Friday, April 21, 2017

It Takes a Village: Tools to Help Keep the Community Informed, Engaged, and Supportive

The Media Center is an integral part of the school community. Media Specialists and Librarians are aware of this, but how do we keep the community informed of all we do? How do you engage your school and the community itself in the Media Center programs? How do you in turn get the community to stand behind the Media Center and support the many programs? Well, below I will tell you what I have done to get our community involved here. I'd love to hear how you get your community involved as well.

  • Web Site: The Media Center website has all of the information about everything that happens in the Media Center. I designed my Media Center website using Google Sites and some HTML coding. I tried to design it to be simple and functional so that parents, staff, and students could easily access what they were looking for. On the home page, I had links to my contact information, newsletter sign up, the school library catalog, the public library website, and useful websites and online sources.
    I also included a link to a page with our schedule embedded and the objectives to lessons currently being taught in the Media Center. Aside from regular Media Center business on the home page, I also included a page for our Monday Morning Makers and Coding Club programs. On these pages, I embedded videos that helped to explain why we have these programs and what they are. I also included written information about the programs and a schedule of events. I taught the students how to use the website and sent home information about the website in our school newsletter. You can access the Pinewood Media Center website by visiting:
  • Newsletters: During open house, parents were able to sign up for the Media Center newsletter. The teachers also sent a sign up link to all their parents. I easily could have sent the newsletter out to all the parents, but I did not want it to be looked at like spam. I did not want it to be irritating. To manage my newsletter, I chose to use the free email marketing tool Vertical Response. This program allows you to create various contact lists (I also use this to send out reminders about coding club) and easily lay out your newsletter with a number of templates to choose from. You can also add a widget into the newsletter for people to share the newsletter on Facebook and Twitter. You can access my March Newsletter here. In my newsletter, I share reading tips, blog posts, and upcoming events.
  •  Blog Posts: Another way that I reach out to the community and to other Media Specialist is through this blog which you are reading right now. I set up my blog using blogger in college and began updating it again a little over a year ago. On the blog, I share about lessons I am currently teaching, recommend books or authors, and share about technology I have found useful. Use the navigation bar on the side to browse through some of the other posts I have written.
  • Social Media: I use Twitter and Facebook to connect with the community and with other Media Specialists. I share short blurbs of information on both, things like cool apps, book suggestions, and Media Center happenings. I also share my newsletter and blog posts through social media. To make things easier and save time, I often schedule my posts ahead of time using a tool called Hootsuite. This allows you to create your posts and schedule when you would like them to go out. I often schedule 2 weeks of posts at a time.
     To increase followers on social media, I often tag others that are relevant to the post and utilize hashtags, especially the school's hashtag. I also include links to my social media profiles on my website and blog and in my newsletter. To engage with colleagues, I find Twitter chats are very engaging.You can find me on Twitter at @LisaNewhouse4 and on Facebook on my page Media Specialist 4 Life.
  • PTO and School Board Presentations: Finally, in person meetings and presentations are also important to engaging with the community. I have made it a habit to attend school board meetings and PTO meetings. I also try to attend a variety of school events. It is so much fun to see the students outside of the normal school day. I have also found that a great way to get the parents and school board invested in programs is to invite them. We have had administrators and school board members visit our coding club and have even presented about coding to our school board. Here is the video that we shared last fall: