"Even though libraries have survived for thousands of years in one form or another, the past year has demonstrated that none of us should take the future for granted."
Steven Bell (Sep 2010)

speakerWe're going to hold a Teddy Bear Read-In. Everyone is going to bring a stuffed animal and share their favorite picture books. Members from the community have volunteered to read. We're even going to videotape the activities and create a public service announcement.

The PTO is going to coordinate the Scholastic Book Fair. The activities will all be in the library. It's a great chance to promote reading and our library program.

We've started an Adventure Book Club called ABCs. A couple parents have volunteered to coordinate activities. They'll be reading a wide range of exciting adventure books, building virtual field trips, and connecting with others through the Internet.

These all sounds like fun projects, but it's important to ask yourself: What are you really advocating, marketing, or promoting? Yourself, your program, your teachers, information, or lifelong learning? What's the purpose of the activity? How will the outcomes of the activity impact students? How does it relate to your mission?

The ideas above are great, however it's essential to make a concrete tie to the curriculum. For example, what's the mission of the "teddy bear read-in"? What's the reason for the public service announcement? How does this connect to reading and the curriculum? Why will parents, teachers, and community members want to get involved? You must tie your activities to standards and evidence-based practice to justify your programs.

Example - the research shows that it is essential that young readers have experience listening to others read aloud. Your public service announcement could focus on this fact and show a wide range of members of the community reading to children (i.e., teachers, mayor, police officer, hair stylist, truck driver).

View a video, partially funded by Mackin, designed to present school libraries and teacher librarians as a vital resource for student learning and to highlight the essential role teacher librarians play in information and technology literacy instruction, reading advocacy, and information management:
Teacher Librarians at the Heart of Student Learning (2013) (5.21 min) from the Washington Library Media Association (WLMA)

eye means readRead Position Statement on the Role of the School Library Program from the American Association of School Librarians. To become an advocate, you must be a believer in the value of library media programs.

Read Sullivan, Margaret (Jun 2010). Are School Libraries at a Tipping Point? (Access requires login) Teacher Librarian, 37(5), 84-85.

Also read Tilley, Carol (Jun 2-11). The True Value of the Work We Do. School Library Monthly; 27(8).

eye means readThis section of the course contains the following related topics you'll want to investigate:
Promotion: Public Relations, Advertising and Marketing
Special Events

Change: Innovating Practices and Evolving Roles

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What is an advocacy program?

Advocacy is the act of pleading or arguing in favor of something, such as a cause, idea, or policy; active support (American Heritage Dictionary).

According to the American Library Association, advocacy is "the process of turning passive support into educated action by stakeholders."

A well-developed advocacy program markets, promotes, and rallies people around the mission, issues, and philosophies of your school library media program. As a result, advocacy must be based on specific needs and supported with evidence.

Advocacy often goes beyond advertising. You might advocate for additional support staff, a larger voice on curriculum committees, or laptops that can be checked out by students and faculty.

eye means readRead School Library Program Health and Wellness Toolkit from the American Library Association (ALA). Use these materials to plan and develop your own events.

Also read Hunter, Marianne; and Applegate, Sarah (Dec 2009). Before, During, and After. Teacher Librarian; 37(2), 84-85.
The article discusses advocacy for teacher-librarians before, during and after the crisis. The effects of school program and budget cuts and the importance of advocating for student benefits are explored.

Go to School Library Resources at American Library Association (ALA) for many more resources related to school library advocacy.

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What are the elements of an advocacy program?

The teacher librarian must have a clear vision of the school library media program's philosophy, mission, and goals. With this in place, he or she must develop strategies for converting these ideas into actions. Public relations, advertising, marketing, promotion, and events are all part of this advocacy plan.

Public Relations. Establishing and promoting a favorable relationship with the public is the goal of public relations. For school library media programs, this involves developing partnerships, collaborations, and other connections with members of the learning community inside and outside the school. A relationship isn't just about you and your program looking good. It's about initiating positive interactions that will hopefully evolve into ongoing, long-term relationships.

