The school year is over—or just about for some of you. How do you feel as you look back on it? Do you have a sense of accomplishment over what you have achieved? Or are you tired and exhausted, able to recall a handful of great moments but no real sense of having gotten anywhere? If this describes you, chances are you are operating without a mission or vision statement. You may have a mission in your head, but unless it’s written down and present in your life, you really don’t have one.
Now is the time to prepare for next year and to start, take the time to craft a mission statement. The mission defines your purpose—what you and your library program do. It should highlight what makes you unique and vital to the educational community and expressed in words laymen can understand. You can start with the mission AASL gives in Empower Learners: Guidelines for School Library Media Programs (ALA, 2009).
The mission of the school library media program is to ensure that students and staff are effective users of ideas and information. The school library media specialist empowers to be critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skilled researchers, and ethical users of information (p. 8).
How it is done is included, but that’s not part of a mission statement which needs to be succinct, between 25 and 50 words. AASL’s statement is 32 words beginning with the word “to.” The reason for the brevity is so that it is easily remembered and can be framed and hung on the wall of the library for all to see.
That mission was written six years ago. Today we recognize an important part of what we do is ensure that students are also empowered to be producers of information. Despite that important addition, the mission statement should be recognized for its use of strong words. Ensure and empower carry much more weight than “support and enrich” or even “foster and nurture” which frequently appear in school library mission statements. Avoid “can” as in “so students can…” It will be stronger if you go directly to the next word.
You can borrow wording from the AASL statement and add other ideas important to presenting what you do and how it adds value to the school community. In lower grade levels, love of reading leading to lifetime readers is a prime focus. While it is equally necessary at middle and high school grades, those you want to see why you are vital do not usually consider it as significant as student interaction with information. You want to promote what you do but do it in such a way that your stakeholders recognize they need your contribution to the educational program.
Play around with the words you think are important. Search under “school library mission statements” to find examples others have written. Are there phrases you want to use in your statement? Make sure you keep it in the present tense. Review it. Are the words powerful? Does it show how you are unique? Once you get it within the length requirements, start memorizing it. Print it and find a frame for it. Proudly hang your Mission Statement on your wall for all who come into your library to see it. And if you want help… send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Next week – Vision Statements.