This week we’ve been discussing evidence-based practice and advocacy in school libraries. In a nutshell, the questions are: how can we gather evidence that demonstrates the library’s value, and how can we share that evidence in a way that is convincing to the library’s many stakeholders? For today, I’m going to focus on the advocacy side of the equation, and particularly the idea of involving students as advocates for their school library program.
My first reaction when faced with many school library tasks (design a website, create a display of new books, create book reviews or book talks, etc.) is the following: how can I get students involved in that job? When students take an active role in the design and maintenance of their school library, they benefit, the library program benefits, and the teacher librarian benefits. The same would be true when it comes to advocating for the school library program. Of course the teacher librarian should have a voice in library advocacy, as should parents, teachers, community members, etc. However, in my opinion the student voice may be the most important of all. The library program is really about their learning, after all.
There are many ways that a teacher librarian can encourage students to speak out about their library experience. One idea, that I’ve mentioned in this blog before, is to recruit a group of library helpers (it’s Sue Kowalski’s i-staff again!) that take an active role in all aspects of library upkeep and programming, including advocacy. Creating some sort of i-staff volunteer group is central to many of my visions about my future library work. However, when it comes to library advocacy, I would also want to appeal to the student body at large to contribute. This could be as simple as collecting and sharing student reflections on what they learned in the course of various projects. Web 2.0 tools also offer excellent opportunities for advocacy. Getting students involved in maintaining the library blog, creating pro-library videos, or adding student voices to facebook and twitter updates would all be excellent ways to broadcast student advocacy.
When it comes to advocacy (and many other aspects of the teacher librarian job as well), I see myself working behind the scenes to facilitate student voices being shared. Of course my own voice will be a crucial one in speaking out for the library program, but if I am doing my job properly, it will only be one voice among many.