People who resist change are sometimes right. G. Hatzell
In his usual engaging and humorous style, Gary Hartzell* presented a day-long workshop on library advocacy last Monday. I am not much of a note-taker, but these comments struck me as important. (My remarks in italics.)
Before the notes, I have to get a little rant off my chest here. Out of 500+ school library media specialists in Minnesota, fewer than 30 came to this workshop. Why?
- Does the school library profession have a death wish?
- Do we all believe that some magic thing will step in and save all our jobs?
- Are we so personally convinced of our value that we cannot conceive that others may not think so highly of us?
I gotta tell ya, it's damn tough working for a group who do not seem to make an effort to work for themselves. When the next MN school librarian comes to me crying about his/her job being cut, my first question will be "Did you go to Hartzell's workshop and apply any of his ideas?"
Yes, there was a fee to attend. Yes, it's summer. Yes, we have families, obligations, etc. But just remember - nobody picks our priorities for us - so own up to the consequences of choosing yours.
Thus endeth the rant.
Why do we need to capture the principal's support? (Seems like a "well, duh" question to me, but if it were the profession would not be in jeopardy.)
- The principle controls opportunity (money, staffing, scheduling, space)
- There is no quality library programs w/o principal support
- School level advocacy is "micro" advocacy with no effect on the entire field and the results are temporary
- Macro advocacy means altering general perception of libraries via teacher and admin training
- Current danger in interpretation of research - asking and promising too much - don't overstate impact of libraries
My sense is that we have to continue to work at BOTH a micro and macro level of advocacy. Working on either alone puts the profession at either short term or long term risk.
50+ years of research on libraries:
- consistent but not compelling (correlation not causation)
- not recognized elsewhere (why not seen other non-library publications)
- can be it strengthened by examining the impact of schools that have cut library programs?
Many of us are beginning to view research with no small degree of skepticism. It's a nice advocacy tool, but HAS to be supplimented with local data and communications.
Research cannot show that
- Libraries have values in their own rights
- Libraries undergird other programs
- Libraries teach skills that are not measured on standardized tests
Read: Karl Weick on small wins, Gerald Lanier's You are not a gadget, and Robert Evans Human side of school change.
Libraries MUST support other programs (People love those who make them look good - we need to make teachers look good)
- working with gifted
- special education
- at-risk (make connection with individuals_
- new teachers
- "veteran" newcomer teacher
- out of assignment teachers
- changed teacher schedules
- restructuring teachers
- staff development
Triangulate support - get teachers and parents to talk to principal about the importance of libraries. YES!
Success flows to the visible. - make yourself visible. We have advantages - our skills, our resources, etc)
Why do we not now have principal support? Ave age teachers 49 - age admins mid 50s - lack of experience. knowledge and training about good libraries.
Principals learn about good libraries from librarians themselves.
To get principal's support we must do four things:
1. Get library reconceptualized as investment, not a cost
2. Job understanding - mutual understanding
3. Professional trust
4. Build targeted influence
"This is your 2010 to retirement project."
"Librarians must have an enterprising attitude."
Get positive comments about the library from principal in writing.
How much does eliminating a librarian's position influence class size? Not very much.
* Gary's a friend and has been a big influence on my thinking about school libraries. He's contributed these guest posts to the Blue Skunk:
and has written a "must read" book for all school librarians, Building Influence for the School Librarian.