Library Advocacy

As School Librarians we must be aware of the need for an Advocacy Plan.  As a first time librarian, here are four ways that I would start creating a plan for my library.

1.  Collaborative Planning

             The biggest part of what a SLMS does is collaborate with teachers and work with students.  We know that students who are exposed to good library media programs in their schools do better academically than those without.  During the first year in the library, I would attempt to plan a collaborative lesson or project with each of the core departments with plans to expand to elective departments in the following year.  There are so many opportunities for teachers to work with the library staff on projects that meet course objectives.  Some ideas include a living history project with Social Studies where students gather oral histories and learn to archive them.  With Science classes we could work to research a species before a dissection lab.  Math classes could come into the library and collaborate with others to design a park, building or other structure using mathematical equations and the resources available.  Communication Arts classes could use the library to create an instructional manual or an informational video on plagiarism prevention for high school students. 

            Getting teachers into the library with their students is a great way to create advocates for the library program.  If everyone in the school building is invested into the library programs then no one will want to see the budget or staff cut.  In addition, if all stakeholders in the building come to the library to work, then everyone knows what the library has to offer and what resources are available.

In “50 Ways to Love Your Library”, by the Saskatchewan School Library Association, they suggest many things and one is to collaborate and build teacher – librarian relationships.  This can be accomplished through collaborative planning and staff development.

2.  Newsletter and Annual Report

            In order to keep people inside and outside the building aware of what is happening in the library I would create an on-line monthly newsletter and annual report.  The monthly newsletter would include book reviews by students and staff, upcoming events, project highlights, book club activities, and new resource information.  This newsletter could be accessed from the existing library webpage and users could subscribe to the newsletter in order to be updated automatically.  The monthly updates would be available to students, parents, community members, and business partners.

            In the annual report, I would include information on circulation, student access of technology, teacher/class usage, and more.  I would highlight the amount of student use of not only library resources but also library staff assistance.  We could keep track of how many students came in with classes for help as well as on their own for help.  Keeping data on how the library is used should help make a case for maintaining and building a strong program.  The annual report should also be available to all interested parties just like the monthly newsletter.

According to the Library Grits blog, publishing an annual report will allow for comparative analysis and give exposure to the library and its staff.

3.  Library Advisory Group

            The library is a learning commons and is a space that is used by everyone.  If the program does not meet the needs of the user, then it should be revised.  As a first year librarian, I would attempt to evaluate the pulse of the library program by creating an advisory group of students, staff, parents and community members.  I would want to find out how the library could better meet each of their needs.  This could be a way not only to create more relevant opportunities in the library but also to get the attention of more advocates including parents and community members.  The library has great resources that could be valuable to people outside the school building.  This could be the first step to creating new relationships and new advocates for the library program.  The group could meet once a semester or as needed.

Doug Johnson’s 2nd Rule of Advocacy is: Build relationships and inform so others will advocate for you.

4.  Library Twitter Account

            Finally as a first time librarian in an effort to draw attention to the library programs, serve students and put new technology into action, I would create a library twitter account.  Through this account, I could continuously update users, alert staff and students about events and market the programs in the library.  Each time a monthly newsletter is available, I could send out a tweet.  Additionally, each time there is an event in the library, students could know about it right away.  Hopefully this tool will draw students into the library and keep them informed on what the library has to offer. 

This idea came from a photograph that was posted here.  The sign was outside a museum and it made me think of how many students use twitter every day and how it would be a very relevant way to make connections with students.

In response to Granny Beads’ question:

What do you do in your position that, given the present economic circumstances, NO ONE ELSE in the building can do? What makes you INDISPENSABLE?

As a School Library Media Specialist I have a working relationship with everyone in the building.  I make it my job to know each department’s curriculum and how it fits with the library curriculum.  I work to make resources available to teachers when they need them and participate in the teaching process to give students the best possible learning environment. 

As a SLMS I have tested and customized the resources in the library to meet the needs of teacher and student users.  I am available to help students daily with projects, technology, writing, and research.  I am trained to provide staff development and teach students and staff information literacy skills.  I provide resources and expertise that ensures all of the library patrons have the tools they need to be successful.  I am indispensable because I work for each and every user in the school building to create learning opportunities.  The results of exposure to my program are increased tests scores, student learning and preparedness for the future.

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One Response to Library Advocacy

  1. Floyd Pentlin says:

    Of course, I applaud your desire to collaborate. Now ——- how are you going to get the teachers to collaborate with you? I know you want to collaborate with them. I realize that an already collegial relationship with the teachers is a step in the right direction, but just because one works with the math teachers on a committee doesn’t mean they will want to bring their classes to the media center. But your final point is the important one — meeting student needs is the best way to get them to advocate for you.

    A newsletter is a great idea. How did you decide on this over, say, a blog?

    Ah. I see — I hadn’t gotten to number 4 yet which is your preferred source for continuous updating. Isn’t that a great pictureI?!

    Indispensable: If I was an unsympathetic administrator could I take your statements and wanted to be argumentative could I not argue that most of the things you mention could be done by someone else? What is unique about the things that you list that the librarian contributes to the educational environment? I’m not really picking at your answer because it was fine, but it is a really difficult question.

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