Saturday, April 2, 2011

Advocacy: One Step at a Time

Ann Arbor Library - Pittsfield Branchphoto © 2006 Jim Howe | more info (via: Wylio)
One aspect of my job as a librarian that I did not anticipate when I was working on my degree was advocacy. Yet, this has been a major focus of my first year.
I attempt to advocate for the library, my students, the profession as a whole and my own job. Even though there are many layers of advocacy they fit in a few categories for me.

-Be positive- I try to be as friendly and helpful as I can to students, teachers, administrators, parents and other librarians. I don't feel that I have the luxury of saying no very often because I'm trying to demonstrate my contribution to our entire school. This doesn't mean I meet every request, but I have pushed myself to do as much as possible.

-Be proactive- If I see a need for something I try to take care of it without being asked. I don't want to wait on someone to ask me to do something. Being proactive can be small or large. One example of a small action I took this year involves a lab near the library. We have a computer lab connected to the library with glass doors. Officially the lab is not my responsibility, but I do check on it and make sure there are markers and erasers for the whiteboard and I have my helpers straighten up in the room when we have a spare moment. An example of a larger-scale action is my technology training efforts. I volunteered to share one tech tool before each faculty meeting, I emailed the district office administrators and offered to teach a professional development class, which became an entire series of training classes several of us are organizing for the entire district, and when I heard the principals were getting iPads I offered to train them. I see all of these tasks as advocating to every principal and teacher in our district. I don't wait on others to notice how hard I work. I share the news. Each month I create monthly reports that I send to my administrators and post on my webpage. My principal loved these so much that he asked me to find examples for administrators and guidance counselors so that he would receive a similar report about their activities. I include a Library News section in our school's weekly update to parents and I post advocacy tips on the library home page. I have spoken with our administrators so much about social media that they finally agreed to allow me to create a Facebook page for our school. You better believe that library news will be posted there!

-Build Alliances- Librarians are often singletons so we have to reach out to build alliances. I have tackled this in several ways. I created a PLN that reaches around the globe. My PLN offers me ideas, advice, inspiration and sometimes friendship. I joined my state organization, SCASL, and then joined a committee. I am on the Advocacy committee (of course), but there is a committee for every interest. Being on a committee has made me feel more involved in the organization and I have been able to connect with other librarians virtually and face to face, including some of my library heroes. On the district level I meet with the other two middle school librarians once a month to share ideas, plan activities and just talk with someone who understands our unique position. We have also had the teen librarian from our public library meet with us. Even though I do not have an assistant I try to step out of the library often to meet with the teachers especially when they are planning big projects. I met with each grade's English teachers mid year to share library circulation statistics and come up with ideas for addressing some of the weak areas. After reading this post from the Shelf Consumed blog, I have started calling one parent each day to brag on their child's reading. I have had such a positive response that I plan to continue doing this.

What advocacy actions do you take? Or want to start?

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