By Dorcas Hand and Gloria Meraz
As summer ends and we head back to in-service and students in the next few weeks, Texas school librarians are thankful for many things. The national scene is a topic for another day, but our own Texas legislature improved our funding for TexQuest and for the State Library. In order to encourage further increases in the next biennial (2017), we need to strengthen our relationships with our elected representatives so that they already know what we do and why we matter when we show up in Fall 2016 to ask for support.
What better way to begin than to send your reps a thank you note. TLA’s Gloria Meraz offered the template below as a starting point. Take full advantage of the opportunity to personalize your letter: you are a voter, as are your student’s parents and possibly some students. You might even ask some of them to write letters as well.
As Gloria suggests, add an example of how TexQuest supported student achievement during the last school year; mention how the addition of Britannica will further strengthen student options for this new year. Be sure you tell them how important this state funding is to the local campus and district budgets.
Gloria offered a couple of other suggestions how to embed in your letter information that encourages deeper understanding of why school libraries matter in strong education. A sentence or two is all you need in any of these spots – brief is good.
2015-16 is an “off” year, meaning a year without elections to state office or a legislative session. It is a great time to consider inviting your rep to visit campuses in your district. That invitation will require permission from the district and campus leaders, but it allows everyone to show the best your district offers. Reps enjoy reading to students in the library, walking through to see student projects or artwork on display, or any or many other ideas you and your colleagues may have. Be sure you have your elevator speech ready: why your library is important to student success and strong test scores, how you are collaborating with teachers to strengthen classroom teaching, or even how your library expands the classroom collections in support of differentiated and free choice reading. Deb Kachel offers a great article with details: “InvitingLegislators into School Libraries.”
Thank you notes seem such a lost art, but who doesn’t like to receive them. Take a few minutes to let your legislators know that you appreciate their work in the statehouse. Send it now, while you are excited to begin the year ahead. Later in the year, you might send a little photo or notice of activities happening in your library. Keep them thinking positive thoughts about strong school libraries. While you’re at it, drop a note to your School Board Rep – it can almost be the same letter! We are a big state with legislators from all over who need to vote on what matters to them and their constituents. Make sure they know that school libraries matter especially to student success and achievement.
Dear Rep. X/Sen. X
I want to thank you for your support of Texas libraries during the 84th Legislative Session. The increase in funding for the Texas State Library and Archives Commission translates into needed support for digital learning resources that benefit students in our public schools and communities across Texas.
The additional funding of $6 million (or restoration really, given the cuts back in 2011) to the TexQuest/TexShare digital library program mean that students can explore xxx [describe how these resources are used/benefit teachers and students in your school].
With # students in my [campus/district], these resources provide equity for all our learners. [You may want to describe a bit more about your campus demographics or give a personal story of how one child used the resources.]***
As you know, school libraries are an essential part of the educational process. School librarians (certified teachers themselves) instruct students everyday on [xx, xx, etc. – provide a brief description of the ways you foster student learning in critical areas –reading, STEM, etc.]***
[If you’d like, you can share some information on your local students’ success rates or state or national studies on the impact of school libraries.]***
I invite you and your staff to visit our school library. We will be happy to demonstrate the use of statewide library resources and the unique and critical role they play in the education process. I would welcome the opportunity to share with you the successes of the wonderful youngsters in our district !
As we look forward to the next school year and beyond, I encourage you to consider the benefit of ensuring that all the children of Texas benefit from strong libraries in their schools and communities. In additional to digital resources, libraries are pressed for increased availability of programs and professionals to help students, parents, and community members thrive.
Thank you for your service to Texas.