Advocacy: Knowledge Is Power

If knowledge is in fact power, then, school librarians ought to be the most powerful group in the nation. We are the keepers of the books. We are the guardians of the resources. We are super heroes. We are powerful.


Why, then, are we in the midst of fighting what seems in some cases to be an up-hill battle to have our voices heard? Why are we hearing more often of states and local schools petitioning for waivers to remove certified professionals from their school libraries? Many school librarians want to advocate for their position within their district. They want to fight for their students to have a professional assist them with research techniques, locate appropriate reading material,  and connect them globally. Many school librarians also do not know where to begin on the road to advocacy, or they fear the reprimand that will follow suit.

Begin small. After all, Ant-man is tiny, but he’s still powerful.

1. AASL Resources for Advocacy

AASL provides a wealth of resources to help one build their knowledge base of advocacy for school libraries. Begin by reading through some of the brochures and infographics provided. Print out a few. Email copies to your building principals, administrative leaders, and school board members. An infographic can’t hurt. It is, in fact, simply information! These simple graphics provide power to anyone’s advocacy journey.

2. Know Your Legislation

On December 10, 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into law. Are you confused about local and national legislation that could be affecting your school library program? Me, too. To keep track of all of the changes to the laws and AASL’s position, visit their Legislation page. If you’re an insomniac and would like to read the 449 page PDF, you can find it on the U.S. Department of Education’s website. I just learned that ESSA originated in 1965!

September was Take Your Legislator to School Month, but it isn’t too late to invite your local elected officials to visit your school library. Ask them to read to a class or two. I often ask if they’ll read one of the books nominated for a state award and record them. It’s a great way to allow your legislator into your world for a moment while advocating for your programs.

3. Attend a Workshop

Did you know that AASL provides ESSA Workshops? Many states already have dates set. The Calendar of Events is mid-way down the page. Many states are also holding ESSA Listening Forums. Our local state association has encouraged members to attend. If you are unable to get your name on the docket, being present speaks volumes.

When advocating for your position, program, or your students, remember that you are not alone. We are all on the same team. After all, Ant-man joins the Avengers from time to time. School librarians are powerful, but why advocate alone? Knowledge is power, and we have all the knowledge in the world.


Author: Ashley Cooksey

Library Media Specialist in Arkansas. Self-proclaimed geek. Lover of nature and music. Always learning.

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics

Tags: , , , , , , ,

4 replies

  1. We are not “keepers” of the books nor “guardians” of the resources, that is the job of clerks. We are teachers of information literacy. The United States National Forum on Information Literacy defines information literacy as “… the ability to know when there is a need for information, to be able to identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively use that information for the issue or problem at hand.”

  2. As school librarians, I do think we are still “keepers of the books and guardians of the resources”. I don’t have a clerk in my school library- it’s just me… I am the “be” all and “end” all in the school media center- the reference person, cataloger, circulation guru, teacher and collaborator. A big responsibility I hold is to maintain the collection- each year I weed the collection and conduct an inventory to know what materials and resources I have and what I still need. I then locate resources that will help our patrons in their information needs- whether the resources are technology or print related. Thank you Ashley for a “spot on” blog post about advocacy!

  3. I think Marla and Erin are both correct. As teacher librarians, ultimately it is our responsibility to maintain the collection AND teach our charges information literacy skills. As budgets dwindle, the multiple jobs in small school and even larger schools are being relegated to one person.

    I think Ashley’s portrayal of the school librarian as a super power is very true. Super Heroes defend and protect those who cannot protect themselves from bullies and evil villains. The children we teach, whose first experience with a book of their very own often comes as a Kindergarten student in public school…. we stand and defend the right to a school library.
    For those students who can identify with a character in a book because they look and feel different than their school friends… for those students we stand and defend the right to a school library.

    For the high school student whose family cannot afford internet let alone a computer… we stand and defend their right to a school library.

    School librarians are super heroes.

  4. Great comments. I think Marla was saying we cannot be satisfied being viewed as a “keeper of the books”. That is an outdated misconception held by too many on my campus. It is true that I do many clerical duties in my job as a school librarian, but my role is so much more than that. My main job, as I see it, is to motivate children to want to seek answers, to want to learn and then give them the ability to know exactly where to look for the information they seek. I’m also the “book fairy” inviting children to discover the fun and magic contained in great books! This afternoon I am hosting forty students in my after school book club. I have done this for four years now and my numbers keep growing. We are indeed super heroes! Great blog post, Ashley!

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