By Dorcas Hand
I was speaking to a school library friend from another state, an outstanding leader who thought he was doing what needed to be done in terms of campus advocacy – but he has just been informed they couldn’t justify him over reading specialists for next year’s budget. The specific person and state don’t matter – the lesson does.
Every day, we all need to be sure campus colleagues have noticed us as strong contributors to their classroom success. Being indispensable is certainly part of that effort, but reminding them how the things we do directly impact test scores and academic achievement is essential.
That we help students choose books they will enjoy gives them ownership of the love of reading and learning, a feel-good experience that will encourage persistence in academic challenges. But our colleagues don't always see the transfer from feel-good to academic success. Administration and parent groups need to know the data from the Colorado Study and its many derivatives, how this data demonstrates that libraries strongly support test score improvement in schools with strong libraries staffed by certified librarians. Perhaps an infographic will be the most concise and memorable method.
Consider our efforts to support students and teachers with information technology – both digital resources and hardware access points for students without any at home. How can you keep those efforts in the limelight every day? Your students need your library.
Compare schools in your own district that have certified library staff with those that don’t to show what you do. Hopefully, the publically posted test scores will help you. Do these campuses have reading specialists instead – what have they lost? Does that approach just support test scores rather than learning. Does the tutoring effect carry over year to year, or are you better bang for the buck because you see every student in every discipline all year, impacting many aspects of their learning? What information will have the most effect in YOUR district.
Share Nancy Everhart poster 100 Things Kids Will Miss If They Don’t Have aLibrarian in Their School (available for download).
Have your elevator speeches ready – and yes, I meant the plural. You need one for parents, one for teachers, and one for campus administration. You will want one that focuses on free reading, reading comprehension, love of reading and another that focuses on information retrieval, evaluation, comprehension and the writing process. These all clearly overlap, but targeted comments for each audience are essential to success. The core question is why libraries and librarians matter to student success – but there are hundreds of campus specific examples you can use to illustrate the facts.
5 minutes, 5 fingers. 5 minutes of advocacy EVERY DAY to someone who matters in the continuation of your program. Your 5 fingers can remind you of the 5 points you want to make.
Keep the focus on student success and improvement. You are the caring person who provides many of the tools that support their success. Be sure the world you work in knows. Time spent on Advocacy is time well spent – don’t decide that time on circulation management or clerical details is more important. Stakeholders, allies and opponents need concrete information that focuses on student achievement – make that info easily available, all the time. 5 minutes every day. Don’t miss.