Chapter 8 Advocacy by Kristin Fraga Sierra and TuesD Chambers
Blog post by Judi Moreillon
“Spreading the message for stakeholders to advocate for the program is an essential activity for today’s school librarian, particularly during school closures” (Sierra and Chambers 123).
Kristin and TuesD began their chapter with a note about the critical need for advocacy, particularly in times of stress and change such as the school closures that occurred while they were writing Chapter 8.
In their experience (and in my own), school librarians who are leaders must be intentional about communicating and building relationships with library stakeholders in order to develop a team of advocates who have first-hand experience with the value of working with a state-certified school librarian and providing students with access to the full range of resources available through the school library program.
Advocacy is not optional.
Creating the Welcoming Space
Before communicating the value of the library program, the librarian must create a space in the library that serves all students, educators, administrators, and families—all library stakeholders. These are some strategies for building a space for belonging:
- Focus on students first;
- Listen intently to library stakeholders when they express their needs;
- Distribute marketing tools such as surveys to collect feedback.
In all cases, make changes to the policies, physical space, programs, and teaching and learning opportunities based on feedback from library stakeholders.
The coauthors provide many examples of public relations communication strategies that build library stakeholders knowledge of the value of the library program. These are some:
- Newsletters with section tailored to the needs of specific stakeholders;
- One-page infographics that summarize the influence and impact of the library program on learning and teaching;
- Flyers and invitations to literacy events and teaching and learning opportunities offered in the library space;
- Social media posts that promote books and share the learning experiences of students’ literacy-focused clubs;
- And more.
In every aspect of their work, school librarians must be intentional relationship builders. Putting people first is a leadership behavior.
Whether this focus is evidenced through policies such as late fees or lost materials, providing diverse resources to equitably meet the needs all educators and students, or teaching and learning activities that are inclusive of multiple perspectives, the focus on people means that school librarians will build a cadre of advocates as an organic aspect of their work. Others will have first-hand experiences of how the work of the school librarian and the resources and activities in the library program made a difference in their learning and teaching.
Responding to School- and District-level Priorities
While school librarians will have particular areas of expertise and interest, if they are to be successful, they must align their work with the perceived needs of the school and district. They must be able to tell a “library story” that matters to their decision-maker stakeholders
“We need to keep in mind that library numbers and statistics
are pretty meaningless to anyone else unless they are connected
to your school and/or district priorities”
(Len Bryan cited in Sierra and Chambers 129).
This does not mean stepping away from the work of school librarianship and serving as a reading intervention teacher or technology coach throughout the school day. Rather it means, showing administrators with those needs that the work school librarians do will help them reach their goals. In these cases, improve students’ reading proficiency and students’ and educators’ use of educational technology.
This means teaching and coteaching with classroom teachers to achieve student learning targets, assessing student learning outcomes, and determining how to improve instruction in order for more students or all students to reach standards-based learning goals.
With these data in hand, school librarians will demonstrate to administrators how their work matters, and administrators will understand and value school librarians’ impact on teaching and influence on student learning.
“What types of advocacy efforts have you led or been a part of in your career or schooling experience and what were the outcomes?” (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.