About Judi Moreillon

Judi Moreillon, M.L.S, Ph.D., has served as a school librarian at every instructional level. In addition, she has been a classroom teacher, literacy coach, and district-level librarian mentor. Judi has taught preservice school librarians since 1995. She has taught courses in instructional partnerships and school librarian leadership, multimedia resources and services, children’s and young adult literature, and storytelling. Her research agenda focuses on the professional development of school librarians for the leadership and instructional partner roles. She has published four professional books; the most recent is Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (ALA 2018). (See the book study on this blog.) Judi earned the American Library Association's 2019 Scholastic Library Publishing Award. She is currently editing and contributing to Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (ABC-CLIO 2021).

Social Justice in the Library

Do you believe that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities? Do you believe in equitable access to these opportunities—meaning that everyone is supported in getting what they need to succeed?

Image: Hands holding a heart with the scales of justiceFor me, access to high-quality literacy learning is a social justice issue. If you believe that access to high-quality literacy learning is an essential right of all children in the U.S. and around the globe, how will you take action for this human right?

Social justice must manifest in the everyday lives of all people. Finding a workable definition for social justice is not an easy task. Many definitions focus on “fairness” and “equalization” but they fail to suggest how (universal) equity can be achieved.

Social Justice in the Library
What does social justice look like in the library? In addition to a diverse collection of resources that is available and barrier-free for all library users, what are the criteria with which we can assess the evolution of our library programs toward social justice? In the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, access to paper print and technology resources for learning through school and public libraries and the work of librarians are two of many areas of inequity and injustice in U.S. society that have been exposed during the current health and socioeconomic crisis. (See @MediaJustice and the #Right2Connect campaign and get involved.)

What are other ways that social injustice in manifest in our schools and libraries? Are we meeting the needs of all English language learners and their families? Are we providing the necessary technology and support to students with special needs? Is our community serving incarcerated and homeless youth? Have school closures finally made voters in our states aware that a large percentage of young people in the U.S. today rely on their school for daily meals? Are many of these injustices based on race and socioeconomic status?

If social justice is to be achieved for children, it is up to adults to ensure that preK-12 students advocate for and enact these rights for youth.

Educating Ourselves
Librarians must first educate ourselves. Project READY is an Institute of Museum and Library Services funded initiative of the University of South Carolina, Wake County Public Schools, and North Carolina Central University. “The primary focus of the Project READY curriculum is on improving relationships with, services to, and resources for youth of color and Native youth.”

As noted in the Project READY glossary: “Social and institutional power is unequally distributed globally and nationally, and may be conferred by one’s gender, race, sexuality, wealth, education, or other means.” If social and institutional power were equally distributed, then social justice would be achieved.

The website offers a “series of free, online professional development modules for school and public youth services librarians, library administrators, and others interested in improving their knowledge about race and racism, racial equity, and culturally sustaining pedagogy” (Project READY).

I believe today during school closures is the opportune time to access the information and resources on this site. Why not invite other librarians or classroom teacher and administrator colleagues to join you in this professional learning opportunity?

Educating Students for Social Justice
With this knowledge and a commitment to continuing to learn and reflect on our practice, we can collaborate with our classroom teacher and specialist colleagues, and public librarian children’s and teen librarians to teach K-12 students the principles of social justice. Two resources may be of particular interest in that endeavor.

Teaching Social Justice
TeachingTolerance.org offers social justice standards to support a K-12 anti-bias education. Educators and administrators can use the Teaching Tolerance curriculum guide “to make schools more just, equitable, and safe.” The standards are divided into grade bands and are organized around four domains: identity, diversity, justice, and action. The curriculum includes school-based scenarios to help students explore anti-bias attitudes and behaviors.

These are examples of standards under each of the domains.

Identify: Students will develop positive social identities based on their membership in multiple groups in society.

Diversity: Students will examine diversity in social, cultural, political and historical contexts rather than in ways that are superficial or oversimplified.

Justice: Students will recognize stereotypes and relate to people as individuals rather than representatives of groups.

Action: Students will express empathy when people are excluded or mistreated because of their identities and concern when they themselves experience bias” (Teaching Tolerance 2016).

A recent EBSCO blog post offers additional resources and connections including a link to a January/February 2020 Knowledge Quest article “School Librarians & Social Justice Education” by Marianne Fitzgerald, Donna Mignardi, Jennifer Sturge, and Sandy Walker. In their article, these coauthors share how they are implementing the Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards alongside the American Association of School Librarians’ National Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries (2018).

Librarian Activism
As we prepare to return to our schools and libraries this spring, summer, or next fall, let’s consider how we are supporting students, other educators, and administrators in enacting principles of social justice. Let’s make a commitment to be leaders who act on our belief that high-quality literacy learning is an essential right of all children and take action to address this human right for their benefit and for our shared future.

Works Cited

EBSCO. 2020. “Social Justice Education Ideas and Resources for School Libraries,” https://www.ebsco.com/blog/article/social-justice-education-ideas-and-resources-for-school-libraries

Fitzgerald, Marianne, Donna Mignardi, Jennifer Sturge, and Sandy Walker. 2020. “School Librarians & Social Justice Education.” Knowledge Quest 48 (3), https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/KNOW_48_3_OE_SocialJustice.pdf

Teaching Tolerance. 2016. “Teaching Social Justice: The Teaching Tolerance Antibias Framework.” https://www.tolerance.org/sites/default/files/2017-06/TT_Social_Justice_Standards_0.pdf

Image Credit:

GJD. “Heart Love Passion Peace Sign.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/vectors/heart-love-passion-peace-sign-2028061

Equity for All Learners

Last week, I spotlighted one of the top five critical topics from the International Literacy Association’s (ILA) “What’s Hot in Literacy” survey: access to high-quality diverse books and content. In my post “Librarians Curate During the Pandemic,” I provided some examples of how school and public librarians are selecting and annotating online resources to support student learning and teachers’ teaching during school closures.

Image: Equality or sameness compared with equity or fairnessAnother of the top five critical topics was “increasing equity and opportunity for all learners. This topic has most certainly been highlighted both in the U.S. and around the globe during the pandemic. According to U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, nearly 12 million K-12 students nationwide lack broadband access in their homes in 2017 (cited in Common Sense Media 2019).

When librarians and classroom teachers are considering the necessity of providing online resources during this crisis, we must not forget that so many young people will lack the means to access those resources. See my March 16, 2020 post “Inequitable Access During School Closures.”

