Category Archives: Reflection

Writing a Vision, Mission, and Beliefs for the Library: My Thoughts

For the past 3 years, I have told myself over and over that I need to rewrite the mission statement of the Barrow Media Center to be more representative of the kinds of learning that are taking place within and beyond our walls, but every time I sit down to work on it I get stuck.  One of the reasons I get stuck is that I keep re-reading the mission statement that is already in place and thinking that it sounds pretty good.  This year, I tried something different.  First, I gave myself permission to mess up.  Instead of sitting and worrying over getting the words just right the first time, I just gave it a go.  Second, I pushed the current mission statement aside so that it didn’t cloud my thinking.  Third, I set a goal to write a vision for the future, a mission of how to get there, and a set of beliefs that represented what our program is grounded in.  I also wanted to create a vision, mission, and beliefs that is grounded in the AASL standards for 21st century learning and the ISTE National Technology Standards…..and that is concise, exciting, and understandable. The last piece, understandable, was what proved to be a challenge.  I spent a lot of time reading the AASL standards and the ISTE NETS standards.  Then, I began to create a list of words and phrases that stood out.  Then, I grouped the phrases and words together by similarity.  It looked something like this:
Words to consider:
  • creativity; generate new ideas; create original works; innovation; publish; creative and artistic formats
  • interact, collaborate with peers, experts, or others; teamwork; personal or group expression
  • variety of media and formats
  • global awareness; consider diverse and global perspectives
  • solve problems; critical thinking; critical stance
  • inquire; display curiosity; plan and conduct research; locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information; multiple resources and formats; social networks and information tools to gather and share information
  • personal responsibility for lifelong learning; personal learning
  • leadership
  • digital citizenship; safe and ethical behaviors
  • demonstrate flexibility; adaptability; openness to new ideas; persisting in information searching despite challenges
  • reflect on learning
  • participate and collaborate in societal and intellectual networks
  • use information and technology ethically
  • demonstrate leadership and confidence
  • present formally and informally; multiple audiences; share new understandings
  • social responsibility
  • read, view, and listen for pleasure and growth; read widely and fluently
  • make connections to self, world, and other texts; respond to literature
  • participatory
  • transliteracy, transmedia

It wasn’t so much that I wanted to use every word and phrase that I wrote down as I wanted to make sure that what I wrote was grounded in the language of the standards.  Finally, I started writing.  This is what came out.


The vision of the David C. Barrow Elementary Media Center is to be a learning commons flowing with innovation, collaboration, curiosity, adaptability, critical inquiry, and transliteracy.


The mission of the David C. Barrow Elementary Media Center is to offer cutting-edge instruction and programming that develops innovative leaders who create content that reaches a global audience.


The David C. Barrow Elementary Media Center is grounded in the beliefs that:

  • Reading is a window to the world which can be experienced in a variety of formats for pleasure or growth.
  • Creating information and story is just as important as consuming information and story.
  • Access to information and story across multiple platforms is essential to learning.
  • Technology is a pathway to a global audience.
  • A collaborative of expertise is present in every environment.
  • Flexibility and adaptability are important both in physical space and learning opportunities.
  • Locating, organizing, analyzing, evaluating, synthesizing, and ethically using information is a crucial piece of being a responsible, digital citizen.
  • Persisting through challenges strengthens understanding and confidence.
  • Reflection and self assessment promote excellence.

On January 12-14, 2012, I attended the School Reform Initiative Winter Meeting in Atlanta.  Educators from across the country attended and spent time together in professional learning communities using protocols to have important discussions and offer feedback around dilemmas, student work, and adult work in education.  I took my vision, mission, and beliefs (in progress) to that meeting.  My group consisted of educators from around Atlanta as well as an educator from Texas.  They were teachers, principals, instructional coaches, and data support specialists.  Using a Tuning Protocol, they looked at my draft and tried to tune the draft to my goal.  The biggest piece of feedback that I received was about the vision, mission, and beliefs being understandable.  It was suggested to change the language so that words such as “transliteracy” weren’t there.  I pushed back on this because I felt that even though some of the words are hard to define and might not be understood by every person reading the mission, they are crucial.  The question that prompted the most thought for me was, “Then, how are people going to understand this vision and mission?”  A suggestion was to have multiple ways of representing the vision, mission, and beliefs.  Maybe part would be text, part would be video, and part would be student work.  My wheels began to turn as I thought about how a vision, mission, and beliefs could really show transliteracy or transmedia in action.

