Last year, the Iowa Association of School Librarians received a grant from AASL/ABC Clio to fund a leadership academy for a select number of IASL members. The academy was held June 20 and 21st and I was honored to be part of a panel which discussed the importance of professional development. The other panelists were Nancy Medema from Iowa Library Services, who talked about the ILA Leadership Institute (next one in July 2014); Susan Feuerbach, current IASL president, who outlined the association's goals and accomplishments; and Densie Rehmke, Coordinator, Iowa City Schools Library Program and Former IASL President, who gave the attendees several powerful reasons to be professionally involved at the national level.
Ernie Cox of Prairie Creek Intermediate School and I shared time set aside to relate our experiences using social media and online tools for professional development.
My top three motives for developing a PLN were:
1. Defending against isolation - Sometimes you are the only librarian in your building or district. Having a network of virtual colleagues can help with the feeling that "no one else understands" and can serve as your Personal Learning Community when you are a "singleton".
2. Motivation - When you see what others are doing in similar situations, you might think, "I can do that!" And eventually, you will gain the confidence to share your own ideas. "Obvious to you, amazing to others" (with credit to Derek Sivers)
3. Advocacy - By sharing on blogs, Twitter, etc. your administration will see you as a leader and unexpected opportunities will come to you (like invitations to present or publish).
Ernie advised the academy participants to keep the big picture in mind, as in "big ed". Follow organizations like ASCD to see what administrators are interested in. He even checks in regularly with his principal to see what is on her desk. What is she reading? How can he be a partner in problem solving?
After the panel, I tried to make contact with each of the participants during lunch. It is truly exciting to have such a dynamic, smart and dedicated group of future leaders in the organization. I look forward to their contributions in the next few years!