Equity in Classroom Book Collections
It is no surprise to librarians that equity is a top concern of teachers, higher education faculty, researchers, literacy consultants, and administrators. (As it was in 2018 “What’s Hot in Literacy” survey, equity is the top of five critical issues and respondents identify as deserving more attention and focus. When looking more closely at the issue of equity, the Literacy Today article quotes a respondent from Illinois: “educational inequalities are huge in all areas, such as teacher preparation, teacher opportunities for professional learning and development with their peers, adequate resources in terms of classroom libraries, and small class sizes. All of this greatly impacts literacy learning for students” (Bothum 2020, 24)

As a former school librarian and current librarian educator, I was saddened to read this particular comment. While I agree with this person’s assessment of the impact of these resources and activities on student learning, I am frustrated that school libraries and librarians are not mentioned. Classroom “libraries,” which are really “collections” not “libraries,” will never be able to achieve the robust diversity of resources afforded by a well-funded school library that serves the diverse academic and personal reading needs of readers at all instructional levels within a school.

Of course, classroom teachers must provide books and other reading materials in their classrooms. But investing in school library resources results in schoolwide equity. Classrooms will never be able to offer the range of reading resources that a school library can. A well-stocked library and library program facilitated by a state-certified school librarian also reflects a commitment by the school district and community to serving all students, educators, and families.

Access to School Libraries and Librarians
In the area of equity, forty-nine percent of the respondents say they want more support in addressing inequity in education and instruction. While all of the factors cited in the survey are important, I would humbly suggest that supporting fully-funded school library led by an effective state-certified school librarian should be a top priority in every school and district across the U.S. (and around the world). An open school library where students can check out, return, and check out more books and materials to read based on their needs and choices makes a difference in the quantity and quality of students reading.

Ninety-two percent of respondents agree that “educational equity for all students cannot be achieved without instructional equity” (Bothum 2020, 24). An effective professional school librarian who collaborates with classroom teachers to integrate vast array of library resources and coteaches the classroom curriculum can elevate literacy learning for every student in every classroom in a school.

Collaboration to Increase Equity
ILA Board of Directors member Rachael Gabriel notes that “structures aimed at collaborative problem-solving can be used as practice grounds for more equitable conversations because of their emphasis on protocol, participation, and the use of evidence.” When classroom teachers and school librarians share ideas, they further develop their understanding of how to best need the needs of all students. When they coplan, co-implement, and co-assess student learning outcomes, they gather evidence of the effectiveness of their teaching and can make modifications for improvement in their instruction.

Since sixty-one percent of ILA respondents identify collaboration as an area of concern, school administrators around the globe must step up to help provide educators with collaborative planning time with school librarians as well as with classroom teacher peers and specialists.

School Librarian Roles During the School Closures
The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) conducted a survey from Monday, March 30, 2020 to Monday, April 6, 2020. There were 843 respondents representing all fifty U.S. states. (AASL will conduct and report on similar surveys in the coming weeks.) The librarians who responded cited unequal access to technology tools suitable for online learning as a problem during school closures. Librarians reported that students:

  • have full access to technology and Internet for personal use in their home (laptop or desktop computer): 49%
  • have shared access to technology and Internet for use in their home (shared computer): 25%
  • have access through mobile device (tablet, phone): 22%
  • do not have reliable access: 12%
  • do not have any access: 10% (AASL 2020).

The survey captured the many ways school librarians are adapting to changes in instruction and are offering the same services and activities provided during regular school days, including:

  • Offering resource curation and technology tools for “classroom” instruction: 84.89%
  • Expanding online resources: 80.37%
  • Virtual assistance: 82.06%
  • Virtual meetings/collaborative events: 74.29% (AASL 2020).

Please read the entire AASL survey report.

Schools Without Librarians
What the AASL survey could not capture is the lack of equitable access to online learning in schools without state-certified school librarians. We can speculate about what is happening for students, educators, and families in schools where a state-certified school librarian is not on the faculty. To be sure, educators in some of those schools have technology coaches who are helping them transition to fully online learning, but are they collaborating with educators to provide the specific learning and teaching resources needed to student and educator success? In some districts, there may be a “library” or “technology” person at the district-level who is providing some of these services.

However, without a building-level school librarian these services will be hit and miss in terms of the actual needs of students, educators, and families at any given school site. Some of the educators in all of these schools are the very ones who, on the ILA “What’s Hot in Literacy” survey, noted they were looking for instructional equity for all K-12 students.

For example, when schools closed in Arizona, the state superintendent of instruction stated that 100,000 of the 1.1. million students in the state did not have the tools they needed to be successful in online learning. The Tucson Unified School District identified 18,000 families that lacked such tools. (There are around 40,000 students in the district; the number of families is unknown to me but there are only 13 state-certified school librarians serving 86 schools.)

The pandemic has spotlighted inequity in K-12 education. How can we achieve social justice in education if access to broadband, technology tools, library-based elearning resources, and the expertise of school librarians are not universally available to all of our students?

The short answer is we can’t – but what can we learn from this situation, and how can it motivate us to take action going forward?

Note: In this blog post when I refer to learners, they are educators and administrators as well as students. All members of a school community must be learners.

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians. 2020. “Snapshot of School Librarian Roles during School Closures,” KnowledgeQuest.aasl.org, https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/snapshot-of-school-librarian-roles-during-school-closures/

Bothum, Kelly. 2020. “What’s Hot in 2020—And Beyond: ILA’s Biennial Report Highlights the Topics Most Critical to Shaping the Future of Literacy.” Literacy Today (January/February).

Common Sense Media. 2019. The Homework Gap: Teacher Perspectives on Closing the Digital Divide, https://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/uploads/kids_action/homework-gap-report-2019.pdf

Image Credit:

OccupyAwareness. “equality equity2.0.” Creative Commons.org, https://ccsearch.creativecommons.org/photos/9ebc181e-48a4-42c6-ab27-c86854d1ee0a

Librarians Curate During the Pandemic

Image: Handshake word cloud - cooperate, serve, communicate, unite, and moreSince school closures began, school and public librarians have been collaborating to share online resources to support at-home teaching and learning. They have been sharing widely to help other educators, families, and librarian colleagues to help youth continue learning outside the four walls of the school or library building. Librarians are sharing their curation efforts on distribution lists, in blog posts, and on Twitter and Facebook.

The response of the library profession to the pandemic makes a strong case for how librarians can help educators around the world address one of the critical hot topics identified by 1,443 respondents from 65 countries and territories who responded to the International Literacy Association’s (ILA) “What’s Hot in Literacy” survey (formerly annual, now biennial). The goal of the survey is to rank topics in terms of what’s hot (talked about) and what (should be) important at both the community and country levels.

