Sunday, October 13, 2019

Follett Webinar Recap: Fighting Back: Making the Case for a Certified Librarian

*Cross-post with Follett

Recently I had the pleasure of partnering with Follett and John Chrastka, executive director of EveryLibrary, to present a timely and relevant webinar, Fighting Back: Making the Case for a Certified Librarian. In the weeks leading up to the webinar, Follett sent out a survey to registered participants to elicit questions they would like addressed in the overarching theme of library advocacy. Based on response data three main areas of focus were, Making the Case, Writing the Plan, and Annual Report, followed by some ProTips and Q&A.

Making the Case

An overwhelming hurdle for school librarians is being able to effectively disseminate the critically vital impact a full time certified library media specialist has on student outcomes. The American Association of School Librarians created a research-based, fact-filled, yet easily digestible infographic titled, Strong School Libraries Build Strong Students, that can be shared with your principals and superintendent as well as providing talking points when the worth of your position is called into question. For a deeper dive into the research, you can turn to the Phi Delta Kappan journal article, Why school libraries matter: What years of research tell us.

Data, however, doesn’t hold much water if there is no tangible action from the librarians within schools and districts backing it up. Often times we, certified librarians, shoot ourselves (and subsequently others) in the foot as one registered participant stated in the pre-webinar survey, “Past certified librarians became lackadaisical near retirement giving a bad name to the rest of us. Their replacements are all paraprofessionals. How do you suggest approaching key decisionmakers about this dilemma?”

Writing the Plan

Advocating for your school library goes beyond just vocalizing your concerns, needs, wants, and “should be”. A thoughtful and thorough plan needs to be written up that includes a specific cause or goal supported with data that clearly connects the dots back to student outcomes. The “who” needs to be clearly defined as well so that your message will resonate with the critical needs of the stakeholder your advocacy is addressing. If designing this message for the administration, focus on how your cause or goal supports the school mission, vision, and values, how it ties to student outcomes and addresses those issues that keep your administrators up at night. Additionally, have a viable action plan for implementation.

Annual Reports

Annual reports are a bit different from your written plan but can and should draw from it. An annual report tells the story of the library, specifically how the work you do makes a difference and is connected to positive student outcomes with data to back it up. Jennifer LaGarde’s post, It’s Annual Report Season! Here Are Some Tips To Help You Effectively Tell Your Story, provides a detailed framework on how best to approach the creation and delivery of an Annual Report. Key components of Jennifer’s post include identifying your target audience, including student data as opposed to circulation data, tell a story, share both qualitative and quantitative data to diversify the information shared, start early gathering information throughout the school year, ensure that the Annual Plan is easily digestible and respects the time of your target audience, let the Annual Report be a mirror on the work you do, and learn from others. Jennifer has also included an open-source Google Doc where you can view a wide variety of Annual Reports created by school librarians across the country.

Don’t wait until the end of the year and Annual Report time to share the story of your library. It is also helpful to harness the power of social media to share the story of how the school library is impacting student learning and teacher effectiveness each day throughout the year. Social media is also convenient storage of the stories you will later share in your Annual Report. In my book, Connected Librarians: Tap Social Media to Enhance Professional Development and Student Learning, my own personal journey and concrete examples of how social media can tell your story, build connections, provide rich professional development, and connect your school with the world for global collaboration and real-world connections. It also helps make the case for social media if your administration is hesitant.


Dr. Laura Sheneman, founder of the Librarian Influencers website and the Librarians Influencers Podcast, provides a free How-to Guide Elevator Talk Worksheet to accompany the blog post, Create an Elevator Speech You Can Recycle Many Ways. A ready to use elevator speech helps let others who inquire what you do as a librarian and why what you do matters. Laura guides you through examining the Common Beliefs of the AASL Standards, your school and district vision and mission statements, digging deep into core values, and development of a memorable tagline. Laura even provides example elevator talks for situations such as a school open house, a school board meeting, or being interviewed by a local radio or television station. I often find myself in need of an elevator pitch when meeting new people just in general social situations in my private life who often espouse they are surprised there is a need for librarians now that schools have computers.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do to advocate for school libraries is to conduct your library services in such a way that administrators, teachers, students, parents, and community members can’t possibly imagine the school functioning effectively without you.