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The Role of Library Media Specialists as Advocates

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

As a school library media specialist, one of your jobs is advocating for your program in the broader community. This lesson discusses the different ways a library media specialist can work as an advocate.

Why Advocacy Matters

For the last three years, Cindy has been working as the library media specialist at Buckton Elementary School. Cindy knows that her job has many different parts. She maintains the library collection, collaborates with classroom teachers on research projects, and teaches classes about library skills.

Lately, Cindy has also been thinking more about her role as an advocate, or someone who is responsible for speaking up and sometimes even fighting, for the needs of her school's library media center.

Cindy knows that libraries today face many challenges. Her school has limited resources, and sometimes the library just does not get the funding and attention it needs. Also, she knows that intellectual freedom can sometimes come under attack, and her job as a librarian is to speak up for what she believes is right.

Cindy starts to learn more about what she can do to advocate for her library and the students, families, teachers and community members who use it.

Advocating for Resources and Services

First of all, Cindy knows that it is crucial to advocate for resources and services. Her school and district often struggle with budget cuts and allocation of both material, and human resources, as a result.

Cindy understands that as a library media specialist, it is not her job to tell administrators how to prioritize and manage their budgets. At the same time, though, she believes that it is her responsibility to remind them of the importance of maintaining a library.

Cindy advocates for library resources by attending faculty meetings and speaking up about the library, the role it plays in the life of the school, and the materials she needs. She also publishes a weekly newsletter reminding community members of what is available in the library, and how resources are being used.

Cindy speaks up for the people who work in the library along with her when the significance of their jobs is being questioned. She believes that a strong library requires help from paraprofessionals, and she advocates for the proper treatment of these important library employees.

Advocating for Intellectual Freedom and Privacy

In Cindy's view, being a strong advocate for the library also means advocating for intellectual freedom, or people's right to read the materials that appeal to them, regardless of their potential political slant. Cindy knows that libraries have played an important role in the history of democracy, and she thinks that children, families, and teachers should have access to a diverse array of resources.

She also thinks that children should have some privacy in terms of what they check out from the library, and that surveillance of library records should be kept to a minimum.

To advocate for these beliefs, Cindy hangs quotes promoting democracy in the library around her library media center. She speaks up firmly at meetings about the library's collection, and she constantly updates the books and digital materials she maintains. She also writes letters to the editor of her local newspaper, and to community and business leaders, explaining why intellectual freedom and privacy matter to a library.

Connecting with Other Libraries

Cindy has colleagues all over her state, and indeed all over the nation, who struggle with similar issues. She knows that connecting with these colleagues is an important part of advocating for school libraries overall.

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