Respondents to the survey identified “providing access to high-quality, diverse books and content” as one of the top five critical topics (Bothum 2020, 24). You can access an online infographic summary of survey and the full report.

Librarians are consciously or not addressing global educators’ critical need for “high-quality, diverse books and content” during the pandemic. That fact contributes to the body of evidence related to the essential role(s) of librarians in education. To my knowledge all of these resources that follow are shared ethically following copyright laws or with permission of the authors, illustrators, or publishers whose work is shared.

Jennifer Brown, Youth and Family Services Manager, Suffolk Public Library, Suffolk, Virginia, has curated spreadsheets focused on author read-alouds, craft, music, and other resources for storytimes, tips for hosting online storytimes, and more.

Sabrina Carnesi, Newport News, Virginia, middle school librarian/school librarian educator, curated the links school librarians shared during the March 24, 2020 American Association of School Librarians Town Hall meeting. Close to 200 (!) resources were curated by Sabrina and shared by colleagues across the country to support virtual instruction while schools are closed:

Haley Cooper, Abbigail McWilliams, Amelia Owdom, and G Trupp, IS445: Information Books and Resources for Youth graduate students at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign iSchool curated a standards-aligned pathfinder of resources for 4th-6th grade students and educators to explore a timely topic during the pandemic: food insecurity and food culture.

Zakir Hossain, teacher-librarian at the ICS Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland. curated a libguide with open access ebooks, databases, copyright-free images, and sounds.

Kathy Lester, Plymouth, Michigan, middle school librarian has curated three lists, which she is using with East Middle School Library patrons and has shared these resources on several distribution lists.

eBooks

Storytimes

Other Online Resources

The National Emergency Library (NEL) has made 4M digitized books available to users without a waitlist. These resources can help educators provide students with access to books while their schools, school libraries, and public libraries are closed.

Thank you to these school and public librarians and the NEL for curating/making these resources available to us.

School librarians know that coplanning standards-aligned lessons and units of instruction with our educator colleagues is the ideal way to gather paper print or online resources for students’ learning. We can still collaborate with classroom teachers online during school closures, and we can use our librarian colleagues’ curation efforts as resources for that collaborative work.

Thank you for all you are doing to remain safe and healthy and to provide for your library users. I hope all librarians will continue to curate and share their work with others. We are stronger together, and together, we demonstrate our value to our library patrons even more so during this time of need.

P.S. And if you are looking specifically for online read-alouds for the students, families, and educators you serve, I have embedded additional resources from the 3/23/20 comment section into the blog post.

Work Cited

Bothum, Kelly. 2020. “What’s Hot in 2020—And Beyond: ILA’s Biennial Report Highlights the Topics Most Critical to Shaping the Future of Literacy.” Literacy Today (January/February).

Image credit
Johnhain. “Handshake Regard Cooperatie.” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/illustrations/handshake-regard-cooperate-connect-2009183/

Applying Fair Use AND Honoring Copyright During A Crisis

Last week, I posted “Ethically Sharing Children’s and Young Adult Literature Online.” The point of my post was to make a case for why educators and librarians, in particular, should continue to model respect for the exclusive rights of the copyright holder… even during the current crisis. In this post, I am suggesting ways to do that.

Fair Use = A Librarian’s / Educator’s Perspective
I have heard from a number of School Librarian Leadership.com readers that they do not agree with my perspective and have already posted or have plans to post complete picture book readings or daily chapter book readings on the open Internet. I agree that authors and publishers will most likely not sue them for copyright violations, but for me, that is not the point.

There are a number of copyright experts who proclaim these recordings would fall under Fair Use Guidelines during the pandemic and advise educators to proceed with confidence. Some believe these freely distributed educational recordings should always be allowable under fair use. For two articles written from those perspectives, read:

Jacob, Meredith. (2020). “Reading Aloud: Fair Use Enables Translating Classroom Practice to Online.” (includes a link to register for a webinar Tuesday, March 31, 2020, 1:00 p.m. EDT).

Otsman, Sarah. (2020, March 24). “Online Story Time & Coronovirus: It’s Fair Use, Folks.” Programming Librarian.org.

Copyright Media Warning Exclamation Point ImageFrom a Copyright Holder’s Point of View
As a copyright holder myself, I take another view. I believe that creators, whether they are famous authors, little known authors, or student authors, should retain the rights that are given exclusively to copyright holders, even in this crisis.

“Copyright provides the owner of copyright with the exclusive right to

  • Reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
  • Prepare derivative works based upon the work;
  • Distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership or by rental, lease, or lending;
  • Perform the work publicly if it is a literary, musical, dramatic, or choreographic work; a pantomime; or a motion picture or other audiovisual work;
  • Display the work publicly if it is a literary, musical, dramatic, or choreographic work; a pantomime; or a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work. This right also applies to the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work.
  • Perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission if the work is a sound recording.

Copyright also provides the owner of copyright the right to authorize others to exercise these exclusive rights, subject to certain statutory limitations” (U.S. Copyright Office).

I am the author of four published picture books as well was professional books for educators and librarians. Two of my picture books are written in rhyme. I have heard adult readers butcher my work by reading it in a strict singsong cadence as one might recite “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Listening to my work presented in this way is personally painful.

In 2011, I published a VoiceThread partial reading of Sing Down the Rain for a Book2Cloud Challenge offered by David Loertscher. The reading includes the book’s artwork created by Michael Chiago; I purchased Michael’s paintings as well as the copyright to those illustrations. I have not recorded a reading of the poem in my picture book for the families of young children. I do not own the copyright to the illustrations in Read to Me/Vamos a leer.

Ethical Ways to Connect to Our Students and Families
I realize that many educators and librarians want to make personal connections with their students and families during these uncertain times. An educator’s recording of a read-aloud published behind password protection or on a publicly accessible platform would not be interactive without youth present. I don’t see the advantage of educators recording themselves when so many authors, illustrators, and publishers are stepping up within their copyright holder rights “to authorize others to exercise these exclusive rights, subject to certain statutory limitations” (U.S. Copyright Office).

Using technology tools, especially those that can be easily accessed on smartphones for students and families who lack computers and tablets, is a laudable goal. I believe there are many ways to keep those connections going AND to honor the exclusive rights given to copyright holders. Here are a few ideas.

The read-aloud resources on last week’s blog post are ethically shared resources that could be used to substitute for the educator’s read-aloud. (Many others have been made available since that post.)

