|(Photo by alexander milo on Unsplash)|
Today I want to talk about advocacy for school libraries, it may seem an impossible mountain to climb but I do feel that we all have a responsibility to engage with it one way or another. It is not about shouting about how great we are, it is not about demanding that teachers work with us, it is not even about increasing our loan figures. It is all about our students and this is the only reason that advocacy is important. Our students deserve the right to have access to a good school library with a librarian to support them, they deserve the right to understand how to access good quality information and they deserve the right to have access to fiction that will enhance their literacy and learning. Without the support of the teachers and senior leadership teams in schools these rights are undermined and one of our roles as school librarians is to make sure that teachers know and understand what we can do.
Ok, I hear you say, that is easier said than done. I agree the thought of sticking your head above the parapet is frightening, you are one librarian in amongst a whole school of teachers. Who are you to be telling the teaching staff what to do? I thought I would share some of my ideas for advocacy this year in the hopes that it may inspire you to try at least some of it.
Staff meetingsLike you, I have always felt frustrated that I know that I can make a difference to a teachers job if they allowed me to work with them. The problem is getting them to give you enough time in their very busy day for you to explain. The only way I have found that works is to ask the Headteacher to give you a staff meeting slot at least once a year. It doesn't really matter when, so if you ask now and you can't have a slot until September then at least you know it is booked in. Before you approach the Head make sure that you know what you are offering. Do you want staff to know about all the resources you have? Do you have new resources that you want to share? Have you worked with a teacher in a innovative way that you think would inspire other teachers to work with you? It may be an opportunity to share what you would like to happen or to show what other schools are doing that you could do too. Here are a couple of blogs that I follow that give some great ideas for innovative teaching:
Read. Research. Rest. Repeat by Kathleen Currie Smith
Heart of the school by Caroline Roche
Also take a look at my scoop.it account here which has lots of ideas for school librarians
Have all my staff meetings gone well, no! You should not give up though as the more you do the better you get at it. Even if you manage to get one teacher to understand what you do and start working with you then that is a win. Sometimes I feel that all I do is talk but that is ok. Advocacy is about talking and sharing what we do. It will generate interest eventually!
Social MediaNext, make sure that your social media is working for you. Have a library twitter, Facebook page , Instagram account, or whatever tool you like the best, to show what you are up to in the library. You may not be collaboratively teaching yet, but posting new resources and book groups is a good place to start. If your senior management team are not keen on you having one for the library show them some good examples of what other school library twitter and Facebook accounts look like. Here are some worth following:-
Canon Slade Library
La Mare de Carteret High School Library
Worle School LRC
St Sampsons High School Library
What a difference a school library can make
If they still are not keen then ask them to post on the school accounts on your behalf. If you keep pestering them with all the good stuff you are doing it raises awareness but it may also lead to them saying you can have your own because they don't have time to post everything you want :)
BloggingThis is a perfect advocacy tool either for yourself or your school library. It is a place where you can write about what is happening in your library and critically evaluate what you are doing. How can you make it better, is it worth sharing so that others can learn? Don't use it to vent your anger but put it to good use. Saying that there are many times when I have written a blog post in anger and spent a week re-writing so that I could understand, learn and share how to improve the situation. It does not always work and those are the posts that stay forever as a draft. Sometimes you just need to get something off your chest! Great library blogs:-
The Library Voice By Shannon Millar
The Daring Librarian by Gwyneth A. Jones
Here is a list of other library blogs to follow. You are now spoilt for choice :)
Podcast interviewsI am not suggesting that you start up your own podcast, although if that is your thing then go for it. Rather look out for educational podcasts and offer an interview suggestion about school libraries. I did one recently with Lucy Parsons whose podcast is about what makes a good school. I really felt that you should not be talking about good schools without talking about the school library so I offered to be interviewed and you can listen here I have plans to work with Martine Ellis on her podcast The teaching space, as she is asking for volunteers to be interviewed. This is a great way to share our passion for what we do. Take every opportunity within a teachers environment to share the benefits of
How often have you sat at a conference and thought, I could do that? or that they are not saying anything that I am not doing already? Then this is the time to push yourself forward and start sharing what you are doing. I agreed to talk at the SLAYLG conference last year and then I blogged about it. Here is the link to my write up. Once you are more comfortable with talking to other librarians about what you are doing then the advocacy kicks in. How about presenting at a teachers conference? How else are our teachers going to learn about what we do if the library is not represented at the conferences they attend. I went to the Practical Pedagogies conference in Toulouse to present at a teachers conference about using the school library across the curriculum and as scary as it seems I am off to BETT on Thursday this week to do a 20min presentation about how school librarians can support teachers. Honestly if I can do it anyone can! I do not have magic powers I am just passionate about getting our message out.
This is our opportunity to advocate what we do big time! As much as it is important that we share best practice with our fellow librarians it is also important that we are writing where teachers are reading. Have you something important to share then two places you should consider publishing is edutopia and ukedchat as both are widely read by teachers. I usually share something I have already written on my blog for ukedchat so that I don't have to write more and it is a great way to share. Here is one I wrote about about the importance of parents in independent learning. You can find the same piece here on my own blog.
Hopefully some of these ideas for advocacy will inspire you to try some of this yourself. Please write in the comments and share what you are doing.
I just want to take this opportunity to share with you some good news I have had. I have been asked to write a regular column for CILIP Information Professional magazine about school libraries. The first one should be in the March edition so please watch out for it and let me know what you think. I am always happy for ideas to write about.