Advocacy & AISL: what can you do?

Tooting your own horn is tough. Many think it is bragging, but in our library world, it’s required!

On an individual level, it’s more about sharing information, and making folks aware of what your library program is accomplishing within your school community. On a regional, national, or international level—yea, AISL!—it is sharing success stories with colleagues and best practices within our larger communities.

Please take a moment … and join the AISL Board on reflecting how we can better advocate for ourselves in our individual schools, as well as collectively promote our profession, grow our competencies, and raise awareness with educators and administrators on the value of our work.


If we are to heed the call to advocacy at our individual schools, perhaps writing a year-end report or a welcome back report that outlines our accomplishments for the past year would fit the bill. Arranging a meeting with school administrators to establish goals for the coming year is one way to raise awareness; another is to present to faculty on a new product or service, tech tidbit, collaboration project, etc. You know the drill, but you may not have made this a priority before. Why not consider it this year?


As an association, AISL is committed to better serve its members. In our membership survey earlier this year, many of you indicated that there would be value in having AISL advocate for solo colleagues who feel isolated at their schools, and raise consciousness with administrators and heads of independent schools in general. If only AISL could advocate for our profession, establish guidelines for realistic staffing in libraries, budget recommendations, etc….

Well, here’s our chance. But first, you have to recognize that AISL is not a well-staffed entity in the cloud: we are all AISL. Our association is managed by teams of volunteers (for example, the Board, the conference planning team, the Summer Institute organizers), but we ALL play important parts in the success of our profession. Any one of us can grab an idea and run with it, sharing for the benefit of all. But we will have to toot our horns along the way, collaborating and sharing—something we know that librarians are good at 🙂

Lily Tomlin quote, via Tumblr and Buzzfeed

Lily Tomlin quote, via Tumblr and Buzzfeed

So, the first two questions we are posing are:

1. How can AISL advocate for our libraries and librarians?

2. How are you willing to help advance these initiatives?


At our AISL annual Board meeting in Los Angeles, we agreed that the creation of a Communications Committee would be a good way to launch this advocacy initiative.  CD Mclean has agreed to chair this committee (thanks for your boundless energy and enthusiasm, CD!). When originally proposed, the thought was that this committee would encourage AISL members to get involved in presenting at local and national conferences (like AASL, ALA, Internet Librarian, etc.) and share this info on our AISL website. This committee would also handle the public relations and marketing of published articles written by our membership, as well as encourage AISL members to get involved in action research, writing and presenting results at future conferences as well as for publication.

Does the Communications Committee interest you? CD will need a person to take charge of the publications calendar (much like Barbara Share does with the AISL blog), periodically touching base with writers to see if they are on track to meet deadlines, etc.

The Communications Committee may also need an editor/facilitator to review writers’ submissions and manage the submissions process – does this interest you?

Next Questions: Is there a topic, product or service you’d like to explore? Would you like to collaborate with other AISL members as part of your research, and share your findings? Or publish to our AISL blog, “Independent Ideas”? Or create a video to upload to the AISL YouTube channel?

As one example, Katie Archambault at Emma Willard and CD Mclean at Berkeley Prep are currently implementing “personal librarian” programs at their schools. (Remember one of the PD books we read for our AISL Board Book social in L.A., The Personal Librarian by Richard Moniz?) They will share their experiences at the AISL New Orleans conference next March, allowing us to replicate their success.


We’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below, initiate a listserv post, contact an AISL Board member or CD Mclean, or share advocacy initiatives you’ve recently undertaken. Here are a few ideas to start the conversation:

* The annual AASL Conference is held in June, but their RFP comes out in October: What are you doing in your independent school library that meets their criteria? You don’t have to do it alone. Ask a friend or two to join you for a panel discussion of the topic and ensure that you look at AASL’s rubric so that you can meet their requirements.

* What other conferences do you attend: local conferences, or Internet Librarian — can you present there and then post your presentations on the website?

* NAIS: For several years we have debated the value in AISL raising its profile with the NAIS community (heads and administrators). Would this be helpful to you? Would you like to collaborate with others to submit a session for presentation at their conference? Or would you like to work on submitting an article for an upcoming issue of “Independent School”?

The sky is the limit! Well, honestly, the time and energy we all have to commit to these advocacy initiatives are what will limit us. The AISL Board is committed to advocacy, and will support our new Communications Committee or other initiatives—but only if you want us to, and are willing to contribute to their success.

So tell us! Share your thoughts and ideas, let’s get inspired, and let’s get tooting!

Cheers!  Sandy Gray & CD Mclean

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