#lafcon Learning

Image: Books with a sign: "So many books, so little time."

And so many sessions, so little time!

Last week, I participated in the Library Advocacy and Funding Conference.  I appreciated that the conference organizers made it so easy for people to participate. All of the sessions were pre-recorded and those of us with other obligations on these days could dip and out of the presentations that met our perceived needs. (I also appreciate the access was extended through to the end of the week. Thank you, @EveryLibrary and #lafcon sponsors.)

When I wrote a conference preview last week, I thought I would write about all of the sessions I attended. However, such a post would be too long for this blog space and I did post thank-you tweets for most of the session I attended (see @CactusWoman and #lafcon).

Instead, I want to share my take-aways from two phenomenal sessions: “Small Doors and Broken Windows” presented by Alvin Irby and an interview with Elizabeth A. Davis, president of the Washington (D.C.) Teachers Union. Each of these speakers had so much to share with school librarians, in particular; the following are just the highlights.

Alvin Irby, Small Windows and Broken Mirrors
Alvin Irby, former classroom teacher and part-time stand-up comedian, is the founder of Barbershop Books, a non-profit which he calls an “identity-based” reading program. Barbershop Books puts books selected by Black boys in child-friendly, male-spaces (barbershops) with the goal of all boys seeing themselves as readers.

Mr. Irby puts this work in a context. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 85% of Black male fourth-graders are not proficient in reading. Fewer than 2% of U.S. teachers are Black and a majority of Black boys are being raised by single mothers. Barbershop Books creates the possibility for access to books and Black role models that can help boys identify as readers.

And many of the books these boys choose for the program make them laugh! Mr. Irby cites information from the Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report. Parents (and likely educators, too) want kids to read books that inspire them to do something good—books with good stories that make kids think and feel. And what do kids want? They want books that will make them laugh—good stories that are humorous.

In that vein, Alvin Irby delivered a critique of the books librarians honor with awards and the lists we curate for young readers. Where are the funny or gross books? You won’t see Captain Underpants or Walter the Farting Dog on these lists, but these are the kinds of books kids who are beginning to identify as readers want and need. (This may be a stinging critique for one of our sacred cows, but I think it is one to seriously consider as we rise to the challenges posed by illiteracy and aliteracy.)

There was so much in Alvin Irby’s session that was memorable and quote worthy for me. Here are two quotes:

“Cultural competency at its core is about humility. It’s about educators/librarians being humble enough to recognize that they (we) don’t know enough to recognize that they (we) don’t know everything that they (we) need to know to make that (reading) experience as relevant and engaging as it could be and that by actually taking time and making space to gain a better understanding of who the audience is and about what’s important to them…”

“If you look at a book list for any child and there are no laugh out loud books on it then I don’t even know what to say other than that book list is not allowing children to see their whole self.”

At the very end of his presentation, Mr. Irby gave librarians a critical key to success. Guest readers will read books differently. If, for example, we want to impact the reading experiences of 4th-grade Black boys, then we should invite Black readers into our libraries to share.

During the pandemic, many authors have given us the gift of reading their own books online (or giving recognizable celebrities permission to read their books). These recordings can be our guest readers. Let’s look for the ones read by Black men if we want to create relevant and engaging reading experiences for Black boys. (And the same practice will be true for any other group of library patrons.)

Whether or not you saw his #lafcon session, I highly recommend Alvin Irby’s 8-minute TED Talk: “How to Inspire Every Child to Be a Lifelong Reader.”

Elizabeth A. Davis, President of Washington Teachers Union (WTU), Washington, D.C.: Interview with John Chrastka, Executive Director, EveryLibrary.org
Ms. Davis: “Education is a civil right.” When she ran for WTU president, Ms. Davis’s platform was to transform WTU into a social justice union that would come to the table with solutions, not just problems, would amply the voices of teachers, and build respect.

She had been an activist educator who taught students how to write letters to decision-makers. In the interview, Ms. Davis tells an inspiring story of a 6th-grade student in her class in 2005 who wrote a letter to the principal asking why the library was closed. He responded that there was no librarian but he allowed the student access to the library during lunch. The girl discovered that the same books that were on the shelve in 1953, when the school was all White, were still on the shelves for her and her all Black and Brown schoolmates. After writing another letter, Representative Elijah Cummings invited the student to the Capitol to present her findings at the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.

When schools were on the verge of closing in spring 2020, Ms. Davis asked all teachers to survey their students regarding their tech access. They found 38% did not have computers, and all of them had TVs. Using these data and a commitment to equity, Washington, D.C. schools delivered instruction via TV during spring 2020. Brilliant!

