National Library Legislative Day and More

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

Empowered Citizenship

From my reading of the news, activism among young people is on the rise. The tragedy of school shootings has activated young people, educators, families, and citizens in powerful ways. School librarians and other educators can apply what we have learned from our own advocacy efforts and activist experiences to help youth exercise empowered citizenship.

Last fall, I read You’re More Powerful than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen by Eric Liu. The author is the founder and CEO of Citizens University, an organization based in Seattle, Washington that promotes effective citizenship. Liu says he wrote this book for underdogs and challengers. “It’s for people who want to be change agents, not defenders of the status-quo” (Liu 2017, 11).

It takes courage to act on what you believe in, especially when there are powerful institutions and traditional structures in place that your beliefs will disrupt. The ideas in this book are important for anyone—younger or older—who is working to make positive change happen in society.

These are a few of my takeaways from this book and some ways that school librarians across the country are advocating for school libraries staffed by professional librarians and effective school library programs that can serve the needs of empowered students, educators, and families.

“Movements that truly change a society will cohere only when intuitive and uncoordinated activity becomes intentional and well-coordinated” (Liu 2017, 113). The call to intentional, well-coordinated action is a foundation of any successful change process. This can be said of effective instructional planning and professional learning as well as of social movements and advocacy efforts.

In his book, Eric Liu notes three opportunities for people to demonstrate they are more powerful than they (or others) think they are. Reading more about these three strategies is well worth the time.

1. Power creates monopolies, and is winner-take-all. You must change the game.
2. Power creates a story of why it’s legitimate. You much change the story.
3. Power is assumed to be finite and zero-sum. You must change the equation (71).

One way the Lilead Fellows have been thinking about their school library services action plans and advocacy activities is by crafting 27-9-3 messages (27 words, spoken in 9 seconds, with three points – see 01/01/18 blog post). John Chrastka from EveryLibrary.org and collaboration among the Fellows have been instrumental in honing messages to make them more effective for their intended audience(s). These messages are about changing the “game” and the “story.” They are about building relationships in order to share power for the benefit of students.

“To be sure, the citizen’s view of power is not selfless. It is often quite selfish. But whereas self-help and self-advancement focus on the individual, often in isolation, citizen power is about identity and action in the collective: how we make change happen together” (Liu 2017, 11).

These are two examples of how school librarians are working to maintain and improve effective school library services.

News from Washington State – Contributed by Dr. Christie Kaaland, Core Faculty, Antioch University
In response to a teacher shortage, the state’s educational standards board made a rapid unilateral decision to eliminate all coursework requirements to becoming a teacher librarian (along with 25 other content areas) in Washington state. Teacher librarian advocates rose to the cause and aggressively contacted standards board members.  The board was flooded with emails, phone calls, and on-site testimonials resulting in an overturn of this reduced standards’ decision by the board.  This advocacy work happened swiftly, professionally, and timely and resulted in retaining the coursework requirements for all of the 26 content-area certification standards.

News from Michigan – Contributed by Kathy Lester, School Librarian/Technology Integrationist and MAME Past President
On February 8, 2018, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) published a memo that was sent out to all school districts. In essence, it said that if the person in the school library is doing x, y, z (a list of things from the Michigan certification preparation standards based on certification laws), districts need to have a certified school librarian in place or the district may be financially penalized by losing a small portion of their per pupil funding.

MDE’s intention was to work with districts to grow staff (by earning certification) and provide temporary permits.  However, because only 8% of Michigan schools have full-time certified librarians (and 18% have part-time certified librarians), there was a huge push back from superintendents (and legislators) especially from rural districts in Michigan’s upper peninsula.

As a result, MDE re-wrote the guidance without the Michigan Association of Media Educators’ (MAME) knowledge. Unfortunately, it basically says “anything goes” in school libraries including having paraprofessionals run the library. This “clarification” went out on February 15th.

MAME feels the sting of this setback in an advocacy effort they have been working on since 2013. Still, they are not giving up. They are reorganizing their efforts and rethinking their next moves. As Kathy notes, advocates must keep the five Ps in mind: – present, polite, prepared, positive and persistent.

School librarians can be leaders in modeling effective citizenship and collective action. We can be transparent in our activities and show students, our classroom teacher colleagues, and administrators that it takes organization and persistence. We must also show that the road to change will have its ups and downs but setbacks cannot stop us if we collaborate with a cadre of committed activists and remain true to our moral compass.

Our numbers and our ideals can be sources of power as we seek to ensure empowered learning and teaching through school libraries.

