Tight budgets have given rise to administrators wondering why they need librarians. Too often they decide librarians aren’t really necessary. We know otherwise, and if we want to change that mindset we need to speak out where the power stakeholders can hear us.
A few days ago I was contacted by a librarian who was going to be speaking to a county superintendents’ meeting. She had fifteen minutes to answer that question. It was a wonderful opportunity and somewhat intimidating at the same time. At least she didn’t have a problem addressing a large group.
Although you may cringe at the thought of speaking before such a group it is something you all should consider. In order to be a leader – and leadership is not an option, it’s a job responsibility –you must be willing to step out of your comfort zone. There are opportunities to get the word out. Sometimes you can have five or ten minutes at a Board of Education meeting. Ask to speak at an administrators’ meeting. The parent teacher organization at your school is another possibility.
Once you have found an audience, you need to prepare your talk. Look through your photographs of students at work in the library. Short videos are good as well. Don’t have them? Take them now so you will be ready.
Use Piktochart or Google slides as a backdrop to your talk. Make sure it isn’t text heavy. Have an unexpected beginning to capture attention. Pose the question that’s in back of their minds:
Who needs librarians?
We have the Internet. Kids are wedded to their devices anyway.
Libraries and librarians are nice, but in time of tight budgets we can only afford vital.
Now answer your question. “Guess what? Librarians are more vital than ever.”
From that you segue into the heart of your presentation saying something like, “Rather than giving you a long list of what librarians bring to students and the educational community as a whole, I will give you two big ideas”
The idea here is to keep it simple and make an impact. Point to the two strong areas of school library programs.
- Love of Reading
- Lifetime learners
First, the love of reading. Acknowledge that your audience may be thinking you don’t need a librarian for that. Classroom teachers and literacy coaches handle that.
They teach HOW to read. Librarians make kids WANT to read and that makes all the difference in the world. From the elementary librarian reading stories that enchant kids while developing their visual literacy and ability to derive meaning beyond the text to the high school librarian who knows it’s never too late to connect a kid with just the right book that matches his/her interests and ability, the school librarian’s passion for the magic of books is contagious and kids get it.
(Can you think of a personal story that illustrates that. Tell it. Stories make the biggest impact.)
Correct another misconception by saying, “and before you suggest that the kids want everything online, Pew Research studies have confirmed several times (as does the experiences of building librarians) that kids prefer to read print books.
As educators we all know “kids who read succeed.” It’s true for many reasons. In addition to reading building vocabulary and writing ability, it also expands awareness of the larger world, creating understanding of different times, places, and ways of life in a manner no textbook can ever convey. Because books are personal.
And the second reason we need librarians is the importance of cultivating lifetime learners. The world is changing rapidly. What students learn today can be obsolete in a few years. It’s not the content that’s important. In 2005, Thomas L. Friedman in The World is Flat said the most important skill we need to teach our kids is HOW to learn.
And that’s what a librarian does.
Working collaborative, cooperatively, or solo if necessary, the librarian creates learning experiences that have students discovering how to find out about a topic they are interested in and do so ACCURATELY.
Through giving students room to choose what aspect of a topic they want to explore – which makes it of PERSONAL interest to them—and then guiding them through a research process which leads them to deeper and critical thinking about their topic, and has them produce new knowledge. Our students find out that the questioning process is more significant then answering test questions correctly. If a student merely answers teacher generated questions they prove they have mastered the content – that which is already known – by developing questions and finding solutions they become innovators – and that is where the future lies.
(Again, add any personal stories you have here.)
Interestingly enough, numerous research studies have shown that students in schools with a certified librarian and an active library program do better on high stakes tests. Download School Libraries Work and give out copies. If you can manage it also give them a print copy of AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner (bundle of 12 for $15.00). Tell them to look at p.3 to see just the 4 standards.)
Move toward your closing by saying, a school librarian effects the whole school community thorough tech integration, being an Instructional Partner, and giving professional development for teachers – and there are research studies to show that. (See ONE COMMON GOAL: STUDENT LEARNING Report of Findings and Recommendations of the New Jersey School Library Survey Phase 2 p.23 and after for how the library affects the school culture.)
For your closing go to the ALA initiative Libraries Transform for some great quotes. Searching Libraries Transform on Google gives you images you can copy.
Also go to http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/tools/transforming and download the infographic.
Have you made a presentation on Why Librarians? If not, where can you give one?