Tuesday, November 4, 2014
One of the highlights of my conference experience at Internet@Schools West was hearing Ken Haycock. He has been a library hero of mine since the 1990’s, and his wisdom about the need for us to be our own advocates has been a major contribution for longer than that. I looked forward to his presentation with high hopes, and of course he did not disappoint.
He stated that he’s been researching why cuts are made to school libraries and what to do about it. We should think about how we advocate, with full knowledge that past efforts have been less than successful. In addition to being a librarian, Ken has public school experience as a teacher, a librarian, an administrator, and a school board member. He knows about public schools. One striking thing he said was that when principals hear the words “librarian” and “advocate” in the same sentence, they run in the opposite direction. Yes, we have all those studies that show that strong library programs result in improved standardized test scores. And more such studies are underway, and likely to strengthen this claim. The problem is, other programs that are in danger of being cut, such as PE, music, art, etc. ALSO have studies. Their passion to show worth through studies is just as strong as that of librarians. He also noted that even armed with these studies librarians continue to find their programs threatened. He shared the adage that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is folly.
With this in mind, Haycock has been researching different ways to advocate. If we are going to use the studies, we need to stress that the important component is not the library facility or collection. We need to impress that a certified and committed LIBRARIAN is what is invaluable. He went on to share some other ways to approach advocacy. First, he suggested that you make a chart with four columns. In the first you should list all the staff in your institution that has contact with your program. In the second column you should rate them by influence, using words such as low, medium, high. In the third column you should list strong supporters of your program. Then start building strong ties with those who are at or near the top of your chart as far as influence and support. Do not worry about the naysayers. We librarians aren’t in position of great power but DO have enormous influence. To illustrate this he reminded us that some librarians get followed by money wherever they go. Such a librarian can build a great program with plenty of funding, but then leave and go to another school. Within 2-3 years he or she will again be heading up a library with ample funding and success.
What are these librarians doing? For one thing they are building strong ties with their principals. He said “every principal has money in bottom drawer or stashed away somewhere.” That may be a cliché but it’s also true. That money is always for what they think important. Another way to make progress with an administrator is something I have learned for myself through experience. That is to go into any meeting with a solution in hand. If you are going to your administrator with a request, you should also have ready some way that the request can be expeditiously granted.
If librarians are going to keep their jobs, they need to demonstrate and publicize their importance. Being credentialed is great but you need to be more than “a warm body with a diploma. “ It is of utmost importance that we are front and center proving our worth. Interestingly he said that one thing that resonates with administrators is how librarians HELP TEACHERS. That gets their attention even more than how they are helping kids! Thus, he said, every teacher librarian should have two essentials:
1. He or she should be trained for collaboration with colleagues
2. He or she should be trained and eager to offer informal staff development. Principals really like to see informal staff development via brown bag lunches, before/after school short sessions, etc. They want to see the librarian as a leader in technology and collaboration
While the first half of his presentation was about advocacy and kinds of advocacy, the second half was his tossing out gems of wisdom one after another about how to improve our situation in the future. I found myself trying to write down every single thing he said! A lot of the things he mentioned are psychology served up with a dollop of common sense, but are often things we forget to do. They are about gaining people’s good will and trust. This is key, says Haycock. I am going to try to get these gems down in a bulleted list.
· When people trust us to do what we promise, we get more support.
· Most principals are evaluating you by your work with colleagues even more than with students.
· BURY THE WORD ADVOCACY
· Use persuasion and influence!
o Learn how to connect agenda to that of others…you want to connect with administrators’ agendas. If your principal wants to stress inquiry in instruction, show how you can help with that. Ask a leader… what do you want in two years and how can I help?
o People do things for THEIR reasons, not ours…understand your target.
o Advocacy is about RESPECT. The person you are petitioning holds all the cards.
o Advocacy is like banking. You cannot withdraw if you never make deposit. You can’t ask for support for program about what they don’t know, have never seen. As school board member he never once saw librarians come to a meeting and tell the board thanks for what they do or ask for support. He shared an anecdote about a meeting he attended where home economics teachers were asking for support for a project. They said, “We don’t just make muffins anymore. We prepare young people for the future with financial planning, child raising, etc.” They got thumbs up from the board.
o He went on to say that during his years as a school board member and then president, he got lots of letters with complaints, causes, suggestions, etc. In all that time he only got THREE letters expressing thanks. He REMEMBERS WELL those three letters and who sent them.
