Pivoting for Impactful Advocacy

“When people look slowly, they make discoveries.” –Austin Kleon, Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad (2019)

The “School Librarian Role in Pandemic Learning Conditions” document focuses on the five important roles of a school librarian–instructional partner, teacher, leader, information specialist, and program administrator–during remote, hybrid, and in-person education. The 9-page resource guide and chart were created to help school librarians who were looking for suggestions and guidance on how to engage with learners and educators in all three learning environments. As Courtney Lewis highlighted in the previous post, themes emerged from the feedback from the AASL Town Halls during the spring. The three of us, along with AASL Executive Director Sylvia Knight Norton, sought to identify a useful way to present the information in the town halls to school librarians as they prepared to go back to school—in whatever form that took. As the guide and chart have made the rounds school librarians have reached out with questions and thoughts on the document. We would like to address some of those questions and thoughts in this blog post.

With any graphic, guidance, or paper, it is essential to first consider the intention of the resource and then determine your ability to implement its suggestions/guidance based on your professional situation and community needs. What may work in one school may not be feasible in another. Each of us has come to our role with our “why” for becoming and remaining a school librarian, as Simon Sinek suggested in a TED Talk. He goes on to say, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Connecting your “why” to your district “why” is an impactful way to ensure that the school library is embedded into the school culture. Many of the issues surfacing during the pandemic can be mitigated by creating strong goals and implementing them well.  The following questions can help school librarians determine the pathway to implementation of your library services:

  1. What is your why? In what ways are you communicating your why to your community and stakeholders?
  2. How are you connecting the AASL Common Beliefs and your personal why to your school, district, and/or campus goals?
  3. Which stakeholders do you need to reach out to in order to determine next steps for action?

Once an individual school librarian has reflected on the above questions, they are better able to advocate how librarians can assist with the 9-page resource guide and chart. Knowing your community and your unique relationship with administrators is important to the growth and needs of your school library. In the Theory of the Five Laws of Library Science, Ranganathan states, “The library must be a growing organism,” meaning “a library should be a dynamic institution that is never static in its outlook. Books, methods, and the physical library should be updated over time.” This law also translates to a virtual school library. School librarians embody this theory and bring this idea to all of their relationships within the community. A school librarian’s relationship with their administrator also needs to be a growing organism, ever evolving as trust is built.

Here are some suggestions for how to use the chart with your administrator:

  1. Highlight areas that align with or meet community needs. What evidence can you share that illustrates how the school library is meeting these goals? Which AASL Standards are addressed that illustrate areas where your school library has created programming, curriculum, or curated resources?
  2. If you are on a school opening planning team, use the document to illustrate the ways school libraries in the district are prepared to collaborate with other educators.
  3. With your administrator, brainstorm how the school library can help to ensure equity for all learners.

As Joyce Valenza illustrates in a recent blog post, there are many opportunities school librarians can capitalize on. The ideas suggested here illustrate the thinking process to use to help solve issues that arise during this crisis. The resource guide identifies challenges and opportunities during the pandemic. These challenges and opportunities are divided by the three general models that most school plans address (remote, hybrid, and in person). Look at each of these challenges individually and brainstorm with stakeholders ways to unpack the opportunities within each of the learning conditions.

As in the past, advocacy is still a much-needed consideration as school librarians continue their work. The many invisible actions we do behind the scenes is critical, especially now, and the evidence of those actions are important to share. Here are some reflective considerations:

  1. What could advocacy look like especially if you are working remotely?
  2. What evidence can you share? How does this evidence impact learners and educators?
  3. How will you share your work and impact with others?

Moving Forward

As school librarians, we possess unique strengths and qualifications. School librarians are agile problem solvers who have been innovating and evolving in this profession for years. School librarians are leading in many core school functions, but adjusting to just-in-time needs requires thoughtfulness and planning. Here are ways to stay nimble during these challenging times:

As Simon Sinek shares, “Genius is in the idea. Impact, however, comes from action.” We invite fellow school librarians to share how things are going, needs that arise, and ideas you have implemented by using the hashtag #AASL. We look forward to learning with you.

Works Cited:

“Five Laws of Library Science.” 2020. Wikipedia (Mar. 25). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_laws_of_library_science#Fifth_Law:_The_library_is_a_growing_organism (accessed Aug. 14. 2020).

Sinek, Simon. 2009. “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” TED Talk.

Author: Becky Calzada and Anita Cellucci

Becky Calzada is the Library Services Coordinator in Leander ISD, a fast-growth suburban school district northwest of Austin, Texas. She is an AASL member, serving as the AASL Director-at-Large, a member of The Center for the Future of Libraries Advisory Group, an SLC Topic Editor and a member of the Legislative & Advocacy Committee for the Texas Library Association. Becky can be reached at becky.calzada@leanderid.org or on Twitter @becalzada.

Anita Cellucci, is the teacher librarian, K-12 Department Head at Westborough High School, Westborough, MA. and a Teaching Lecturer for Plymouth State University, NH. Anita is a Director at Large on the AASL Board of Directors, past MSLA Advocacy Co-chair as well as a past President of the Massachusetts School Library Association. She is a Guided Inquiry Design Practitioner. For her work in relation to mental health and social – emotional learning she was named a 2019 LJ Mover & Shaker and received the School Librarian of the Year 2016 Finalist Award. Anita can be reached on Twitter @anitacellucci.

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics

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2 replies

  1. Becky and Anita, I think you both made many valid points throughout this blog. We are often so busy that we forget to reflect upon the “why” that energizes us and gives purpose to our actions. I also appreciate the reminder to remember the importance of being an advocate for myself and for my profession, regardless of the way teaching and learning is occurring in my school. This is a very thoughtful and timely blog.

  2. Thank you for your post, Becky and Anita.

    I especially appreciate your bullet #1: “Stay connected with other professionals to get ideas that can be implemented within your school library.”

    As Becky knows the Texas Association of School Librarians has launched a statewide year-long advocacy campaign called “Let’s Promote Libraries!”

    To my way of thinking, this (brilliant) campaign has five effective strategies: collaboration, alignment with standards, virtual PD, reciprocity with colleagues using social media, and connections, connections, connections.

    You can read about “Let’s Promote Libraries!” on the TxASLTalks blog: https://tasltalks.blogspot.com/2020/08/now-we-need-to-promote-libraries-more.html

    Or my review of the campaign in my 8/24/20 blog post: http://www.schoollibrarianleadership.com/2020/08/24/statewide-year-long-advocacy-texas-style/

    I hope school librarians across the country will implement some of the strategies offered in Becky and Anita’s blog post and in the “Let’s Promote Libraries!” campaign.

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