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.
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.
Some 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.