Budget cuts. Title changes. Both have sent shock waves through the school library community. Numerous posts have been written calling us to action. Having recently graduated from the SLIS program at the University of South Carolina, I am well aware of the need to be a strong advocate for my program.
I enjoy reading about the successes of other school library programs; I glean many tidbits from them to incorporate into my own program. But sharing our successes with each other is not enough: we must toot our own horn in our school communities. This is often hard to do for many reasons, but two that come to mind concerning my own situation: 1) lack of time, and 2) fear of sounding like a braggart.
How do I overcome these obstacles? First, adopt the mindset that if I don’t, funding to my program and my very job may be in jeopardy. Second, gather data. Third, turn to my PLN. The people in my professional learning network value school libraries, whether they are teachers, administrators, information technology specialists, school librarians, or consultants. They challenge me daily as I read their tweets and blog posts.
And, finally, plan. Plan in specific detail. This past week, I challenged myself to proactively spread the successes of my school library’s program. Once a week, I will share snippets of success with members of my school community.
This past week, I began with an email to my principal, superintendent, and PR district liasion sharing the fall semester results of READissance, our voluntary reading program. Very quickly, I received positive feedback from both my superintendent and principal which alleviated my fear of sounding like a braggart.
Next, I need to share the results with my school board members. I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t already created a group in Outlook with their email addresses. So, guess what is on tomorrow’s agenda?
Emails, newsletters, and phone calls are all means to spread the good news. But in today’s visual society, photographs and videos provide more impact. How can I effectively incorporate those into my Advocacy Plan?
My PLN to the Rescue
Joyce Valenza of Springfield Township High in Erdenheim, Pennsylvania, recently began a new online community, School Library InfoTech Programs: Tapestry of Effective Practice. Here, members are urged to create and share videos that focus on the effectiveness of various components of their school library programs in order to demonstrate the vital need of our programs. Check out the first entry from Cathy Nelson of Dorman High School in Spartanburg, South Carolina, at the top of this post. By focusing on specific components of their programs in this manner, they provide a clearer view of their impact on student achievement.
Buffy Hamilton of Creekview High School in Canton, Georgia, spiced up her school library monthly reports by creating Animoto videos. This upbeat method of sharing her program’s successes in no way feels like bragging as the students take center stage.
Involve your students in creating mini documentaries of your program and share them via your library’s website. Ensure your school community’s awareness: send links to your shareholders, including the education reporters for your local paper and television station.
Advocacy. Marketing. Branding. By incorporating these into our long term plans, we are also building accountability into our programs.
At Boiling Springs High School, I feel an even more imperative need to establish the validity of my program. Within weeks, we will be packing up and moving into a nearly-completed new facility. When plans began for the building over two years ago, my fellow media specialist Jay Campbell and I used our input to make several requests to meet the needs of our growing student population:
- thirty student computers surrounding the circulation desk (twelve has been the standard in our district. The seventeen in our current facility have been insufficient to accommodate the needs of classes, prompting our request.)
- two computer labs (There is currently only one lab in the building for class sign up. The district planned on adding more in the future; however, we saw the urgent need to not only have them sooner, but to incorporate them into the research and learning center of the school.)
- two teaching areas complete with Promethean boards (Current space only allows for one teaching area with a Promethean board.)
I am grateful that our school board agreed with our vision and provided the funds to add our requests to the plans. I can hardly await the opening of the new facility and am excited beyond words at the teaching and learning opportunities it will provide for our teachers and students.
United We Stand
What advocacy efforts have you enacted lately to demonstrate the value of your program? What efforts have you read about and want to enact? Please share – together, we can ensure the lasting successes of our programs.