Advocacy means not only wearing our many hats, but also doing a symbolic fashion spread with them! To be a strong advocate of school library programs and services, one must be willing to toot one’s own horn loudly and wear one’s collective hats boldly on behalf of the students, staff and community in which we serve. We should be sporting, in fact, not just hats, but also, superhero masks and capes to proudly proclaim our place at the educational leadership table.
When we combine our voices, we naturally empower ourselves to make a stronger difference. So many opportunities exist for us to advocate on a daily basis through both small acts and larger ones. Advocacy is not supplemental to what we do. It is a central and enormously important aspect of our jobs as library media specialists.
Each time I get to know an individual student’s or staff member’s reading interests and beyond that, their personal interests, I am advocating. Every time I take a moment out of my busy day to enthusiastically share about the amazing resources we have in the library in terms of both reading material, learning resources and new technology, I am advocating.
When I take a walk down the hallway and intercept a teacher to invite her to my newly renovated library space, I am advocating. In off hours, when I take time out to enjoy a show with staff members, I am advocating. Strong advocacy happens through the creation of strong relationships.
Helping students develop a passion for reading, inquiry and creativity by providing tools, resources, instruction and encouragement is advocacy. Documenting and showcasing student learning through publishing of articles, use of social media, and offering of presentations, allows one to take it a step further.
Being bold, creative and innovative through programming is another way to advocate. Connecting what happens in the library with larger school and district initiatives is also essential to demonstrating the value of school library programs.
When I was approached by colleagues from our Science Department to host a series of STEM talks at our Sharon High School Library recently, I jumped at the opportunity and offered to co-organize and co-sponsor the event. I committed library budget dollars, assisted in writing a grant to provide further funding, researched and identified potential speakers.
Advocating means being visible both inside and outside of the library. Participating on district task forces and community organizations broadens one’s scope of influence. From Global Competence Program task forces to Community Speak Outs, I keep my eyes open for opportunities to serve and by doing so, to network with colleagues and neighbors who will then advocate on behalf of my library program and services.
The power of social media in widening and deepening our advocacy voices is also not to be under-estimated. Through ISTE and locally, through MSLA, I’ve had the opportunity to co-host regular, advocacy-themed Twitter chats. I look forward to these opportunities to “talk shop” about the valuable work we do and to collectively brainstorm about the many ways in which we can promote it.
Author: Cathy Collins
Ms. Collins has worked as a Media Specialist/Librarian for 14 years. She is currently a library media specialist at Sharon High School, where she has worked for the past four years. She began her career as a reporter who covered business, arts and education-related issues. While interviewing the headmaster at a private school, she realized that she wanted to combine her love of research and writing with a career in education. At that point, she returned to school for a Masters in Library Science and further graduate studies in educational leadership. Ms. Collins has published her writing in various journals including “Library Media Connection,” “NEA Today,” education-related blogs and websites including AASL’s “Knowledge Quest.” She is a 2012 Reynolds High School Journalism Institute Fellow and project consultant for the E-Book, “Searchlights and Sunglasses: Journalism in the Digital Age.” She received a “Teachers for Global Classrooms” fellowship from the U.S. State Dept. in 2014 and is the recipient of AASL’s Intellectual Freedom Award (2014) as well as a “Super Librarian” award bestowed by MSLA (Massachusetts School Library Association). She is a Massachusetts Library System Executive Board Member and has served on the MassCUE Board as PD Chair since 2013 along with the NEISTE Board. She earned National Board Certification as a Library/Media Teacher in 2009. In her spare time, she enjoys nature walks, reading, travel and yoga.