8 Things I Did To Advocate For My School Library Last Week
Advocacy is a bit of a funny word, I think. Sometimes it can be daunting. Maybe it’s something we know we must do as school librarians, facing budget and staffing cuts and increasingly challenging times, but equally something that we think we might not have time for or might be something that is too hard or too out of our reach to do. Advocacy might conjure up thoughts of national or international campaigns or perhaps having to go and fight for the job you are about to lose or the 80% cut to your school library budget or perhaps the loss of the school library space altogether. And while these things do form part of advocacy, I believe that advocacy can also be far smaller and simpler. It might also be things you are doing each and every week.
Simply put, advocacy is defined as supporting or arguing for something. And that is something we do each and every day.
Here are eight things I did to advocate for my school library and my role as a teacher librarian last week.
Library brochure for Year 7 orientation
Last week our school hosted the incoming Year 7 students at an evening orientation session. When I heard that the students were to be given information packs, I jumped on the opportunity to include some information about the school library. At this point, we didn’t have anything the library had used before, so I used the template I had created for my previous school and took it to the marketing department. The response was super positive. Within a few hours, the amazing marketing team had taken my design, streamlined it into a trifold brochure, organised printing and got them into the orientation packs. The design was rushed, so there are a few things I want to refine and add for next time, but now we have a starting point from which to work. I want to create info brochures for new students starting next year, as well as for new staff. They’ll have slightly different information, but both are an easy and accessible way to spread the word within the school community about the school library and what we do.
Emailing Year 6 parents about the library
This term, I’ve had the privilege of taking our Year 6 students for their weekly library lessons as they transition into high school. I’ve been running these lessons as “welcome to the secondary library” and orientation lessons. As they now have access to the secondary library collection, my incredible colleague suggested that I contact the parents of the students and talk to them about the lessons and explain the process by which students select and borrow books, as well as the positive and open conversations we have and encourage parents to have with their children about the more mature content they might come across. I only received a few replies, which is fine, I wasn’t looking for replies, but those that did reach out shared their child’s excitement and their gratitude for the way the library was looking out for the students and providing them with a whole new world to explore. Reflecting, I think I could have used the opportunity to include some other details about the library, but perhaps the short and open email did the trick anyway. It’s certainly something I will continue to do in the future and hopefully expand to other year levels.
Presenting at Edcamp Cardigan Camp
I’ve also had the privilege of facilitating two sessions at Edcamp Cardigan Camp this week. While this might only spread the word about what I am doing in my library with other school librarians, it was an awesome way to network with librarians from around the world. In such isolating situations, it was powerful to chat with people across the world, in different library settings and situations. There is always power in connecting and sharing our stories and I’m so grateful to those who joined me in my sessions, as well as thankful to those who also facilitated sessions that I joined. A massive thank you also to Kristina Holzweiss for putting the event together. You can find out more about Edcamp at their website.
Meeting with a new teacher librarian at my school
After a conference earlier in the year, I connected with another attendee and she reached out to ask if she could visit the school and shadow me for a day. I jumped at the opportunity and we were finally able to find a time to meet last week. It was awesome to share ideas and I know I learnt as much from her as I hope she was able to take from the day. While this was fantastic professional networking and learning for us both, it was also a great opportunity to advocate for what we do within the school library. As I introduced the teacher to staff and students during the day, including my principal and director of curriculum, I was able to convey to them the importance of the profession and that what we do within our space is worthy of others taking note.
Speaking to my director of curriculum about a conference
While standing at a regular school ceremony during the week, I happened to be standing next to my very supporting and wonderful Director of Curriculum. As we were chatting, I was able to mention some insights gained from a conference I had attended the previous day. My points were mainly about pedagogy and the use of technology and some of the ideas I wanted to follow up. The conversation was positive and she encouraged me to reach out to the principal for permission to get started on these ideas. This 30 second conversation opened opportunities and shared a little insight into the sorts of things we do in the school library.
Posting to Instagram
Okay, this is something I did multiple times throughout the week, but it never fails to amaze me at the reach we get. It’s like sending a snapshot of our daily activities into the ether – and sometimes that answers back. I shared photos of lunchtime activities, advertised for a new library captain for the following year, shared images of our new library TV and new library space and, our most popular post, shared a casual photo of our year 11 students enjoying the space for their study time. We gained 10 extra followers this week and our posts were shared on the main school’s Instagram page. It is the positive interactions this had, the conversation with those study students who were surprised we had an Instagram account, the quick thanks and message from the school captain and current library captain on our posts, that made me smile and love what I do and get to share with the school community and the world each and every day.
New Library TV
While this new bit of tech will make our library lessons and sessions so much easier in our adjusted space, the main benefit of the new TV will be the rotating digital display it shows. I love using digital displays to promote new books, book recommendations, our library Instagram account, opening hours, research tips and – most popular – photos of students from events in the school. With it running for just a few days, already we’ve had lots of comments, that range from “oh, look that’s me!” to “oh, where did you get that? We need more of that in the school.”
Nomination for a library award
I was honoured to be a finalist for the ALIA QLD Library Achiever of the Year Award last week. I was nominated by my incredible teaching partner and head of library. As part of the nomination, I got to attend the ALIA QLD Mini Conference at the State Library of Queensland. There were some incredible sessions. It was an honour to be listed alongside the winner of the award, who has done some incredible things for our local public library service and the library profession. I have now made a connection with that person and will get to collaborate with her in the future, which is very exciting. It was great to be able to represent teacher librarians and the school library profession within this group, which is predominately for public, academic and specialist librarians. This has also been a very powerful advocacy tool within my school community. The marketing team shared it on the school social media sites and newsletter, promoting our library and putting into the spotlight what we as school librarians do. It’s been a conversation starter with my principal and leadership team. This gives me just a few moments to plug the library and what we do. I believe that I am not more worthy of being nominated for this award than any other librarian. We all do incredible work, but I was struck by the fact that my name was up there when it could have been hundreds or thousands of others, all more deserving that me. I believe these awards are wonderful advocacy tools and I would ask that we all take the opportunity to nominate a colleague or library professional you know. I have nominated my colleagues in the past, and even the nomination process is such a powerful way of promoting the school library and the people who work within them. I know school libraries can often be isolated, so perhaps we must step outside our school boundaries and begin to nominate our colleagues from other schools. If we don’t, no one will and it’s so important to support one another in this simple and yet very powerful way.
This is an awesome post, Madison, and congratulations on your nomination for Qld Library Achiever of the Year – VERY well deserved!! 🙂 You are so right, advocacy includes heaps of little things we can do every day, and your examples are excellent ways for others to get ideas for their own advocacy efforts.
Thank you so much, Kay. It was fun to put this post together and an honour to be listed alongside such amazing company at the ALIA QLD award.
Congratulations on your nomination, Madison. You are certainly an inspiration to me!
Thank you so much, Marie. It was lovely to be nominated but all credit goes to the wonderful people I work with and those I’ve had the privilege of working with over the years. Also, massive thanks to everyone in the school library community who are so lovely and share so much, yourself included.