Too many librarians still think if they work hard and do a great job, their teachers and principal will recognize their value. It doesn’t work like that. If you don’t start self-promoting you might find yourself ignored and possibly eliminated. My daughter tells me the same thing about selling books – if you write well there’s still a very good chance you won’t make the royalties you want. You have to connect with your audience first.
Self-promotion smacks of bragging and most of us shy away from anything resembling it. It just isn’t “nice.” Instead of thinking of self-promotion as self-praise regard it as positioning your program.
How many people in your building are aware of all you do? What does central administration know about your contribution to student achievement, integration of technology, and the host of other ways your program transforms the learning community? How are they going to find out unless you tell them?
Saskia Lefertnk in an OCLC post references Ranganathan, known as the founder of modern library science. He said, ““If you want to be a reference librarian, you must learn to overcome not only your shyness but also the shyness of others.” While he was speaking specifically of reference librarians, there is much in that quote for school librarians.
Ranganathan wanted to encourage librarians to transition from being preservers of books to actively serving users. While we have been doing this for decades, how we do it has undergone a change as drastic as the one Ranganathan was advocating. Shyness or reticence doesn’t work when the playing field has altered so dramatically.
It is easier to promote yourself and your program in writing rather than speaking or conversation. So your first step is actively informing your stakeholders of what the library program is doing and achieving. Document visually what is occurring in your library. Show students at work. If you video them, have them talk about what they are doing and learning.
Consider who needs to see this. If you aren’t doing at least quarterly reports to your principal, start now. Use the writers’ mantra, “Show, don’t tell.” It carries a greater impact. Do make mention of the teachers who you worked with collaboratively or cooperatively.
There are several web resources such as Piktochart that make telling your story easy. Your principal might like it enough to share with the Superintendent or even include it with a report to the Board of Education. Depending on what you have pictured and district’s rules for posting pictures of students show the activities on your website. You can always have photos without kids and have them do a voice over.
When you are planning a lesson that demonstrates what you contribute to student learning, invite your principal or supervisor to see it. Send the plan in advance. Although there is no guarantee he or she will come, it is still self-promotion for your program and you. Let any teacher you are working with know there is a possibility an administrator will be present.
Did you attend a conference or a workshop? Whether it was an official professional day or something you did on your own time, send a brief report to your principal specifically explaining how you will integrate what you learned into working with students and teachers. This sends the message that you are transforming learning and are actively involved professionally.
Volunteer to serve on a committee. Select one such as technology where you can demonstrate your expertise. If a subject or grade is working on curriculum, try to become a part of it in order to inform them about resources, but also to show how you can work with the teachers in creating units that engage learners and build critical thinking and other skills.
Offer to give a professional development workshop for teachers (or if you are willing to really step out of your comfort zone) with administrators. Consider showing teachers AASL’s Best Websites for Teaching and Learning or Best Apps for Teaching and Learning. Particularly at elementary and middle schools you might offer to give a talk to parents. What they should know about digital footprints or the latest social media their kids are on are possible topics.
Apply for a grant. Start small with your local education foundation. Let your principal know if and when the grant is approved. Getting free stuff is always appealing to administrators. Once you have some practice with grant-writing, try going for a larger grant.
Check out AASL’s Grants and Awards. The deadline for most of them is February 1, so you have time over the Christmas break to work on it. The PR that results from winning one, will showcase you and your program. If all your efforts are resulting in your principal becoming a supporter of your library program, propose him/her for AASL’s Distinguished School Administrator Award.
If your community has a “day” when vendors and businesses exhibit, see if your school/district is part of it. Find out if you can be there to inform everyone about what school libraries are like today. AASL has brochures and a great infographic on their Advocacy page. You can find others by searching the Internet.
Use your tagline on whatever you distribute. Keep looking for ways to bring your program front and center. Leaders know how to self-promote successfully. And they aren’t bragging. They are telling it like it is.
What are you doing to make your presence known? Where do you need help, support or recommendations?