Last Updated on January 22, 2023 by Laura
Education in the midst of a pandemic brought a great deal of uncertainty. School districts had to cut back on budgets and eliminate positions as they reorganized for the 2020 – 2021 school year. As librarians we had to refresh our advocacy skills and learn how to effectively advocate for our school library programs. Since we never know when future budget cuts may threaten our libraries and programs, it’s important to keep those library advocacy skills sharp!
What is Advocacy?
The American Association of School Librarians has an Advocacy Committee. They have developed the following definitions for advocacy:
“On-going process of building partnerships so that others will act for and with you, turning passive support into educated action for the library program.”
“It begins with a vision and a plan for the library program that is then matched to the agenda and priorities of stakeholders.”http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/definitions
These definitions remind us that advocacy helps us build relationships with our supporters and stakeholders so they will be able to help our library program in meaningful ways. Most people in a school community support the library. Parents, students, and teachers all appreciate having access to resources and believe there is important learning occurring in the library. By making these people more aware of specific reasons the library is important, we are positioning them to be able to help us meet shared goals for our school library.
Why should we advocate for our school library?
I’ve been following some conversations in school librarian facebook groups and have seen that several school librarians throughout the country have had their positions eliminated in the wake of the Covid19 school closures. So, I guess a natural and very real motivation for school library advocacy is job security. But I truly believe that our motivation must go much deeper than that.
It’s about the students!
More than 34 statewide studies have confirmed that our students benefit in many ways when they have access to a school library staffed by a state certified school librarian. The data consistently shows that students tend to achieve higher test scores if their school has a full-time certified school librarian. Strong school libraries have also been linked to graduation rates and student mastery of standards.
Perhaps even more compelling are the findings that the benefits of a strong library program are strongest for vulnerable students such as those with disabilities, low income, and students of color. School libraries can bridge the gap for learners who do not have access to resources at home by providing technology, databases, and assistance in using them, along with print resources.
Our students need and deserve to have a school library program staffed by an expert – a state certified school librarian. The expertise we offer in teaching, curating resources, and our leadership all help our students achieve more. We must advocate for them!
The American Association of School Librarians Compels us to be Advocates
I wanted to say “Because AASL says so!” The National School Library Standards have numerous references to working with stakeholders and advocating “for the effective use of the school library and its services.” The nature of continual communication and collaboration with administrators, educators, families, and the general public is, at it’s core, advocacy.
Read more about school library advocacy at this post: How to Effectively Advocate for Your School Library.
The following resources can help you get started as you consider advocating for your school library program:
Lance, K.C. & Kachel, D.E. (2018). Why school librarians matter: What years of research tell us. Phi Delta Kappan, 99 (7), 15-20
American Association of School Librarians. 2018. National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. Chicago: ALA
Are you ready to dive deeper into school library advocacy? This online, on demand school library advocacy PD will help you become a more confident and effective school librarian. Learn why advocating for your school library program is important and get some ideas to help you in your advocacy efforts.
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Be the light!
Tammy Lentz says
My school district does not require librarians to hold a degree. The majority of the librarians are paraprofessionals, including myself. We all know the importance of having a librarian in each building and we will do what we can to keep our jobs and show the importance of our positions.
Hi Tammy – your school district is lucky to have you and the other paraprofessionals working hard to continue to provide library services for your students!
Way to continue leading Laura.
Your voice IS important now more than ever in your career.
It’s unfortunate that a virus is changing our playing field but librarians are great at adapting to the next circumstance.
As Ann Eubanks says….it’s better to be part of the menu than on the menu.
Adaptation and good communication is the key as you have said.
Thanks Andree! Fortunately, as we have experienced, librarians are good at speaking up and advocating for their students and their programs.