6 Easy Advocacy Actions to Promote Your School Library
Advocating for your school library can seem like a mammoth task or maybe something you are not sure how to do. And sure, when you have to fight for your position or funding or to even have a school library in your school, it can be overwhelming. But, I’ve found that the very best and most powerful forms of advocacy are the most simple, easy actions that fit into your everyday practice.
Here are a few examples of advocacy actions I’ve done in the past six months.
New Staff Brochure
I’m really lucky. My school leadership invite me to speak to the new staff at the beginning of the year. Even if you are not invited (or allowed) to formally speak to the new staff during their induction, you can still reach them via a brochure or welcome package.
Let’s face it, when you are at a new school, everything becomes information overload, so you need something that new hires can refer back to. I find a brochure really effective. I put in library opening hours; the procedure for making a booking, requesting a research guide and finding resources; links to the library catalogue, social media pages and website; library staff member names and contact details; and I showcase some of the things we do in the library, from groups and clubs to makerspace activities and special events. I’ve also done the same with a bookmark that has a QR code that opens a page with all those details. And, if you have the budget, why not put your brochure into a little welcome/new staff survival pack, with chocolate, coffee sachet or voucher, pen, school map and telephone number quick-dial guide.
Speaking with preservice teachers
Our school is really supportive of preservice teachers, as most are, and we always have a large group join us throughout the year. My Junior School Teacher Librarian does an amazing job, inviting these students into the library for an orientation session. This helps them become familiar with our library and how they might access resources while they are at the school. It is also a fantastic opportunity to share the importance of school libraries. During their study to become a teacher, they may never have the chance to learn about a school library and how important it is or how, as a teacher, to use it effectively. This year, my teacher librarian and I teamed up to speak to the new preservice teachers. We shared a range of “what can your school library do for you” pages, which you will find on the Students Need School Libraries website and worked through the presentation slides and notes , which you’ll also find on the SNSL resource page. Finally, we separated into secondary and junior groups to talk about specifics and what the library could offer them.
Meeting with your principal
How often do you meet with your school principal or leadership team? The first teacher librarian I worked with told me to book at least one meeting with the principal every single term. Don’t wait for an invite, she said. It’s up to you to make the appointment and most principals won’t say no to a meeting. Have ready some key highlights and successes of the term. I’ve always done that, and this year I’ve already met with my principal and key admin leaders a number of times. Sometimes those meetings have a particular focus (our library relocation) but other times I simply provide an update. I made sure I had some loans statistics ready and some successes to share. Those quick meetings might not seem like a big deal, but anytime you can showcase the library is really important. I’ve also found that those meetings have laid the groundwork and evidence for when I need to ask for something (like a budget increase).
Have you ever thought about presenting your work or ideas at a professional learning conference or webinar? Yes, I’m talking to you. I present a lot for state and national library organisations and conferences and it’s a fantastic opportunity to connect with other library professionals. You don’t have to be an expert to present, I’m certainly not. You just have to be willing to be open, honest and share your experiences. There are some incredible opportunities available. A good place to start is the Ed Camp Cardigan camps that happen a few times a year. It’s a very informal and very supportive environment. Sharing your work gets your name out there, impresses your school leadership and opens doors to incredible opportunities. I can’t wait to learn and hear from you.
Invite a colleague in
I recently had the opportunity to host a librarian at our school for the day. She shadowed me, we talked library procedures and generally chatted about our work and plans we had for our spaces. It was a fanatic day and I found it really helpful. The advocacy came from meeting the principal in the pathways and introducing my colleague and why she was there – to see what our school library was doing – and in the ask. I had to ask permission from my curriculum leader and head of pedagogy to host this librarian. They both said yes, but they also both congratulated me on doing this. My principal and leaders were impressed that someone wanted to come and visit our space and learn from what we were doing. Now, the meeting was mutually beneficial, but to my leaders it looked great! Can’t host anyone? Why not try an online video conference meet up or offer to host your school library network meeting? Any chance you can show your leadership that your work is important is really important.
Library presence on the school website
Is your school library mentioned on the school website? I completely understand that it might be out of your control, as some schools are very restrictive about what is put on the school or district website, but it is worth an ask. I discovered that our school library did have a library tab on the school website but that it opened to an error page. Gasp! Not ideal. As soon as I discovered this, I worked to add a new page that highlighted what our library offers. I wrote about this at length in this post.