  1. Educators can create an introductory homemade video that welcomes viewers.
  2. In their introductory videos, educators can also share public domain songs, fingerplays, movement activities, or make other connections to the author’s video recording as they would in a face-to-face storytime.
  3. They can invite listeners to use comprehension strategies such as “before you watch this video or listen to this podcast, what do you already know about…” Or “after you watched this video, think about… Do you want to phone someone (maybe a friend or relative) or write a letter to someone to tell them about this story and what it made you think of?”
  4. Educators can offer a public space (a blog, wiki, social media platform) for listeners to share their responses to the reading.
  5. Educators can record booktalks and create book trailers (while observing copyright), or use trailers provided by publishers/authors. They can link talks and trailers to the ebooks to which students have access. Later, they can repurpose these talks and trailers as ethical examples for students to view when creating their own talks and trailers from home or when back at school in the physical space of the classroom or library.
  6. Your ideas? Please post in the comment section below.

Honoring the Rights of Our Heroes
We librarians are fans of authors/illustrators. We stand in long lines at conferences to get books signed for our students (and for ourselves). We follow children’s and young adult literature creators on social media. We hold author/illustrator events in our libraries and promote, promote, promote the work of our author-illustrator heroes.

As noted in the SLJ article “Publishers Adapt Policies to Help Educators,” most publishers are asking that our personally made and published recordings of their copyrighted material be available behind password protection. (This is always an application of Fair Use; the password protection is like closing the door to your classroom or library.) Publishers such as Scholastic have given specific instructions to inform them of the publicly published work and have given a sunset time when educator-made videos must come down.

Considering the current copyright provisions and fair use guidelines, I believe that we must consider both perspectives, those of the creators and our own educator perspective, as we negotiate this challenging time. As librarians, I believe we must hold ourselves to a higher standard. If you don’t agree with the exclusive rights of copyright holders, work to change them. If you apply the temporary exemptions offered by publishers, follow their guidelines and pull down your videos when requested to do so.

I hope we can work together to come up with long-term solutions that allow us to connect with our library stakeholders electronically, provide them with remote literature-centered literacy services, and still honor the intellectual property rights of creators.

And let’s make sure that those solutions address the technology gap as well as the needs of youth with disabilities.

Wishing you all the best as you stay safe and healthy,
Judi

Work Cited

“Copyright Basics.” Copyright.gov. https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf

Image Credit

Clkr-Free-Vector-Images. “Copyright Media Warning Exclamation Point.” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/vectors/copyright-media-warning-exclamation-40846

Ethically Sharing Children’s and Young Adult Literature Online

The focus of this curated list of resources is to ethically share children’s and young adult literature online. I have been an online educator for twelve years. I am a staunch defender of creators’ rights to their work and hold the graduate students in the courses I teach to a high standard. It is a violation of copyright for individuals to record and distribute read-alouds of copyrighted works. As noted in last week’s post, librarians and educators will likely not be sued by the creator(s) or the publishers if they do so, but that’s not the point. The point is to model respect for the rights of the copyright holder.)Books Read Monitor Online ImageIn “normal” times, fair use does not cover public distribution on the open Internet. Fair use can only be applied when book reading recordings are available behind password protection. In that case, the password-protected space is considered a “classroom” or “library.” School Library Journal and Kate Messner recently posted various publishers’ guidelines applicable during the pandemic. (You will note that the majority stress password protection.)

Kate Messner posted “Publisher Guidelines for Fair Use for Online Read Alouds.”

School Library Journal posted “Publishers Adapt Policies to Help Educators.”

All of the links curated below provide ethical ways to share children’s and young adult literature online. Many of these resources were collected by Worlds of Words Board members who teach undergraduate-level and graduate-level children’s and young adult literature courses. (Thank you especially to Kathleen Crawford-McKinney for her annotated list.)

I have added some additional resources that have come across my screen in the past week. All of these resources are useful to students, classroom teachers, librarians, and families.

Access© – Read Aloud Canadian Books Program provides links to resources Canadian book publishers are making available during the pandemic. (Added 4/10/20)

American Family Stories offers short retellings of oral stories by storyteller Joe McHugh. You can subscribe to his 3- to 6-minute stories or simply drop in and listen. (Added from comments section 4/6/20)

Paige Bentley-Flannery, Community Librarian, Deschutes Public Library, created a webpage “Children Authors Read Aloud and Other Facetime Events.”

Children’s Book Council curated a list of publishers who have provided links to online learning resources. “From fiction to non-fiction, STEM books to graphic novels, book publishers have created a wealth of content to support educators, librarians, booksellers, parents, and caregivers,” these resources are freely accessible on the Internet. (Added from comments section 4/6/20)

Betsy Diamant-Cohen, creator and director of Mother Goose on the Loose (MGOL) early childhood resources, has given permission to freely share MGOL resources on the open Internet. (Added 4/6/20)

Digital Children’s Book Festival: After the Tucson Festival of Books was cancelled, Ellen Oh and Christina Soontornvat organized a virtual festival, which will be held on May 1-2, 2020.

EPIC Reading offers educator registration with student sign-ups. You can find books that are read aloud, or the text that you turn the pages when ready. Educators can set up collections of books and assign them; this gives students free access to digital books, including novels.

The International Children’s Digital Library offers children’s literature from around the world written in multiple languages.

Kid Lit TV offers a read-aloud corner with authors reading their own books. They also have a section called “Storymakers” with author interviews. For Children’s Book Week, they published a section called Creator Corner, where they have authors explaining their creative process.

Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems: Mo is doing a “doodle” hour every day from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. Eastern time weekdays. He will take questions on his work or look at your own doodle (available live for two more weeks). You can also access the archive of previously recorded shows. Great way to get to know this Author/Illustrator.

Make Way for Books offers an app with stories for preschool children in English and Spanish that adults or older children can read to younger ones.

Parents Magazine: U.S. children’s divisions of Penguin Random House, Penguin Young Readers and Random House Children’s Books, in partnership with Meredith/PARENTS, are launching READ TOGETHER, BE TOGETHER. It is a series of daily virtual story times with bestselling and award-winning authors and illustrators, and celebrity readers. (Added from comments section 4/6/20)

Rex Ogle: Aiden Tyler, Quaran-teen – A Webcast “Serial” with Author Rex Ogle sponsored by Junior Library Guild begins tomorrow, March 24. You must register.

School Library Journal:Kid Lit Authors Step Up to Help Educators, Students, and Parents.”

Kwame Alexander is sharing on his website.

Laurie Halse Anderson has set up a Twitter hashtag #QuarantRead book club where readers can ask her questions.

Jarrett J. Krosoczka is sharing on YouTube every weekday at 2:00 p.m.

