School library services are being de-valued not only in the current educational environment, but in our culture in general. One primary factor points to the misconceptions about the internet and its role in information delivery.
Recently many seem to point to Advocacy as the most logical solution, but what does that mean to a school teacher librarian, who for the most part is a “singleton” in the building? We must educate our school community, and that doesn’t mean just students, teachers, parents, or administrators. It means everyone who pays tax dollars and questions our existence.
Some say actively participate in local, state, and national level organizations. I do believe that helps, but it doesn’t appease the nerves of a teacher librarian who fears the job is on the line.
Listed here are a few ideas that a lone teacher librarian who wonders what contribution can be made in the name of advocacy. PR (public relations) can come in many formats:
- One of the simplest ways to have PR is to have a media center webpage. If you do not control the website then get in touch with who does and make it known how you want your media center webpage to represent your program. Does it answer who, what, when , where, why? Is it a useful stopping point for students, parents, teachers, and even fellow librarians? The website can be a way to get the library message across.
- Serve the school community 24-7. Make a way to find out what the customer needs. An online form can help you meet the needs of learners no matter who they are by asking for relevant information: who are you, what do you need, how, where and when can we best deliver it to you. This form tells your patrons (and an even wider audience) that you care about their needs even when the library is not open, and even if they are not from your immediate school.
- Tell a library story – Share good things happening. Find ways to let your teachers, parents, administrators, students, and colleagues know about the great things going on in your library. It doesn’t have to be a warm and fuzzy spot on the evening news (though it could be), it can be as small as a monthly summary of library activities, events, and stats provided to your administrator at the building level and district level. A library blog can also be an avenue to do this, and best it allows for feedback from your school and community. Make videos to tell about what is happening “@the library.”
- Confirm your identity and enhance awareness, appreciation, and support. Just the other day I had a teacher hunting for our tech coordinator (who just happens to work in a back office of the library, though he serves the whole district, very convenient I might add.) She desperately needed him t help her finish her powerpoint for a district meeting the next day. He wasn’t availabe, so I asked what was wrong with the powerpoint. She exclaimed that he could help her embed music throughout the slideshow. I immediately told her I could do that for her, and even better. As we talked about the music selection, I had an opportunity to talk about using creative commons music since she didnt have time to obtain written permission for the music she had chosen, and then worked diligently to find her some music she liked, and finalizing her powerpoint to be ready the next day. This will go a long way in making her realize I bring skills and resources to the table, and she will likely share this experience herself with others. Word of mouth can be very helpful in advocacy, especially when its good news. (Even so simple a task.)
- Along the same lines of being helpful with staff, share resources, send out helpful links or interesting information to your staff. If you worry about being called the email king or queen, then compile them for a weekly or biweekly message. A clickable link in an email is so much more powerful than a link written out in a hardcopy newsletter or flier. Things like this goes a long way in creating relationships, partnerships, coalitions.
- Serve on whatever committees come to the table for volunteers. It gives you an opportunity to truly know the pulse of teachers, parents, students, administrators and more. In these committees, you have a captive audience to show off the skills you bring to the table and the ability to change perceptions!
- Join Classroom 2.0 for exposure to all things 2.0; find ways to embrace some of the shared resources in the name of learning and meeting your students where they are at.
- Join Teacher Librarian Ning a grassroots effort by Joyce Valenza to immerse fellow librarians into productive networking. There is even a group specifically for advocacy!
Now while I’m all about my technology tools, particularly the interactive 2.0 kinds, and how they engage our learners today where they are at, I have purposefully made this list NOT solely about that. I know there are many librarians around who just are not there yet. But I am not saying you shouldn’t get there. Where to start?
Start by jumping in some social media tools yourself. Blogs, wikis, microblogging (Twitter), Facebook, and other tools are just a few I recommend to get started. How can you teach about what you do not have a foundation in yourself? Here are some readings to jumpstart that area so you can begin to integrate those kinds of tools in your advocacy toolkit.
Articles to read:
- From Tech & Learning 14 Ways K–12 Librarians Can Teach Social Media by Joyce Valenza
- From School Library Journal (Joyce Valenza and Doug Johnson) Things that Keep Us Up at Night
- From School Library Journal (Joyce Valenza) My 2.0 day and the response/rant about our cover argument
- From the Unquiet Librarian (Buffy J. Hamilton) How Will You Tell Your Story
- From the Unquiet Librarian (Buffy J. Hamilton) Advocating with More Dimension to Your Monthly Reports
- From the Unquiet Librarian (Buffy J. Hamilton) Advocacy and Assessment via Flip Video
- From the Unquiet Librarian (Buffy J. Hamilton) The Monthly Report Goes Multimedia: Animoto.com
Also have a look at AASL’s Advocacy Toolkit, chocked full of ideas you can implement today.
Here are some other state organizations that offer Advocacy Tools & Tips:
- New York Library Association – Advocacy Tools
- Alabama Instructional Media Association: Advocacy for Our Profession
- New Jersey Association of School Librarians – Advocacy Wiki
- Georgia Library Media Association
Image: ‘go away‘