Advocacy: Annual Reports

The Old Way

I’ve completed my fourth year as a media specialist and love the job even more today than the day I started.  To keep track of what happens in our library, I used my mentor’s monthly statistic report and added activities that the library sponsored each month.  At the end of each semester, I compiled a chart of the monthly statistics to notice trends.  These two reports were combined into a yearly chart at the end of each year and provided a means to gauge improvements from year to year.

The Annual Report:  Getting Started

Two years ago, I noticed that several of the school librarians in my Google Reader were doing much more than compiling statistics; they were creating detailed reports including collection development and analysis, budgetary spending, collaboration efforts with teachers, reading promotion programs, and goals for the upcoming year.  The reflective aspect of this kind of report immediately caught my eye.  As a Nationally Board Certified Teacher, I learned to use reflection to help me grow and become a better teacher.

This year as I began work on our first annual report, I studied reports other school librarians have shared on the Internet.  The organization of these reports is as varied as the programs they reveal.  Using ideas culled from these, I created an outline for our annual report.   Currently at 17 pages, the report is an attempt to provide a complete picture of our library media program.

My Inspirations

In case you have toyed with the idea of creating an annual report but gave up because you found it too time consuming, you might want to look at the reports and blog posts that inspired me to get started.

Exemplary Reports:

Blog Posts:

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

Need another reason to consider creating a detailed annual report?

In his post “13 Point Checklist 2009,” Doug Johnson provides administrators with a list to assist them in evaluating their school library program.   The final checkpoint , #13 Evaluation, includes

“Does the SLMS determine and report ways that show the goals and objectives of the program are being met and are helping meet the building and district goals? Does the SLMS create an annual library report for administrators, staff and parents that include qualitative and quantitative measurements?” ~ Doug Johnson

Your annual report will not only provide your administration with an overview of your library media program’s accomplishments, but also provide you an opportunity to see where you’ve been and provide you with information for next year’s goals.

Spread the Wealth Using This Google Spreadsheet

Last year, Lesley Edwards (teacher librarian at Seycove Secondary Library) created a spreadsheet for school librarians to share the link to their annual reports.  When my report is finally completed, I’ll post it to Slideshare and  add the url to the spreadsheet.  Why not add yours?

Image Attribution:  Year End Inventory by The Truth About…


Recommended Reads

Because cloning myself is completely out of the question (my husband doesn’t think the world is ready for more than one me), I’ve had to consider ways to work smarter, not harder. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is being able to connect a reader with the right book. However, that reader often walks into the library when I am working with a teacher or teaching a class. I hate to see a student leave the library empty-handed because I was unable to find the time to work with him before he had to return to class.

Recommended Reads Notebook

To address this problem, I recently created a Recommended Reads notebook that is displayed on our Circulation Desk’s counter. It will remain a work in progress but currently contains:

  • Yearly South Carolina Young Adult Book Award Nominees brochures (annotated brochures provided by fellow SC school librarians and available at the SCASL website)
  • Copies of our B.O.W. (Book of the Week) signs.  Each contains a photo of a book’s cover and an annotation meant to entice students to read the book.
  • YALSA’s 2010 Teen’s Top Ten Nominations (with the titles in our collection highlighted)
  • Readalike Lists created using ATN Reading Lists
  • The Great Scavenger Hunt Book list (with the titles in our collection highlighted)

Next I will be adding a section on Series.  It will contain annotated lists categorized by genre to help readers determine the sequence of a series.

Not Reluctant Readers, but Readers Reluctant to Use the Notebook

At first, I had to physically hand the book to students to encourage them to discover what it contained.  I have been rewarded recently with seeing students approach the desk and pick up the notebook on their own when they are looking for a book to read.  I still love to help students find books, but it is gratifying to know that even when I am not able to verbally suggest a book, I can still guide students towards books they might enjoy.

Suggestions for Improvement?

What else would be helpful to readers who have to rely on this notebook for a recommendation?

“How You Doin’?” or “How You Doing It All?”