Side note: We can start with being active in our national association and vote! Ballots are available and voting starts today through April 4th. Please consider #Judi4AASL

Work Cited
Liu, Eric. 2017. You’re More Powerful than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change. New York: Public Affairs.

Image Credit: Remixed by Judi Moreillon from Thurston, Baratunde. 2008. “I Am A Community Organizer.” Flickr.com. https://www.flickr.com/photos/baratunde/2837373493

 

 

Grit, Complacency, and Passion

Last summer, I published a series of professional book reviews. The titles were some of the books I read as I prepared my forthcoming book. At that time, my LM_NET colleague and friend Barb Langridge, who blogs at A Book and a Hug and recommends children’s books as a regular guest on WBALTV Channel 11 in Baltimore, sent me an email asking if I had read Tyler Cowen’s book The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream. I had not but said I would do so. Cowen’s book made be think. It also invited me to reflect on two previous books I read. (So, finally, this post is for you, Barb.)

In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth makes a compelling case for people to follow their passion and learn perseverance. (I referenced her work in my 2018 New Year’s Resolution post.) She defines “grit” as self-discipline wedded to dedicated pursuit of a goal. In her study, Dr. Duckworth learned that highly successful people “were unusually resilient and hardworking” and they had determination and direction (Duckworth 2016, 8). If you haven’t yet take her online test, you can access her “grit scale” on her Web site.

One of her findings that was particularly meaningful to me is this. “Grittier people are dramatically more motivated than others to seek a meaningful, other-centered life. Higher scores on purpose correlate with higher scores on the Grit Scale” (Duckworth 2016, 147). People, such as school librarians, who have a moral purpose to serve others can be some of the grittiest people in terms of persevering to follow their passion. For me, this portends success for our profession.

School librarianship is complex. The exemplary practice of effective school librarians requires a wide range of knowledge, skills, behaviors, and dispositions, such those in this word cloud:

Duckworth elaborated on the Finnish concept of “sisu spirit.” Having this disposition means you understand your setbacks are temporary learning opportunities. You will tackle your challenges again no matter what. Setbacks won’t hold you back. “Grit is who you are!” (Duckworth 2016, 252). Just as the Finns do, Duckworth says we must model for and teach young people how to approach life with a “sisu spirit.”

Tyler Cowen in The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream presents readers with a U.S. culture very much in need of “sisu spirit.” Cowen’s thesis is that Americans have lost “the ability to imagine an entirely different world and physical setting altogether, and the broader opportunities for social and economic advancement that would entail” (Cowen 2017, 7). He writes that the main elements of our society are driving us toward a more static, less risk-taking America.

In terms of our young people, Cowen notes (most?) schools occupy them with safest possible activities, most of all homework. We also classify students more thoroughly through more and more testing (Cowen 2017, 19). Low-level, low-risk “activities” in K-12 schools result in students who are averse to risk-taking and unable to problem solve. They will lack the social emotional learning necessary for an entrepreneurial spirit, for a “sisu spirit.”

I believe that Duckworth’s “grit” is the answer to Cowen’s complacency prediction. Inquiry learning (see 2/22/18 post) and activism are also pieces of the puzzle.

Serving as a school librarian is not for the faint of heart. For many school librarians, their work involves bumping up against a system that may not be serving students, educators, and families well. It means influencing others through leadership—an effort that takes passion, purpose, risk-taking, and perseverance. We must have the necessary dispositions to succeed, and we must model these and co-create with classroom teachers opportunities for students to practice them.

As a current example, Carolyn Foote, district librarian for Eanes (Texas) Independent School District and Lilead Fellow, created a Resources for Planning a Peaceful March Padlet to support youth and educators who are organizing protests related to gun violence. She invited Future Ready Librarians to add resources and share this information in their learning communities.

The fact that young people across the U.S. are speaking up and out is sending a strong message to our representatives in Congress. These young people are displaying grit and passion. They are anything but complacent. It is our responsibility as educators and elders to support them and join with them in raising our voices and creating positive change.

As Randy Kosimar writes: “Following your passion is not the same as following your bliss. While passion is a font of expressive, creative energy, it won’t necessarily deliver pleasure and contentment at every moment. Success, even on your own terms, entails sacrifice and periods of very hard work” (2000, xiv).

Let’s get to work!

Works Cited

Cowen, Tyler. 2017. The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest for the American Dream. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Duckworth, Angela. 2016. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. New York: Scribner.

Kosimar, Randy. 2000. The Monk and the Riddle: The Art of Crafting a Life While Making a Living. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Image Credits: Collage created at Befunky.com, Word Cloud created at Wordle.net