May 26, 2015

Out of the Mouths of Babes

First Grader Advocating for Strong School Libraries
As an author, one of the most rewarding experiences is being invited into schools and community spaces to help young writers find their voices.

As a sign language instructor, one of my greatest pleasures is helping parents and caregivers teach their babies how to communicate using signs before they can talk. In essence, I'm helping babies find their voices.

This past year, I've invested a significant amount of time and energy advocating for school libraries. One of the most satisfying aspects of this experience has been seeing students find and use their voice to advocate for themselves.

Over the past few weeks, students have attended a variety of public meetings to advocate for Strong School Libraries staffed with certified teacher librarians. Here is a photo essay that captures the variety of young people who have added their voices to this important issue:

5th Graders Advocating for Strong School Libraries

Public Testimony Delivered by Beaverton School District 2nd

5th Grade Student advocating for Strong School Libraries
BSD Student advocating for Strong School Libraries

Beaverton School District 5th Grader Still Advocating for Strong School Libraries.

BSD 5th Grader Advocating for Strong School Libraries

High School / Early College Student Advocating for Strong School Libraries
High School Student Advocating for Strong School Libraries

6th Grader Advocating for Strong School Libraries
Beaverton School District Kindergartener Advocating for Strong School Libraries (used with permission)

Soccer Players Advocating for Strong School Libraries
I hope you will consider adding YOUR VOICE to this important issue. You can find lots of inspiration and information about the value of Strong School Libraries here and here, and if YOU'D like to write a blog post about Strong School Libraries, (or, you've already written a post you'd like to share) contact me using the form to the left. 


May 15, 2015

Oregon Library Supporters of the Year

Dawn Prochovnic, Mitzi Sandman, Debbie Plawner
Last month I received some 'atta girls for my advocacy work in support of Strong School Libraries.  I was named a School Library  Ambassador by the American Association of School Librarians, and I was honored as one of the Oregon Library Association's Library Supporters of the Year.

As promised in my last post, here are the words I shared when I accepted the Library Supporter of the Year award from the Oregon Library Association:

On behalf of my colleagues in Beaverton, Oregon, thank you so much for this honor. But more importantly, thank you so much for the valuable work that you do in schools and libraries each and every day. And, special thanks to the many librarians across Oregon and across the country who answered our myriad of questions and supplied us with top-notch resources to support our advocacy work.

I have two children in the Beaverton School District. Three years ago our schools faced a budget crisis so catastrophic and so deep that few programs were spared. We went from being a school district with library programs that were the envy of others, to being a school district with a single district-level librarian serving 39,000 children in 51 schools.   

As a children’s author and early literacy consultant, I have the privilege of visiting schools, libraries and professional development conferences around the region. I get to see and hear the many amazing things teacher librarians do to promote lifelong learning each and every day. Our advocacy effort resulted in funding for up to ten schools to add a teacher librarian next year. But we are not done. I want every child to have the opportunity to build a lasting relationship with a teacher librarian and a lifelong relationship with reading and learning.

I’ve learned so many things during this advocacy process. I would like to share one of those learnings with you today:

Advocacy, like authorship, begins with a story. First you must write a remarkable story. Your library program is your story. Build the best library program you have in you. Revise it regularly. Make your library story the best of its kind. 

But that’s not enough. If you do not share your story with others, no one will know it’s there. I get that this part is hard. Writing the story takes nearly everything you’ve got. It’s all consuming. It’s brain draining. It’s exhausting. I have several stories I’ve written and love, but haven’t had the bandwidth to submit out to agents and editors. Guess what? Those stories haven’t been published yet. It’s as if they don’t exist.

Authors are told again and again that it is not enough to be good writers. We also need to be effective marketers. When you, my librarian friends, do book talks and deliver “just right books” into the hands of just the right readers, you are using your storytelling and marketing skills. I urge you to use those same skills to develop relationships with parents, volunteers, past students, classroom teachers, school board members, administrators, community leaders and lawmakers, even family members and friends. These are your agents and editors. Give them a book talk about your library. Put just the right library story into just the right stakeholders' hands. If they don’t know your stories, it’s as if they don’t exist. Don’t wait for the next budget crisis. Don’t wait until you have more time or more or more energy or more bandwidth. Make storytelling an integral part of your job. Make it a part of each and every day. 

Thank you again for honoring the work of our advocacy team. I look forward to trading stories with you in the months and years to come. 

If you'd like to continue to follow our story, please join the School Library Advocacy Council and "like" our School Libraries Matter: Beaverton Facebook page. #SchoolLibrariesMatter.