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Check It Out: May 2021

Your monthly news from the OPS Library Services Staff

May 2021

"Check It Out" Welcomes Engaging Guest Contributor

In January, we introduced a new monthly format to the newsletter with some editorial and design changes and even a revolving editorial staff! Since then, new contributors have looked literacy, diversity, and libraries, with an overarching focus on community building.

For this school year's final edition, we welcome Colleen Nieland, librarian at Omaha Northwest High School.  She writes about engagement and the value of praise, and how to keep your students reading this summer! Thanks, Colleen, for your contributions, and thanks to all of you for reading. Happy summer!

-- Beth Eilers, School Librarian at Omaha Central High School,

NDE Proposed Changes for School Librarians

Surely by now you've heard the news that the NDE is proposing extremely diminished library staffing requirements for state approval and accreditation. As you can see in the graphic below, staffing requirements may be reduced to one-half certified librarian per school district with "an adult" to monitor the library spaces.

What can you do?

First, look at the Advocacy Toolkit developed by the Nebraska School Librarians Association (NSLA) board.

Second, respond to the survey posted by the NDE by June 1 -- with a focus on the sections mentioned here.

Third, communicate the proposed changes widely on social media and in your buildings, asking for others to complete the NDE survey. Use the hashtag #nebraskaneedsschoollibrarians

Together we can make a difference!

Branding Your School Library

As we wrap up this unprecedented year, many of us are ready for some kind of change in our work lives – a reboot of some sort so we can start the new school year with a new outlook. An over-the-summer exercise in branding your school library program might be just the reboot you’re looking for.

What is Branding?

“Branding is relationship” (Sheninger and Rubin) – it’s a combination of the stories you tell and the connections you make daily – through marketing, graphic design, social media, and relationships with stakeholders. As a school librarian you are branding by default; you are branding yourself and your program with every interaction you have with your stakeholders. From book talks to book fairs to instructional services, you have so much to sell as part of your school’s library program. Why not make it intentional?

Build your Brand

Branding yourself and your school library program can be a big undertaking and it can be hard to know where to start. Maybe you’re ready to take a deep dive into rebranding your program from your own personal social media brand to a consistent visual identity for your library program through signage, website, and social media design. Or maybe you have just enough energy to do a visual identity re-branding. No matter the breadth of the reboot, follow these guidelines from The First Five Steps to Building a Library Brand, from The Librarian in the Middle, a school librarian who is passionate about branding:

  1. Align your goals – start with a vision and break your vision into goals. Consider starting with your school’s mission and vision and visual identity.
  2. Pick a name and logo – how do you want to refer online to your program?
  3. Identify audience and purpose – this will help you to match your content to your target audience.
  4. Engage your audience – what events, materials, or services do you want to promote?
  5. Build consistency – be reliable in promoting your events. Once you engage followers, don’t leave them hanging and waiting for more.

My teaching partner and I have just started to skim the surface of branding our program by designing a simple yet intentional logo for our library program using the educator’s version of Canva. As part of the process, we did some work to align our vision and goals with our visual identity. It is our vision that our program provides a sense of place in the online world in addition to the real world space we provide to stakeholders, so we chose a location pin as part of our logo, which you can see above. And the heart represents the belief that the library is the heart of school, in addition to being a place of belonging. The simple design keeps us mindful of our purpose and our role in the school and keeps us moving forward toward reaching our collective vision.

Want to learn more about branding? Here’s a list of resources that will help:

Branding Your School Library (sign up at this posting for her 5-step guide) by the Librarian in the Middle. This school librarian is passionate about school library branding and advocacy. Don’t stop with this article, though. Look for others that she’s written about branding.

BrandED: Tell Your Story, Build Relationships, and Empower Learning, a book by Eric Sheninger and Trish Rubin. Written for educational leaders of all ranks.

Librarians: Build Your Brand by Gretchen Hazlin at pulls out some of the best ideas of the book above and gears them to school librarians specifically.

