Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mission [Statement] Impossible

Usually conferences leave me feeling revitalized and invigorated. Today? Not so much. I left this afternoon appreciating just how much I have left to learn. I might excel in some areas of being a librarian, but in others? Ouch.

We’ll save the most painful realizations for another post. Today, I’m just going to focus on why I hate mission statements:

  • They’re always really dense
  • Who the heck bothers to ever read them?
  • They’re a dumping ground for jargon and edu-speak

Needless to say, developing a mission statement for my library program was never a high priority. I probably would have continued to avoid it had I not attended today’s session. It took a fair amount of mental arm-twisting, but ultimately we came up with one.

It was a team effort – contributors included myself, an elementary librarian, and our district’s technology director. Our goal was two-fold: write the shortest mission statement possible and make it understandable for elementary AND secondary students.

Here’s what we came up with:

Learners discover, create, inquire, and think critically through shared learning experiences supported by curriculum, teachers, and tools to produce and communicate new knowledge.

This particular product is a blend of ideas expressed in other mission statements. It’s our own work --- but heavily influenced by others -- especially David Loertscher's work on the library as learning commons.

Even though we’ve finally got a mission statement, I was still kind of confused as to why I actually need one.

I dug around a little bit, and I think I might have a few ideas. According to an article by Allison Zmuda "its purpose is to cause student learning as defined by a set of goals" (School Library Media Activities Monthly / Sept 2007).

I'm thinking that mission statements should help drive your library program. Like -- if it's not part of your mission, then why the heck are you doing it?

So . . . the point (or at least one point) of a mission statement is to guide your own practice.

It's only sitting here writing this that the lightbulbs are FINALLY going off. Today's conference was about the library as a learning commons - kind of a new idea. Soo --- at last, the WHY behind today:

We played around with mission statements until they reflected the learning commons philosophy. These new statement can then GUIDE our program as we seek to DEVELOP a learning commons model in our own schools.

DUHHH!!! It would have helped if I'd made that connection 8 hours ago. Feeling SUPER dense right now.

At least I can kind of admit that I might sort of like mission statements (at least I can see the point).

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