Matt LeBlanc
Photo by Alan Light, used with permission under a Creative Commons license

Joey Tribianni from the sitcom Friends is known for his line, “How you doin’?”  But if he were to seriously address today’s  school librarians, Joey would ask,  “How you doing it all?”

Where Does the Time Go?

At times, I wish there were a camera on me during the school day to record the life of a school librarian.  As a classroom teacher, I had a better grasp on what I did with my time:  for ninety minutes at a time, I was in a classroom being guided by my written lesson plans.  I would pencil in notes on my lesson plan book to help me remember where I left off, what worked well and what didn’t, and thoughts for improving the lesson the next time around.

But as a a school librarian on a flexible schedule, my work day doesn’t follow a written plan.  Yes, you can look at our library’s scheduling calendar to see what classes I worked with and look at the Class Visit Request forms to determine what information literacy skills I taught those classes.  But those capture just a short time in my day.

The First Wave

The busiest parts of my day are usually those that don’t involve teaching classes.  When the library opens at 7:30, the whirlwind of activity begins.  Students and teachers must get ready for the day by working on projects, checking out equipment or materials, and scheduling classes to use the library teaching areas or computer rooms. When the bell rings for first block to begin, I have a moment or two before a class arrives to try to read email, sort through the stacks of paper that have accumulated on my desk(s), and tackle one of the items on my ever-growing “to do” list.

The Tide Rolls In

Before I know it, scheduled classes arrive and other students begin to trickle in from classes to return, renew, or check out books or to use a computer to work on an assignment.  Teachers stop by to look at the scheduling calendar during their planning periods and discuss how they will be using the library facilities.  Other teachers call to request help troubleshooting  misbehaving  equipment.  Students often approach me  to say they enjoyed the last book I recommended and would like help in finding another one like it.

Multitasking to the Max

So, on any normal day, a school librarian is often pulled in multiple directions during a given moment:

  • A class to teach
  • An individual student’s needs to be addressed (checking out books, requesting computer use, requesting help with an assignment or locating  a book) – multiply this need by five or six (an average number of students who visit the library on their own)
  • A teacher who needs to discuss scheduling a class to use the library’s facilities
  • A teacher who needs help to get equipment running smoothly

Notice that the list does NOT include any of the librarian’s work that must be accomplished:

  • reading reviews and creating a materials order (or a collection wish list)
  • working with student staff to insure tasks are accomplished (shelving, processing magazines)
  • updating web site
  • processing materials
  • inventory
  • weeding
  • repairing books
  • creating/editing catalog records
  • reading professional journals/blogs
  • recommending new resources to teachers
  • working with vendors
  • running reading promotion programs
  • preparing and presenting staff development
  • creating, assembling, and putting up new bulletin boards
  • creating displays
  • reading children’s/YA lit to recommend to students
  • creating advocacy opportunities/reports
  • planning and creating information literacy lessons
  • compiling statistics
  • planning and holding book club meetings

Words of Wisdom

During my school library internship, I was able to visit several high school libraries in the upstate of South Carolina.  One of the questions I asked each librarian was, “How do you do it all?”  Their answers varied, but they all were proceeded by a knowing smile –  implying that we must accept that it can’t all be done as we would like.

I was told to prioritize.  I was told to focus on the program component that was nearest and dearest to my heart.  I was told to learn to accept that it wouldn’t all get done.

As an idealist, I want to believe that I can do it all – and do it all effectively.  As a realist, I know that it is impossible to do without the help of others.

What words of wisdom do you have?  How do you do it all?

Advocacy: Create a Bragalog

Most school librarians I have met find it difficult to brag about what they do.  But think about it.  While there may be dozens of teachers in your building, you are more than likely the only school librarian there.  Many education programs do not address our role in any of their courses.  How many teachers in your building truly know what your program entails?

Every teacher in your school has a built-in advocacy group – their students.  Students talk about their teachers to one another:  “Oh, you don’t want to get Mr. So and So because he requires two research projects a semester.”  “I love Mrs. So and So because she makes class fun by …..”

Teachers in your building are spoken about on a daily basis.  I wonder how many students discuss their school librarian with their friends?

