Date of Award

Summer 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


Curriculum and Instruction

Committee Director

Gail Dickenson

Committee Member

Sue Kimmel

Committee Member

Ann Ewbank


Hartzell (1997) suggests that many in the school community do not know the value the school library program contributes to the educational landscape, and stakeholders cannot articulate the roles and responsibilities of the school librarian. Advocacy for a school library program is the deliberate and sustained effort to foster understanding of the program while influencing the attitudes of key stakeholders. It includes raising awareness, increasing knowledge and gaining influence for the position of the school librarian. The national professional organization for school librarians, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), maintains a multi-tiered definition of advocacy, with marketing and public relations existing under the definition of advocacy. This leads to varied understandings of advocacy among practicing school librarians and there is a lack of consistency in how school librarians interpret and engage in the practice of advocacy.

This study examines the advocacy beliefs of school librarians and the advocacy activities in which they engage in practice. It also explores the relationship between school librarians' espoused practices of advocacy and their activities-in-use within their program. Finally, this study explores the perceived success of advocacy strategies used in school library programs by both the school librarians and their co-teacher and administrator stakeholders when engaging in advocacy for their program.

Using a mixed methods approach, a national sample of practicing school librarians working in 36 of the 100 largest school districts in the US were surveyed. A smaller criterion sample of survey respondents was interviewed, along with a co-teacher and administrator from each site, using phenomenological methods to examine the lived experiences of the participants in their school setting. Findings indicate the participants in this study had difficulty distinguishing the difference between the definition and activities of advocacy, marketing, and public relations as identified by AASL. Additionally, practicing school librarians had difficulty understanding advocacy in the context of the school library program. Among those school librarians who have a more mature understanding of advocacy, common strategies were used in their settings to change the perception of stakeholders. These strategies include revitalizing the position of the school librarian, emphasizing the teaching role of the school librarian, focusing on innovation, and ensuring relevance of the school library program so it meets the needs of today's learner. Demographic variables were analyzed and reported as predictors of advocacy success from the survey population. Additionally, participants reported perceived measures of formal and informal success in their settings.


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