The State of School Libraries

In June, talk on the South Carolina Association of School Librarians listserv focused on the need for school library program advocacy. In somes states, library media specialist jobs are being eliminated in tight budgets.  Today, YALSA’s podcast on Teens & School Libraries focuses on interviews with media specialists in Michigan and Massachusetts.

In YALSA’s Podcast #53, Maureen Ambrosino of the Central Massachusetts Regional Library System interviews Kathy Lowe, the Executive Director of the Massachusetts School Library Association.  Interestingly, Lowe states, “It really comes down to a principal in a building within a district and whether or not that principal perceives the school library program as having value and if they do,  and if they understand the positive impact on students and teachers of having a professionally staffed and up-to-date library then they will support that.  It’s a priority that any prinicpal has to decide.”

How can your principal know the value your program adds to the school if you don’t tell him? Our job as school library media specialists must include advocacy.  Already overwhelmed by all the roles they must fill, many media specialists have put advocacy for their library program on the back burner.  If we don’t advocate for ourselves, no one will, so this year, plan on making your presence known!  Here are some resources to help you get started:

Welcome to the School Library Campaign AASL site

School Libraries Work! The 2008 edition of Scholastic’s Research Foundation Paper

Strong School Libraries Help Students Learn An advocacy toolkit that accompanies the School Libraries Making a Difference site

Research: Making the Case Part of a site started by 3 moms in the state of Washington in response to hearing that school librarians’ hours were being cut

Advocacy: The Teacher Librarian as Advocate This online course offered by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson defines advocacy and provides many links to sites to help you in planning your advocacy program.

The Principal’s Manual for the School Library Media Program A two page guide to evaluating a school library media program produced by AASL

School Library Systems Advocacy Toolkit Although created for New York, this site has many suggestions that all library media specialists can use.

Advocacy Toolkit for School Library Media Specialists The Colorado Library Consortium has compiled several resources, arranged by category: Learning to be an Advocate, Usable PowerPoint Presentations, Facts and Stats, Brochures, and Quicktime Video.

Added 3/31/2010:

California’s Best Seller Campaign for Strong School Libraries This California School Library Association’s site includes several useful sections and forms: The Message, What is a Strong School Library? (identifies 5 components), Identifying “Best Sellers,” “Strong School Libraries Build Strong Students and Lifelong Learners” (a flyer you can access from the home page – scroll down to “Identifying and Inviting ‘Best Sellers'” ), and Research and Other Resources (an annotated list with hyperlinks) found at the bottom of  The Message page.

We can incorporate research that proves the efficacy of school library programs in increasing student achievement, but we must begin to collect our own evidence.  Circulation statistics, class visits, and tallying individual student visits show our media centers and their resources are being used, but the best evidence is proof that our programs are making a difference.  How can we show that learning is taking place?

  • use programs such as TRAILS to track the improving information literacy skills of our students
  • ask teachers who have successfully collaborated with us to provide a “testimonial”
  • ask students to complete exit slips after you have taught a skill
  • maintain portfolios of lessons taught and evidence such as projects completed in conjunction with the lessons
  • sponsor a “What My Library Means to Me” contest

This is by no means an exhaustive list!  Please help by adding your suggestions.

Image from cindiann

7 Responses to “The State of School Libraries”

  1. Cathy Nelson Says:

    Please say you are the leader of the SCASL Advocacy Committee. This is excellent.

  2. Fran Says:

    Thanks for the vote of confidence! No, not on any SCASL committees – my hands are still too full with grad school. But this is a topic that I am passionate about – our students depend on us to ensure that the principals know the value of our school library media programs. My grandsons will be attending schools in my district in the future – and I want them to have the benefit of strong library media programs (so a little bit o selfishness is guiding my enthusiasm!).

  3. Donna Shannon Says:

    Thanks for the list of great resources. I couldn’t agree with you more. I am in the process of writing up the results of the survey I did of SC school principals and although most agreed that the SLMS competencies in Information Power are important, you can really tell from their responses to open-ended questions when their SLMS has been a good program advocate.

  4. Heather Loy Says:

    Great post. I hope you cross post this on the SCASL blog, too!

    I agree that advocating our roles as teacher librarians assisting teachers with student achievement to our principals and fellow teachers is crucial. But I’ll go it a step further, don’t stop with just your principals. Your districts and communities need to understand our roles, too! Aiken County recently had a meeting with our District Superintendent regarding the state of our library collections. This time was also used to ensure she understands that we teacher librarians along with a quality collection improve student achievement. We also need to find ways to get the community into our libraries and involved with our programs.

    I’ll admit that while I know this, putting talk into action is a lot harder! I hope to do a better job recording and advocating my efforts and my library program to all my stakeholders from here on out.

  5. Martha Taylor Says:

    Great post, Fran! You’ve provided a terrific list of resources. This is a great online presentation by Joyce Valenza — School Libraries & Equity -or-

  6. informania Says:

    Thanks for adding the link to Joyce Valenza’s slideshow. Interesting!

  7. Carolyn Foote Says:


    What a fabulous list of resources! You might want to include Barbara Jansen’s book for principals as well!

    I think that the advocacy we do with principals is important for the whole school, and that we must advocate for student learning in terms of the whole school beyond the library.

    Thanks again, I’ll be bookmarking this!

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