Advocacy is a single word, but it means so much to the library and librarian profession. As Archibald MacLeish said, “What is more important to a library than anything else–than everything else–is the fact that it exists.” Over the past year I have seen a different side to advocacy, and living its importance has changed me. For the first time in thirteen years of teaching I am faced with showing others why I matter and why libraries matter in an “innovative” world.
How Can I Show It?
If you are ever faced with the single question, “What exactly do you do here?” the answer is impossible to capture it in a conversation. It does not fit into a spreadsheet or a table. The answer is not a bullet pointed list. What I do, and what we all do each and every day for students, staff, and our communities, is so much more. When I was asked this question I struggled with the reality of “how can I show this?” and “how can I put what the library means to my school into words?” My answer came in the form of a bulletin board inspired by English teacher and musician John Biernacki.
Creating Library Love
Each time I work with John’s classes he always starts my lessons with “can we show Mrs. Pelayo some love?” and the class claps and cheers. It gets the lesson off to a engaging start and emphasizes the fact that he appreciates what I do. When I thought about creating a bulletin board in my office to showcase what the library means to students and staff, “Library Love” instantly came to my mind. Being a high school English teacher and musician, John has a way with words that I never will. His music at JohnBiernackiMusic inspired my advocacy words and motivated me to progressive action on promoting good vibes.
Piecing It All Together
The goal for this board is for it to be a visual reminder of why the library matters and why I matter to our school and community. The message of “Library Love” should be strong to express my feelings without me saying a word. I included the “My Trusted” letter from a student who feels like this is their safe space, copies of emails about the books students are reading that spoke to them in so many ways, all of the “Dream Team” stickers that show how we work with the school as a team, and the “My Favorite Teacher” letters and recognition shirts that I have from students.
As the year progresses I will continuously add artifacts to this board. The next time I am asked the question, “What exactly do you do here?” all I will need to do is show them this board and the “Library Love” will speak for itself.
Author: Elizabeth Pelayo
Elizabeth Pelayo is the library media specialist at St. Charles East High School in St. Charles Illinois. She currently writes book reviews for School Library Journal. She is a member of the AASL AAUP Book Selection Committee. Also, she is a member of the nominations committee for the ISLMA Abraham Lincoln Book Award.