(Originally posted November 7, 2010 on Blogger)
I’m tired of advocacy. Or at least what advocating for the school library program used to be. We are all very passionate about the role of the school library. I think we need to totally change our way of expressing that passion and be more demanding of ourselves when it comes to actually delivering the goods. The time is right for us to examine our own image of the role of the school library.
What value do we add to learning?
In 2010 we need to think about libraries differently. We need to ask some fundamental questions about how we can remain relevant in the 21st century and in 21st century schools. Ken Haycock wrote quite a brilliant essay about this. Haycock cautions against thinking about libraries as competitors in the information business and encourages us to understand the library’s value in terms of the community it serves. A school library, for example, needs to demonstrate how it contributes to “the development of a community of learners.”Aligning with the strategic mission and goals of our larger institutions is essential. But we also need to help our institutions understand what we can do that is unique and adds value.
Can we demonstrate our value?
Data-driven decision-making has become the mantra in education. Approaches to teaching and learning are more precise than they’ve ever been before. In school libraries we’ve always struggled with the challenge of collecting and communicating meaningful evidence of the positive impact of library programs on student success. I would argue that the emphasis today on teaching-learning critical pathways or learning cycles makes it much easier for us to assess the value of our own instructional practices than ever before.
Can we communicate our value?
We need to stop preaching about the value of school libraries in vague and self-righteous terms. We really need to be able to express how the library program aligns with the strategic values of the education system in which we exist. We also need to market our programs. By marketing I mean helping others in our organization understand how we can help them achieve what they want and need to achieve, in ways that they had not imagined.
These are all huge questions, and questions that I will explore more explicitly as this blog develops. If we do not understand our own value and communicate it effectively ourselves, we should not be surprised if our organizations have difficulty figuring us out.
Haycock, K. (2005). Librarianship: Intersecting perspectives from the academy and from the field. In N. Horrocks (Ed.), Perspectives, insights & priorities: 17 leaders speak freely of librarianship. (p. 63-71). Toronto: Scarecrow.