Example - the school library media specialist is working toward establishing connections with the local senior center. After making an initial contact, curriculum based projects are being designed with the vocal music teacher, American history teacher, and computer teacher. These projects will be appealing and useful to both students and seniors.

Advertising. Part of marketing your program is advertising. This involves attracting attention to critical causes and concepts. If people aren't aware of issues such as copyright and plagiarism, then they're not likely to be concerned. It's your job to advertise these ideas through posters, newsletters, displays, public service announcements and other means.

Example - the teacher librarian, technology teacher, and principal work together to create a public service announcement that encourages parents to be involved in how their child is using the Internet at home.

Marketing. While you may think of marketing as a business term, it has significance for a school library media program. Rather than promoting sales of a product, a marketing plan for your center sells concepts such as information inquiry, reading, and thinking. The process of marketing involves sharing your ideas with the learning community and convincing them to "buy" your ideas.

Example - the teacher librarian develops a marketing plan to convince teachers to use primary sources in their classrooms. Although the plan is focused on all teachers, there's an emphasis on getting math teachers to incorporate information inquiry and authentic data resources into the curriculum. It's a tough sell, but by providing lots of great, easy-to-access resources, the teachers are convinced.

Promoting. Encouraging the progress, growth, and acceptance of the library media program and its ideals is the goal of promotion. This involves an ongoing commitment to advancement of ideas and development of programs.

Example - the school library media specialist along with the science and reading teachers are working on a science reading promotion encouraging students to read fiction and nonfiction that stimulates thinking about science.

eye means readGo to the Promotion: Public Relations, Advertising and Marketing section of this course to learning more about public relations, marketing, and promotion activities.

Events. Contests, fairs, social gatherings, activities, and other events are great tools for advocacy. Some events are based on library topics such as Book Week or Computer Month. Others are connected to school-wide or content area initiatives such as Black History Month or Space Day.

eye means readGo to the Special Events section of this course to learning more about public relations, marketing, and promotion activities.

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Why is collaboration essential in advocacy?

Rather than spend your time marketing "your program," focus on the collaborative relationships you're building and consider how to promote the ideas of information inquiry, reading, thinking, and communication throughout the school. You'll be amazed that when you focus on your philosophies rather than your "center as place," you'll be able to accomplish your marketing goals and reach the entire learning community at the same time.

Teacher Collaboration. You must energize the teachers in your building. Rather than a "banned book week" promotion involving a display and bulletin board in your center that many people will never see, think big! Consider why a focus on intellectual freedom is important. Then, develop collaborative partnerships that stress intellectual freedom across the curriculum. Why is intellectual freedom important in math, science, social studies, and language arts? These are the connections that make "your program" important. Without the collaborative element, you may have a hard time getting teachers enthusiastic about devoting time to your promotion.

Student Collaboration. Students can be your biggest promoters if you get them actively involved with reading, writing, and sharing their thoughts and ideas. Give them an engaging topic and they love to write letters, create posters, and participate in contests. Ask them what they think about an important topic and they'll create a wonderful public service announcement video!

Community Collaboration. Involve members of the community in promotions such as reading to children, donating their time to literacy, or promoting lifelong learning. Build connections to current initiatives held by the historical society, nature park, museum, public service organizations, and public library.

eye means readSome schools have a "Friends of the School Library" group. Visit Friends of the Library at Torrey Pines High School, CA.

The Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations (ALTAFF) provides more information and ideas:
Friends Groups: Critical Support for School Libraries
(PDF Document)
Friends and Foundations Fact Sheets

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Where do I start?

In order to make an impact, you need to be viewed as an educational leader. This involves an analysis of your role in the building. How are you perceived by others? How can you use or change these perceptions?

eye means readRead Allen, Melissa and Bradley, Amy (Dec 2009). Portfolios: Justify Your Job as a Library Media Specialist and the Media Budget During Times of Budget Cuts (Access requires login). Library Media Connection; 28(3); 48-50.

