Reach Your Prime Audience – Back To School Night Suggestions

back-to-schoolThe parents who show up for Back-To- School Night and Parent Conferences are the ones who tend to be most directly involved in their children’s learning.  They are the ones who will fight for what their kids need. Too many librarians spend these events alone in the library catching up on work. You want them to recognize your contribution to student success in school and for their futures in college and beyond.  Once you do, they will do everything in their power to ensure your program thrives. Don’t miss out on reaching your prime audience.

To bring them in, have a sign or signs where parents check in and/or post them on the walls.  At the elementary level they may have little free time to wander so have a table set up at the main school entry with information for them.  Check with your principal to see if you can be there instead of in your library.  This gives you a chance to meet and greet them.Parents-orientation

In preparing material, consider what parents want most from the school library.  At the lower levels they want their children to learn to love reading.  So have a hand-out with the heading “A Book for Every Child—Every Child a Reader.”  Highlight any reading programs originating from the library.  Have a brief annotated bibliography and give links to your website where they can find more suggested titles.  If you can’t do that, list the URL for ALSCs Notable Books.

Are you looking for volunteers? Have a sign-up sheet, but just don’t have lines for their names and contact information.   What will parents get as a result of volunteering?  Seeing their child while they work in the library?  Learning more about the library program?  Access to borrowing material they can use at home with their children?  Helping the library be a welcoming environment for all students?  Put that first–then the lines for signing up.

At upper levels where parents move from class to class to meet teachers, they may have more room in the schedule to actually drop by the library. Again in preparing, think about what they want for their children.  This the time when they begin worrying about college, so spotlight how the library program prepares students.

A flyer or a running program entitled “What Students Don’t Know about Research” lets you showcase the information literacy skills you incorporate into students’ learning experiences.  Link to articles on the topic, such as this one from Huffington Post and point out why students in your school don’t need to wait until college to learn the skills.  Have your computers open to the databases you available and have a hand-out with the passwords for accessing them at home.  (Your students should have it, but the parents are probably unaware of it.)

library resourcesAt all grade levels, have your Mission Statement prominently displayed and include it on all handouts—and the Volunteer Sign-up Sheet.  Let parents know they can always contact you via school email.  If you have them, inform parents about LibGuides you created just for them and how they can see projects their children have done on your website.

The more parents learn about the value of today’s school library program, the more they will fight to keep it.  Don’t let your best potential advocates walk out the door without discovering what you do for their kids.


Reach Out – Find Your Larger Community

libraries transform learning
From ALA – click image for article

More and more of you recognize that no matter how busy you are in the library, the vital advocacy work that has administrators supporting your program happens outside it. While showing your own tech skills is a critical part of demonstrating how libraries have transformed over time, you still need to add a personal touch to make a true impact.

You know—or should know—your own town or city best.  Start thinking about ways you can reach beyond the educational community to send the message about how school librarians transform learning, boost student achievement, and prepare students for college, career, and lifelong learning in a constantly changing world.

In a world where so much communication is asynchronous, being with someone in person, in real-time adds much more meaning.  What this means, is that you have to get out of your library – and it’s on your own time. Up until now, your outreach for the most part is only directed to the school community including parents.  But you need to communicate with the much larger community.  They are voters and their attitudes toward school libraries is likely to be far more dated and entrenched than those of parents.facetime

Start by reaching out to your natural partners. Visit the public library. Introduce yourself to the children’s or YA librarian depending on the grade level of your school. Checking in advance with your principal to insure it is OK to do so, invite him or her to come to your library.  At the elementary level, you can work together on a story time with one or more classes.  At the middle and high school levels, you can get a cooperative English teacher to bring a class to the library and have your guest discuss upcoming programs at the public library.

Offer to promote public library programs in your library – and on your website.  See if the children’s or YA librarian is open to have you share student work in a display case or bulletin board at the public library.  This will reach community library users who don’t have children in the schools.