Grace Lin is sharing on her YouTube channel.

Dav Pilkey is sharing drawing demonstrations and fun activities. (Added from comments section 4/6/20)

Simola Live
Beginning March 23, authors and illustrators are sharing their work online.

Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators has published a page with links to authors reading their own work.  (SCBWI is offering other types of online resources as well.)

Storyline Online publishes professionally produced children’s books read by actors.

While it is critical that school librarians provide children’s and young adult resources online for students, educator colleagues, and families, it is important we not lose sight of the ethical use of ideas and information. As noted in last week’s post, it is also critical that we keep our commitment to equitable access  foremost in our minds.

TeachingBooks.net has developed a “Book & Reading Engagement Kit: Home Edition portal with Student/Educator-Adult/Institution access. It includes a large collection of activities and resources and some read-alouds. (Added from comments section 4/6/20)

Image Credit

Geralt. “Books Read Monitor Online.” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/photos/books-read-monitor-online-3659791/

Inequitable Access During School Closures

“The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

Credited to William Gibson (circa 1990-92).

When so many K-12 students and educators are not participating in face-to-face learning in schools due to the CDC’s social distancing recommendations, it seems like an opportune time to, once again, reflect and wrestle with equity… or rather with inequity of opportunity… The technology gap that has plagued schools since the 1990s is tragically still alive and well. School districts are scrambling at this time to provide remote learning opportunities; at the same time, educators know that access to online learning will be inequitable.

Charge to Provide Equitable Digital Access
Digital equity for school librarians means that all of the students. educators, and families we serve have free access to digital resources and technology devices. Access is necessary if they are to reach their capacity for learning. Digital equity is also necessary for civic and cultural participation, employment, lifelong learning, and access to essential services.

One of the American Association of School Librarians’ common beliefs is “information technologies must be appropriately integrated and equitably available” (AASL 2018, 11.) Similarly, Future Ready Librarians® are building-level innovators who believe in “equitable learning opportunities for all students” (Future Ready Schools). And yet…

There are students who do not have access to computers or tablets in their homes. While cell phones may be adequate for consuming information or posting to social media, they are inadequate tools for writing and producing new knowledge. There are schools that lack enough devices to loan them out in order to ensure that every student has one to use. When public libraries are closed or overcrowded, students who use them will not have access.

Online Resources
School and public librarians, state libraries and advocacy groups have been using distribution lists and social media to share online resources that may be helpful to some students, families, and educators during closures. Here is a brief list of some of the ones I’ve seen (with a national rather than state-level focus).

Amazing Educational Resources, a crowd-sourced list created by people who’ve responded using a Google form.

Paige Bentley-Flannery, Community Librarian, Deschutes Public Library, created a webpage “Children Authors Read Aloud and Other Facetime Events.”

(As a side note, it is a violation of copyright for individuals to record and distribute read-alouds of copyrighted works. No, you will likely not be sued by the creator(s) or the publishers if you do so, but that’s not the point. The point is to model respect for the rights of the copyright holder.)

Every Library’s webpage with an alphabetical list of links to state libraries’ online resources.

Unplugged Ideas
According to a Twitter thread started by Jennifer LaGarde, some school librarians had the opportunity to encourage students to check out books from their libraries before schools were closed to reduce the spread of the virus. Others reported they had little or no warning or were already on spring break when their school closing was enacted. Some are hoping they will be allowed to open their libraries for a brief check-out window.

School librarians who are able to communicate with students’ and families’ smart phones via social media have the opportunity to suggest activities that do not require laptops or tablets. School librarian Ashely Cooksey posted some outstanding “unplugged” ideas for students and families.

(I suggested some additional activities under her post to the Maximizing School Librarians Facebook Group.)

After the Crisis
Access to paper print reading materials during this crisis should be guaranteed, and we have learned it is not. The barriers to accessing digital information may be even more pronounced during school closures.

As we assess our service during this crisis, I believe it is critical for school librarians to stand up, give testimony, and advocate for equitable access for all K-12 students to paper print and electric information and devices not only during school hours during the regular school year… but 24/7 year-round.

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians. 2018. National Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. Chicago: ALA. https://standards.aasl.org/

Future Ready Schools. 2018/2020. “Future Ready Librarians.” FutureReady.org. https://futureready.org/thenetwork/strands/future-ready-librarians/

Image Credit

Wokandapix. “Equity Fairness Equitable Letters.” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/photos/equity-fairness-equitable-letters-2355700/

Are Memoirs Informational Books?

Over the past year, I have read more young adult memoirs than in previous years. Part of the reason is that I was preparing for and am teaching a course on informational books. Now I’m wondering if more and more memoirs are being published… or is it simply that my awareness of this genre has grown? The collage shows some of the memoirs I have read in the last year.

Last month, I posted “2020 Sibert Awards and the Edwards Award.” As I noted among the 2020 Sibert award and honor winners, there were two memoirs—one in verse, one a poetry collection. Since that posting, I have had several conversations and many thoughts about memoir as a genre within nonfiction and “informational” books. This post summarizes my thinking.

And I welcome your perspectives related to memoir, especially about including it as a genre within informational books.

Nonfiction: A Definition
This is the definition of nonfiction we are using in IS445: Information Books and Resources for Youth, the course I’m facilitating this semester for graduate students in the iSchool at the University of Illinois: “Nonfiction is that body of work in which the author purports to tell us about the real world, a real experience, a real person, an idea, or a belief” (Beers and Probst 2016, 21). I have bolded the word “purports” to remind us that librarians must apply critical evaluation criteria when reviewing, selecting, and using all types of books and resources, including nonfiction and informational texts.

One could ask if nonfiction and “informational” books and resources are one and the same… The Sibert Awards are for informational books. This is the definition Sibert Committee members are using: “Informational books are defined as those written and illustrated to present, organize, and interpret documentable, factual material.”  As evidenced by the 2020 (and prior years’) awards, the Sibert committees consider memoirs “informational.”

Is the information contained in memoirs documentable, factual material? Is the keyword in the Siebert Award definition “interpret”?

Memoir and Autobiography
In our course, informational books and resources include expository texts, narrative nonfiction, biography, autobiography, and… memoir. The question about whether or not memoir is nonfiction has caused me to wonder about autobiography. While memoirs present a snapshot of the author’s life, true autobiographies provide a (more) complete picture of the author’s life. Both are written in the first person; both genres purport to tell “the truth.”

