Explore the Shared Foundations with AASL

Written by Sarah Culp Searles

Hello TASL!  I have a special project I’ve been working on and hope to finish soon, and I’m delighted to have the chance to share a bit about it with you here.

As you may know, AASL is gradually releasing six books related to the National School Library Standards called the Shared Foundations series.  It is my honor and pleasure to be the author of the book on Explore!  The series is designed to take a deep dive into understanding and implementing the NSLS.  Each of the six books has a different author, so they represent not just information about each Shared Foundation’s standards, but also a variety of perspectives on school librarianship around the country.  Two of the books are already out, and the other four (mine included) are scheduled to come out soon.  AASL is also doing a variety of other publications designed to support the NSLS.  You can browse them all at https://standards.aasl.org/shop/.

Explore is my personal favorite of the Shared Foundations because it contains the competencies related to both the most traditional part of our jobs–reading widely–and the least traditional part of our jobs–tinkering and making.  I love that it brings together the whole spectrum of the services school libraries offer, so that instead of being different and disparate things we’re supposed to manage, it’s all one big theme of helping students understand all the ways they can explore their interests and the world around them.

Bringing together the spectrum of our services is also my guiding principle for how this book is written.  As a school library supervisor, basically my whole job is to think about how to support school librarians in doing their jobs better, and one of the biggest concerns I hear from my department is how to manage “one more thing on the plate”.  It’s really important to me to craft a book that is a useful support to school librarians, so when I thought about how I wanted to approach writing, that’s where I started–how do we cut down on that ”one more thing” feeling about the standards, and make them feel more coherent with all the other ideas and trends school librarians are juggling?

My approach, then, has been to think about some of the biggest ideas and trends in education right now, to “explore” (haha, see what I did there?) them in depth, and then to reel them in and show how they’re related to the Explore competencies.  Those ideas include the learning commons, personalized learning, the maker movement, inquiry-based learning, and growth mindset and grit.  Each of the chapters has a similar structure: it discusses the trend itself, then it shows how that trend connects to the standards, and finally it gives some examples of what implementation might look like.  Those examples include short feedback on what might make one type of implementation stronger and more aligned to the standards than another, to help illustrate how to use these ideas to work smarter rather than harder.

I firmly believe that any set of standards or trends only matter when they show up in effective services to learners, so the book also contains a Planning Guide section to support real-life implementation.  It’s like a written version of the professional development school librarians do in my district–a self-guided workshop on how to think through all these big ideas, figure out what will get you the most “bang for your buck” in your own school library, and then walk through the hard process of making all the myriad decisions required to turn it into action.  Just like in the in-person PD we offer, I hope school librarians will be able to go through this workbook along with a few of their colleagues, so that they can lean on each other and give each other feedback as they all learn through the process.

It’s been a huge privilege to work on writing this book, and I’m so grateful to the wonderful staff of AASL for giving me this opportunity and supporting me as a first-time author!  If any TASL members have any questions about the project, you’re more than welcome to contact me on Twitter at @sarahsearles or by email at sarah.searles@knoxschools.org.  And if you have any questions about the rest of the Shared Foundations series, please reach out to the wonderful Stephanie Book, AASL’s Communications Manager, at sbook@ala.org.  

Sarah Culp Searles
Knox County Schools
Specialist, Library Media Services
Sarah Searles is district specialist in library media services for Knox County Schools.  She was Supervisors Section Representative on the AASL Board of Directors for 2016-2019, and has served in multiple roles on the TASL Board in the past.  Sarah was a Lilead Fellow in the 2015-16 cohort and in 2018 was named Valedictorian on the TASL Distinguished Administrators Honor Roll.  In 2011, prior to her move to district administration, she and her colleagues at Knoxville’s West High School were proud to have their library selected as a stop on 2010-11 AASL President Nancy Everhart’s Vision Tour.  Sarah’s articles about school libraries have been published in Knowledge Quest and School Library Connection. 

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