If you are a high school librarian, consider connecting with librarians in any college in your area.  An after school visit from a college librarian discussing college-level research with students (and possibly parents) will draw interest.  Try to get coverage from local press or cable TV station. High schools with TV stations can report on it as well.

special eventSome communities have a special day with various merchants contributing money and/or merchandise and food to bring out people.  The high school football field is often one of the venues for the day. Other places with a town green use that.  See if you can have a booth or table for the day.  Have flyers to hand out.  Display work by students and pictures you have taken showing library activity.  If possible, have students spend some time at the book talking with passers-by about what they love to do in the library.

Alternatively, or in addition, consider inviting community members into your library for special events.  Read Across America is a time when you can invite local officials to come and read to students. (Prepare them well –and prepare your students.)  Guests from Kiwanis or Rotary can talk to high school students about what they want to see and hear from those seeking part-time or summer work.

Your school library is part of a larger community that you need to be a part of. Get creative and have fun with these audiences you’ll find new resources and connections for your indispensable program.

How Large is Your PLN?

pln wordleYour PLN.

This acronym has two versions and both are important.  PLN can be either a Professional Learning Network or a Personal Learning Network. While it may seem to have arisen along with social networks, the concept has been in use long before the Internet, although the term didn’t exist.

Connecting with colleagues to seek their advice or help on a professional issue has always existed. At first it was within an office or school.  I can remember reaching out to a school librarian when I was planning to automate my library in 1993.  The telephone was my link.  I had already begun building a large Professional Learning Network by becoming an active member first in my state’s school library association and soon after in AASL.

Social networks have made extended these connections. Numerous library associations have Facebook pages.  National and state organizations also have listservs, and, of course, there’s LM_NET which has been a vital listserv for many school librarians who know how to manage the large amount of email messages.  Have a problem? A question? Just put it out on one or more of these and advice and help from experience practitioners will soon help you resolve it.

Sometimes you aren’t looking for anything, but a post gives you an idea.  I was just on the NYLA/SSL Facebook page and there was an illustration of Barbara Stripling’s inquiry model.  I will be teaching a course in the fall which will discuss inquiry-based learning.  I asked the person who posted, if she would send it to me for this purpose. She did, and I will be using it with attribution to her and Barbara Stripling.pln types

Members of Google+ TL Chat share what they are doing with software and other resources you may not have heard of.  Just click on the post and find out more. If necessary, post a question.  Twitter and LinkedIn groups offer other sources of information to grow your PLN.

Personal Learning Networks are a mix.  The greatest number of people in my personal learning network are fellow librarians who are also my friends.  I know them well even if I only see many of them at conferences.  We are always available for each other.  They are my friends on Facebook so I am always keeping up with their lives—professional and personal.

In person and online, we can get involved in discussions about issues arising in the profession.  Occasionally this leads to developing a project together or creating a workshop or presentation for a conference.  We know each other well enough to make drawing on each other’s specific area of expertise a natural part of the collaboration.

The remainder of the people in my Personal Learning Network are non-librarian friends.  Recently, I became interested in yoga for people with limited mobility.  I am a good librarian and researcher.  I could have spent time investigating this on my own.  Instead, I reached out to a friend who has been attending yoga classes for years.  She loved exploring this.  Soon she was sending me information about programs on television and chair yoga classes at a local Y and through the local park service.

yogaBecause she had a yoga PLN, she was able to let me know which had good teachers and the pros and cons of each option.  She also sent me illustrated directions for doing chair yoga at home. I now have a number of options without expending much of my own time.

Knowledge and information keep expanding at a rapid pace. You can’t do it all by yourself. Remember this is a two-way street.  Often you are able to respond to someone else’s query.  You are continually getting and giving in our participatory culture. Being a school librarian today requires you to keep up with the constantly changing technology landscape. PLNs – both professional and personal, are the way you can do it without feeling lost.  How big is your PLN?  How are you going to make it bigger?