Magazine article Multimedia & Internet@Schools

Advocacy in Action: When Company Comes

Magazine article Multimedia & Internet@Schools

Advocacy in Action: When Company Comes

Article excerpt

IN recent months I've had numerous opportunities to visit media centers in other districts as we plan for media center renovations and program improvements at our senior high. Our visitation team included media specialists, board members, architects, administrators, local press, and community members who care about media centers. In recent years, I've frequently hosted similar teams of visitors. What do visitors want to know? What can a media specialist do to prepare for them?

Assume you will have visitors. It may be other educators just passing through, it may be people specifically coming to visit your media center, or it may be parents attending an open house. Assume they will not always ask the kinds of questions you would like to answer. Assume that you will not always know when company is coming. Most of the media specialists in the schools our committee visited didn't know we were coming because no one had told them to expect us! Worse yet, some host tour guides ignored them. Be prepared! Have the information in your head and on paper so you're ready when the time comes. Anticipate questions, compile the basic information, and take it one step further by being prepared to share information visitors don't know they need to know. If appropriate, approach the visitors to offer your insights.


All visitors want to know numbers. What's your square footage? How many computers are there? How many books do you have? What's your staff?. Those were the first questions our lay team members asked at every media center we visited.

Do the math. Get out a yardstick, walk the floor, count the ceiling tiles; calculate square footage of all the spaces in the media center. It's important! Supervisors of buildings and grounds talk this language all the time; ours was amazed that people we visited didn't have this information in their heads. Architects do conceptual planning based on cost per square foot. Visiting principals always want to know how their school's media center compares. We need to know square footage to plan for program needs. Prepare a floor plan you can give to visitors; they will appreciate it. If your facility is new, you should be able to get copies from architects or school dedication programs

How many books are there? You need to know that information because others are curious. If you're within a thousand it's probably close enough, but you need to know. Adults in my community are very concerned that our senior high students don't have enough access to a quality media center book collection; I expect those in your community care, too. Determine the average copyright date; conversations with visitors about outdated collections can pave the way for increased budgets or donations. I've seen it happen. Brag about the circulation numbers if you can; if they're low or declining, be prepared to explain why. Adults who want students to have books might not know how much information students can find online or understand why quality and curricular relevancy are more important than quantity. Be prepared to explain.


Laypeople are equally concerned that students have enough technology access and want to know what the computer specs are. Every parent who visited one of our elementary schools prior to enrolling their children asked about the amount and kind of technology available in the media center. Make sure you know what's available. Visitors to one school were surprised that a media specialist would know the technical information; this is a time to show people that you are tech-savvy.

Ideally, visitors will inquire about program activity. Visiting media specialists and others who are curious will sneak away to inquire while the rest of the folks are counting off seating capacity or looking at the wireless hub. It's possible the person hosting the tour group is a staff member who may not know about program activity. …

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