begin to effectively manage our own change?

Come and join the next discussion by keeping an eye on the book club hashtag #nonfbc and let me know what you think about this in the comments below.


Couros, G. (2018, May 27). The Push and Pull of Leadership. Retrieved May 27, 2018, from The Principle of Change: Stories of Learning and Leading :

Fullan, M. (2001). Leading in a Culture of Change . San Francisco : Jossey-Bass.

Schneider, I. Passion Led us Here. Seattle. Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

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