John Chrastka: “Politics is people or money.”

Fully resourced, fully staffed school libraries are a funding issue. WTU sponsors an Annual Fund Our Schools, Fund Our Futures budget campaign to activate parents to speak before the city council in support of school funding. This kind of parent activism could transform how budget decisions are made in every district across the country.

As Ms. Davis noted, leaders must listen to all education stakeholders to learn what matters to them. Ms. Davis found that in Washington D.C. “equity is the thread that connects the dots among school stakeholders.” She also noted that “if logic doesn’t work, shame does!”

I agree with Ms. Davis that educators (especially school librarians) have to realize our power. Through the students we serve in our schools, we are connected to parents, relatives, and caregivers who are voters. Educators must activate voters to change things that aren’t working. We must adopt strategies to change our daily working environments for our own and our students’ and colleagues’ benefit.

Ms. Davis’s advice to school librarians: Look at the power of the services you are providing and where those services are falling short in your school. Then, focus on how your contributions are lifting that up for students and classroom teachers.

This is the second time I’ve heard Elizabeth Davis speak about her leadership and organizing efforts. She is a wonder and her personal stories as a student and an educator are powerful. I wish there was an organization specifically for teachers’ union presidents. If there is/were one, she should be speaking at their conferences and leading their charge.

The D.C. school librarians are doing outstanding work, and it helps their cause beyond measure that they have an advocate like Ms. Davis who will stand up for them and with them and speak truth to power. She is a brilliant impassioned leader. Thank you, @EveryLibrary, for spotlighting her voice and work.

#lafcon 2020
As a no longer practicing librarian, I might not have attended #lafcon without the support of the Lilead Project. I appreciate that they gave me this opportunity.

By participating, I learned that as a literacies and libraries consultant, author, and school librarian advocate there was so much valuable information in the conference for someone like me. Thank you to those in the School Librarians Group who posted reviews of the sessions they attended and engaged in brief exchanges in a discussion forum.

I gained a great deal of knowledge that I will apply in my consulting, writing, and advocacy work. My only wish was that I had had more time to take advantage of more of the session offerings.

Image credit:
Prettysleepy. “Books Library Education.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/illustrations/books-library-education-knowledge-5430104/

 

The Library Advocacy and Funding Conference

Illustration of a Microphone and a Woman Getting Ready to SpeakBeginning Monday, September 14, 2020, I’m participating in the Library Advocacy and Funding Conference. I appreciate that the conference organizers specifically mention helping school librarians increase our “effective organizing and power building” in order to save our profession from further erosion.

As an advocate for school librarians and libraries, there are two strands that are most compelling for me: “Advocacy” and “Library Campaigns and Elections.” I have been advocating for state-certified school librarians in every K-12 school and fully resourced high-quality school library programs for almost thirty years so this topic is a must-explore topic for me. I am currently promoting Prop. #208, The Invest in Education Act, a ballot initiative in Arizona that will put more public school funding in the hands of districts so they can hire more educators, including school librarians, and pay them better.

These are selected session topics under “Advocacy:”

  • Strategies for Nonpartisan Civic and Voter Engagement Activities
  • Personas in Action: Define Your Audience to Develop Your Message
  • Ambassadors of Truth: How Librarians Can Help Save Our Democracy This November
  • Using Video Storytelling to Get Political
  • Getting a Seat at the Table: How c3 / c4 coalitions advance policy and funding
  • Politics Isn’t a Dirty Word: Be an Effective Advocate in a Time of Uncertainty
  • Advocacy in an Election Year
  • Ballot Measures as a Tool for Advocacy
  • Leading from Within: How mission-driven organizations create policy change and pass legislation

And these are selected topics under “Library Campaigns and Elections:”

  • 8 Principles for Running A Modern, Digital Library Campaign
  • Strategies for Nonpartisan Civic and Voter Engagement Activities
  • How to Connect with Voters through Personal Stories
  • Ballot Measures as a Tool for Advocacy

When I skimmed the session offerings, these four jumped off the screen. The following are excerpts from their descriptions:

Marsha Donat – Ballot Measures as a Tool for Advocacy
501c3 or C4 organization can help support ballot initiatives for the library or take other political action. Join the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center to learn how you can utilize ballot measures as at tool and move your advocacy goals forward and create a more equitable and just society.

Caitlin Donnelly: Strategies for Nonpartisan Civic and Voter Engagement Activities
Many organizations don’t realize how much they can do to further democracy and help the community they serve to participate in voting and elections and advocate for a cause, ballot measure, or political position… One major strategy for engaging voters is making sure they understand what will appear on their ballot.

