Monday, 16 April 2018

Thing 20: Library Advocacy and Engagement

Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) Demonstration Library Project 

Some context before I start this exercise!  Established under the Department of Education and skills, the brief of the JCSP Demonstration Library Project was to improve literacy levels and develop a whole school reading culture and enhance the learning experience of our students.  To date the project has expanded into 30 schools across Ireland, all in designated areas of disadvantage.  Each library is staffed by a full-time professional librarian.

Exercise 1:  Name three detrimental effects to a local community when a public library is closed.

For some people, libraries are an outdated concept, for others they exist to educate, inform and serve.  The heaviest impact of a library closure is on the young, the elderly and the unwaged.

  1. A local library is something unique and indispensable providing books and computer access. It provides a services for people of all ages and backgrounds.  Often it facilitates kids clubs, is a meeting point for older people and a resource and supportive environment for those looking for work.  
  2. Having lived in a small New York Apartment I cannot put enough stress on the public library as a place, a safe free space where everyone is equal.  The author Alan Bennett said that "for anyone living in "an apartment or house... where space is at a premium and peace and quiet is not always easy to find, a local library is vital."
  3. Libraries are educational and social anchors in their communities.  But their main business is giving access to books.  Having a library in walking distance of your home is especially relevant if you come from a background that does not have a culture of reading or cannot afford to buy books.  Libraries give access to the same breadth of reading material as anyone else at no expense.  
Exercise 2:  Find a library Strategic Plan in Ireland or beyond for a library of any size.  Identify three ways in which the strategic plan also advocates for the Library Service.  

I started by looking for Strategic plans for school libraries, I even looked at my own library plan!  On reflection my plan really only deals with goals and objectives for the school year.  It reads more like a class plan rather than a.....  It made me think about how I write my plan it should be a road map which shows the value of the school library which brings equity coherence and innovation to all students regardless of their ability. I looked at

Loughborough University Strategic Plan for 2014 -2020 

The first think I noticed was the value of  staff - not books or digital resources but also investment in staff.  A supportive program for staff which gets them engaged in learning and continued professional development and thus keeping a vibrant library service.  Maybe I need to write this into my plan, making management aware of my conscious efforts to upskill and keep up-to-date.  All this portrays the library service in a positive light.

I also liked that it linked the library strategies to the overall goals of the University.  So presenting a Library plan which was cohesive and understood its' role in supporting the University's goals.  I know I need to alert staff  to new resources  but I should probably link them to specific strands of learning.  For example the Izak9 Cube support Numeracy for units....

I also liked that fact that it referred to having influence, and strong links to national and international institutions.  I think this is something that JCSP libraries need to play to their advantage, we have a network which transcends our schools.  We have often helped other schools set up libraries, and we have a natural infinity with the public library supporting and using their facilities to supplement our own collections.  Through these networks we have brought authors, speaker, illustrators, storytellers and a whole variety of performers into schools, we have often shared these events with other schools.  We see the benefit of being generous, it often opens the doors to collaborative interschool inter agency projects which can only serve our students well. 

I liked the language of this plan, it was assertive in a positive way.  Sometimes libraries shy away from "taking all the credit."   We are quick to acknowledge the contributions of others and sometimes are contributions get lost.  Maybe that is the nature of the profession!  But that all needs to change we need to step into the limelight.  I can only comment on school libraries where sometimes are work is presented to the Board of Management by a teacher.  That needs to stop!!

Exercise 3:  Name three ways in which you can demonstrate the impact and value of the library service that you work in or use.

Indicators used in JCSP school libraries
1. Librarian Monthly Reports:  We keep a regular diary and from these entries and recordings we prepare a monthly report which includes:
  • Factual events to do with accommodation, resources, library organisation and systems.  
  • Interactions with the students.  A brief account of the classes and students met that day highlighting student reactions, comments, real or anticipated difficulties. Anecdotal comments from the students are very important.  It is essential that the student's perception, views, attitudes be recorded as faithfully as possible.  
  • Interactions with Staff.  Brief accounts of both formal and informal interactions (positive and negative).  
  • Interactions with parents and other groups  
  • Library Based Strategies.  This is promoting the library, organising library displays and events, playing an active role in delivering the curriculum, instruction, in information literacy and technology literacy skills and so fourtth,  
2. Questionnaires or Surveys, quantitative or qualitative carried out with students, staff, parents and any groups using the library.

    3. Book Borrowing Data gathered through the OPAC:  Borrowing statistics reflect the use of resources in the library.  However it is important to remember that in schools where the JCSP libraries have been placed we are trying to break a negative attitude towards books that has been reinforced over generations.  So borrowing statistics doe not always reflect adequately the use of resources and the space.   

    4. Case Studies:  "Tracking of students"
    It is difficult demonstrating the impact of a casual or even an associative relationship on standarised reading test gains and the role the school library contributes to these gains.  It was decided that  a number of students who, in the view of teachers and librarian were improving in their literacy skills and showing a demonstrable usage of the resource of the library would be tracked.  The information being presented as a case study.  

    Exercise 4:  Identify three key people (name their role) outside of the library in the wider organisation/community that you need to network with in order to advance the development of the library service.  

