Chapter 8 Advocacy by Kristin Fraga Sierra and TuesD Chambers
Blog post by Judi Moreillon
Chapter 8, like every other chapter in Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, includes two vignettes from practitioners in the field. Erin Godfrey Bethel contributed a vignette focused on a reading promotion initiative at Washington Elementary in Tacoma, Washington, that became a successful advocacy project for the library and her librarian role in the process. Chapter 8 co-author TuesD Chambers contributed a district-level public relations turned advocacy effort in Seattle Public Schools (SPS).
Site-level Advocacy Reaches District-level Advocates
In her vignette, Erin shared her main motivation for seeking and enacting a reading program grant called the Global Reading Challenge (GRC). She implemented the program in her school with a vision for increasing a focus on reading and on the school library as a hub—a welcoming place for all students, especially young people who had not found acceptance elsewhere in the school.
This initiative involved students in the planning process and in organizing teams of readers. Erin used social media to promote the GRC. Each year since its inception, the number of participants has increased and the program has expanded to other schools in the district. Parents and businesses got involved in supporting the GRC and when the district-level competition was held, Erin invited district decision-makers to attend. A win-win-win for students, administrators, and community means a win for the school librarian.
In her vignette, TuesD writes about how a district-wide newsletter representing the work of the entire school librarian cadre of SPS made a huge difference in decision-makers’ understanding of school librarians’ critical roles. The newsletter began as a communication tool among librarians themselves—to share their work and learn from one another’s practice. They also wanted a way to amplify their work that aligned with the SPS Strategic Plan and goals for literacy learning and share it with site- and district-level decision-makers.
The result was a collaborative competition that improved practice among the school librarians while it influenced the understandings of the work of school librarians of families, district leadership, and community members. Spotlighting specific school librarians, libraries and their literacy-focused programs demonstrated how librarians matter to the students in the district. Collaborative competition boosted librarians themselves in elevating their practice. The district-wide newsletter provided direct evidence of the importance of librarians’ work to district goals.
School Librarians as Advocates for the School Library Program
In both of these examples, site- and district-administrators, parents, businesses, and other community members became knowledgeable about the roles of the librarian and library in students’ learning. If and when Erin or TuesD’s librarian cadre need support – a specific “ask” from their advocates, there were supporters with first-hand experience of the influence of school librarians and the impact of school libraries.
“It takes a special kind of curator to gather these voices for others to see and hear until our advocates’ voices become impossible to ignore. It takes a certified school librarian leader who is a library and librarian advocate” (Sierra and Chambers 137).
As they note at the end of their chapter, Kristin and TuesD proclaim that school librarians must be the curators who gather and provide the evidence that will enlist other voices to step up on behalf of their work. School librarians must engage in public relations as curators of their own influence and impact in order to grow advocates. That truly makes school librarians their own best advocates!
What is one method or example of advocacy that you want to improve upon and why? (Sierra and Chambers 137).
Sierra, Kristin Fraga, and TuesD Chambers. 2021. “Advocacy.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 123-138. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.