School library advocacy: OLA super conference jot notes

February 13, 2017 at 1:00 pm Leave a comment

Submitted by Natalie C., one of our fabulous reference libraries who was lucky to spend 3 days at the OLA Super Conference:

From Feb. 1st to 3rd, thousands of librarians descended on the Metro Toronto Convention Centre for the 2017 Ontario Library Association Superconference.

I was fortunate to attend two sessions with former OLA President and tireless school library advocate Anita Brooks-Kirkland. What I loved about her sessions was her no-nonsense presentation style and inclusive sense of advocacy. For her, advocacy isn’t a discrete activity, but rather a continuous process that involves everyone affected by school libraries.

Even if you’re not a Teacher-Librarian, you can help! Here are some key points from Anita’s workshops that explain how:


  • “Action is eloquence”: Today’s librarians can no longer advocate for the library by simply telling people that it’s important. Anita called this the “bitter medicine” approach to advocacy. Instead, Anita argues that advocating for the library is best when it comes from our actions:“Everything we do everyday is the best advocacy.”
  • Moving from Resources to Outcomes: In the school library, our promotion can’t be just about the books and tools. Instead, Teacher-Librarians need to collaborate with educators to pinpoint instructional outcomes they can contribute to.
  • Focus on Users: For library advocacy to be effective, it can’t be self-serving. It’s not about the library and librarians but rather what the library and librarians can provide. Anita quoted Doug Johnson’s 4 Rules of Library Advocacy, one of which is “Never advocate for libraries or the librarian — only for library users.” She also cited advocacy expert Wendy Newman who emphasized that people “do things for their reasons, not our reasons. We need to understand and respect their reasons.”
  • Be Accountable: It can often be difficult to measure the impact of the school library. To help Teacher-Librarians evaluate the efficacy of their efforts, Anita Brooks-Kirkland emphasizes that they need to have a plan, and track how well they stick to it.
  • Tell a Story: Look at both qualitative and quantitative data you’ve collected through your school library, and figure out what story it tells. Anita argues: “What we do has value. We need to communicate that value in meaningful ways.”

The key, Anita says, to ensuring the longevity of school libraries, is to think about the school library’s “unique value proposition” for information literacy and inquiry. What can school libraries do that no one else can?

How can you help?

Share your school library stories! How has the school library impacted you or your students?

Additionally, you can get involved with Canadian School Libraries, the new national organization “dedicated to professional research and development in the field of the school library learning commons in Canada.”


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Knowing and responding to learners (DI) Deeper Learning

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