Inside the Lilead Fellows Program

This group of library administrators is starting  a revolution in the school library world—and hopes to motivate you to join in.

Lilead Members (L to R) Lynne Oakvik, Kafi Kumasi, Jennifer Boudrye, & Ann Weeks discuss the role of school librarians with Upper Arlington (OH) Schools superintendent Paul Imhoff.

On paper, the mission of the Lilead Fellows Program sounds simple: to create a community of library supervisors in order to bring about change. Advocating for their libraries, students, and teachers is nothing new for librarians. But what’s different about this fellowship is that it concentrates specifically on the role of school library supervisors. Just like many school librarians, many school library supervisors are a department of one. In some cases, they are one of the only supervisors in their entire state. With a large turnover in these positions due to retirements or elimination of posts, the collaboration between supervisors had naturally dwindled. A formal personal learning network didn’t exist, so a team from the University of Maryland at College Park set out to change that with the  Lilead Project. The resulting fellows program is in its first year. The 25 participating supervisors first met face to face just prior to the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting in Chicago. They gathered for a second time in College Park, MD at the Summer Institute in July 2015. The supervisors came from a variety of backgrounds, representing rural and urban settings in 17 states. Together, those Fellows serve over 1.5 million students in 2,181 schools. Everyone joined with the intention of being a “fixer,” to make their program better for students. They soon noticed that while there were similarities among everyone’s respective programs, no two were the same. The third face-to-face meeting was in Columbus, OH in the form of a think tank that convened right after the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) conference on Sunday, November 8. By now, there was no need for nametags or introductions. As our meeting, guided by professional mentors, progressed, intense discussions erupted. Even better, common themes, and then, solution-oriented conversations followed. Tough questions were asked; honest answers were given. Both always centered on how to facilitate change. Late-night discussions turned into action plans (plus a lot of great T-shirt ideas). Next steps will not only improve individual district programs, but the profession as a whole. As the workshop came to a close, it was obvious that something amazing was being built. Our interaction will continue through webinars and more face-to-face meetings. As a librarian and Lilead Fellow, I have never been more excited to fight for change because I know that I have a large support group standing behind me. If something doesn’t work as planned, I’ve got 24 people who will figure out how to make whatever has to happen get done.  It’s a community of activists where individual goals don’t outweigh the greater good for all librarians. Lilead Fellow Suzanna Panter, educational specialist of Library Services of Henrico County, VA, summed it up best: “We are a family united in doing what is right for kids. We laugh together, cry together, work together, vent together, and vow to transform the profession—together.”
Stephanie_Ham_headshot_2Stephanie Ham serves as the director of library services for Metro Nashville Public Schools, where she oversees 125 school library programs and librarians across Music City. She can be found on Twitter @sjgham. She was also named a 2014 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and is a proud Lilead Fellow.   

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