« New Feature on Minnesota Reflections! | Main | Reference Game Online »

Building True Advocacy for School Libraries

If you haven't done so already, take some time to read Debra Kay Logan's article, "Putting Students First" in the January/February issue of American Libraries. This one is worth your time, attention, and discussion.

Logan passionately pursues an essential question, "When we talk about advocating for school libraries, what do we truly mean?" Moreover, she urges readers to think about this question from administrative and budgetary viewpoints. Logan states, "School libraries are traditionally seen as rooms with resources, with school librarians viewed as keepers of materials. Under this pretense, it's no wonder that libraries and librarians are sometimes thought of as expendable."

So, what do we do to effectively advocate for school libraries? Logan sums up our strategy by stating that we need to:

1.) Change the nature of our advocacy messages

"To become effective advocates, our profession must shift the focus of our messages from speaking out about school libraries to promoting and supporting student learning and achievement. Student success is the business of schools. Student learning is at the core of meaningful advocacy messages."

"We need to have stakeholders advocate for them, and it is our job to build this stakeholder support."

2.) Motivate stakeholders to advocate

"When research evidence is presented in isolation, listeners inevitably question the validity of research. Instead of simply sharing research studies, school librarians need to 'mash up' research findings with what we know about our specific programs."

3.) Mash up the data

"To start, we need to clearly and consistently articulate and highlight the research showing the connections between strong school library programs and student learning and success. This forms a firm foundation for stakeholder advocacy."

"Next, document the connection between research in the library and reading and writing standards as an integral part of the weekly lesson plans."

"When crafting an advocacy message, focus on specific and essential student needs..."

"Share evidence that ties research findings with what is happening in your school."

4.) Remember that it's all about the students

"All along we have known that school libraries play a critical and unique part in helping schools achieve their goals for students. However, our messages have sounded like school libraries and librarians are an ends, not means. It's time to adjust these messages and become advocates for students and student learning."

We want to know what you think of Logan's article. Post your comment here, on our blog. In what ways have you promoted your school library? Have you built stakeholder support? If so, how? Have you experienced success with your advocacy efforts?

Logan, Debra Kay. "Putting students first: we must change the focus of our messages from school libraries to student learning and achievement." American Libraries 39.1-2 (Jan-Feb 2008): 56(4). Professional Collection. Gale. MINITEX. 25 Jan. 2008 http://find.galegroup.com.proxy.elm4you.org/itx/start.do?prodId=SPJ.SP00.

Comments

I thought Logan's article was very good. And now comes the buts... Most Elementary School Media Specialists are so busy working with students that they don't have much time left in their day to read American Libraries, if they get it, let alone advocate. They are just trying to keep their head above water because the students do come first for them.
Also, how many times can a LMS fight for the job? Many give up and go back to the classroom so they that can establish tenure and not have to keep changing school districts.
We need help at the state level not just at the building level.

thanks, Jane, for your comments. I agree with you about help at the state level --- but what happens at the local level is most important. Maybe we can enlist the help of local academic and public library staff.

I know it is difficult and time consuming to continually advocate for our library programs, but the moment we stop advocating and sharing our message is when our funding will become even more seriously threatened. Logan makes an important point when she states that the message must be about how the library program impacts student learning. I was part of an interview team recently for a Library Media Specialist in our local school district. One question that was asked every candidate was "What can you do to help XXX School District reach and maintain AYP?" This is what administrators and school boards are interested in achieving and they are willing to put money and human resources into programs that help them achieve it! At my schools I review our state assessment reports and plan lessons to address areas in need of improvement. I submit an article to the school newsletter each month that communicates this to our parents. I explain what we have been doing and I always include what Standards we are addressing.
I liked Logan's suggestion to use student quotes about what they learned in the library, and I plan to add that component to my articles next year.

I'm glad I read this article before beginning my job as a new library media specialist this fall. To be perfectly honest I never considered having to advocate for the library or justify my postition as a media specialist; I thought the library was already accepted and valued as an integral part of the school, and though this may be, there are still ways in which the media specialist can further promote him or herself as a key player in student learning. Having had no experience as of yet working in a library, I'm sure there are many issues of which I am unaware, and Logan's article (one of the first library-related articles I have read) has already better prepared me for my upcoming career.
The most important message I got from Logan's article is that as a library media specialist, you have to show how important you are to student learning and achievement. Teachers, administrators and parents will take notice, thereby becoming your biggest and most influential advocates. This is a message I will take with me when I begin my career as a library media specialist this fall.

I applaud Logan for hitting the nail on the head. Advocacy for our libraries must center on the necessity for student learning and achievement. After all, we are a school library.

Probably the most time consuming and difficult task for a school librarian is advocacy. We, as librarians, can not just perform our day to day tasks and totally ignore this aspect of our job. It would be like having the best restaurant in town but not advertising to let anyone know about it. Patrons would only find out by accidentally walking through the door. In reality, all librarians need to be marketing experts.

Logan states that we need to shift our focus to promoting and supporting student learning and achievement. Administrators and school boards have one goal: making AYP while spending as little as possible. We must continually focus on how the library/librarian is helping the students achieve this goal. We must connect the research data to what we are already doing for our students. We need to place the research proving the connection between strong school library programs and student learning and success into the hands of those individuals who are making our funding decisions.

