Transforming School Library Practice: A School Librarian's Information ShelfSchool Library Advocacy

There is a widespread need to advocate confidently and continually with multiple stakeholders about the valuable ways that school libraries are evolving to empower students. Studies confirm that there is “a positive relationship between full-time, qualified school librarians and scores on standards-based language arts, reading, and writing tests, regardless of student demographics and school characteristics.” (Lance and Kachel) Despite such strong evidence of the value of school librarians, schools’ budget cuts have been eliminating these positions due in large part to the misconception that they are an expendable element of K-12 education. 

Listen to the voices of these experienced school librarian advocates. Read the studies and compelling data to develop a powerful advocacy story for your library.

Learn how to get the most out of the School Librarian's Information Shelf in this recent webinar

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May 23

23 May 2023

School Librarians Lead Learning and Transformation

Join this webinar for an introduction to the School Librarian’s Information Shelf and to learn more from practitioners who have applied transformative practices to their school libraries.

  • Time: 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time, North America [UTC -4]

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“I feel that I am better prepared to advocate for my library and students... I appreciate the resources and support I received to make our library more useable and inviting for our students.”

TSLP grantee Kelly Dyer
Librarian, Osage County Interlocal Co-Op Libraries, OK

Photo: Kelly Dyer

Stakeholder Buy-in

Leadership is essential for the work school librarians do to foster and support learning and engagement with students, teachers, and parents. Based on her own experience, Cooksey offers clear, action-focused tips and recommendations on how school librarians can see themselves as leaders and develop their leadership skills in three key areas—instruction, collaboration, and professional development. Download Transcript (5,489 words).

How to Demonstrate Your Value as An Instructional Coach to All Community Stakeholders – Hillary Marshall (8:08)
This short, informational interview with high school librarian Hillary Marshall demonstrates, through real-world examples, how Marshall advocated for significant visibility and transformation in her school system through persistent relationship-building with key stakeholders and data-informed storytelling.

Practical Tips for Advocacy
After watching the videos Leading from the Library and How to Demonstrate Your Value as An Instructional Coach to All Community Stakeholders, pin this sheet in a visible space as a constant reminder of many of the major points covered: Identify and build relationships with key stakeholders, Communicate successes to those stakeholders, Present stakeholders with real-world data. Add to this document the knowledge gained through personal experiences as needed.

5 Things You Need to Know About Grant Writing for School Libraries (September 2023)
Consider applying for a grant to support your school library. It's a great way to be able to expand your programs, strengthen your resources, and even build new relationships and partnerships. Check out these approachable resources and strategies that can simplify this process and help you to feel supported and confident in your efforts.

School Library Studies and Data

Students Reach Greater Heights with School Librarians
This infographic visualizes the benefits students experience through the presence and guidance of a certified school librarian across five key areas: safe spaces, information literacy, exposure to diverse resources, school achievement, and access to quality educational technologies. The visualization is supported by references that can be further explored for additional advocacy data.

Why School Libraries Matter: What Years of Research Tell Us (March 2018)
Drawing on findings from several studies of school library impact, this review further underscores the data presented in the above infographic—that the presence of a school librarian and the actions taken by that librarian with school administrators and fellow teachers directly correlate to student achievement. The article offers concrete recommendations on how schools can make the most of their libraries and librarians as leaders, technology mentors, and collaborators.

SLIDE (School Librarian Investigation — Decline or Evolution) Project
Keith Curry Lance's website provides background information and initial findings from SLIDE (School Librarian Investigation — Decline or Evolution), an investigation of a nationwide decline in school librarian positions and how schools are looking to fill the resulting gaps to meet students’ media literacy needs. Along with relevant news articles, initial publications and infographics, and presentations, the site provides a tool to search for district- and state-wide data on school librarian employment.

My Library Is... Conversation About Why School Libraries Matter (17:06)
Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS) Member Engagement Manager Dan Bostrom interviews four members of the Association of Illinois School Library Educators (AISLE), whose letter to the editor at the Chicago Tribune evokes the crucial purpose of school librarians for student achievement and community success. This is an effective example of a way to leverage data and impact to raise awareness of the need for school librarians as well as the concerning decline of these positions nationwide.

Roles of the School Librarian: Empowering Student Learning and Success (2019)
Drawing from impact studies and research, this brief provides a thorough examination of aspects of the five roles for school librarians identified by the American Association of School Libraries: teacher, leader, instructional partner, information specialist, and program administrator. This brief offers recommendations on how to articulate for school leaders how best to support and benefit from their school librarians.

Telling the Advocacy Story

Evidence-Based Advocacy: Using Data to Demonstrate the Impact of Library Programs on Student Learning (1 hour)
An in-depth explanation and demonstration of several ways to utilize different kinds of data to tell the story of the work of librarians and their impact on students and teachers in schools. Case studies include the use of data visualization, student achievement scores, and a collaboration rubric to gather valuable information and leverage new knowledge for advocacy with stakeholders. (Registration required.)

Telling Your Story with Data (14:30)
This short video provides clear, easy-to-follow tips along with effective and less effective examples to demonstrate how to assemble data and visuals to tell a powerful story about a school library’s impact and purpose. Key points include keeping the message simple yet evocative and avoiding the temptation to use too much data that can dilute the message. Suggestions for how to share the story in presentations are also included. Download Transcript (1,894 words).

Additional Resource:

Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra E. Kachel. 2018. “Why School Librarians Matter: What Years of Research Tell Us.” Phi Delta Kappan 99(7): 15-20.

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Community engagement

Where do you go for inspiration? Invigorate your community engagement efforts with advice from library leaders.