The teacher librarian must be an advocate for the library media program and its principles.

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).

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

eye means readThis section of the course contains the following related topics you'll want to investigate: Promotion, Events, Change: Innovating Practices and Evolving Roles, Reflection.

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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 Toolkit for School Library Media Programs for the @your library campaign. Use these materials to create your own campaign.

Go to School Library Campaign 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 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 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.

First visit Friends of the Library at Torrey Pines High School, CA.

Friends of the Library U.S.A. (FOLUSA) provides more information and ideas at School Library / Media Center Friends and Fact Sheet 6: How to Organize a Friends of a School Media Center

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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 This Man Wants to Change Your Job by Michael Eisenberg & Daniele Miller in School Library Journal, Sept. 2002; 48(9), 46. (Access requires login)

Skim the following articles for more ideas on becoming a leader in the learning community (All require login to access):
The Hole Truth by Gary Hartzell, School Library Journal, July 2002; 48(7), 31.
Gods of the Mind by Gary Hartzell, School Library Journal, Aug. 2002; 48(8). 35.
Breaking New Ground by Gary Hartzell, School Library Journal, Oct. 2002; 48(10), 37.
Making Every Librarian a Leader
by Walter Minkel, School Library Journal, Oct. 2002; 48(10) 46.

@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 @your library. This website sponsored by American Library Association contains lots of resources to promote libraries. Also check out the great school library graphics.

Also, consider the general advocacy materials 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.


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?

Read Toolkit for School Library Media Programs for the @your library campaign. Go to School Library Campaign for many more resources related to school library advocacy.

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

AASL Advocacy Toolkit from American Association of School Librarians
Collection of ready-to-use tools to conduct an advocacy campaign--large or small--for school library media programs.

Advocacy for School Library Media Teachers by David V. Loertscher

Demonstrating Impact Road Map from Web Junction, Dec. 2003
This article will help you to undertake the three steps, strategize, quantify, and demonstrate, which will enable you to show the importance of your library. It is written for public libraries, but the information is equally valid for schools.

Eisenberg, Michael B. & Miller, Daniele H (Sept. 2002). This Man Wants to Change Your Job. School Library Journal; 48(9), 46. (Access requires login) , , ,
Offers a compelling blueprint for becoming a core player in your school.

Hartzell, Gary. Building Influence for the School Librarian, 1994. ISBN 0-938865-32-3

Hartzell, Gary. The Hole Truth. School Library Journal, July 2002; 48(7), 31. (Access requires login) . . .
Librarians need to emphasize what they have to offer.

Hartzell, Gary. Gods of the Mind. School Library Journal, Aug. 2002; 48(8) 35. (Access requires login) , , ,
The great Buzzword today is "Information." But schools and school libraries are not really in the information business. They're in the learning business.

Hartzell, Gary. Breaking New Ground. School Library Journal, Oct. 2002; 48(10), 37. (Access requires login) . . .
Develop a new context so principals can benefit from your ideas.

Haycock, Ken. Program Advocacy: Power, Publicity, and the Teacher-Librarian, 1990. ISBN 0-87287-781-7

Minkel, Walter. Making Every Librarian a Leader. School Library Journal, Oct. 2002; 48(10), 46. (Access requires login) . . .

Position Statement on the Value of Library Media Programs in Education from American Association of School Librarians

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