Library Advocacy

National_Library_Week_Spotlight-option 1_2_This past week, April 14-20, was National Library Week.  While I assume that the small number of you who choose to read this library-related blog recognize the value of libraries, the fact of the matter is that not everyone in the general population realizes their importance.

use librariesSchool libraries in particular are incredibly valuable to their communities.  Librarians encourage a love of reading, which helps to promote and improve literacy.  However, libraries are so much more than that.  They are places of inquiry, discovery, and creativity.  They are places for students to learn to be responsible, respectful, ethical digital citizens.  They are places where students learn the information literacy skills they will need to succeed in school, higher education, and their careers.

For all of these reasons, it is important to advocate for school libraries.  If school librarians are the only ones doing this, though, they are likely to go unnoticed.  If we want community members to recognize the value of school libraries, advocacy efforts must come from community members themselves.  The question becomes, then, how can we engage others to advocate for the school library?

The best way to do this is to get them involved in the library.  Invite parents to be volunteers in the library.  Have some after-school or evening hours when parents can come into the library to check out books with their kids, or host evening library activities.  Bring community members into the library to talk to classes, or bring students to community organizations for a lesson or activity.  Showing community members all of the things the library does will allow them to recognize the value of the library, and share that information with others.  Thus, hopefully, library advocates are born.

236_Library Advocacy Logo March 2010 transparentOnce you have a community ready to advocate for the school library, though, how do you get that message across?  There are a number of ways this can be done.  Parents, students, and community members can attend school board meetings, or even events such as Library Advocacy Day.  They could also write articles for school newsletters, or even in the local paper.  The prevalence and popularity of social media these days, though, combined with the fact that most school libraries have limited budgets, makes advocacy via the internet a valid choice.  Students can make videos or podcasts explaining what the library means to them, why they value the library, or what they have learned in the library.  This could even be an evening activity; parents and students could come to the library after hours for a quick lesson on making a video, and then they could work together to make their advocacy videos.  In addition, notable local alums could do something similar, making videos showing their support for the library.  The librarian could also organize an activity in which students could interview alumni or community members about their library experiences for a podcast.

There are a wide variety of ways to engage community members to be school library advocates, and an equally large number of ways to advocate for the library.  I made a brief library advocacy video using Animoto, which can be seen here.  There are many other messages that could be presented and tools that could be used.  This is just one example of how we can advocate for school libraries.

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