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Valerie DiggsLeading by Example:  A Salute to MSLA President Valerie Diggs

By Judi Paradis, Gerri Fegan, Kathy Lowe and Ann Perham
Photo credits: Linda Coviello

Authors’ Note: We have all experienced “Perfect Storms” of demands in our professional and personal lives. For the MSLA President Valerie Diggs, this is her Perfect Storm. Not only did the accreditation visit at her school overlap with the MSLA conference, but she has had the added challenge of moving… twice. We have taken this as an opportunity to turn the regular “President’s Message” into a Salute to Valerie and all that she has done for MSLA and school libraries. She exemplifies the many attributes of a leader, and particularly that of leading by example. Thank you, Valerie; we salute you!


Since 2009, the Chelmsford High School Learning Commons has been making headlines in the school library world. Valerie has been generous in welcoming the flood of visiting school librarians with administrators in tow. She has hosted multiple workshops and meetings in her space and has written articles about this rebirth of her facility. Read her piece, “Chelmsford Learning Commons: From Program to Facility” in the Winter 2009 MSLA Forum.

Just a fChelmsford Learning Commonsew weeks ago, it was announced that Valerie was named a “Learning Commons Visionary for 2012” by the editors of Teacher Librarian: The Journal for School Library Professionals. Also named was Robin Cicchetti of Concord-Carlisle Regional High School. Read more on this honor in the Member News column of this issue.

Valerie’s role in the revolutionary learning commons is an indicator of her leadership in our profession.


For a high school in New England, “NEASC” means high stakes. Although the accreditation is optional and schools are not mandated to undergo this rigorous process, the value of the rating motivates most high schools to opt in. Valerie Diggs was selected as the Chelmsford High School co-chairperson of this self study.

NEASCBeing named to lead the NEASC accreditation is definitely an indicator of the esteem that Valerie Diggs holds in her school. At the same time, however, it is ADDED to her normal job as Director of the Libraries in Chelmsford as well as the sole school librarian in her Learning Commons at the high school. To say that it is a juggling act is an understatement.

The Accreditation Team arrived on March 4, the same day of our MSLA conference in Hyannis. Following the NEASC panel discussion, Valerie drove to Hyannis in time for the Sunday evening Awards Banquet. Following the awards and Susan Ballard’s address, Valerie was back in her car, headed for Chelmsford. The NEASC visit lasted through Wednesday the 8th. When the chairman of the team gave the preliminary report, one of the top commendations was the Learning Commons. They definitely enjoyed the “Listening Lunch” and were impressed with the central role that the Learning Commons plays at Chelmsford High School. Kudos to Valerie!


On April 11, MSLA and MLA held their annual joint Legislative Day to meet with statewide decision makers and remind them of the importance of all Massachusetts' library programs.  This year was particularly important for MSLA, as we presented Valerie Diggs and Rep Sean Garballey   Representative Garballey with our Joan Gallagher Legislator Award for his outstanding advocacy for school library programs. Rep. Garballey filed a bill seeking to create a commission to assess the state of school library programs in our public schools.  If passed, this commission will be charged with evaluating both staffing and collection status in all public school libraries.  Once armed with data, the commission can make recommendations for school library standards. This legislation, similar to a bill passed recently in Pennsylvania, is a strong first step to finally establishing a long-term plan for school library services at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  Legislation Committee Chair Julie Farrell coordinated visits to several of the legislators co-sponsoring this bill, and uniformly heard praise for Rep. Garballey's advocacy efforts.

Meghan Nels, Weilin Berkey, Valerie DiggsThe centerpiece of our Legislative Day remains our annual bookmark contest.  Bookmark Committee co-chairs Linda Coviello did a great job in her first year organizing this committee, ensuring each student and school librarian were honored with prizes, citations from legislators, and a tour of the State House.  Several school librarians attending expressed great enthusiasm for this event and were impressed with the attention they received.  A group of students touring the building with Linda Coviello had the good fortune to encounter Governor Patrick, who congratulated them as well.  As we enter our 10th year of participating in Legislative Day work, it is exciting to see how established this event has become for MSLA, and how well received we are each year.


The 2012 Annual Conference in Hyannis was an invigorating event, thanks to Valerie Diggs and the Conference Committee.  There were so many new faces and a wonderful lineup of speakers and authors.  It is the goal of MSLA to keep reaching out to as many members as possible and the evaluations from this conference will continue to serve asElizabeth Gartley, scholarship winner with Valerie Diggs guideposts for future professional development across the state. 

At the April Executive Board meeting, Valerie discussed plans for the next annual conference as well as the results of the recent online survey conducted during the MSLA President-Elect elections.  She is thrilled with the prospect of a professional development opportunity about the Common Core that will be held in western Massachusetts this fall and welcomed the possibility of other workshops throughout the state.  Members’ suggestions have shaped the future of further continuing educational opportunities.

As AASL Region I Director, Valerie will be attending the ALA Annual conference in Anaheim this June to represent not only Massachusetts, but the entire New England region.  She will be carrying with her the interests and concerns of all our members, and communicate the plans for professional development with the American Association of School Librarians.  She will be collaborating with colleagues nationally to identify the best presenters for our conferences and workshops.  Valerie is a true leader who will devote herself to keeping the New England states in the forefront of school librarianship.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 02 May 2012 )

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