A photograph on the Arizona Daily Star opinion page on May 3, 2018, struck a chord with me. If you have been following the national news, you know that Arizona’s teacher walkout and #RedForEd movement has been called a “Norma Rae moment.” Long underpaid and undervalued educators working with large class sizes and antiquated technology in crumbling buildings, Arizona educators and advocates have held Governor Ducey and his majority-Republican legislature’s feet to the fire. Activists are vowing to keep the momentum for improving education for Arizona’s students going through the November election.
The photo on the May 3rd opinion page was of a #RedForEd group in which one of the protesters was a woman holding this sign: “Even LIBRARIANS can’t keep QUIET anymore!”
To my way of thinking, NO ONE who is passionate about youth, learning, and teaching should ever keep quiet about what kind of education today’s young people need to succeed—especially not school librarians.
In that context, I am delighted that hundreds of librarians, library trustees, library patrons, and advocates are in Washington, D.C. for the American Library Association’s annual National Library Legislative Day (#NLLD18).
I have never had the opportunity to meet face to face with lawmakers during #NLLD, but I am signed up to participate virtually today, May 7th and tomorrow, May 8th.
I will be emailing, phoning, and Tweeting Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake and Representative Martha McSally during this two-day event to remind them that Arizona’s students, educators, and families need the expertise of school librarians and the services of school libraries.
U.S. school and public libraries have a vital role to play in the health and prosperity of our country. Literacy learning and programming are critical services. From cradle to grave, libraries help patrons and communities meet their life goals. Access to technology tools is one essential service libraries provide. Since one in four households in the U.S. are without Internet connection, school and public libraries help level the playing field by providing students, families, and adults equitable access to the tools of our times and the digital resources that impact daily lives.
Other Library National Advocacy Efforts
ALA members and supporters advocate for their patrons all year long. The ALA Advocacy page provides a rich resource of support. This year, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Advocacy Committee launched AASL Connection (#AASLcxn), a quarterly advocacy and information sharing effort that includes webinars, Twitter chats, and more. The Association for Library Service to Children Everyday Advocacy page provides resources as well.
In addition to these, I highly recommend the work of EveryLibrary.org. Every Library helps school and public libraries organize and sustain advocacy efforts. Signing petitions or tweeting out information for these efforts is a way for librarians to support advocacy initiative across the country. Every Library has also started a peer-reviewed journal called The Political Librarian. As an Every Library monthly subscriber, I am proud to support the activism of my colleagues.
Advocating Closer to Home
I have made a long-time commitment to write as often as possible for Tucson’s Arizona Daily Star newspaper. I believe it is important to speak up locally as well as nationally about school librarianship, particularly in a state like Arizona where so few preK-12 students and educators are receiving the support of state-endorsed school librarians.
Although my letters do not always get published, my passion for our profession and what access to literacy learning means for students keeps me submitting. These are a few of my published letters to the editor and an opinion piece published within the last year.
“One Million Arizona Students at Risk.” Arizona Daily Star (Apr. 4, 2017)
“Missing School Librarians Means Lost Literacy Learning.” Arizona Daily Star (Nov. 3, 2017).
“Early Childhood Education: A First Step that Requires Follow-Up.” Arizona Daily Star Online (Apr. 11, 2018)
“I Know Who Goldwater Can Sue.” Arizona Daily Star Online (May 2, 2018).
If school librarianship is to survive, each of us must find our way to speak up and out for our profession. Yes, it is ideal and rewarding when our administrators, classroom teacher colleagues, families, and students raise their voices in support of our work. Yet, there are many who do not have first-hand experience of what school librarians contribute to students’ learning and to other educators’ teaching. It is only by educating the larger community and speaking up for our work that we can expect to change the outdated stereotypes and under valuing of our school librarians and libraries that persist today.
Please join our librarian colleagues, library advocates, and me today and tomorrow for National Library Legislative Day. Think nationally for #NLLD18 and act locally every day. Together—we can make a difference.
Image Courtesy of the American Library Association