When I served as president of our Virginia school librarians’ association, the theme for my presidential year was “Advocacy Begins with You!” However, as I have reflected over the past decade or so, I’ve revised that slightly to emphasize that advocacy begins with each of us. AASL defines advocacy as an “on-going process of building partnerships so that others will act for and with you, turning passive support into educated action for the library program.”
Many times our advocacy efforts, working to build partnerships and support for our library programs, focus at the local level (and absolutely, support at the local level—from our principals, our parents, our communities, our superintendents, and our local school boards—is critical to what we do!). On March 17 in another KQ blog post though, I challenged you to invite federal legislators to your libraries during the spring congressional recess to see firsthand how strong school libraries and librarians impact student learning.
Forty-four AASL members in 17 states (AL, CA, CT, GA, IA, IL, IN, KY, MD, MI, NC, NJ, NY, PA, TN, VA, WA) reported inviting their representatives, senators, or both for a visit, and four members have shared that their invitations were accepted.
From Kathy Lester, East Middle School, Plymouth, MI:
“As part of AASL’s challenge to invite a legislator to your library during their Spring recess, I invited Senator Stabenow and Senator Peters from Michigan to visit my library during the East MS Library Maker Club Showcase, which was scheduled for April 19. Terry Campbell, Debbie Stabenow’s regional manager in Detroit, replied that Debbie’s schedule was booked but that she would love to visit if we could arrange a later date.
“We arranged for Ms. Campbell to visit on May 16 during East Middle School’s collaborative 8th Grade Science Innovation Maker Station project. For eight days, all eighth-grade science students visit one of eight maker stations set up in the library for a hands-on STEM learning experience. Ms. Campbell along with our district superintendent, Monica Merritt, visited the library to observe the project and interact with students. Ms. Campbell replied to my thank-you note with the following comment: ‘Thank you for inviting our office to visit. I was truly impressed with the program, and importantly, with the kid’s engagement.’”
From Cathy Evans, St. Mary’s Episcopal School, Memphis, TN:
“I invited both senators and two congressional representatives, and, to my surprise, both congressional representatives accepted my invitation. Congressman Steve Cohen visited on April 18 and Congressman David Kustoff visited on April 19. … I knew I was not the person to tell the story of the impact of school libraries on student learning. That message needed to come from my students and from the teachers who collaborate with us. So, I invited several students and a teacher to meet with our congressmen. Our students eloquently told the story of how they depend on the school library and librarians to help them with their research and school projects and elaborated on the skills they had learned and even gave impassioned arguments as to why all students should have access to this type of library program. The teacher explained the collaborative role the librarians play in her teaching and how the ideas we had brought to her have truly changed the way she teaches and how her students learn.”
From Stacey Kern, Clark-Pleasant Middle School, Greenwood, IN:
“As a wrap-up to School Library Month, Representative Hollingsworth visited our bustling middle school library. He was able to witness a library lesson in action, tour our fantastic learning commons, and engage in conversations with students and staff.”
From Kim Johnson, South Carroll High School, Sykesville, MD:
“More than ever, school libraries are important to our students. … In these times of budget cuts and accountability, school libraries must remain open and well-funded! So, when Congressman Raskin confirmed his visit for April 12, I was really excited to show him these things! He got to experience an Hour of Code, see our #weneeddiversebooks March Madness display, and visit with lunch students. Then, we invited four government classes to come to the media center for a Q and A with the congressman. Prior to serving in Congress, Mr. Raskin was a law professor at American University Washington College of Law and published We the Students, a book about Supreme Court cases that affect students. Interestingly, we have this book in our media center, and Congressman Raskin signed our copy! His knowledge and perspective on student rights was well-received by many students.
“I’m hoping Congressman Raskin walked away with a new picture of what a school library is and can be. When it comes time to funding quality school programs and maintaining school budgets, I’m hoping he can step through on our behalf. Inviting Congressman Raskin to experience my media center for two hours also taught me to be bold in my advocacy. We are truly the voices of our programs, and the best way we can advocate for our programs is to show them in action!”
I’m reminded of what a presenter said in a session that I attended at the recent Vermont School Library Association conference: “People can’t support what they don’t know! Share proactively on a regular basis what you are doing!” Just as our local administrators, parents, and school boards may not know what we are doing unless we tell them, the same holds true for our legislators. Kudos to each of you who invited a legislator to visit your library! Congratulations to Kathy, Cathy, Stacey, and Kim for successful visits demonstrating how strong school libraries and librarians impact student learning!