Philosophy and pickles: telling our stories

As I was writing this blog post, pondering advocacy programs for libraries, I was called away by a student query.  His information need?  “There’s a pickle in the scanner.”  After registering my disbelief, I discovered that yes, indeed, there was a dill pickle squashed inside of our flatbed scanner, with a little ketchup on it to boot. 

And as Diane Cordell commented after I posted this “find” on Twitter,  “Ah, a day in the life: philosophy plus pickles.”

Libraries are unfortunately under duress across the country.  Recent news reports are dismaying, with librarians in Charlotte, Los Angeles, and Washington state and New Jersey facing massive layoffs.

In hard economic times, it’s been proven over and over that the free resources at libraries are where students and their parents turn for help and information.  And we know that the “pickles” part of our jobs as well as the philosophical parts that won’t happen without librarians in schools. 

How do we convey this sort of mix of philosophical need for libraries and the “pickles” to stakeholders and administrators and the public at large?  How can we mix stories of the broad need for information literacy for students and the “where is the pencil sharpener?” part of our jobs in our advocacy efforts?  How do we tell our stories?

  Los Angeles school librarians have created a very engaging video, “Ask Me”  that’s a clever portrait of what a librarian’s day is like. 

njlibrarian Both New Jersey and California librarians have  created engaging new logos and flyers (California’s was designed by Caldecott winner Brian Selznick)  and a Facebook presence to convey their messages, while Georgia has a wonderful “Geek the Library” campaign.  

Students are getting in the act too–Tracy Unified School district’s students have created a Save the Library Facebook Group to encourage their district to retain librarians.  But isn’t it better if we tell our stories before we are in “crisis” mode? 


What you can do on a local scale also helps “retell” the story of the 21st century library in VERY important ways.  There’s so many ways to tell the story of what you do and advocate for your program.

One option is participating in the ALA Library Snapshot Day in April (you can choose April 14, when many other libraries are participating)?  Then share that “snapshot” with your principal, curriculum department and school board.

Or think of visual ways to tell your story, like the Animoto video I created for our school board a year ago, with slides showing students all over the district using the library.

Telling your story can illustrate everything you do–from branding your library (like Buffy Hamilton’s “Unquiet Library” to your signature line in your email “over 2,000 served daily”), for example.   Our local community library, Westbank Community Library, sends out short newsletters and every newsletter contains a short “story from the library”–a snapshot of how a patron expressed their appreciation for some library service they received.

Make your advocacy visible too, beyond your own school, so that it reaches not only your community but the public at large.  Tools like Facebook or YouTube help with that. Because if you influence ANYONE about the intricacies and values involved in librarians’ work with students, then you help save someone’s library somewhere.

And consider adding your efforts to, an effort just getting off the ground to collect library videos, testimonials and advocacy efforts across the country and share what you create, or photos of your library to help build a more “national” picture. 

National Library Week is quickly approaching (April 11-17) which is a great time to premiere one of your own efforts to publicize your library program and how it benefits your students intellectually and socially.

Share  your “philosophy and pickles” and reshape the story of libraries in your community on behalf of your students.

One thought on “Philosophy and pickles: telling our stories

  1. Is there ever going to be a time when librarians are not going to have to fight for their jobs? I’m getting tired of reading about all of the cuts in libraries across the country. It’s sad. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before more cuts are made in my district.

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