March 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

ALA Promises Expanded School Library Advocacy in 2013–2014

The American Library Association on Monday revealed its much anticipated strategic plan for school library advocacy, based on findings from its School Library Task Force’s midwinter 2013 report. The plan calls for the forming of a new implementation task force to oversee advocacy, with committees for students, parents, administrators, and national policy makers; a short-term ‘think tank” to conceptualize creative advocacy content that engages the public; and a coordinating group to oversee the campaign and liaison with vendors.

Despite the exciting and welcome inclusion of school libraries in the Senate’s new education bill, “school libraries across the country are at a critical point,” said ALA President Elect Barbara Stripling, ALA President Maureen Sullivan, and ALA School Library Task Force Co-Chairs Susan Ballard and Pat Tumulty in a joint statement. “School libraries must be made a national priority, and we will need your help—and the help of every member and every supporter—if we are to succeed.”

The multi-faceted campaign will build on the work of the School Library Task Force, and an implementation task force has already begun working on strategic messaging and advocacy work for the next year, according to the ALA. First on the implementation task force’s agenda is the short-term “think tank” to develop key messages and strategies, before it divides into subcommittees to tailor the messages and actions to different constituencies.

ALA also confirms that its school library campaign will be jumpstarted by beginning the national push for signatures on the Declaration for the Right to Libraries with school libraries who will forward the signed declarations to public and academic libraries in their communities and state. The vision is to establish a window of 1–2 weeks in the fall for school libraries across the country to host signing ceremonies, which can be leveraged for strong national media coverage and public support, ALA says.

The school library advocacy efforts will also include building partnerships with national organizations and targeting specific constituencies (like school administrators, classroom teachers, parents, and school boards). Increased advocacy with national legislators will be guided by ALA’s Washington Office.

Several vendors have offered to support ALA advocacy efforts for school libraries; ALA promises it will engage those vendors and enlist others to become a part of the school library campaign.

“The bottom line for our school library campaign is our shared understanding that all types of libraries form an ecosystem that really does impact the success of whole communities and the individuals within them,” Stripling, Sullivan, Ballard, and Tumulty said in the statement. “We must stand together and demand strong school libraries. No child in America should be deprived of that right.”

Karyn M. Peterson About Karyn M. Peterson

Karyn M. Peterson ( is a former News Editor ofSLJ.

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  1. Heather Albee-Scott says:

    This is very exciting! A group of concerned citizens has been working on revitalizing the school libraries here in our community in Michigan and this past year we were able to partner with our district library to bring a certified librarian back to the middle school. We have watched the students respond with enthusiasm! Teachers bring students to the library during class, but we also open the library during lunch and we had to cap how many students could come in because the response was overwhelming. Our librarian is very popular with students, staff and parents and he has become an invaluable team member at our school.

    Our school is a Title I school and now a priority school in Michigan, so a thriving library is of utmost importance. Students need to be guided in their research efforts and they need to be exposed to a variety of resources, but even more importantly they need a place where they can read for pleasure with a large collection of titles. We are on our way to providing these things for our students and now with the ALA’s advocacy we can find more support. Thank you!!