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California Campaign for Strong School Libraries PDF Print E-mail

by Judi Paradis

California Campaign for Strong Libraries The California Campaign for Strong School Libraries was a standout presentation at the AASL Midwinter Meeting in Dallas this January.   This advocacy campaign organized by the California School Library Association (CSLA) offered a number of ideas that could be replicated by other states looking to promote school library programs. 

CSLA convinced an advertising agency to create an advertising campaign for school libraries in their state as a pro-bono project.  The agency helped CSLA to develop a logo and slogans that they use consistently in their outreach to decision makers, parents, students, and colleagues.  The slogan “Strong School Libraries Build Strong Students” is now used throughout the state.

CSLA members used these materials to develop a strong advocacy plan with several components:

  • An advocacy website with materials that can be easily used by school librarians and their supporters
  • A foundation that can fund local advocacy initiatives
  • An ongoing advocacy campaign targeting state decision makers

The Strong School Libraries website is designed to be used by anyone interested in supporting California school libraries.  It is clearly organized and easy to navigate with links to data, a page of frequently asked questions, and information about how to get involved in the campaign.  A blog linked to the site provides updates about advocacy initiatives and information about other library events that can be used to promote school library programs in the state. 

Perhaps the most innovative aspect of the CSLA campaign is the formation of a foundation to provide financial support for advocacy efforts.  CSLA connected with several local children’s book illustrators and asked them to donate artwork in support of school library programs.  These illustrations are then placed on mugs, T-shirts, note cards, etc. which are sold on the internet to raise funds:  The group also recruits teacher and parent supporters to become a Friend of the CLSA for $45 a year.  This builds a base of supporters and also provides another income stream.   CLSA members said that funds raised through the Strong School Libraries campaign are then used to offer scholarships to members who develop outreach projects. 

CSLA places great value on funding projects that are innovative—such as a recent effort to place signs on busses and taxis in Sacramento that ferry state legislators around the city.  They also noted that these items become great advocacy tools themselves, presenting school administrators, legislators, and other decision-makers with mugs or T-shirts with Strong School Libraries logos on them when they call on these people.

The Strong School Libraries campaign is a major focus of the CSLA, and they described some of the ongoing initiatives they are supporting.  They reported that they are constantly on the lookout for discussions about statewide educational efforts that could be enhanced or supported by school libraries, and they encourage members and supporters to write letters explaining the role librarians play in education. 

CSLA has developed brochures that parents can use to evaluate their own school library programs to determine whether they have a credentialed librarian.  They noted that parents often assume that a person in a library must be a librarian—and parents become advocates when they see what their children are missing.  They also have materials that can be downloaded and adapted for presentation to local school boards so that CSLA members and supporters can describe the impact of a strong school library program to local decision makers. 

The Strong School Library Campaign relies on growing leadership by targeting MLIS students and offering them internships.  They also work closely with legislators and foster relationships with the aides to legislators who work on education issues.  They recommended looking to your Congressional and local legislative body to find out who has supported library legislation such as the SKILLS Act.  Go to those people and thank them and get them on board your campaign. 

MSLA members attending the AASL Midwinter meeting agreed that there was much to be learned from California, and look forward to sharing and implementing these ideas.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 22 April 2012 )

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