Initially, when I decided that I was going back to school to be a school librarian, I was surprised by the note of discouragement I received from friends and family. It caught me off guard that a profession that I so highly valued was perceived by so many people as fading. I realized that working as an educator in a public school where the library is considered integral to our daily functions had left me with a perception that may be unique to my particular experiences. It became clear to me that much of the world, the world outside of public education – or outside of education at all, is so far removed from the role and the purpose of the school library (or frankly, the public library) that they really have no idea what it is that we do. We certainly have a public image problem, if nothing else.
Our strengths are many. The profession attracts people with a love for learning, a belief in the the potential of the position, and a desire support children, teachers, and communities. School librarians are inquisitive, inventive, resourceful, and bold. They support students, and teachers, and families in ways that extend well beyond books and literacy.
I believe that Sullivan’s article, “Are School Libraries at a Tipping Point” makes it clear that regardless of the impact we are making on our campuses, if we cannot get “buy in” from our administrators, our teachers and our communities, then we will, inevitably begin “tipping backwards.” But with this support – with the community’s investment, librarians can tip the scales in the other direction, move the profession forward and help it to evolve along with the needs of our communities.
Advocacy, I believe, begins with relationships. By listening to the needs of our schools and our schools’ communities, by honoring the missions of the districts we serve, librarians can be a more meaningful resource. If we are aware of what is needed from us, we can then reach out with ideas, training and resources that meet real, authentic needs. We can best advocate for ourselves by making ourselves relevant and necessary.
Sullivan, M. (2010). Are school libraries at a tipping point? Teacher Librarian, 37(5),84-85.