What Does the Future Hold for School Libraries?
This year the ALA Midwinter Meeting was held in Philadelphia. It is a place rich in American library history. However, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia public school system has less than ten certified librarians on the district payroll for its 200-plus schools. The article explains, “It mirrors a national trend: When budgets get tight, librarians often get cut, with administrators saying that in an increasingly digital world, children can access resources online in lieu of working with a librarian” (Graham 2020).
Advocate before It Is Too Late.
On Friday, January 24, 2020, a rally was held at the district’s headquarters to support legislation requiring every school in Pennsylvania to have a certified librarian. The need for legislation is vital, but what else can we do to advocate for school library positions? One suggestion is that each school librarian create an advocacy plan for their library and library position. Plans for advocacy alone will not protect jobs or facilities, but working the goals, objectives, and strategies set up in an advocacy plan, I believe, will make a difference.
Below is an outline we used in our last advocacy plan:
- Goals (What are we trying to accomplish?)
- Objectives (Why is it important?)
- Strategies (How? What are the activities we’ll do to achieve our goal?)
- What is our advocacy message? In [close to] 15 words or less
- What data (or stories) support this message?
- Who are our patrons?
- Why should they care?
Strategic Planning and Advocacy Plans
This year at the Webb School library, we decided to start early on the strategic plan and annual report. The last strategic or advocacy plan we created was in the 2015-2016 school year; this year, we are working on a more comprehensive project for the future. These plans typically outline goals for five years at a time. Marcellus Turner, a speaker at ALA Midwinter’s Symposium on the Future of Libraries and the executive director and chief librarian at the Seattle Public Library, outlined some future-readying planning during the symposium. He recommended calling this a “strategic direction” rather than a strategic plan. Turner also supports these directions to be closer to three years in length than five. Given this advice, we plan to follow a shorter timeframe for our strategic direction as well.
Reach for the Stars
For school libraries, there are many resources for plan design. Some may need a template to get things started. We always like to look at the criteria for the National School Library of the Year Award (NSLY). It is always a good idea to reach and stretch even if you have no plans to enter such a contest. Some of the things to include in your advocacy document include demographics, a school profile, the library’s social media, the library website, and a description of the library staff. Some of the more complex information may take a bit more time, like the library budget and an analysis of the print collection. All of this information is great to have handy because it is useful for any grants and awards. Two items distinct to the NSLY criteria are the NSLY Keystones, or elements of the school library as an essential part of the learning community, and evidence of the Shared Foundations: Inquire, Include, Collaborate, Curate, Engage, Explore.
An integral part of this plan is library reports. If all this is overwhelming, try looking to other school librarians for examples. Try completing an annual report if this is something you have not done. Jennifer LaGarde has a great article on her blog about yearly reports (2017).
Quarterly or Periodic Reports
We report three times a year at Webb to our board of trustees. To get ideas for how to complete these reports, we look at both academic and community libraries that report quarterly. These reports often look similar to a library newsletter.
Here are some examples of quarterly reports:
- The City of Duncanville, Texas Library Quarterly Report
- Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries Quarterly Report
- HHS Library Quarterly Report
- Historical T.C. Williams High School Library
Finally, I am repeating myself from an earlier post, but it’s worth repeating: It is NOT narcissistic to promote the work of the school librarian. 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.
See our past reports, and we hope to share our 2020 direction soon.
Graham, Kristen A. 2020. “Philly’s Got the Worst School Librarian Ratio in the U.S. This Group Is Protesting.” Philadelphia Inquirer (Jan. 25). www.inquirer.com/education/school-library-librarians-closed-philadelphia-rally-ratio-20200124.html.
LaGarde, Jennifer. 2019. “It’s Annual Report Season! Here Are Some Tips To Help You Effectively Tell Your Story.” Librarygirl. www.librarygirl.net/post/it-s-annual-report-season-here-are-some-tips-to-help-you-effectively-tell-your-story.
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.