Budget Time: What Is Your “Big Splash” this Month?

What is the local newspaper article headline for the event that will happen in your library in the next 30 days? “School Library Catches Students Reading” or “New Nooks Ready To Circulate in the School Library” may be ours.

March 6th there is a school board meeting in my school district at which the budget will be discussed. Two weeks ago was a public meeting to solicit areas to save money for the district. The proposed budget will be in place by the Ides of March—which may or may not elicit outrage and arguments by the taxpayers.  I MUST increase my public relations efforts to get my library “in the news” positively.

Everyone’s timeline is a bit different, but this the part of the school budget cycle is when programs and positions are scrutinized one by one in districts that are facing cuts, some of them massive.  We all need to remind the public—our potential advocates—of the important role that school libraries play in students’ education.  It may not be School Library Month  yet, but the archive for past years’ ideas and resources are there on the web page to inspire you for something you can do right now.

Choosing to read in Study Hall has its "Get Caught Reading" reward!

March 2 is Read Across America Day. A celebration can pertain to Dr. Seuss or be tweaked to reflect a middle or high school program like mine. Dr. Seuss is not a celebrated author in the middle/high school, but the day is a great time to do a “get caught reading” promotion, which takes little preparation and is fun. We let the teachers know that they can call us or send us an e-mail if a class is reading a book in class other than the text, we load up on bookmarks and inexpensive hard candies (which is an OK treat approved by our administrators), find out when and where study halls are scheduled, and then make announcements to the students that they want to be caught reading this week. By Wednesday or Thursday of the week, students are stopping by to let us know that they will be reading during a particular period. There is no guarantee that we will be available to visit all the classes and study halls identified, but that adds to the randomness of the celebration of free voluntary reading in our middle/high school.  Pictures will be taken and there will be a press release sent to the local newspaper and radio.

March 4-10 is YALSA’s Teen Tech Week. Registration ended on February 13, but even if you didn’t register, you can use that theme (Geek Out @ your library!), and the event to showcase how your library provides equal access to technology resources and instruction. Your students will be excited to help plan the event. Your job is to write the press release—and follow whatever channels your school requires to get it into the media.

Or your event can be anything you create yourself and the possibilities are endless. Ask yourself what you and your program do well—and whether anyone knows about it outside the school. Then, make sure they do.

Sue Kowalski, middle school librarian at Pine Grove Middle School in Syracuse, NY, recently landed an article in no less than the New York School Boards Association online newsletter.  The article describes her “iStaff,” tech-savvy and library-loving students who provide the technology set up for classes, work with the teachers and students during the classes, and are ambassadors for visitors. Her iStaff parents are strong advocates for her program, the school is proud of the publicity, and district parents can read the story from the school’s home page. Sue is as ready as she can be for the March and April scrutiny of programs and expenditures.

A sharp-dressed iStaff member presents at a school board meeting in the school library

An iStaff member tackles organizing the game closet









Promotion and marketing is an all-year effort. However, I don’t want to take my chances right now that the school board and voters “get” the connection between strong libraries and student achievement already, so I will be glad to take the time to make it as obvious as possible.

Let’s get caught reading! Then, on to Teen Tech Week and our new Nook program. What will be YOUR headlines?

"Get Caught Reading" while looking for Waldo in the Lake Placid Middle/High School Library

Sara Kelly Johns About Sara Kelly Johns

Sara Kelly Johns (skjohns@gmail.com) is the school librarian at Lake Placid (NY) Middle/High School, and knows that she has the best job in the school. She is also an instructor for the Mansfield University School of Library and Information Technologies and speaks and writes about school librarian activism. Find her on Twitter as @skjohns or on Facebook.


  1. Rebecca Buerkett says:

    Our district librarians recently gave a presentation to the school board about our new Malone Central School District Librarians Common Core wiki, a central location where all district employees can go to look for common core resources. We all wore our “Your Library IS the Common Core” T-shirts to stress our readiness to help our district to transition to the common core state standards. This is an area where we can really shine!