It can be overwhelming and daunting to talk to principals and administrators about the importance of hiring media specialists for our school buildings. Your principal or admin may not have experienced being in a school that has a fully staffed library. Additionally, the role of media specialist has evolved so much over the years, they may not be aware of what the role even involves. This blog post can aid you in having those tough conversations with the leadership in your school building.
Dear Principals and Administrators,
You are likely beginning to look at your school budget for the 2023-2024 school year and are contemplating where you can make cuts and where you need to invest. Maybe you are noticing that test scores could be higher and it has been a few years since you have invested in new programming. Have you looked at who is in your school library? Do you have someone staffed in there full time, or is it only staffed a couple of hours throughout the week? Maybe you have a rotation of teachers who support library checkout during limited hours. Or you have a paraprofessional who supports a handful of hours while additionally supporting the rest of the building. For a library to be as robust and impactful as it can be, you need to hire licensed media specialists. Here’s why:
Advocacy is at the core of a licensed media specialist’s educational training. They have the skills and resources needed to speak up for programming, materials, and access for your students and staff. They can use data to drive decision-making when it comes to programming and book selection. Media specialists are not advocates for their role in the building, but rather for the access their role provides to students, staff, and the greater community. Go to Build America’s Libraries Act | Advocacy, Legislation & Issues (ala.org) to see some ways librarians have advocated for access, and learn how you can help support your media specialist once they are hired.
2 Book Selection
Licensed media specialists have taken coursework in book selection and weeding, and know how to choose books that are targeted for the students you serve. A full library is not necessarily a healthy library, especially in a school building. When books are stacked too tightly on shelves, students are not able to independently select books and it becomes a barrier to access. If you have not had a media specialist in your building for some years, you may see the library as a storage space instead of a resource. When you have a library filled with resources that no one seems to utilize, it can be hard to take the step to invest in a media specialist. However, proper staffing in a library can help to weed outdated text that has lost relevance and replace it with books that are current, relevant, and reflective of the community the school building serves. Once the library becomes a space that is more accessible to students and staff, it will be hard to imagine how you got by without licensed staff before.
Robust programming that has a continued effect on students, staff, and the community, requires connections, drive, and an understanding of how curriculums connect and parallel each other. Programming can help relationship-building between students, across departments, and within the greater community. Licensed media specialists help bridge understanding across curriculums and imbed programming into the library, creating connections to resources and activities inside and outside the school building.
A school library can be much more than a room where you store resources. If you staff it with highly skilled and trained individuals, you will begin to see all the things your library can become.
If you would like more resources on how you can make an impact on literacy in your school building, check out: 5WaysPrincipalsLeadingLiteracy_Flyer.pdf