What’s in a Brand? How to Define Your Visual Identity by Annie Crawford at Adobe might be helpful if your focus is on creating a new visual identity.

ICYMI: Canva for Education is a must for all school librarians. Go here to sign up!

(Cross-posted in the Nebraska School Librarian Blog, which you can find here!)

School Librarian Spotlight

Share some fun facts about you to bring us together while we are apart! Each month this semester "Check It Out" will briefly spotlighted an OPS School Librarian or multiple librarians to help you discover the diverse interests and perspectives of your far-flung colleagues. This month, we're spotlighting our contributor, Colleen Nieland.

Colleen Nieland

Omaha Northwest High School:  Year 13 in the school library (first year at NWHS).  23 years in education.  

School library passion:  I have a quote by Harold S. Kushner on the door to my office that states, “Do things for people not because of who they are or what they do in return but because of who you are.”  I find it one of my greatest blessings to be in a position that can provide support to every single person in the building.  From encouraging and supporting literacy efforts to helping students (& staff) navigate the inquiry process to providing a safe, welcoming space for all, I love that being a librarian means that every single day offers me the opportunity to build relationships with everyone in the school through teaching and learning.  

By Colleen Nieland, Guest Contributor

If I say the word engagement, most of us are not going to be thinking about romantic proposals, but instead how challenging it is right now to keep our students engaged.  We have faced so much this year and we’re tired, they’re tired, everyone’s tired.    I am a relationship person and this year has been a struggle.  I’m new to my building and it’s been hard to connect with colleagues and students as health regulations have limited what we can do.  Masks make it hard to remember names and faces and social distancing makes it hard to really spend a lot of time getting to know my colleagues.  Today, I gave some feedback to a peer who is just so good at greeting students during passing periods by name and asking them about their day.  When I gave her that feedback, her face lit up.  Let’s not forget that our peers are struggling with engagement, too.  One way that we can help to maintain a positive climate in our buildings is to give praise to both students and staff.  Todd Whitaker, in his book What Great Teachers Do Differently, reminds us that praise should be “authentic, specific, immediate, clean and private" (47).

I tend to give praise face-to-face, write notes or send emails, but I read recently about someone giving praise and feedback via a video message.  How exciting would it be for you as an adult to open your email/mail and have a message from someone telling you what they thought you did well or that you made their day?  Imagine a student receiving that message.  Those quick messages help to maintain personal connections.   I keep up on social media and if I see current and past students earning awards or achieving goals, I try to quickly send a congratulatory e-mail message. Nine out of ten times I get a response telling me it made their day.  Last year, when we were all home, I sent handwritten letters to students’ homes.  I received several emails of thanks.  The student feels good about those connections and that makes me feel good which in turn helps build those relationships that are so important to learning.   We all know emotions drive learning; if students feel good about being in school, we can only hope they will engage at a deeper level.  

Try it.  Today, write one positive email or note to a staff member and another to a student.  See how more engaged they are with you throughout the school day.  Challenge your students to praise others.  We have access to each student and staff member.  Imagine the impact we can have just by encouraging positive connections.  

Whitaker, Todd. What Great Teachers Do Differently: 14 Things That Matter Most. Eye on Education, 2004. 

Hot Topics In School Libraries

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Omaha Public Schools does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, age, genetic information, citizenship status, or economic status in its programs, activities and employment and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups. The following individual has been designated to address inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: Superintendent of Schools, 3215 Cuming Street, Omaha, NE 68131 (531-299-9822).

Las Escuelas Públicas de Omaha no discriminan basados en la raza, color, origen nacional, religión, sexo, estado civil, orientación sexual, discapacidad , edad, información genética, estado de ciudadanía, o estado económico, en sus programas, actividades y empleo, y provee acceso equitativo a los “Boy Scouts” y a otros grupos juveniles designados. La siguiente persona ha sido designada para atender estas inquietudes referentes a las pólizas de no discriminación: El Superintendente de las Escuelas, 3215 Cuming Street, Omaha, NE 68131 (531-299-9822).