Middle School Monday: Making Our Own Seat by Julie Stivers
At my 7th grader’s school award ceremony several weeks ago, I watched a long line of teachers and administrators give out various recognitions. Core subjects and electives. Extracurriculars. Character awards. All I could think was…I wish the librarian had been up there, too.
That school librarians need to advocate for their library and its programs is not news to us. We are used to advocating to administrators and teachers about and for our library program. Where do I also want us to be? Standing there as librarians amongst school staff? Parent programs and award ceremonies! During the last month of school, I was able to advocate in front of parents at several of our school events and I realized what a mistake I had made in the beginning of the year by not speaking to large groups of parents at other opportunities.
The first was for our BookFAIR where students and families visited our school at a night-time event to choose new books to keep. It was a Title I event and we served pizza in the cafeteria—making a perfect (i.e. captive) audience before we welcomed everyone to the library. I only spoke for about two minutes, but knew I wanted to hit on some high points concerning literacy and reading, including the necessity for reading over the break to counteract a summer slide. The bulk of my talk to parents focused on the awesomeness of reading—that all reading is good for us and our students. I included examples like fan-fiction, magazines, and graphic novels.
The great thing about talking to parents about our library program—or whatever topic we want!—is that parents are not the only stakeholders in the room. Overwhelmingly, other teachers are in the room. Administrators are in the room. Making any message we give parents have a second purpose and benefit. We can also use this time to both show our expertise and showcase an aspect of our program. All of us are experts in different aspects of libraries, literacy, reading, and books. I happen to know a lot about literacy research regarding graphic novels, so with my two minutes at the BookFAIR, I dropped some interesting statistics (not an oxymoron!) about the literacy power of graphic novels. Not only did the students love having their chosen format backed up, but I knew it would sound impressive to the listening staff members and administrators. [Have YOU met an administrator who didn’t love hard data wrapped up in shiny numbers?]
That experience made me realize that talking to parents is a perfect forum for also showing our school stakeholders what we can do AND what we know. Come ON. We’re librarians! We know a lot.
I also spoke to parents at our 8th Grade Moving Up and Award ceremony. Again, it was only for a few moments, but, in addition to giving out library awards becoming one of the highlights of my year (!), it was an opportunity to remind everyone what their library can do. To counteract this idea that all we do is check-out books, I think award ceremonies are great outlets to showcase what else is going on in our libraries—whether that is writing, doing a cool project in a subject-area, creating on-line content, learning an amazing digital tool, or any of the thousands of activities we’re doing!
No one invited me to speak at these events. For both the 7th and 8th grade award ceremonies, I reached out to the staff organizer and simply asked for my name to be added to the list of staff members already listed for giving out awards. You know we can’t wait to be invited. We have to make our own seat.
Julie Stivers @BespokeLib
Filed under: Middle School Monday
About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
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