As I was surfing the Internet recently, I came across the California School Library Association’s website.  What a treasure trove!  One of the treasures there struck me as a very simple way to toot your own horn:  the Bragalog. The YouTube video above was filmed at the CSLA’s 2009 conference.  It  introduces the Bragalog (but unfortunately we don’t actually see it).  Further searching on the website turns up a pdf file explaining the Bragalog.

Peggy Klaus, author of Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn without Blowing It, created the Bragalog as a marketing tool.  In this article, she provides an example of an effective beginning for a Braglog.  By weaving your passion for your program into your story, you can create a positive “brag” that effectively markets your program.

If you don’t want to feature yourself speaking in your Bragalog, why not involve your students?  If you have a morning news show or a broadcasting class in your school, you might find a ready and willing group to create your Bragalog featuring students.

What do you think?  Is this a marketing tool that you would consider for your program, or is it something you would still feel too uncomfortable doing?

Do Not Go Quietly Into Your Library


As I continue contemplating ways to promote my school library program, I have been investigating various approaches taken by other educators to promote their ideas and programs.  I came across this video by Dave Truss today and was struck by a comment he made in the video: “Do not go quietly into the classroom.”

A Brave New World-Wide-Web

Many school librarians have vital programs that not only increase student achievement, but also increase a student’s sense of self-worth.  Unlike a classroom teacher, what we teach does not occupy a place on student report cards to reinforce the idea that we make a difference.  Do we really want to entrust our program’s future to chance?  The chance  that our students go home and enthusiastically share what they learned or created in the school library that day? The chance that an administrator walks by the library,  is curious about what has students engrossed in their projects, and enters to make inquiries? The chance that a parent will make a positive comment about his child’s school library to a school board member?

Make Some Noise!

What can we do to ensure that our contributions to education reach the community’s ears?  Why not post projects students create using library resources on our library websites?

Ithaca High School in Ithaca, NY  Examples of student created projects for American History and English classes

Hawthorne Elementary School in Missoula, MT  Examples of group projects from kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade classes

Kapolei Middle School in Kapolei, HI Examples of a variety of exemplary projects from grades 6, 7, and 8

Kamali’i Elementary School in Kihei, Maui, HI Examples of class projects and student created podcasts

Program Promotion Challenge Continues

This week I will be sharing student projects created through the use of library resources.  They should make an attractive addition to our library website.

Where’s my noisemaker?

Image attribution:

Program Promotion

Change is as inevitable as rain in the spring.  Some of us just put on raincoats and splash forward.” ~ Amy Bloom

Continuing the Challenge

In my last post, I shared my personal advocacy challenge:  do something to promote my library program once a week.  Sounds simple enough, but school librarians are a busy bunch and unless we make something a priority, it often gets overlooked amidst the million other things we must accomplish each week.

Last week, I put on my raincoat and “splashed forward.”  This week,  I met my Program Promotion Challenge (PPC) by creating a mini-poster congratulating the winners of our spring semester READissance kickoff challenge.  The poster included a picture of each winner holding her Barnes and Noble gift card.  I posted one in the library and put another one on my principal’s desk. On Monday, copies of these will go on the Student Information boards throughout the school.

How Simple Was That?

It could not have been much easier.  However, that simple mini-poster puts the faces of students who choose to use our resources front and center.  Students and staff are the focus of any school library program.  Often the only promotion I have done in the past was to provide the principal with monthly statistics.    How dry is that?

As I promote different aspects of our program each week, I want to enlighten the school community.  I want them to see the difference we make in people’s lives. The  library space that most walk past at least once daily significantly contributes to  student and teacher success at Boiling Springs High School.

Our highly anticipated new facility is nearly ready for occupancy.  I look forward to moving into it, but since the new media center it is not centrally  located, the move also makes me nervous.  No longer will students and teachers pass it on their way to classes, meetings, the workroom, or the cafeteria.  It will be a destination unto itself, raising the bar in program promotion.

Image attribution:

“Wet Grass”

Tooting Our Own Horns

Teaching Today’s Students (and their teachers) to be Smart Searchers from Cathy Nelson on Vimeo.

Advocating Advocacy

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.

Overcoming Obstacles

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.