That’s where I’m at right now.  I have this draft, which I’m still working on and getting feedback on from as many people as possible, and I’m thinking about how I can show our library and program’s vision, mission, and beliefs in action.

I’m going to continue to give myself permission to not worry about it being perfect, but instead to constantly morph and adapt to the kind of learning that is taking place and the kind of learning that we want to take place in our program.  I think having a vision, mission, and beliefs that truly represents the learning that takes place in libraries is important.  My hope is that it will also guide the design process as my school undergoes a major renovation next year.

I welcome your feedback and invite you to also think about your own vision, mission, and beliefs.

Andy Plemmons

School Librarian

David C. Barrow Elementary

Athens, GA

Flexibility In Action!

It’s been a busy week and I despaired last night of having anything for my monthly GLMA post.  But then this morning happened and I have plenty to say about being flexible!

We had an extra leadership team meeting this morning which ran long, so I barely had time to switch from that to prepping for my morning broadcast.  Luckily I have a long term crew that know their jobs.  The this morning I was scheduled to be in four places at once.  No, really.

Like every morning, I was scheduled to be in a 3rd grade teacher’s classroom for a half hour of focused instruction.  This has to do with our Title I status and I spent 9:15-9:45 going over report drafts with students for final copies.  I also had a a 4th grade Specials class from 9:50-10:35.  But there was some special events going on as well.  At 9:00 some folks had scheduled the school Spelling Bee in the media center and a school Geography Bee in another part of the building at the same time.  I was scheduled to be in both videotaping the events.  All while teaching in two classes.

So I set up cameras with fresh tapes in both places and had them adjusted, focused and ready and told the organizers not to forget to hit the record buttons!  I’m also lucky enough to have a great clerk, so she ran the camera for the Spelling Bee, starting and stopping it in the interest of time.

Instead of having the Specials class in the media center (because of the Spelling Bee) I took my laptop and materials down to the classroom.  Luckily it was the one lesson I often do that doesn’t require us to actually be in the library. This group wasn’t able to check out at their normal time at the end of class, so I gave them passes to use in small groups throughout the day.

Whew!  The rest of the day was your normal everyday crazy.  Breaking down the Spelling Bee stuff, requesting custodians for a spill, gathering resources for tomorrow’s Guest Reader Day, emailing teacher movie times for the MLK video, finding a sub for an inservice, and then again rearranging everything in the library for tomorrow’s Guest Readers and the reading bowl contestant morning practice session.  Oh, and my walkie-talkie I use to communicate with those on bus duty so I can synch the dismissal slides stopped working, so I had to deal with that real quick.

But I did it all with a smile because I’m flexible!

(Just don’t look at my desk…)


Jim Randolph

Partee Elemetary,

Snellville, GA

Some Notes After COMO 2011

The cool thing about COMO is that you and a colleague could go and could come back to compare notes and you would have had two completely different experiences.  There’s that many different breakout sessions on that many different subjects.

My personal COMO journey focused, with no forethought, on pictures books.  I just kept ending up in cool little breakout sessions that told me about amazing picture books and ways to use them to teach with that were incredibly fun and interesting with all different grade levels.  I still need to sit down and process through it all, but it definitely gets the creative juices flowing.  And this is definitely a good time of year to get a renewed kick in the creative pants!