Logan’s suggestion to ask students what they have learned after every lesson is a great way to make students aware of what they are learning. More importantly, they will connect these lessons with the library/librarian. This will help students become our best advocates.

Advocacy is essential to our well-being and success. Logan's comments emphasize great ways that we can break the stereotypical notions others have of us. I especially like her comment about remembering that it's all about the students.

We must be strong advocates for our libraries. As it seems all is now measured by AYP and test scores, librarians must do all we can to contribute to those scores. As I proctor the NWEA MAP testing in our building, I try to monitor the questions the students are getting so I can let teachers know what they need to address more with their classes. One example is that students gets questions about MLA formatting for bibliographies. Our teachers encourage students to use an online citation machine to generate students' bibliographies. After seeing these questions continually come up on the MAP test, I discussed with the teachers the importance of explaining format to students rather than let the citation machine do it all. Teachers were not aware that students needed to know this information and seemed to appreciate the sharing and collaboration that we did to teach the students these skills. The next time they need help I believe they will come to the Library and ask for assistance. Teachers are already starting to advocate for me and the services provided through the Library. Clearly, if we can link more of our services to the standards the teachers are addressing, that will lead them to advocate for us even more. Logan was also correct in saying that words of praise or support out of students' mouths are much more effective than anything coming from the Librarian herself.

I agree with Logan that we need to put students first when we advocate for our libraries. However, to get to the students you must go through the teacher first to even get the students into the library. At a high school level students are not scheduled into the library on a regular basis, so it takes collaboration with the teacher to get them in there. Many teachers in my school do not utilize the services I have to offer, so I must advocate use of the library within my school. It is a slow process and takes patience since many students and teachers still operate on the stereotypical version of a librarian and not the new and improved library media specialist. I do find many teachers who are not adept at technology will ask for help for students in technology when they are in the library or the computer lab. After seeing me show one student how to use Google Presentation, a teacher asked me to show a couple more so they could use it, too. Now I have that teacher hooked on the value of the library media center. Once the teacher is hooked, I can hook the students, too. Next, will be the parents. Take one group at a time.

Our school libraries need to promote and support student learning. We have begun to do this through our schoolwide improvement plan by promoting summer reading programs and to initiate a Family Literacy Backpack Reading Program for grades K-2 to foster a love of reading and promote literacy and family involvement. We also encourage reading for academic achievement by participating in various reading initiatives and the reinforcement of comprehension strategies.
Our next goal is to align our Library and Technology Curriculum with AASL and ISTE standards to ensure students have access to information and the skills provided by school librarians and this is embedded in what students do and learn across other curricular subject areas as well. The key is to engage students in their learning, reflect on their learning and its importance through the use of rubrics to help them identify and realize the value of the library. We also need to involve parents and administrators in support of our program. Collaboration involves observing and then helping stakeholders interact, design, develop and help implement change.

Logan's article defines advocacy as informed stakeholders standing up for a cause, program, or idea and adds LMSs need to make sure that in their advocacy they have data that supports student learning and achievement. With schools needing to meet AYP, it is the LMS's job is to show how LMPs improve student achievement and support the curriculum. LMSs also need to make sure they are not the only advocates for the program by making sure the teachers, students, and community experience the benefits of their expertise. Then those groups become the advocates. Although national research has repeatedly shown a strong LMP improves student achievement, administrators need to see results within the school. They want data and evidence as well as student and teacher support. It is the LMS's job to see that he/she provides the school and community with the resources and information they need to be life-long learners. Once they see the benefits, they will also become advocates for the program.
This article helps support what I have always believed. This spring I had the opportunity to observe a school that has always had aides conduct all k-6 library visits. The program had a budget fairly equal to the school I run, yet that library had about 1/3 the collection we have. The LMS admitted the students there do not read. That school did not make AYP. Needless to say, there are extensive changes being made in the curriculum including the library. The budget has been increased for books, remodeling is being done, and hopefully a qualified LMS will take over elementary visits and begin conducting some collaborative projects with the teachers and students. It helped show our administration how important a strong program is to a school.

Logan's article defines advocacy as informed stakeholders standing up for a cause, program, or idea and adds LMSs need to make sure that in their advocacy they have data that supports student learning and achievement. With schools needing to meet AYP, it is the LMS's job is to show how LMPs improve student achievement and support the curriculum. LMSs also need to make sure they are not the only advocates for the program by making sure the teachers, students, and community experience the benefits of their expertise. Then those groups become the advocates. Although national research has repeatedly shown a strong LMP improves student achievement, administrators need to see results within the school. They want data and evidence as well as student and teacher support. It is the LMS's job to see that he/she provides the school and community with the resources and information they need to be life-long learners. Once they see the benefits, they will also become advocates for the program.
This article helps support what I have always believed. This spring I had the opportunity to observe a school that has always had aides conduct all k-6 library visits. The program had a budget fairly equal to the school I run, yet that library had about 1/3 the collection we have. The LMS admitted the students there do not read. That school did not make AYP. Needless to say, there are extensive changes being made in the curriculum including the library. The budget has been increased for books, remodeling is being done, and hopefully a qualified LMS will take over elementary visits and begin conducting some collaborative projects with the teachers and students. It helped show our administration how important a strong program is to a school.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)