That said, one can imagine that an individual’s “truth” may be more or less “documentable.” Dates, places, and events for today’s memoir and autobiography authors are easy to access and verify. What is likely not easy to document are the accompanying emotions that the authors of these texts felt during their life experiences. I suspect that in the cases of both memoir and autobiography, the “facts” that live in the authors’ memories are shaped by feelings as well as “objective” truths. Does that fact qualify as “interpretation”?

Evaluating Memoir and Autobiography
When we evaluate memoir and autobiography, we necessarily rely on the voice of the author to ascertain authenticity and accuracy. Last week, our class conducted a real-time Twitter chat regarding selection, censorship, and evaluation. This is one of my tweets from that discussion related to how I evaluated Laurie Halse Anderson’s book Shout: The True Story of a Survivor Who Refused to be Silenced. The tweet includes a link to an interview with the author.

Young adult literature advocate, former high school librarian, and book talker Naomi Bates (@yabooksandmore) recently published her review of Almost American Girl: An Illustrated Memoir by Robin Ha. While listening to Naomi’s book talk, I was moved by the authenticity and accuracy Naomi experienced while reading Ha’s book. Naomi made personal cultural connections to Ha’s experiences. This review increased my assessment that Almost American Girl is culturally authentic and accurate and well worth our consideration for inclusion in our libraries. I have requested it from my public library and will read it hearing both Ha’s and Bates’s voices as I do.

Memoir and autobiography are special cases in terms of documentable facts… and yet, from my way of thinking, they are informational books. I wholeheartedly agree with Kylene Beers and Robert Probst: “Nonfiction should not suggest nonfeeling. Nonfiction offers us the chance to learn not only about the world and the people in it, but about ourselves” (2017, 49). And to my way of thinking, memoir may provide one of the most compelling genres for building empathy and inspiring readers to take action to cocreate a more just, compassionate world.

What do you think?

Works Cited

Beers, Kylene, and Robert E. Probst. 2016. Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Beers, Kylene, and Robert E. Probst. 2017. Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters. New York: Scholastic.

The School Librarian’s Role in Reading

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) publishes position statements that respond to the information and advocacy needs of practitioners in the field. These position statements are used in preservice education and conference presentations as well. Statements are also used as communication tools to increase library stakeholders’ understanding of the work of school librarians and to enlist advocates who will speak up for librarians’ vital roles in educating today’s students.

In February, AASL published The School Librarian’s Role in Reading Position Statement. I served as the chair of the task force that drafted this document for the AASL Board’s approval. The position statement was the result of six months of steady work by a team of five. Our charge was to review the previous position statements that involved reading and develop one or more updated statements.

“The task force considered the language from the AASL National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries (2018) in developing a comprehensive position statement that supports school librarians in achieving a fully collaborative and integrated school library philosophy in which they serve as literacy leaders on their school campuses” (AASL 2020).

Aligning with the AASL National Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries (2018)
The American Association of School Librarians supports the position that “reading is the core of personal and academic competency” (AASL 2018, 11). This core belief guided the work of the task force. The 2018 standards are organized around six shared foundations (or “core values” of school librarianship): inquire, include, collaborate, curate, explore, and engage. The task force determined that framing the new position statement around these foundations was a way to reflect on our role in reading as well as organize the document.

The AASL office also provided us with a keyword search of the standards book. The task force identified keywords from the previous position statements. We reviewed the instances of these keywords in the standards in order to reflect them in this document.

Then… we negotiated.

AASL Committee and Task Force (Virtual) Work
Collaborate is one of the shared foundations in the new standards. We learn a great deal when we collaborate with librarian colleagues. Each member of our task force was/is passionate and informed on the topic of reading. Each of us had real-world experience related to the school librarian’s role in reading and young people’s literacy development. We represented all three instructional levels (elementary, middle, and high). Three of us had post-graduate learning and teaching in the area of children’s and young adult literature and/or teaching reading. We each brought our prior knowledge, research, and experiences to the task.

We used Google docs for our written communication and kept all of our drafts in a Google folder. We had monthly Zoom meetings, provided through AASL’s account and facilitated by our AASL staff liaison.

Collaboration
When students and educators collaborate, we learn to listen more closely. While listening is essential for effective communication, it also shows respect for our peers, our colleagues. When we collaborate, we learn to more clearly articulate our perspectives and share from our hearts as well as our heads. As we crafted the statement, there were beliefs, priorities, and practices on which we did not all initially agree. With patience, persistence, and commitment to the task, we reached consensus on the content of the final document.

School librarians have long cited challenges in collaborative work with classroom teachers and specialists. We know that many of us entered teaching and school librarianship for the autonomy we expect in our work. However, if (school) librarians are to lead, they must build effective partnerships with colleagues.

When we engage in professional collaboration with colleagues, we practice the skills we need to apply at the (school) site and district or system levels, and state and national levels as well.

I hope you will volunteer to serve on a committee or task force in your professional network and grow your collaboration skills. There is much to learn and much to be gained.

Working together—we will have a greater impact on the literacy learning of our patrons.

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians. 2018. National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. Chicago: ALA.

American Association of School Librarians. 2020. Position Statement on the School Librarian’s Role in Reading. Chicago: ALA. www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/advocacy/statements/docs/AASL_Position_Statement_RoleinReading_2020-01-25.pdf

Image credit
Johnhain. “Handshake Regard Cooperatie.” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/illustrations/handshake-regard-cooperate-connect-2009183/

Censorship versus Selection and Alternatives to American Dirt

If a book includes stereotypes, misrepresentations, and misinformation, the decision to not purchase it is selection. That decision is NOT censorship, self- or otherwise.

There has long been confusion and tension in librarianship over the distinction between censorship and selection. School librarians, according the 2016 Controversial Books Survey conducted by School Library Journal, are prone to self-censorship. Of the 573 U.S.–based school librarians who participated “9 out of 10 elementary and middle school librarians have not bought a book recently because of the potential for controversy.” If you haven’t already, please make time to read the SLJ survey data provided in three areas: weighing subject matter, age appropriateness, and general comments.

Although, to my knowledge, there is no similar survey of public library youth librarians, I would argue there are reasons this practice may be more prevalent in K-12 schools. Public libraries often have central purchasing. Youth librarians may recommend books but they are not directly “responsible” for the books on their library shelves. Their selection and censorship issues likely come at the point of selecting library resources to spotlight in displays and programming.

