Learn how Parkway Schools’ Library Support Specialist Kim Lindskog works with district librarians to promote the broad reach of their school library programs using the latest digital tools.
As the Library Support Specialist for Parkway Schools (in St. Louis County, Missouri), I have worked with 28 school libraries and many surrounding districts to promote the role of libraries in education. From the beginning, one common theme has been library advocacy, but not in the way you might think. Librarians don’t want someone to necessarily advocate for them; instead, they want to learn how to build capacity and influence their communities in ways that impact digital age learning and promote the broad reach of their library programs.
During the 2016-2017 school year, Parkway Schools conducted a library program evaluation that resulted in several new recommendations that came out of the synthesis of the many data sources we used. Our findings solidified our belief that advocacy was an area where Parkway libraries needed to strive for clear communication about the role of school librarians and school library programs. Our work included:
Creating multiple avenues for communicating with the school community (students, parents, teachers, administrators, etc.)
Ensuring equity of access to print and digital materials for all Parkway students
Promoting use of technology in classrooms to support equity of experience in the use of digital tools and materials
Developing district materials outlining the role of the librarian in the digital age
Bringing awareness to the school library provides evidence of value and impact on student learning.
To meet these goals, I try to be systematic in my thinking and strategic in my approach to supporting our building librarians. What follows are four creative ways we engage our communities and promote the amazing work being done by our librarians.
Newsletters: I distribute a monthly newsletter through ISSUU, a digital magazine platform, that includes topics such as leading beyond the library, personalized professional development, and building instructional partnerships (all referencing the Future Ready Librarians gears). These newsletters provide librarians with tips for promoting a library that cultivates a connected community. Some strategies include presenting library data via infographics, advertising resources and services through promotional menus, creating intentional meetups that spark collaboration, promoting community and the love of reading by offering book studies to parents and staff, and showing the library space through virtual tours. Newsletter content is inspired by the conversations I have had as I visit various libraries — conversations that help me to identify and address the common needs across our buildings.
Infographics: Librarians can also advocate for themselves by preparing an end-of-the-year summary based on data collected along with personal reflections. These narratives take many different forms, and we leave the approach up to the individual librarians. After attending a workshop on creating infographics a few years ago, many of our librarians began using this technique to frame and highlight their library’s story and assist parents, teachers and administrators in understanding what makes the library such an indispensable resource to the community. Digital tools such as Piktochart (library support specialist example), Smore (elementary library example), and even Sutori (high school library example) help ensure that we tell our stories so that everyone knows our libraries offer limitless possibilities, full-service learning and project space. These visually engaging representations allow librarians to quickly and clearly illustrate what is happening in their libraries while also highlighting their programs, determining priorities, and generating the vision for each distinctive space. Looking at infographics over time also establishes a snapshot of growth for librarians and administrators and allows us to see what trends are emerging, such as reimagining library spaces, empowering student creators, and cultivating a culture of continuous learning.
Table Cubes and Menus: As the library program evolves, we continually ask ourselves what it means to be a librarian in the digital age, and re-evaluate our decisions around which services, resources and experiences to offer based on being responsive to the needs of each library’s community. Today’s librarians and their programs have a broad reach. Sharing what we offer in high- and low-tech ways is essential to capturing student attention. Several libraries have created table cubes or menus that provide awareness to offerings that are unique to a purpose-based library. These cubes or menus showcase information about the space, the librarian, and the program and can be placed on library tables, in teacher lounges and in grade-level pods. They can be created in many different graphic design tools, such as Google Drawings (elementary example) or Canva (example). Another idea that has come up with the cubes is to have them show pictures of students and groups utilizing resources. Students and teachers would then see a variety of possibilities such as authentic learning experiences, new and innovative approaches to creation, and access to technology. The use of this type of library promotion is attracting both new and existing users and changing the perception of what libraries do to support student learning.
360º Photos: One of the more interesting things that we’ve done this year to communicate and promote the transformational learning that occurs in the library is take spherical photos with a Theta 360 camera. With a single shutter click, the camera captures learning experiences, showcases the space, and allows virtual visitors to explore the library through an immersive experience. A spherical photo was taken for each of the 28 school libraries in our system and posted on the splash page for each library website. In response to the embedded image, we heard comments such as, “This is an amazing feature...I can't wait to utilize it in lessons in the future” and “My students really love it.” Other librarians are excited to use this medium to do more with students, such as creating virtual field trips, publishing virtual projects and sharing curricular content. As we think about next steps, we want to turn these spherical photos into interactive graphics with additional pictures, videos and more using Thinglink (elementary example), Spinattic or StorySpheres. Adding clickable tags to the image drives library users to want to know more about the library and programs. It’s a way to revolve the library around the users and engage the outside world in our spaces.
Bringing awareness to the school library provides evidence of value and impact on student learning. The strategies are intended to encourage new ideas for leading, teaching and connecting the dots between the library, the classroom and the community. Advocacy doesn’t just happen; it needs to be intentional. By sharing our stories and making the library more visible, we make it more accessible. The library is then recognized as a participatory space with relevant programming where all users come to be inspired, informed, and part of a greater community.
For more best practices, download our white paper, “Advocacy and the 21st Century School Librarian: Challenges and Best Practices.”
Kim Lindskog has served as the Library Support Specialist for Parkway Schools in St. Louis County, Missouri, for five years. Prior to that, she spent four years as the district’s technology integration specialist.