Britten Follett. Senior Vice President of Marketing and Classroom Initiatives, Follett School Solutions
Confession: As a kid, I read Trivial Pursuit question cards for fun.
Based on that little confession, it’s probably not a huge surprise to anyone reading this that my great-great grandfather started a book business 150 years ago. Reading is in my DNA. On a road trip through Yosemite National Park, I distinctly remember my eight year-old self completely not understanding why my father would demand I “get my nose out of that book” and take in the scenery. I wasn’t especially good at the adult version of Trivial Pursuit, but I gave the rest of my family a run for their money at the junior edition. But, the reality is, the game’s turquoise wedge was always a struggle to earn because geography was not exactly my forte. In fact, it’s the only “C” I received throughout my school career.
Maybe had I listened to dear old dad and took in the scenery, I would have been able to better connect the written words with the sights and sounds I was blessed to experience on that family vacation. I fell short of conquering my Trivial Pursuit dreams based on that turquoise wedge. Today, a similar turquoise wedge is inspiring teachers and librarians to connect students with resources in ways eight year-old me never could have imagined.
Six years ago, Follett invited a think tank of librarians, curriculum directors, and district leadership to discuss the future of the school librarian. While looking at the challenges of digital transformation and those associated with curriculum curation from different lenses, everyone agreed the school librarian could and should play a central role in solving these types of problems.
The discussions at that meeting evolved into the Future Ready Library framework, which is a guide for librarians and school leaders to use as they create a library programs positioned to guide students through whatever the future holds. Each wedge of the Future Ready Library framework highlights an area in which a Future Ready librarian should lead. The framework’s turquoise wedge is “Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment.” To support curriculum and instruction, a Future Ready librarian should work to build instructional partnerships and curate resources—two skills at the core of librarianship. And unlike my aversion to the turquoise wedge, I’m seeing librarians embrace it, especially librarians in Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS), home of the National School Library Program of the Year.
While I was in Baltimore to present the award to district librarian Fran Glick and her superintendent, Glick invited us to do a case study on the unique ways her librarians are partnering with teachers at all levels to curate resources to support curricular objectives using one of our products, Collections by Destiny. Collections is a new feature in Destiny, the library management system in use by the majority of K-12 schools in the country. The new feature allows educators to curate Collections of print and digital content in the library, databases the school owns, and free resources on the web, putting everything a student needs to find on a particular topic in one place.
Evan Richards, who teaches social studies at BCPS, says the moment his librarian introduced him to Collections, it changed the way he teaches research projects. “I knew to use Destiny to search for books, but up until the start of this year, that’s about the extent I thought that resource was used for. Now, it’s become an essential resource for this project, because that’s where all their sources are. Destiny has probably been used ten times more than in previous years, because of Collections.”
During my visit to BCPS, I also saw how the elementary school librarian partnered with the fifth grade teacher to curate resources and build a Collection to support a lesson on the Botswana water crisis. I loved watching the middle school social studies teacher collaborate with the librarian to help students build Collections to house the resources they need for their annual National History Day project.
At the high school, rather than stumbling on questionable, biased, or inaccurate resources on the web, students used Collections built by the librarian and health teacher for research projects on sensitive topics like mental health and drugs of abuse. Health teacher Leah Meredith told me the librarian is her best friend. “She is wonderful. Every time I bring her an idea, she turns it into something with technology,” Meredith said. “Now I see myself using Collections for every single project we do because it’s much easier for me to put everything in one place than ask students to go everywhere under the sun to find resources.”
While Baltimore County is a leading example of the turquoise wedge in action, I’m seeing more librarians than ever who embrace their roles as master curators. As a result of the work of Future Ready Librarians, principals, curriculum directors, and teachers now better understand how librarians can a be critical resource in helping students discover the right resources.
While the turquoise wedge may have been my arch nemesis for years, I thank Sergey Brin and his innovative thinking for the Google Maps app nearly every day. And this new turquoise wedge within the Future Ready Framework is changing my opinion. No longer is the library a place on the map where students go to sit on a beanbag and read. The turquoise wedge is connecting innovative teachers, librarians, and students with the game pieces they need to win in life.
Britten is a journalist. A marketer. A storyteller. A board member. A philanthropist. An advocate for libraries and education. It’s not uncommon to have multiple acts in life. But Britten has excelled at two very different career paths while spending her free time giving back to the community and spreading the word about child abuse prevention. Britten spent 10 years as an Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award-winning television journalist. She wrote, published, and brought to market a top selling true crime book exposing the child welfare system that failed to protect a 2-year old Oklahoma girl who was killed by either her mother or her step-father. In 2010, she made a tough decision to give up a career she loved and embark on a new career as a 5th generation family member working for Follett Corporation. At Follett, she started as the marketing manager for the International team and has held various roles in marketing and communications throughout the organization. Today she is the senior vice president of marketing and classroom initiatives for Follett’s K12 education business. Her work at Follett established the foundation for the Future Ready Library framework, which has changed the conversation about the role of a school librarian and influenced the future of libraries in schools nationwide. She does all of this while giving back to the communities she serves through advocacy programs like the Follett Challenge, issuing scholarships through the Follett Educational Foundation, influencing the future of higher education through her board role at Southern Illinois University, and doing keynotes about why we need to make child abuse prevention a political and dinner table topic.
Librarians are now and have always been a school’s secret weapon. They understand how to enrich instruction, how to help students find the resources they need, how to help teachers build lessons that are supported by resources that reach every student.
Follett does a great job supporting and celebrating librarians. Anyone else working in the school market should do the same.
Right on Britten!
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