    1. Kathleen Moran, Senior Librarian of JCSP Demonstration Library Project.  I report directly to Kathleen.  She has the responsiblity of advocating at a National level for the continuation and expansion of JCSP Project.   The information we collect in our libraries informs her work.
    2. Noreen Reilly, Principal of St. Paul's Community College.      A JCSP Librarian works in professional partnership with school management and teachers in planning and running time-tabled library classes throughout the day supporting all areas of the curriculum.
    3. Maria Lindell,  PLICS (Promoting Literacy in Schools and Communities) Social Incluison and Community Activation Coordinator.  PlICS is a network of local agencies made up of Local Service Providers, School Completion Programme, Waterford Library Service, Waterford Area Partnership and DEIS schools.   We run a number of collaborative projects across schools in Waterford city and county such as study skills, inter county spelling challenge, paired science and creative writing workshops.  Our remit is improving literacy levels.  
    Exercise 5.  Write down in 200 words or less an idea for Library Ireland Week for a library you work in or use.

    Some students in our school at this point in time are experiencing challenging circumstances but, like all students, they have a passion for a good story imagined or factual.  It is just a matter of "Right Book, Right Time, Right Student Reads!"  The school's view is that all teachers and departments should be involved in reading promotion.  For example, an initial step to raise the profile of reading involved members of staff and students displayed on posters around the school reading.  There is also acknowledgement that reading tastes are diverse but all are respected.  These images are also shown on the monitor at the entrance to the school

     Building on this I would like to incorporate a Reader in Residence initiative in our school and push reading is fun.  More activities which connect reading for pleasure rather than curriculum driven.

    Exercise 6:  In your opinion what are the three best features of the My Library, By Right Campaign and why?

    A successful Public awareness campaign has to do a number of things:
    • Wake up supporters to see that "My library By Right" is relevant to their lives and part of our statutory rights.
    • Put libraries firmly into communities infrastructure alongside with other public services  such as schools, Garda, and hospitals  
    • Raise the profile of public libraries get people talking about the libraries and the role they play.  

    I like this public awareness campaign because it is ballsy!  It has given voice and engaged with people stating that "government and local authorities have a legal responsibility to provide you with a quality library service which meets your needs."

    Exercise 7:  In 200 words or less, describe a new area of librarianship that you are passionate about.  How would you go about promoting within the library that you work in and / or the wider library profession?

    Can new literacies "fit" into how we currently do school?

    Schools have been encouraged to use technology and 21st Century skills in all subject areas.  The term 21st century skills refers to a broad set of knowledge, skills, work habits and character traits that are believed by educators and employers to be critically important for success in today' s world.   However the Irish system is still very much orientated towards the state exams.  Teachers and students are under pressure to cover the curriculum and integrating 21st Century skills is another challenge in an already high pressured environment.

    So what are 21st Century skills?  They include:
    • Critical thinking, problem solving, reasoning analysis, interpreatation, synthesizing information.
    • Research skills and practices, interrogative questioning.
    • Being creative, innovative, having imagination.
    • Being able to manage yourself, to persevere and adapt.
    • Communication skills oral and written, presenting and listening
    • Leadership and teamwork, collaboration and cooperation.
    • Use of ICT, media and internet literacy
    • Be aware of civic and social justice literacy
    • Global awareness, multicultural literacy
    • Subject specific literacy such as science, geography and maths
    And the list seems to be endless, but in a nutshell they break down into four areas which can be incorporated into the classroom.  Every class does not need to incorporate all these skills
    •  Collaboration and teamwork
    •  Creativity and imagination
    •  Critical thinking
    •  Problem solving
    But we do need to teach and give students experiences which will give them strategies to cope in an environment where sometimes  there isn't a right or wrong answer.  In these circumstances you work  for the best possible solution at that time.  The best solution will  always be a "work in progress".   JCSP libraries have been working on 21st Century skills we share are findings and observaitons in our schools and with the PDST and at conferences such as the LAI (Literacy Association of Ireland).

    Exercise 8:  Choose an area of library practice that you feel requires debate.

    We all agree the library has always been to make resources and materials accessible to all, regardless of socioeconomic status, intelligence, gender etc.  Traditionally these resources were print, but over the last twenty years this has expanded to include access to digital resources and tools.  This is now evolving again to include tools for creation "makerspaces."

    There is much debate and criticism about makerspaces that they cater only for the tech-savy and more affluent individual.  I read recently an interesting article Recommended Practices for Equitable Makerspaces   which would argue that it makes perfect sense for these tools and materials to be made accessible to all in and through libraries.

    Exercise 9:  Open up the ALA Frontline Advocacy Plan.  Complete the plan for a real/fictional advoacy campaign.

    PDST Wellread Campaign / Award is a  National Initiative designed and organised by the Professional Service for Teachers (PDST).  It aim's to get schools actively promoting and nurturing a reading habit in their schools.  Our school is currently part of this campaign.  We report on our year of reading to parents and the Board of Management to keep this campaign visible.  The structure of this report is based on the ALA Front Line Advocacy Plan. 

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