Frontline Advocacy for School Libraries Toolkit

Everyone who works at a school library can be an advocate. The Frontline Advocacy Toolkit provides practical tools to help frontline library staff identify opportunities to advocate for the value of libraries and their own value on a daily basis.


Why are you your school library’s best frontline advocate?
What Does an Effective Frontline Advocate for School Libraries Do?
Frontline Advocacy Every Day: Library Media Center Leadership, Staff, and Others Working Together
Ten Basic Steps to Successful Frontline Advocacy for School Library Leadership


Why Are YOU Your School Library’s Best Frontline Advocate?

Good question! The truth is, you are a valuable staff member, and you know your school library media center best. Whether this is your first year or your 30th year in your job, you are part of an important team that provides a critical service: helping students read, love reading, learn and love learning. Your school library media center contributes directly to their success in school, and that success equips your students to contribute something positive and important to the world as they go through life.

You are someone your friends, neighbors, family and others connect with the school library because they know you work there. You have credibility and the power of persuasion when you talk about your library media center because you are the face of your library and school to the community.


What Does an Effective Frontline Advocate for School Libraries Do?

Frontline advocacy is all about informing and persuading. It’s about partnering with your school librarian and administrators to place your school library media center in the spotlight at every opportunity. It’s about saying and doing the little things on a daily basis that give others positive feelings and an appreciation of your school’s library, and doing the big things when times are hard. Don’t wait for a crisis to advocate for your library. Practice it every day, and, when there is a special issue or concern, you’ll be very good at it.

Once you try it, you will realize that advocating for your library is actually pretty easy. Check out Ten Action Steps for Frontline School Library Advocacy (PDF).

Resist the urge to say, “Yeah, but…” Instead, discover Six Good Excuses That Won’t Work (PDF).


Frontline Advocacy Every Day : Library Media Center Leadership, Staff and Others Working Together

You know that your library media center is the coolest place in school. Tell others! Think about two kinds of frontline advocacy for your school library media center, “informal” and “planned.”

“Informal” frontline advocacy is simply using everyday opportunities to tell or remind people about your library media center’s resources and value to students, families and staff. How do you do it? You can share success stories with school staff, parents, your family, friends, neighbors and the former student (now grown up) you bump into at the drug store. It’s not hard; in fact, you probably do this already, without consciously thinking of it as frontline advocacy. You have many opportunities to share this information every day. Seize those opportunities! Once you start practicing it, you’ll find that talking positively and persuasively about your school library media center and the value of your job there comes easily and spontaneously.

“Planned” frontline advocacy is more deliberate, and it requires the knowledge (and possibly the approval) of school library leadership. It starts with defined goals and a carefully crafted message, and it is more strategic than informal advocacy; but like informal advocacy, it’s not difficult. It requires someone who is willing to be a LEADER - such as the school librarian, media specialist, or other library staff member - and a simple, organized PLAN.

Below are some basic steps for planned frontline advocacy. A library leader who follows them will find the information and tools he or she needs to deliver a well-crafted, effective frontline advocacy message.


Ten Basic Steps to Successful Frontline Advocacy for School Library Leadership

Be sure your library administration supports frontline advocacy, then recruit others who have a strong interest in your library media center to join you in your efforts. Who? The other members of your library staff, of course, but also student volunteers, parents, teachers and other school staff who love what the library media center contributes to your school and its students. This is your “A Team.” (“A” stands for advocacy!)

Gather your A Team together and think hard about your library media center. What are its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats? Click on Your Library Media Center’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (PDF) or download the SWOT worksheet (Word doc) for a handy worksheet to guide you.

Determine your goal. For example, would you like to make the library media center more visually inviting, or offer after-school reading help in the library?

Understand why that goal is important to student success. These are your objectives. Identify and list your goals and objectives using a tool in this toolkit, Frontline Advocacy for School Libraries: Goals and Objectives Worksheet (PDF).

Craft a strong, clear message that communicates your goal. Make it short and memorable. Be sure that listeners understand that your library media center is the coolest place in school! This toolkit contains guidelines for helping you craft the best message possible. Download the Crafting Your Message worksheet (Word doc).

Ask your A Team to list all the people they know who need to hear your important and timely message. Need help with this? Check out Target Audience Planning worksheet (Word doc).

Think of all the ways you can communicate your message to a variety of people. These are your strategies. Brainstorm beyond the A Team and get lots of people’s creative suggestions. Schedule an after-school session to create fun decor. Put on a skit or puppet show at the next school program. Make special bookmarks or buttons. Write an article for the school or community newsletter. Have fun with this! Remember, there are no bad ideas (well, almost none). Look at the tool Fun and Effective Strategies for Frontline Advocates (PDF) for some great ideas, and remember to decide who will be responsible for particular tasks.

Congratulations! You’ve just developed your A Team’s frontline advocacy plan. Now it’s time to write it down. You can summarize it on two pages by using the handy tool Frontline Advocacy Plan worksheet (Word doc).

Find jobs for everyone on your school library media center staff and anyone else who wants to help. Ask them to use their networks of friends, family and others to help spread the message that your library media center is the heart of learning at your school. Let them work at their comfort level, and encourage them to have fun doing it.

Get the A Team together regularly to evaluate how you’re doing and to celebrate a job well done. Can you use one more tool? Check out the Evaluating Your Efforts worksheet (Word doc) and make it easy to assess your performance.

Hint: Look for natural times to promote your library media center’s resources and its value to students and your school. Go online and find out the dates for “School Library Media Month,” “The Annual Day of Reading,“ “I Love to Read Month,” and other special days, weeks or months, and take advantage of the public awareness those events generate.