It was a smaller affair than in past years.  Not as many districts are sending as many folks.  I sincerely hope it doesn’t dry up and go away.  The inspiration, information and new ideas you get from conferences and other good professional learning experiences are invaluable for tech and media people like us.  I’m not saying you should go to as many conferences as possible every single year.  I’m saying do go to at least one professional learning experience, whether a class or at least a local conference every year.  You never know what you’ll end up taking away or how it will influence your practice.

It may not even be the main subject of the experience.  I got just as much from lunching with colleagues as I did from the sessions themselves.  I learned about technology that was new to me just by asking.  I’m talking here about tech that was being used by presenters, but not necessarily the point of the presentation.  Or I learned new and different ways to do things I was already into.

Probably everyone’s favorite general session was seeing Eric Litwin and James Dean in their Pete the Cat presentation.  Yes it was amazingly fun and interactive, but it also taught us how to be better interactive presenters.  Many people have commented that they read an author’s books much better after seeing the author(s) present it themselves.  I know I learned a ton from seeing Mo Willems in person some time back.

So keep going to conferences when you can and share what you learn with the rest of us!

Jim Randolph
Partee Elementaree
Snellville, GA

Your School Library Bill of Rights

At the end of the school year, as my students are finishing their coursework and getting ready to do their student teaching, I ask them to compose vision statements for themselves as teachers.

I think this can be a useful exercise in thinking for many educators. It is easy to get caught up in the everyday activities of our schools and library media centers. The end of the year, when classes are winding down and we reflect on the year we’ve just ended, can be a good time to step back and think about our core values for the school library program. This may be especially important when we are facing losses in funding, staff, and other resources that are essential to a vital school library program.

When I have my students complete this assignment, the vision statement can take many forms. One of the options I give is a “Bill of Rights” of sorts, or a set of essential ideas that form the core of their educational practices.

Of course, we already have a Library Bill of Rights and an interpretation of it that articulates its application to school libraries. I encourage students to try to state their ideas simply, then add explanations if necessary.

I’m going to start my list of essential core values for the school library program. What would you add? Share your core values with us in the comments.

1.) Students have the right to access the instruction and expertise of a full-time credentialed library media specialist(s) as well as adequate support staff to ensure this accessibility and smooth functioning.

2.) Students have the right to resources that reflect their own cultures as well as the diverse world we live in.

3.) Students have the right to pursue topics of personal interest in the library media center using the resources available there (both physical and virtual).

4.) Students have the right to regular information literacy instruction embedded in their broader curricular studies, not separate from it.

5.) Students have the right to participate in creating their school library media program.

….What would you add?

Leadership and the school librarian: Take Control of Your Space

When I was in college getting my undergraduate degree – a B.S. in Commercial Music Recording and Production – I took a class through the psychology department simply titled “Leadership.” The professor was a woman who chose to guide the class with The Tao of Leadership  by John Heider. If you go to and look up the title you will find this description: “The Tao of Leadership is an invaluable tool for anyone in a position of leadership. This book provides the simplest and clearest advice on how to be the very best kind of leader: be faithful, trust the process, pay attention, and inspire others to become their own leaders. Heider’s book is a blend of practical insight and profound wisdom, offering inspiration and advice. This book is used as a Management/Leadership training text by many Fortune 500 corporations, including IBM, Mitsubishi, and Prudential.” (; accessed 5/17/2011). 

I have owned that book since 1991 and I still refer to it 20 years later. Not because it is a “how to” type of book but because it is timeless in its wisdom. It isn’t about how to run a company and it isn’t about how to take control of a group. It is, however, a guidebook for the personal journey to that place in ourselves that is confident (not arrogant), joyful (not ignorant), and intelligent (not elitist). I think it should be required reading for the school librarian. Why? Because I  consistently hear from colleagues who complain that teachers “won’t collaborate,” administrators “don’t get it,” and legislators and lawmakers think “we’re expendable.” All true. But I rarely, if ever, hear those same colleagues talk about where they are making changes within themselves or their programs to address these issues. Rarely do I see that there is an acceptance of some personal responsibility for this state of affairs. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist and I’ll even go out on a limb and say that those who are making the effort to read this blog are not the librarians to whom I am referring. But if you’re reading this blog, you know I am speaking the truth. We are surrounded by those that blame “the other” before ever taking a critical look at their own contribution to the problem.

