As you plan your advocacy efforts for 2019, don’t forget about your district-level administrators. The decisions they make can have a huge impact on your library and on your district’s library program. Even if they’ve always been supportive of libraries, don’t assume they know what goes on in your space. After all, they aren’t in your building, much less in your library, every day. Make sure you have a plan to let them know what you do and why it matters to students (and teachers).
One way to reach out to district-level personnel is through a regular newsletter. If you send out a newsletter to teachers and principals in your building, you might want to consider sending it to administrators at your central office as well. In a recent Knowledge Quest blog post, Karin Greenberg shared her school newsletters, which contain lots of photos and are full of “quick bits of information” that people enjoy reading. Take a look at her article if you’re looking for ideas to get started or need suggestions for freshening up your current newsletter.
In my large school district, many librarians create a monthly or quarterly newsletter to share with their building colleagues. Last year, we added one more publication to our advocacy toolkit by creating a monthly newsletter for district-level administrators (curriculum coordinators, directors, assistant superintendents, and the superintendent). While we felt these individuals were supportive of libraries, we wanted to raise awareness of how we impact student achievement in order to make sure they remained supportive. We also believed that if the subject-area curriculum coordinators saw examples of the collaborative lessons we did with teachers, they would be more likely to encourage their teachers to work with us and to utilize library resources. We named our newsletter Making Connections because that’s one of the most important things we help students do — make connections between and among curricular areas, between their schoolwork and their personal interests, and between the real world and the literary world.
I volunteered to coordinate the newsletter. After purchasing a subscription to Smore, an online newsletter maker, I asked my fellow librarians to send me short articles and pictures that show the impact their library lessons, promotions, and programs have on students. At the end of each month, I took the information they sent and formatted it into a newsletter. I tried to make each issue visually appealing with lots of pictures of students and short articles that explain how each featured activity promotes student learning and growth. Here are some examples:
After receiving positive feedback on our publication last year, we added principals to the distribution list this year. (Many librarians were already forwarding the newsletter to their building administrators.) We also changed our focus a bit to highlight ways in which the six Shared Foundations of AASL’s National School Library Standards are embedded into our library programs.
While we feel we have achieved our goal of keeping district-level administrators informed about what happens in our libraries, the district newsletter has also provided some unexpected benefits. For example:
1) Sometimes it’s easier to advocate as a group. Advocacy involves telling our stakeholders about all of the great learning opportunities, programs, lessons, and special events that occur in our libraries. This is difficult for a lot of school librarians because, for many of us, our libraries are part of our identity. Therefore, pointing out the great stuff that happens in our libraries seems braggadocious. But advocating as a group for the district library program seems less self-serving and builds camaraderie among the librarians. (I’m not saying that highlighting the great work we do as librarians is braggadocious or self-serving; it’s not. I’m just saying it sometimes seems that way to the more modest librarians among us.)
2) The district library newsletter provides a forum for librarians to share ideas. Most of us are the only librarian in our buildings, so we have limited opportunities to talk to other librarians. Even though the librarians in my district meet monthly, there isn’t always time to share lesson ideas or details of special library events and activities. Reading about the successes of our district colleagues sparks emails and phone calls asking for more details and lesson materials.
3) The newsletter promotes self-reflection. As I mentioned, this year our newsletter is focusing on a different Shared Foundation each month, which provides a form of professional development. As we consider the monthly theme, each of us has the opportunity to reflect on how we incorporate that foundation into our professional practice. You can see examples in our November 2018 and December 2018 newsletters.
4) Newsletters are an easy way to share #WhatWeDo beyond the district. I share the newsletter via Twitter each month, and several of my colleagues retweet it. Sometimes the district retweets it, too. Sharing on social media allows parents and other members of our community to see the important role librarians and libraries play in educating our students.
Like all advocacy efforts, our monthly newsletter requires a little time and effort, but it’s well worth it.
How do you let your district-level administrators know about the important work you do?
Greenberg, Karin. “Using School Library Newsletters to Communicate.” Knowledge Quest, 3 Jan. 2019, https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/using-school-library-newsletters-to-communicate/.
Author: Margaret Sullivan
Margaret Sullivan is a librarian at Rockwood Summit High School and also serves as the lead librarian for the Rockwood School District. A past president of the Missouri Association of School Librarians, Margaret’s professional interests include advocacy, teacher collaboration, professional development, equity, and YA literature. You can connect with her on Twitter @mm_sullivan.