When there is a book challenge in a K-12 school, if librarians are lucky, the challenge will be made directly to them. Of course, a reconsideration policy must be in place. The librarian will explain the process to the patron, provide the forms, and follow up. Sometimes school library patrons, most often parents, go directly to higher-ups, including principals, school board members, and superintendents. In these cases, it is often the librarian’s role to explain the process to their supervisors and then facilitate the proper review of a complaint. In public libraries, even if the complaint goes directly to the youth librarian, challenges are most often handled by branch managers, the collection development department, or library administrators,

Budgets and Core Values
It is important to remember that the vast majority of school librarians do not have budgets that allow them to purchase every children’s or YA book published in any given year—not even close. There are far too many examples of school libraries with small budgets that will not allow them to purchase even one new title every year for every child they serve. (Consecutive years with zero budgets are not unheard of.) Most school librarians, therefore, must make careful selections in order to use their funds wisely to support the school’s curriculum and meet the independent reading needs of students.

That said, the prevalence of (self-)censorship in K-12 school libraries should be of concern to the profession since this practice flies in the face of our core values: intellectual freedom and the right to read (see ALA’s Access to Resources and Services in the School Library: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights.)

Censorship versus Selection
“Censorship is the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons — individuals, groups, or government officials — find objectionable or dangerous” (ALA 2017). The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the rights of individuals to speak, publish, read and view what they wish. Young people’s access to “objectionable” materials has long been contentious. School library resources are at the center of these controversies; some of which are ultimately settled in the courts (see my review of Reading Dangerously published by ALA’s Freedom to Read Foundation).

The difference between censorship and selection lies in the reasons behind a decision to purchase or not purchase a book or other resource. Most school librarians do not have access to advance review copies; they rely on book reviews. According to the SLJ survey, librarians read multiple reviews (as most often required by their selection policies) and use the age range and Lexile information as guidelines. Age “appropriateness” and connection to curriculum and community needs come into play.

In the case of “controversial” titles, the author’s treatment of sex and violence and word choice are often cited as reasons to tread carefully. Stereotypes are also mentioned. Some school librarians check out a controversial book from their public library and read it before purchasing. However, due to time constraints, it is likely that most decisions regarding whether or not to purchase these titles are based on book reviews, social media posts, and recommendations from colleagues.

Reliance on Book Reviews
Accuracy and authenticity come into play as well. Book reviewers’ cultural competence, their willingness to conduct research, their personal backgrounds and experiences, and more affect the quality of their reviews and their ability to determine accuracy and authenticity, in particular when reviewing books that are outside their cultural backgrounds. “Book reviewers are charged with documenting the merits as well as the flaws, if there are any, in the books they review. Reviewers who do not feel qualified to review particular books can seek further information from cultural insiders, the book review source, publisher, author or illustrator, or return the book unreviewed as appropriate” (Moreillon 2019, 7).

Choosing not to purchase or promote a book simply because it is controversial is (self-) censorship. However, if a book includes misinformation, stereotypes, and misrepresentations, the decision to not purchase or promote it is selection.

Reading American Dirt
I live in Tucson, Arizona, sixty miles from the U.S.-Mexican border. I have crossed the border at Nogales and Tijuana. I have traveled to Mexican resort towns on the Baja and western coast of the country and have visited cultural sites on the Yucatán Peninsula. I have some knowledge of Mexican culture and history, but I am assuredly a cultural outsider.

I borrowed American Dirt from the public library and read it as a personal challenge. I heard about the controversy in an NPR interview with author Luis Alberto Urrea and American Dirt author Jeanine Cummins. I had read a few blog posts and reviews—pro and con. I wanted to determine whether or not I could identify the stereotypes and misrepresentations in this book. I wondered if I, as a cultural outsider, could confidently review this book if it were under consideration for purchase for a high school library.

This is what I learned: I don’t have sufficient cultural knowledge to determine the accuracy and authenticity of American Dirt. I did not “see” all of the cultural stereotypes that insiders have recognized in the book. I did not make time to research aspects of the book that others have questioned. I did not catch all of the situations that echoed scenes found in previously published fiction and nonfiction books centered on the border and immigration.

As a reader, I didn’t find American Dirt well written. There were inconsistencies that appeared within paragraphs of each other (see pp. 266-267 regarding Beto’s life on el dompe in Tijuana.) There were long sentences and paragraphs in which the omniscient narrator’s voice seemed confused. The sprinkling of Spanish words and phrases didn’t authenticate the text for me.

As one reviewer noted, “Once one cuts through the noise and actually reads the book, what becomes clear is that the problem isn’t that Cummins wrote a story that wasn’t hers to tell, but that she told it poorly – in all the classic ways a story is badly told. Two-dimensional characters, tortured sentences, an attempt to cover the saga of a migrant without even addressing the wider context of migration or inequality” (Malik 2020).

That said, I have to admit that I was drawn into the story in terms of the will, determination, perseverance, humanity, and courage of Lydia, Luca, and their fellow migrants. I strongly disagree with one reviewer’s criticism that Lydia, a privileged woman, should NOT be surprised by the hardships and inhumane conditions of the poor, immigrants, and asylum seekers depicted in the story. I believe all of us who are privileged would lack this understanding. We may read, hear, and see images in the media about the struggles of those who are less privileged, but until we actually live in the conditions of their lives, we cannot know them.

Alternatives to American Dirt

Collage of Luis Alberto Urrea’s “Border” Books: Across the Wire: Life and Hard Times on the Mexican Border (Anchor, 1993), By the Lake of Sleeping Children: The Secret Life of the Mexican Border (Anchor, 1996), The Devil’s Highway: A True Story (Little Brown, 2004), Into the Beautiful North: A Novel (Little Brown, 2009),

 

I would not select American Dirt for a high school library based on the poor writing, inaccuracies, stereotypes, and a lack of authenticity, as pointed out by “insider” readers. “Authors and illustrators who create literature from outside their own culture must be vigilant as they write and illustrate books for children and teens (and adults, too, for that matter). In addition to research, consulting with cultural experts is a more effective way to ensure that their texts are culturally authentic, accurate, and free of stereotypes” (Moreillon 2019, 7).

I have not read that Jeanine Cummins shared her manuscript with one or more cultural insiders before submitting it to her editor, who is also a cultural outsider. It appears likely that her editor did not share the manuscript with anyone who could have helped Ms. Cummins improve her writing and make corrections in her representation of Mexican culture.

In her author’s note, Ms. Cummins wrote, “I wished someone slightly browner than me would write it” (382). As this author clearly knows, there are others much “browner” than she who have written novels and nonfiction about the border and immigration. (Ms. Cummins’ grandmother migrated from Puerto Rico to the U.S. in the 1940s.) Others have told this story, including Luis Alberto Urrea. In the NPR interview, Ms. Cummins talked about the impact Urrea’s work has had on her.

