As part of the workshop on self-advocacy for school libraries, I asked the workshop attendees to be brutally honest in evaluating what they believe the perception of school libraries is in most educational communities. And brutal it was. We agreed that we do have a branding problem, and a quick look at the Wordle below will show you why. I used the text from the participants’ brainstorm, and one of the things which struck me was the number of words beginning with the prefix ‘un’ – unprofessional, unapproachable, unnecessary and unsupported.
Although it created a few depressing moments as we discussed what we are up against, I believe we do need to acknowledge the reality faced by the profession, so that we can find strategies that deal with each of the perceptions underpinning the current ‘brand’. If you plan to beat ’em, you have to first know ’em!
So, yes, there was bad news. But there was also good news. We shared specific strategies for beginning to embed libraries in the New Zealand curriculum – using the key competencies, vision, and values, and relating them to your school’s goals and specific student learning outcomes. Learning to speak the languages of curriculum, pedagogy and assessment, so that we can have meaningful conversations with teaching colleagues. Beginning to use evidence-based practice to support our claims that well-resourced, professionally staffed libraries add value and make a difference. And above all, not just walking the talk, but shouting the talk to everyone, everywhere, whether they want to hear it or not!
So what does your school library brand look like? How about getting your teachers, or students, to provide you with the words to create your own Wordle? That might be your first step towards evidence-based practice.