I had prepared some thoughts for posting this week, but after listening to a presentation at the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) conference yesterday I changed my mind. Yesterday morning in the School Library Media research SIG session Elizabeth Burns, a PhD student at Old Dominion University, presented her dissertation research on advocacy: Practitioner Perceptions of School Library Advocacy: A Pilot Study. Burns questions school librarians’ perception of advocacy, their experiences with advocacy in a school setting, and their preparation relating to advocacy. I think Burns gets to the heart of the matter in that there is a lack of definition of advocacy and very little research in this area. It reminds me of many concepts and ideas (such as my own research into “be a leader in technology integration”) that we as school librarians as taught and constantly reminded by AASL and ALA that we are “supposed to do” but are only given a vague definition or idea of what that entails.
You may ask what does this have to do with collaboration, but it has everything to do with collaboration. Advocacy has to do with making connections and partnerships with your stakeholders. And indeed it was this disconnect from stakeholders that emerged in Burms research. This is just a small facet of her wonderful and very timely research!
Her presentation left me with two big questions. For myself as an educator I have really been thinking about how I educate my students, future school librarians, on advocacy and how can I do a better job defining, giving real world examples, and stressing the importance of evidence. Also how do we as school librarians PROACTIVELY work to create these meaningful partnerships with the various stakeholder groups? Because as well all know when the cuts come it is already too late.