Over the past few years, I have cultivated a professional learning network on Twitter of exemplary school librarians from across the world. One of the biggest lessons I have learned from my PLN is the importance of school library advocacy and the need to constantly advocate for school library programming. I have been inspired by K.C. Boyd and her amazing advocacy efforts for the Washington, D.C., Public School System, Blake Hopper’s work with the Tennessee Association of School Librarians in advocating at the state level, and associations across the country who work tirelessly to show the importance of having a certified school librarian in every school. I constantly advocate for my school library through social media promotion, but after reading articles about national funding cuts to school libraries, I realize I need to do more.
Recently I was fortunate to receive the 2021 School Library Journal School Librarian of the Year Award. I recognize this puts me in a position where my advocacy efforts on behalf of school librarians in Louisiana might actually have some weight with my district and state officials. I immediately invited state leaders and officials to visit my school library to showcase what a modern school library looks like and ask for support. In the past few weeks, I have had school visits from our Louisiana State Superintendent of Schools, leaders from the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE), two school board members, three members of the Louisiana House of Representatives, and district officials. These visits have given me an opportunity to showcase my school library and discuss concerns I have on leadership and funding.
After explaining my concern to LDOE officials about the lack of professional development (at the state level) for school librarians, there is now talk of planning a state-wide school librarian PD day at the annual Louisiana Teacher Leader Summit. When speaking to my school board this month, I was able to convey my concern that administrators often bog down school librarians with non-librarian tasks, making it difficult to run an effective school library. I urge all school librarians to reach out to district and state leaders and invite them to visit their libraries.
Social media can be a huge asset when advocating. As you post resources and links about the importance of school libraries, tag your district and state leaders. I have found that most of our legislators do not understand the full scope of a school library, and it is important to showcase not only the special events, but the day-to-day happenings in your library. I was inspired by Michigan State Representative Darrin Camilleri’s introduction of a package of bills that would require a library staffed by a certified school librarian in every public school in the state. Think about sharing this article via social media and tagging your own representatives. Write letters to your district officials, school board members, legislators, etc. AASL provides a plethora of resources on their page http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/tools to help you get started.
Sometimes school librarians can feel as if they are bragging when they share successful programming and receive awards and grants. What you have to realize is that it is not bragging; it’s advocating for your school library. Be proud of what you do and share it with the world. If you are looking for ideas to incorporate social media into your advocacy efforts, check out my presentation: “Put Your Self(ie) Out There–Using Social Media to Advocate for School Libraries.”
K.C. Boyd once said we need to transition from advocates to activists for our school libraries and I could not agree more. We need to be proactive so we are not forced to be reactive. If we do not actively take steps to advocate for our positions now, we could find our positions and programs on the funding chopping block. Listed below are resources to help you on your own journey from advocate to activist. The time is now!
Advocacy Resources Collected by Amanda Jones
New Jersey Association of School Librarians Advocacy Tools
AASL/ALA Letter to President Biden
ALA’s Frontline Advocacy for School Librarians Toolkit
South Carolina Association of School Libraries Toolkit
Pennsylvania School Librarians Association Advocacy Resources
Author: Amanda Jones
Amanda is the 2021 School Library Journal Co-Librarian of the Year, the 2020 Louisiana School Librarian of the Year and a 20 year educator from Watson, LA. She’s a teacher-librarian and reading specialist at a 5-6 grade middle school. She co-hosts the My Two Cents edtech webinar series and is the 2019 AASL Social Media Superstar Program Pioneer. Amanda is an active member of several committees for both AASL and the Louisiana Association of School Librarians. She loves connecting students with “homerun” books and loves networking with librarians from around the world. Visit her library website at lomlibrary.org and/or find out more about her at http://librarianjones.com/.