In the May/June issue of School Library Monthly there is an article titled “Success is an Attitude” by Kara Fribley. This article is part of the magazine’s “Taking the Lead” series and, in my humble opinion, a must read. Ms. Fribley opens her article by saying “School librarians can be leaders who positively impact the tone for the entire school” (p. 34). The article is about how Ms. Fribley looked critically at the physical space of her library and made changes that altered the feel and usability of it. Isolated seating areas were opened up and made more accessible. Individual study carrels were removed and open tables with flexible seating were put in their place to foster collaborative learning. In some areas the changes cost absolutely nothing but a little sweat worked up by moving some furniture around. According to Ms. Fribley, “…it ultimately falls to the librarian to encourage or discourage patron usage of the library” (p. 35). Truer words are rarely spoken. The words spoke to me directly because I am putting thought into action by changing my library space, too. I am taking on the leadership needed to improve my space and it is already paying off.

For starters, I painted a rainbow of colors on the cinderblock columns that surround the collection space. Suddenly, the beige and cream color scheme (if you can really call beige and cream a color scheme) was brightened up and brought a little joy to the library. What did it cost? About $60 for paint, brushes, and painter’s tape and a couple of my days during the summer. Then I looked at the entrance – more beige and cream, nothing inviting students in, nothing that said I welcomed them. So, I came up with a quote and stenciled it on the walls of the entry way in the same rainbow colors I used on the columns. As you walk in you see the first part of the quote “Enter with Curiosity…” and as you leave you see the second part, “Exit with Knowledge.” It looks professional but was beyond easy and anyone who wants to know how I did it can send me an email and I’ll explain. I am a creative problem-solver, not an artist!

Next, I tackled my Reference collection. Surrounded by overstuffed shelves and no teaching space I had to think critically about how to rearrange that area. I did some very necessary weeding and opened up some of the shelving. I had the county come in and remove the tall shelves that took up one entire wall – those were distributed to grateful teachers for classroom use. I then did some serious negotiating with our county warehouse and found a dry-erase board sitting unused that they were willing to install on that wide open wall. Now my reference collection is updated and the area is more like a small classroom. How much did it cost? Nothing (although I did offer our warehouse manager a plate of brownies for his help – he declined).

Finally, I looked at the flow of traffic in my media center and did not like what I saw. This school is only 10 years old and there are still many “opening items” here that had to go. I had rows of shelves that had never held any books and, quite frankly, it did not make sense to just fill them up because they were there. I began looking at the emptiness and began thinking in terms of efficiency. My clerk, my intern, and I began rearranging the collection. No shelf is stuffed but the Dewey categories are now closer together. By tweaking the shelving arrangement I ended up with 16 double-sided bookshelves that were completely empty right in the center of the collection. I asked the county to come and pick them up (they did), I asked teachers to let me know if they wanted any of them (they did), and asked the rest to be taken to the county warehouse for storage (done). Now I have this open area with a couch and 2 chairs, 4 beanbag chairs, and a round table with 4 chairs where those empty shelves used to be. And you know what? That area is full of students every morning and has been since the shelves were removed. I didn’t advertise, I didn’t make a big deal about it – but they came and they sat together and they read books and worked on projects together. And they seemed happy! I have a lot more transformative projects up my sleeve and I will let you know when (notice I did not say “if”) they happen. You can click on the pictures below to get a better view of what I’ve done.

The Tao of Leadership tells us that the great leader knows when to listen and when to speak. It tells us that the great leader understands that s/he becomes empowered by empowering his/her team. It tells us that leadership is sometimes quiet and evolutionary rather than vocal and demanding. It is an ebb and flow of action and assistance. It tells us that if we want to make a change we must begin with ourselves because clarity of thought and action draws others to us more powerfully than anything else. So… start rearranging!