Let’s shout it together! All students deserve equitable access to a school library staffed by a certified school librarian. This is AASL’s vision: “Every school librarian is a leader; every learner has a school librarian” and is something that drives my daily work. I wish there was some magic button that I could push to provide our students with the access that they deserve; but, alas, it is going to take hard work and take all of us working together to achieve this vision.
Which is where you come in – what is at least one action that you can take this year to help advocate for school libraries/librarians? What is a New Year’s Resolution that you can commit to related to advocacy for school libraries? There are many possibilities of actions that you can take to help raise the visibility of your work with students. Below are some of my ideas. I’d love to hear ideas from others as well. Please feel free to add ideas in the comments to this post.
January is School Board Recognition Month – January is a great time to thank supportive school board members for the work that they do. Last year, I wrote a thank you to my school board members and donated two books to our school library in their honor. If you do not have supportive school board members (or even if you do), consider presenting during public comment at a school board meeting about all of the great things going on in your school library. A great example of this is Julie Miller’s three-minute comments at a Clay County, Florida School Board meeting in December. (Julie’s comments start at 1:09:05 here: ). youtu.be/rFsW399aHZg
Invite Community Leaders and Legislators to your Library – Do you have an event coming up in your school library highlighting student work? Is there a project where students can learn from community leaders or legislators? At my school, we have invited our State Representative to speak with 8th grade Social Studies classes about how legislation gets introduced and passed. We have also connected students with our mayor, city police chief, and state legislators for interviews for their C-SPAN Studentcam projects (a project that I have co-taught with Social Studies teachers). Another idea is to invite community leaders to read to students during Reading Month or School Library Month celebrations. A great example is Gigi Lincoln’s invite to her school’s legislators from both sides of the aisle: https://www.thebattlecreekshopper.com/students-get-reading-month-lessons-from-both-sides-of-the-aisle
Create a Regular School Library Newsletter – Library Newsletters can be a great advocacy tool. Newsletters can be shared with students, parents, teachers, administrators, and others to keep them informed about the great things going on in the school library and to keep them abreast of available resources. There are several great KQ Blog posts about library newsletters including posts by Margaret Sullivan (https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/communicating-with-parents-through-newsletters/) and Kelly Hincks (https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/using-newsletters-advocate/)
Get Involved in Your State School Library Association – AASL State Chapters are doing great work advocating for school libraries within their states. I’m sure that they would love to have you volunteer to work on a committee or team. At a minimum, pay attention to calls to action from your state chapter and take action when asked to do so. Typically, guidance is given around the ask to make it simple for everyone to participate and it is very important that everyone participate in order to make a larger impact. There are several states gearing up for action in 2023 – Washington is just one example of this. (Follow #K12Librarians4AllWA on Twitter.)
Building relationships and bringing visibility to our work with learners in our libraries is a necessary part of what school librarians do. The start of the new year – when we take a look at highlights from the year thus far and look toward goals for the remainder of the year – is a perfect time to commit to at least one advocacy-related action. What is an action or several actions that you can commit to? If there is something that I or AASL can do to support you in these efforts, please don’t hesitate to reach out by providing comments below or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Kathy Lester, AASL President 2022-2023
One of the biggest first steps a school librarian can take is making sure that their audience of stakeholders understands what school libraries bring to the community. In our first Libraries.Today National Forum, made possible in part through funding from an IMLS National Leadership Grant, we heard loud and clear that our stakeholders don’t really understand what we do. You can read more in the report from our first forum on the project website at https://forum.libraries.today/.
More importantly, you can also find a link on the project website to our response to this finding from the first forum. We worked with a national marketing firm, GapingVoid.com, to develop an ebook that uses narrative to help redefine the understanding of school librarianship. That ebook, and the amazing graphics contained within, have been released for free usage under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license. This means that you can download the PDF from the Libraries.Today website and create posters, stickers. t-shirts, etc. from the graphics to help tell the story of what school libraries do.
All of this is available on the project website at https://forum.libraries.today/. You will also find hours of video content from the first forum, as well as initial information on our final forum coming up on Feb. 28 – Mar. 1.