Showing posts with label advocacy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label advocacy. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

If you Build It, They Will Come....

...but it  takes a lot of work.

I had a shocker the other day when a teacher brought a group of students in to search for a specific type of information.  I offered to give them a quick lesson on ways to find the information more easily, and the teacher turned me down, because s/he though they should figure it out for themselves.  I must say, I was surprised into a (for me)  unusual silence.

I'd been at my previous school long enough, and embedded myself deeply enough into the program, that I'd forgotten I had to train the faculty as much (or more) as I had to train the students.  When faculty are not used to having an  LMS to rely upon, they learn to do for themselves, and may even resist offers of assistance because
1) their system works
2) they don't realize it could work better
3) they hold a mistaken belief that students (aka digital natives) intuitively understand how to work online, and
4) quite honestly, they have limited knowledge of what is actually available for use

When facing these teachers, I have to squelch my own gut instincts (usually less than tactful), bite my tongue and take the longer view, realizing I can't convert everyone in a day.  This post is my "plan of attack" brainstorm for the first semester.

1)  Quick, weekly tech workshops for faculty.  I'm keeping these very simple at first, as it's all too easy to feel overwhelmed with options.  First up, a tried-and-true lesson on search skills, followed by lessons on Google Sites for classroom websites, VoiceThread, ToonDoo, wikis and collaboration.  I created a sign up sheet with the Forms in Google Docs, and general feedback has been very positive.  I tried for a good mixture of fun and functional.

2) Our school is IB, which builds in extensive, individual research projects in 10th and 12th grades (more or less). I will meet with the two coordinators for this next week, get their ideas on where the current program needs work, then offer some suggestions for building a solid culture of research.  I'll blog more about this early next week; I'm going to put together a plan this weekend.  As I work with the students, it will trickle into their classes, as they grow to expect tools and methods to be available to them, and as they learn the skills themselves.

3)  Focus on specific teachers, build a collaborative rapport with them and help them (and their students) be successful. Word of mouth is always one of the best forms of advocacy, and nothing promotes the media center's general "indispensability" than playing an integral role in a successful lesson. Of course this means finding teachers who are open to trying something new--look for teachers who are new to the school or to teaching, as they are less engrained into a pattern and their "usual" way of doing things.  Hang out in the staff room during lunch to hear what people are doing. I planted some of my best seeds here, as people talked about what was going on in their classrooms, or what units they were planning.

4) Watch your attitude. This is my biggest problem---it's all too easy for me to come across as a know-it-all tech evangelist here to show you a new and better way, and woe to any who resist!  "What do you mean you don't want to use the library, you neanderthal??"    Modesty is everything, and remember the ALA mantra:  Lead from the middle.  I tell both teachers and students "My job is to make your job easier" and try to keep that in the front of all I do, with the full awareness that I have huge gaps in my own knowledge, and much to learn myself.  A certain humility makes you more approachable, and compassionate.  I always treasured the comment from a teacher that "you teach like you're one of us."  Well, I am......we are.

5) Not that any of us need more committees, but.... Start a library committee; in fact, start two.  I haven't done this before, but this year I will initiate a formal advisory board consisting of representatives from each division (primary, middle, secondary), a parent and two students (middle, secondary).  I will also have a more informal student advisory group, both for ideas on making the library more user friendly, as well as for advocacy among students.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

EdWeb Webinar: Emerging Technologies and Advocacy

I just signed up for a year-long workshop on EdWeb, taught by Michelle Luhtala, Connecticut's 2010 Outstanding Librarian of the Year (and winner of the National School Library Program of the Year).
So whatever she has to say, I'll listen!

Entitled Using Emerging Technologies To Advance School Library Programs, the free workshop looks at a multitude of online tools and shows how they can be used to your library program's advantage.

As I reconsider my library program and online presence for the new school, I'm definitely looking forward to this for some ideas.

It starts on an as-yet-undetermined date in July.  You can sign up here.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

End of Year Reflections

I just watched Buffy Hamilton's  Animoto Annual Report, and it's fantastic.  I definitely plan to steal the year.  I have been absolutely horrible about taking photos throughout the year, something I plan to work on.

In fact, I really need to do a better job with the whole advocacy thing in general. While I write an annual report, I haven't done much else to keep my principal/s informed about what I'm doing.  Partly because we're a small school, so it's fairly obvious, though that's an assumption I make.  Frankly, my teachers love me,  and  I  rely on that more than I should for word of mouth.

If you can't tell from my slough of weekend posts, I'm working through my sadly backlogged Google Reader, which prompted my whole thinking about my abysmally bad job of advocacy when I ran across Doug Johnson's recent post, Nobody Can Save Your Butt But You.   In this day and age, no one can afford to be complacent.  Some resources I've been reading as I prepare to write my annual report, and continue my thinking about revamping my library program for next year.