· ADVOCACY IS MEANS NOT END
o Attitude and behavior are not the same. Person can appear to support but then cut. You want attitude to move toward behavior
o So you need to seek who has influence and focus on those people.
o Also who are barriers and what do with them? LEAD with best option, don’t save it for last. Ask for much but tell them can make work for 1/3
· 6 UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLES TO ADOPT
o How initiate, build or repair a relationship. THE RELATIONSHIP is the message
o People will listen to people they like and listen more closely
o Reciprocity…we give back to people who we have given to.
o Get people to move in your direction
o Social proof…example principals talk to each other and do wthat others do..
o Authority…administrators tend to listen to people who have authority. Teachers perform to perception of what principal wants.
o Consistency and commitment…philosophy of administrator and prevailing view within school or district. If principal values inquiry, this affects all teaching. Much easier than principal who thinks everything is in the text.
o Scarcity is a non starter…people think information system is rich and free. Stress your value in this environment. Again show the need the expertise of school librarian.
· Liking…we tend to like people like us. We like people who praise us. Praise is most powerful when giving someone else so object is 2nd hand. In our building position, think if you ran someone down and it got back.
· It works well when doing collaboration if we say “WE and OUR” other than me/mine.
· It’s not whether I like you but if you THINK I like you.
· Reciprocity—Giving gifts is important. He is not talking about traditional gifts only. Gifts can be actions, such as volunteering to chair a committee your principal is organizing. Gifts should be meaningful, unexpected. In sales it is all about the relationship.
· Introduce people. Send cards.
· Say thank you differently. When someone thanks you, don’t say “It’s nothing. Say I’m sure you would do the same for me…sometime…” NOTE FROM ME…I love this tip!
· SOCIAL PROOF…we have our challenges…get opinion leaders to transmit information. Testimonials—get them. Show up at principal conferences.
· AUTHORITY…Trappings count. If you dress professionally it makes a difference. Hang your credentials on your office wall. Give business cards.
· TRUSTWORTHINESS…Be secure enough to address weakness. Don’t pretend to know everything.
· SOPPADA… This acronym stands for Subject, Objectives, Present situation, Proposal, and Action. This is a template for making proposals that he recommends.
· CURSE OF KNOWLEDGE…if we know so much may have trouble stating succinctly. When answering questions, don’t tell them more than they ever want to know.
· CORE VALUES
o Consistency/commitment…people’s values…try to find connections…people don’t like to portray their values.
o Social proof
· Sometimes we’re so desperate to work with someone that we end up doing all the work. When working collaboratively, work should be shared.
· We need to focus on learning rather than access to information. Dwindling resource is authority, influence, of school librarian. Implication of cutting should be stated.
· Opportunity is everywhere--Never leave home without it
· The 4 Es of interacting with someone you want to impress:
o Establish eye contact
· Extend hand
· Exchange cards
· Engage conversation
· Follow up with your contacts using social media
· ITS HARDER TO CUT SOMEONE YOU KNOW
· THANK YOU NOTES! What if you wrote one every day?
· LIKE the people you work with…OR MOVE ON
Two books to read:
· Work the Pond
· Yes! 50 scientifically way
Finally STORIES are what we need to share. He once asked Mary Matalan and Steve Carville what they thought was importance of libraries. THEY AGREED FOR ONCE! Mary stated that she wished more people recognized the worth of libraries. That is what we can and must do with stories. This is more likely than studies or statistics to gain the support we want and need. Get out and about and tell your stories every way you can!