The Basic Blueprint for Making Your School Library More Visible
Let’s think about where you may be struggling with visibility right now in your program.
Maybe this sounds like you:
Yes, friends, those are truly magic words to hear from a teacher if you are all about being visible as a school library program.
I am so glad you asked! They are the foundational elements of getting your library patrons to show up like teachers to the Target Dollar spot when back to school supply bins are put on display. Even if your space is feeling a bit like an 80’s museum - dated furniture and all (anyone working out of an old gem, like I used to...I feel your struggles friend!) - you can use these tricks to get noticed in your school community.
Snag a pretty printable version of the list HERE.
This first one can be tough because it takes a valuable resource to get it done...your TIME. By participating in committees, meetings, after school events, and saying yes when volunteers are needed, you can do something special for your school community. They are getting to see you outside of the library space as a part of the school as a whole. It also lets you know what other people are doing so you can connect your work with theirs. That way next time you teach on a topic, you can reference a field trip, play, concert, game, or club in your lesson. Because let's face it, you are as much a part of your program as the physical space itself.
This does not mean that every spare minute is devoted to your school, but your participation in a few extra events over the course of the school year is a good way to get to know people and learn about your school community. Pick what jives with your interests and time.
My TIP: chaperone a field trip, talent show or concert, attend a sporting event, volunteer for a PTSA event, chaperone a dance (always my favorite!), volunteer to set up or clean up for an event, run/walk a school sponsored 5K and more!
Our life in the library can get VERY busy, in fact I know that I have been so busy at times that I have brushed off students and teachers who popped in to chat or needed something quickly. Not a great example, but it is the truth. And what I have realized is that sometimes it is in the pause that we are able to build relationships and connections that reach much further than we can ever imagine.
We all know the gossip mill that can get rolling in a school. Think of it this way. Everytime you don’t take time to pause and listen or assist, becomes one less patron who is going to speak favorably about you and your program with other teachers, parents or students. The last thing you want is kids and teachers to stay away because they feel like you don't have the time for them.
So be intentional about your pauses. Pause and take the time to listen, assist and provide direction, even if it is only for a few minutes. This helps maintain open lines of communication and connection that are crucial to the visibility of your program.
My TIP: When a patron needs help and you are in the middle of planning or administrative work, schedule a time with them to meet, or set a timer for yourself to focus just on them for two - three minutes. If you are teaching, schedule a time for them to come back when you are available, then follow up with an email confirming or asking what they may have needed so you can help them quickly when they return.
If you are a new librarian, this can be tricky until you get the lay of the land in your building or district. But, if you are comfortable with this...present when the opportunity arises. Presenting on a topic that is useful to teachers, staff, parents or administration helps them connect the library program with forward thinking and as a professional resource.
Often teachers forget or just don't realize that we are also there to support them in their instruction and lesson development. We have a much more detailed knowledge of how to use databases, web resources and to evaluate information than most classroom teachers. We are the untapped resource which may need to use a bit of #5 to help the school community realize it.
My TIP: Great at an instructional tool like Padlet or Nearpod? Offer to do PD at a faculty meeting or department/grade level meeting. Get a new database? Offer to present this new resource to teachers who might find the content useful in their lessons.
This one may not work for all librarians due to the amount of time it can take, and I realize that not everyone reading this will have a flexible schedule or the time to devote to producing content, however there may be some useful considerations here.
One of the ways that I am able to get teachers in the door is that I sometimes offer to do the bulk of the content creation for our co-taught research projects. That means that I take the time to produce the lesson slides, digital content, handouts, resource lists, etc. based on what is needed for that particular project.
Do I do all the work? No, the planning is done collaboratively. But, I do take a good portion of the creation piece off the classroom teachers plate. I know the workload for many classroom teachers is high and so I feel like this helps get them in the door, especially when it is a new teacher or a teacher who is more reluctant to co-teaching. Again, building relationships helps with verbal visibility in a positive way.
BTW, it is not an assumption that I will take on this work, it is something which I offer on occasion when the situation warrants it.
My TIP: Lots of students struggling with citing sources or another broad skill? Work with a department to share this issue with teachers and produce instructional resources teachers could use in their instruction to help reinforce the skill you are teaching as a part of your library instruction. If you don’t see the same students daily, this can be such a great way to ensure they retain what you are covering in class!
When all else fails, push. I mean that in the nicest possible way. It is okay to be a bit pushy at times about getting teachers in the doors. Whether that is the teacher who struggles to bring their classes down regularly for book selection and needs a call to remind them the morning they are scheduled. OR The teacher who is resistant to changing the research project they have been doing for the last million years. This gets teachers in the doors, seeing what you can offer them in terms of co-planning and new ideas. By pushing, you can increase your visibility with teachers and get them hooked on your program. They will come back for more!
The same goes for students. Sometimes they need a push to pick up a book they may not typically choose for themselves. That also means providing the space for them to explore a few titles.
My TIP: Offer them three titles, have them sit and read the first few pages of each book and then pick the one they like the best. If you can hook them, they will come back for more!
So, take the time to participate, pause, present, produce and push to see how it impacts your school library visibility.
You may never know the impact that one small action from one of these steps may have on a student, teacher, parent or administrator. It is all of the little things that help build a library program that your patrons will love!
You can snag a pretty printable version of The 5 P’s of Library Visibility HERE.
You can also read more about visibility and the other steps of my library branding cycle in this blog post.
If you don’t want a copy of the printable, but would like to get more great school library content that focuses on library visibility, culture and advocacy, each week to your inbox, you can join my email list - The Level Up Letter by clicking HERE.
Hi! I'm Sarah, a school librarian and former middle school English teacher. I empower school librarians to use branding and marketing skills in order to build culture, get visible and advocate for their library.