Self-advocacy and the art of tooting your own horn!
2. self-ad·vo·ca·cy: noun – the action of representing oneself or one’s views or interests.
2. toot your own horn: to point out positive truths about oneself
I have heard too many stories lately about school librarians that were blindsided and let go during the summer months. School boards saw eliminating library positions as a way to save money, and long-time librarians were let go because the position was eliminated. We can come together as AASL members and other large groups to advocate for the library profession. However, we do not need to neglect advocating for our own individual libraries and library positions.
It is NOT narcissistic to promote your work as the school librarian. It is in fact your duty to protect the valuable position that you hold. We must speak up for our positions and our students’ need for a school library and school librarian. So, not only should we participate in advocacy but also self advocacy.
1.) Ask and seek for what you need
Make a list of the things you need for your library. Go ‘window shopping’, to create vendor lists of books, technology and supplies. Send the wishlist to parents, grandparents, local businesses, and the school board.
Apply for grants. Scholastic list of grants for libraries – http://www.scholastic.com/librarians/programs/grants.htm
2.) Get attention if you have a great program
Get attention for your program by self-nominating for these awards [only you know how much you do for your school and only you have the details to fill out these applications] https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/2016-aasl-awards/
National School Library Program of the Year Award Sponsored by Follett Monetary amount: $10,000 Deadline: January 1, 2016
Innovative Reading Grant, $2,500, sponsored by Capstone, which is designed to fund literacy projects for grades K-9
Collaborative School Library Award, $2,500, sponsored by Upstart, which recognizes and encourages collaboration and partnerships between school librarians and teachers
3.) Seek help if you fear your position or program is in jeopardy
We must know and defend our rights and responsibilities using the resources that are available. Know the minimum requirements of libraries and personnel for the approval of public schools for your State. Advocate locally for high standards. Your state association can help with advocacy and professional development.
“A school with a current average daily membership of one thousand five hundred (1,500) or more students shall have two (2) full-time library information specialists, each with endorsement as a library information specialist. — A school with a current average daily membership of more than three hundred (300) but less than one thousand five hundred (1,500) students shall have a full-time library information specialist with endorsement as a library information specialist.”
We should negotiate for our positions, working with others to reach an agreement that will meet the needs of the students and the school. Things to do for self-advocacy include developing a relationship with your administrators and becoming a part of the leadership team at your school. How? One way is to really look at your school’s test data, focus on your school’s areas of improvement or gaps in instruction. Develop strategies to improve student understanding and fill in the gaps these tests reveal especially in literacy and critical thinking. Using this data you can conduct effective in-service programming for your faculty. These activities turn your administrators and teachers into library advocates as well.
4.) Explain your library to others
- Make an advertisement for your library. It can be an info-graphic, a brochure or a bookmark.
- Market your library and yourself online – websites, social media and online newsletters
- Have talking points – “these are six things our library does well at Local High School.”
More than anything else, you must have confidence in the value of our profession. I tell my high school students that “being a librarian is the very best career choice!” Be proud to call yourself a librarian, a school librarian, a teacher-librarian, an information professional. FYI – it is incredibly fulfilling the first time your former student becomes a librarian!
BTW, I am Hannah Byrd Little also known as “Librarian Little: The Sky is NOT Falling”
Author: Hannah Byrd Little
Hello, I am the Library Director at The Webb School of Bell Buckle. I use my past experience in college and university libraries to help my current students in school libraries transition into college, career, and life. I am currently the lead Senior Class Adviser for the Capstone Project. I also served at the state level with the Tennessee Association of School Librarians executive board from 2009-2013 and was the TASL president in 2012. I am certified as a Library Information Specialist for PreK-12th grade, have a BS in Communications with a concentration in Advertising and Public Relations, a BS in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Education and Information Systems and a Masters in Library and Information Science.