Also read Shannon, Donna M. (Jul 2009). Principals' Perspectives of School Librarians (PDF document). School Libraries Worldwide; 15(2).
This project was designed to determine the criteria that principals in South Carolina use in hiring a school librarian, the competencies principals consider important for a school librarian to possess, and principals' level of satisfaction with the work of their current school librarian.

Oberg, Dianne (Feb 2006). Developing the Respect and Support of School Administrators (Access requires login). Teacher Librarian; 33(3), 13-18.
Research has revealed that the principal's support of the school's library program is critical to its success. For this reason, it is imperative for librarians to understand the principal's perceptions and priorities.

Burkman, Amy (Nov Dec 2004 ). A Practical Approach to Marketing the School Library (PDF document; Access requires login). Library Media Connection; 23(3), 42-43.
An effective way of proving library effectiveness is to keep data on student and teacher use of the library. Data from the school campus proves the worth of library far more than data from any journal article.

Harvey II, Carl A. (Apr 2010). Being Tactical with Advocacy (Access requires login). Teacher Librarian; 37(4); 89-90.

@libraryWhy reinvent the wheel? There are many great resources you can use to start your own public relations projects. Many of these campaigns provide logos, photos, and even public service announcements. State and national organizations are a good place to start.

eye means readGo to Advocacy at the Association for School Librarians. This website has resources to promote libraries.

Also explore Advocacy and Legislation at the American Library Association website.

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Words of Wisdom

Notable PersonRead about Ken Haycock and Gary Hartzell.

Well-known for their commitment to library advocacy, they both focus on the importance of promoting school libraries and programs. For example, Haycock's book Program Advocacy: Power, Publicity, and the Teacher-Librarian contains information about program advocacy, marketing school libraries, analyzing programs, and strategies for change. Gary Hartzell's book Building Influence for the School Librarian places emphasis on positively influencing the learning community.

Skim the following articles for more ideas on becoming a leader in the learning community (All require login to access):
Hartzell, Gary (Jul 2002). The Hole Truth. School Library Journal; 48(7), 31.
Hartzell, Gary (Aug 2002). Gods of the Mind. School Library Journal; 48(8). 35.
Hartzell, Gary (Oct 2002). Breaking New Ground. School Library Journal; 48(10), 37.
Minkel, Walter (Oct 2002). Making Every Librarian a Leader. School Library Journal; 48(10) 46.
Eisenberg, Michael and Miller, Daniele (Sep 2002). This Man Wants to Change Your Job. School Library Journal; 48(9), 46.

Check Your Understanding

info powerInformation Power: Learning and Teaching - Principle 9. Clear communication of the mission, goals, functions and impact of the library media program is necessary to the effectiveness of the program. (p. 100, 112)

Define advocacy. Why is the library media program important?

What do you think than an effective advocacy program looks like?
What elements does it involve?
What are the most important characteristics of a good advocate?

Use these materials to create your own campaign.

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Make It Real

bulletin boardInterview a school library media specialist.

Ask about their advocacy program. Do they reach the entire learning community or do they focus on center-based promotional activities such as bulletin boards and displays?

Do they partner with educators and other members of the learning community or do they build promotions in isolation?

Do they think their advocacy program is effective? How do they know? Have they collected evidence related to the effectiveness of their promotions, special events, and marketing campaigns? Do they share these findings with others? If so, how?

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Read More About It

3.0 Where School Is Cool! Frontline Advocacy for School Libraries Toolkit from the American Library Association.

Foote, Carolyn (Apr. 18, 2010). Rethinking Library Advocacy. Not So Distant Future: Technology, Libraries, and Schools.

Johnson, Doug (July 2013). School Libraries - A Student Right. Blue Skunk Blog

School Library Advocacy Kit from the International Federation of Library Associations(IFLA).

Valenza, Joyce (Mar 2013). School Library Inforgraphics: Research and Advocacy. School Library Journal.

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