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How School Librarians Can Successfully Request Funding

By: | December 06, 2021 |

How School Libraries Can Successfully Request Funding; Give the numbers, make it about them, leverage social media, and prepare your pitch

It’s no secret that school librarians often find themselves on the short end of the stick when it comes to funding. And yet, the data to back how important school librarians are is easily there for admins and principals to see. In fact, research spanning over the last two decades has proven that school librarians are linked to improved standardized reading test scores, regardless of student poverty levels. We know how much school librarians matter, and how the library is ever increasingly important in this rapidly changing world. But even with the research to back up your monetary needs, getting the money to improve your school library can feel like a quest for the holy grail.

Advocating for your school library isn’t a simple task, which is why we’ve compiled some tools and tactics to help school librarians pitch confidently to their principals and administrators.

Framing the Pitch: Understanding the Why

Let knowing your “why” be the anchor of your pitch. What’s the end goal for your school libraries funding and why does it matter? Then consider the motivations of the person/s you will be pitching to. What drives the principal or administrator? What are their end goals, what are their motivations? Can your “why” be theirs as well? In your library assessment, how do your plans for the school library support and align with your school’s existing plans, goals and the direction that it is heading?

Sell the Skills

Once you’ve pinned down the driving forces behind what you do and what they do, you can design your pitch with the end in mind, meaning that your end goal is a shared goal with the administrator’s. Beyond the need for new furniture, bookshelves, or a charging station, how are these school library improvements aligned with 21st century skills? Is your school library becoming an extension of the classroom? Consider collaborating with teachers to gather insight on how these library improvements will help meet goals within the classroom and foster the skills that your school wants students to leave with, then build your pitchable vision with those skills in mind. As suggested by school administrators in this SLJ article, also use language that focuses on specific skills. Rather than just fostering a “love for reading,” show how school libraries and librarians create “self-directed readers.”

Give Them the Numbers

Convincing takes a little bit of Pathos, Ethos, and Logos. In order to give yourself more credibility, the library and policy blog, The 10-minute Library Advocate recommends that when asking for funding, school librarians should memorize at least three “powerful” library statistics that demonstrate the level of impact your school library has on students. Were test scores or grades improved, were specific skills learned? Find the most impactful statistics, and hold them close to your heart. (You never know when the opportunity for an impromptu elevator pitch may arise). Data and numbers drive decision-making at the administrative level, so having data to back your pitch for funding will be a solid way to strengthen your argument.

Make it About Them

Understanding the challenges that your principal and school administrators are faced with can be a helpful part of making your pitch high-value. What’s a problem that you both can solve together, and what about your project is connected to that? What specific parts of your proposed library project will help to solve their district-wide concerns, like literacy rates?

Also, show your principal and administrator how you can save them money. The cost of funding you will need for your library project is an important part of your pitch, but including the word “free” is a word that is music to an administrator's ears. Are there parts of your project that can be done for free in order to save the district money? For example, are there specific items in your project that could be crowdsourced for your STEM library, such as materials for a maker space? Highlighting the parts of your proposed project that can be accomplished with little to no cost is a good way to show your administrator that you have done your homework and are willing to put in the effort to make things happen.

Leverage Social Media

Appeal to the heart and to the public. It’s a lot harder to give a hard “no” when a school librarian has the support of the students, parents and the community. Whether it’s new books or new technology that you are after, showcase your students in action and share your libraries’ vision for all to see. Gather inspiration from libraries across the country and see how they are advocating for their school libraries. In this article from the School Library Journal, school administrators Andrew Maxey and Mike Daria advise: “Keep the spotlight on the kids and make it genuinely about them. Talk about the importance of student access, student choice, and actions needed to help students grow as strong readers. This is not about circulating more books; this is about becoming a school where each human in the building reads so much (because she/he wants to) that there is no way to avoid becoming better readers.”

Prepare Your Pitch

Ready to start? Here’s a sample elevator pitch to help prepare you for those fleeting moments you may have with an administrator. For a prepared and detailed pitch, try this sample pitch letter from the American Library Association as a base to form and build upon. For more resources such as book grants and price out your library upgrades using our variety of curated categories!

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