Here's a link to Part II of Hartzell's article on advocacy in SLJ (the link to part one is bad, and it doesn't come up on a search.)

I'm also finding these articles helpful (you'll need access to the Gale databases).

A show of strength: written reports should convey how much your program has to offer. 

Breaking New Ground ,   Sharing Your ExpertiseMaking Every Librarian a Leader.
In general, my personal assessment for my own performance this year?  I kind of fell apart. I had some great ideas that either never got off the ground or fizzled under a busy schedule:  tech workshops for parents, weekly faculty workshops, a monthly library newsletter, library displays to promote reading.

While the basic program hummed along, with the usual research units and technology projects, I didn't do much new this year.  When I'm being generous with myself, I view it as a year to consolidate and refine after two years of start-up.  There's definitely some validity to that.  With no library program in place when I arrived, I worked hard for two years not only to develop and build a program, but to develop a library culture within the school.  To give myself credit, that has been very successful.

My more self-critical side, however,  thinks I got lazy.  I was busy, sure, but didn't always make the best use of time. Nor do I think one should let a year go by without trying something new;  I owe it to the students and the faculty to always be striving for better ways of running the library.

So it goes.  All one can do is recognize the problem and take steps to improve.  It's an ongoing process.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Whining to Win Friends and Influence People

I've been thinking a lot about advocacy lately.

Who hasn't, really, with the library community in crisis mode over the downpour of pink slips across the country. Except I suspect I'm not on the same page as the majority of school librarians: We're whining too much.

I almost blogged about this a couple months ago when the ALA was up in arms because Obama's Race to the Top program didn't include specific funding for libraries. This reaction smacked to me of the tea-party set, who wax eloquent about the perils of socialized medicine, then threaten bodily harm to anyone who touches their Medicare. Everyone knows there are limited funds to go around, that their needs to be cuts...just not to my particular program.

Don't get me wrong. I am utterly, deeply convinced of the profound contributions library media specialists to schools and to students. I abhor the entrenched notion that we are book jockeys with a degree and an utterly replacable luxury.

But I also think we brought this on ourselves.

Library schools have touted advocacy for years now, if not decades--to little avail if current events are anything to judge by.  Look at any ALA website or catalog, and you'll find a plethora of materials shouting out the library...the importance of the library...the impact of the library.  Excuse me?  I thought it was about the kids?
 Looking at the ALA's Frontline Advocacy for School Libraries page, I ran across this telling phrase:
It’s important that you share the value of your impact as well as the value of your library media center’s impact on student success. 
"As well as..." our impact on students?  Since when did students become secondary to what we do?
Similarly, the ALSC's Issues and Advocacy page starts with the following:
It's more important than ever for youth be able to advocate effectively on behalf of libraries (emphasis mine).

Houston, we have a problem.

Somewhere along the line, I think we confused advocacy with PR.  I've only been in the library for three years, but the one true thing I've learned is this:  REAL advocacy is bloody hard work.  Real advocacy--the knowing every teacher, what they're doing,  how I can make that easier, better, faster-- takes an incredible amount of time, persistence, and sheer cussedness. REAL advocacy--knowing the students, knowing their projects, teaching (often one-on-one) how to run a search rather than doing it for them (which would be infinitely easier and faster) takes more time and patience than I have some days.

You have to be a diplomat.  One of our 10th grade teachers offered his history class the option of NOT coming to me (as all the other classes do) for  search lessons.  Of course, having spent two weeks with me in 9th grade, they now think they can do it on their own.  So now I'm offering daily tutorials to students struggling to find fifteen sources, of which seven have to be primary.  They would rather NOT come to me, because it's more work than just finding the top hits on Google; thus I coddle and encourage and make it all seem fun.  Or try to.

You have to be patient. My first year here, I thought I would have the students and faculty whipped into shape by the end of the year, that I would move the library from a social lounge to a hub of active, engaged learning in mere months.   Three years later, I'm a quarter of the way there.

I could go on, but the point of all this is that none of this has anything to do with circulation stats or monthly updates to admin or that end of the year "state of the library" report I spend ages on, but (I suspect) nobody actually reads.

What it does have to do with is  the sheer hard work of knowing my students, knowing my faculty.  As I tell them both:  My job is to make your job easier.

You want to see some change?  Quit with the PR already.  Just do your job.

UPDATE:  Ha!  And here I thought I was all frontline and edgy on this!  A similar post on School Library Monthly   I love the Gail Dickinson quote.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Support Libraries: Join the National Debate

Obama and McCain will debate town-hall style on October 7th. Tom Brokaw, the moderator, will use questions from the audience and from questions submitted online.

In all of their talk about education, the candidates have talked little, if any about the important of adequate funding for libraries. The ALA encourages all librarians to post questions to, which will go live in the days leading up to the debate. The more library-related questions, the better chance a library question will be asked.