The Wall Street Journal recently published an opinion piece about running a school library without a certified school librarian. A group of stakeholders whose children attend A. N. Pritzker Elementary believe that parent volunteers are qualified to do the job. Fortunately, the teachers union disagrees with parents and stopped the volunteer project. Michael Hendershot, a father of one of the students at A. N. Pritzker Elementary, wrote about the decision in his article “The Library Lockout at Our Elementary School.”
“If the union has the students’ best interests at heart, it will withdraw its opposition to parents volunteering in the school library” (Hendershot). His final statement makes one thing clear: Hendershot does not understand the value of librarianship. If he did, his article would argue why having a certified school librarian is essential in preparing children for college and beyond school. We know school librarians cannot be replaced with volunteers, but why don’t these parents understand that?
What about the stakeholders in your district? Do they understand your role as a school librarian? Would they be able to explain to Hendershot why he is wrong? If you don’t think so, then it’s time to start advocating for your library program and inform your community of the great work that happens in your library every day!
Start This Week
- Create a list of your stakeholders; the groups of people that influence the funding for your library program. Understand their mission and vision for the children. Align your mission and vision to support the district goal. Think about what you are doing every day to support the goals, and read “Research that Resonates: Influencing Stakeholders” by Debra Kachel for valuable information on this subject.
- Post the library mission and vision on the district website. Topnonprofits.com offers great examples of mission statements and vision statements.
- Create and practice an elevator speech. Think about what you would say to parents if they said you could be replaced by parent volunteers. What compelling message can you deliver in under 30 seconds about your essential library program?
- Take advantage of the essential AASL Advocacy Toolkit.
- Attend board meetings, PTO meetings and curriculum meetings. Listen to concerns, hopes, and dreams. Share how your program can help support their goals.
- Invite parents and grandparents to volunteer in the library to help shelve books, tackle special projects, and mentor students. Invite administrators to take part in fun library projects. These invitations will give stakeholders a better idea of what it means to be a librarian in the digital age.
- Apply for school library awards and get the school involved. The Follett Challenge is my favorite award because stakeholders need to vote for a chance to win a nice chunk of money.
- Apply for awards for your administrators. The Connecticut Association of School Librarians offers an administrator award, and the AASL offers a Distinguished School Administrator Award. Meet with your administrator to work on the application together. The application process will give administrators a clear understanding of what it means to support the library program.
- Be active with state and national school library associations. Be vocal about what you do outside of the district, and stakeholders will see you as a leader who proudly represents their school.
- Take daily pictures of children working on lessons that support the mission and vision. Share the pictures with stakeholders through social media or a weekly/monthly newsletter. Barbara Johnson, a school librarian for the Colchester Public School district, uses Twitter to inform the district, teachers, administrators and parents with hashtags and mentions.
- Get the children involved. Let them tell the story of the library program with digital tools recommended by AASL. Children will learn a great deal about marketing, developing a story, considering an audience, and presenting information by working through a marketing project.
- Apply for opportunities where students demonstrate their great work. There is a Tech Expo in Connecticut, a Dynamic Landscapes Workshop in Vermont, and a Media Literacy conference in Connecticut that are currently accepting applications.
Advocating for your library program takes work, but it’s important work. Advocating for your library program informs the community of the great return on investment they are getting with their tax dollars. Library advocacy will also keep your stakeholders from believing that volunteer parents can successfully run your program.
How do you advocate for your library? Please share your work in the comment box!
“30 Example Vision Statements – Top Nonprofits.” https://topnonprofits.com/examples/vision-statements/. Accessed 11 Jan. 2017.
“50 Example Mission Statements – Top Nonprofits.” https://topnonprofits.com/examples/nonprofit-mission-statements/. Accessed 11 Jan. 2017.
“AASL Best Websites for Teaching & Learning 2016 – American Library Association. “http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards/best/websites/2016. Accessed 11 Jan. 2017.
“ALA | AASL Advocacy Toolkit.” http://www.ala.org/Template.cfm?Section=school&template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=141164. Accessed 11 Jan. 2017.
“Call for Presentations – Central Connecticut State University.” http://nmlc.comm.ccsu.edu/call-for-papers/. Accessed 11 Jan. 2017.
“CASL Administrator’s Award.” http://www.ctcasl.com/recognition/admin.html. Accessed 11 Jan. 2017.
“Distinguished School Administrator Award | American Association of School Librarians” http://www.ala.org/aasl/awards/administrator. Accessed 11 Jan. 2017.
“Follett Challenge.” https://follettchallenge.com/. Accessed 11 Jan. 2017.
“Innovate CT – http://www.ceca-ct.org/ceca/Programs/Tech … – Facebook.” https://www.facebook.com/InnovateCT/posts/236968819996115. Accessed 11 Jan. 2017.
“Research that Resonates: Influencing Stakeholders – ABC-Clio.” https://www.abc-clio.com/Portals/0/PDF/FeaturedArticles/LU/SLMFreeArticles/0513_v29n8p5_Research_Resonates_Kachel_2.pdf. Accessed 11 Jan. 2017.
“The Library Lockout at Our Elementary School – WSJ.” 8 Jan. 2017, http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-library-lockout-at-our-elementary-school-1483747233. Accessed 11 Jan. 2017.
Author: Maureen Schlosser
I am a school librarian who curates picture books to support current events in education.