The collage above shows four of Urrea’s titles that I would select for high school students rather than American Dirt. Three books are nonfiction; one is a novel. And I would further explore the writing of other Latinx writers who accurately and authentically portray present-day Mexican culture, including the “Real Dirt – Works by Latinx Authors” List recommended by Pima County Public Library.

I share this reviewer’s perspective. “If English-speaking readers assume that this novel (American Dirt) accurately depicts the realities of Mexico and migration, it will only further the cause of disinformation and prejudice. And in this day and age, we can’t afford any more of that” (Schmidt 2020).

Works Cited

American Library Association. 2017. “First Amendment and Censorship.” ALA.org. http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/censorship

Malik, Nesrine. 2020. “American Dirt’s Problem is Bad Writing, Not Cultural Appropriation.” The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/feb/03/american-dirt-problem-bad-writing-cultural-appropriation-mexico

Moreillon, Judi. (2019). “Does Cultural Competence Matter? Book Reviewers as Mediators of Children’s Literature.” Children and Libraries 17 (1): 3-8.

Schmidt, David J. 2020. “A Poor Imitation: American Dirt and Misrepresentations of Mexico.” The Blue Nib Literary Magazine. https://thebluenib.com/a-poor-imitation-american-dirt-and-misrepresentations-of-mexico

School Library Journal. 2016. “Self-Censorship.” SLJ.com. https://www.slj.com/?page=features-self-censorship

District-Level School Librarian Advocacy

This month I contributed an article focused on our effort to restore school librarian positions in Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) to School Library Connection (SLC). If you are an SLC subscriber, you can find “We Need You! Forming Effective Advocacy Coalitions” in the “Political Literacy 101” section of the site. (The article will be publicly available until the next SLC issue is published.) If you are not a subscriber, you can always access and read other articles on the “Community” page, which is the splash page for the magazine, and consider subscribing. (I hope you will.)

Too often school librarians find themselves alone in speaking up for their work. Creating the context and conditions for library stakeholders to speak for our essential role in today’s education is a top priority for school librarian leaders. (See Chapter 8: Leadership and Advocacy in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership).

When we collaborate with classroom teachers and support the initiatives of our principals, they can (and will!) become some of our staunchest allies. When families are aware of how we are contributing to their children’s literacy learning, they, too, will join the ranks of our advocates. When central office administrators, school board members, and community members speak up for our work, we have the advocates we need to realize our goals for school library programs.

The Context: Arizona
A series of poor decisions made by the Arizona Legislature for more than a decade have denied district public schools of the necessary funding to meet the needs of K-12 students and families. School districts lacking local bond and budget override support have been in the position of making difficult decisions in terms of allocating meager resources for staffing, infrastructure maintenance and improvements, learning materials, including library resources and technology tools, and more.

In addition, the continual expansion of publicly funded charter schools has siphoned off monies that would have gone to district public schools in the past. To add insult to injury (and labeled “choice”), open enrollment has allowed parents the option of leaving their neighborhood schools to attend schools in more affluent districts. The lack of funding and support for district public schools that accept all students within their boundaries and open enrollment students, too, is dire.

The Context: Tucson Unified School District
TUSD is a high-needs, urban school district. Seventy-two percent of TUSD students are from federally identified minority families. Seventy percent receive free or reduced lunch and many are eating three meals a day at school sites across the district; most schools have clothing closets. The Educational Enrichment Foundation, which was created to provide academic support for TUSD students and educators, has responded by meeting the physical needs of students with personal hygiene products and struggles to achieve its original academic mission.

I served as an elementary school librarian in TUSD from 1992-2001 and in a high school until 2003. That year, our district-level library supervisor’s position was eliminated, and my high school second librarian position was cut to half time. (About twenty other site-level librarian positions were reduced that year.)

At the time of these cuts, there were 96 state-certified school librarians serving 59,250 students, a ratio of 1 librarian to 617 students. Today, there are 13 state-certified school librarians serving (about) 44,000 students, a ratio of 1:3,385.

It is clear TUSD students, educators, and families suffer from a lack of equitable access to the literacy opportunities of a well-resourced school library led by an effective state-certified school librarian.

Central Administration Advocates
Like many urban school districts, TUSD superintendents have not remained in their positions for sufficient time to make structural improvements in the district. Since I left the district, I have been unable to connect with a superintendent who was open to considering rehiring librarians and supporting library services as a high priority in a cash-strapped district.

That was the case until 2017 when Superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo was hired. Dr. Trujillo came to TUSD having had the experience of full-time, state-certified school librarians in the Phoenix Union High School District. I met with him in the summer of 2018 to convince him it was long past time to restore TUSD school librarian positions and revitalize its libraries.

Dr. Trujillo did not need convincing. Instead, I learned that he was seeking advocates to work with him to convince the school board of the necessity of effective school librarians and library programs to students’ success. “We found common ground in focusing this effort on the district’s Middle School Improvement Plans in the area of reading. (While there was no need to conduct market research to begin our project, it was critical that we established shared goals on which to build this effort)” (Moreillon 2020).

TUSD School Librarian Restoration Project and Community Advocates
I reached out into the community to form a small but mighty advocacy group. Beginning in the fall of 2018 to the present, we met with and continue to communicate with school board members; we speak at governing board meetings during the calls to the audience. Based on a recommendation from a school board member, we connected with the TUSD School Community Partnership Council. We made presentations at the Arizona Library Association conference.

Most recently, we worked with the human resources (HR) department to revise the school librarian’s job description. Five middle school positions will be advertised this spring (2020), and our advocacy group will support HR in attracting the most qualified candidates. We have offered to meet with principals of these and other schools that are considering restoring their school librarian positions.

We are encouraged by our supporters and the progress we have made. We have been surprised by some literacy organizations that informed us they do not “do advocacy.”

We believe as past ALA President Jim Neal wrote that “libraries constitute an ecology of educational, research, and community services. In this environment of inter­dependency, we, as a family of libraries, must embrace advocacy for school libraries as foundational to the success of our collective work for students who love to read, as we prepare them for college, career, and life” (Neal 2018). And so, we carry on this work.

This Visme infographic summarizes our communication strategy and is fleshed out in the SLC article. If you are in a similar situation in terms of eliminated school librarian positions, we hope you will use what we have learned to take up the call, identify advocates through points of shared purpose, and work together to restore state-certified school librarian positions in your communities.

Works Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2020. “We Need You! Forming Effective Advocacy Coalitions.” School Library Connection (February).

Neal, Jim. 2018. “Fight for School Libraries: Student Success Depends on Them.” American Libraries Magazine (March 1). https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2018/03/01/fight-for-school-libraries/