Kyle Shannon – Using Video Storytelling to Get Political
Your ability to tell the stories of your library and its value is more important than ever. Video is the best way to share the impact on your community.

Joshua Starr – American Attitudes Towards Public Education: Findings from the 2020 PDK Annual Poll
This is the 51st year of the PDK poll, which is the longest running continuous poll of American’s perspectives on public education. From school choice, to the use of standardized tests, diversity and the performance of the current administration, the PDK poll results inform the debate on public education policy and practice in unique ways.

I agree with the organizers of #lafcon that librarianship is political and that learning to be strategic in how we navigate the political world is essential for our success.

“Libraries are political when they take a stand to support topics such as first amendment rights, information access, the freedom to read and so much more. It’s also true that 98% of library funding is politically driven by the will of local voters and the will of local, state, and federal legislators. That means that if we want to see libraries funded and supported into the future then we need to understand how to navigate this world of politics” (https://www.lafcon.org/libraries_aren_t_political).

This is the link for #lafcon registration.

I look forward to using and sharing what I learned.

Image Credit:
mary1826. “Speaker Lecturer Speech Conference.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/illustrations/speaker-lecturer-speech-conference-2148213/

More School Librarian Advocacy 2020

Megaphone with words: School Librarian AdvocacyCongratulations, SLRI!!!

Last week, the School Librarians of Rhode Island (SLRI) Section of the Rhode Island Library Association published a one-minute trailer and a fifteen-minute video to promote the critical contributions school librarians make in today’s learning environments.

Both the trailer and the video are accessible on this page: “Overdue: The Value of School Librarians.” (Hurrah for the title, too!)

Access them directly with these links: Trailer or Video

The goal of this short documentary-style advocacy film is to show the value of school librarians. The film, directed by Alex DeCiccio, follows five Rhode Island school librarians as they teach rural and urban students of all ages, collaborate with teachers, and take on vital leadership roles in their schools.

The SLRI has made the trailer and Creative Commons public license 4.0 film available to anyone who would like to share it with their own library stakeholders. The video was funded by a Kickstarter campaign.

From the landing page, SLRI has provided additional resources such as a sample letter to stakeholders, a screening and film discussion guide, and an advocacy letter template. You can also read about the project in their press release “Rhode Island School Librarians Recognized as Essential in the Short Documentary ‘Overdue: The Value of School Librarians.’”

Here are a couple excerpts:

In the film, Tasha White, a Providence elementary school library media specialist, says. “My goal is to make library as cool as gym class and recess.” Tasha’s principal Brent Kerman extolls library media centers as places “to learn twenty-first century skills” and school librarians as “key educators in raising up the culture of the entire school.”

Library media specialist Kristin Polseno who serves Mount St. Charles Academy says, “We live in a society where there is this ever-growing sea of information, and then somebody in a position to make decisions about education comes to the decision that a librarian is a luxury. That doesn’t add up for me.”

The film sets out to ask and answer this question: “When you think of a school librarian, what comes to mind? Shushing or a compassionate educator?” “Overdue: The Value of School Librarians” responds by pushing back against stereotypes that school libraries (and librarians) are quiet/shushers, boring, or non-essential.

The testimonials in the video do not pull punches. Librarians openly share the impact of their schedules, multiple school assignments, and the barriers they overcome to do their best work for the benefit of students, other educators, administrators, and families.

The video closes with a series of research-based statements about the critical contributions of school librarians to student learning and the tragic loss of school librarian positions nationwide.

The video makes a connection to one of my all-tie favorite quotes and a likely motto as we strive for social justice.

“Do the best you can do until you know better. When you know better, do better.” Maya Angelou

When we create and promote our one-way public relations messages, we intend for all school librarian advocates, including students, education colleagues, administrators, and families, to take up our cause. We need advocates to help us do the work we are passionate about and have trained to do—to make literacy learning opportunities accessible and equitable for every young person in our schools.

“Overdue” has hit its mark.
Check it out and share it widely!

See also:

Administrators Partner with School Librarians” created by the AASL School Leader Collaborative or read about it in my May 4, 2020 blog post.

Principals Know: School Librarians Are the Heart of the School” crowdsourced by Yours Truly and Teresa Starrett

And then please, please, please advocate on!

Image Adapted from:

Tumisu. “Megaphone Loud Scream,” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/illustrations/megaphone-loud-scream-loudspeaker-911858/

 

Statewide, Year-long Advocacy Texas Style

When I taught and lived in Texas, I had the opportunity to get involved with the vital, vibrant, and effective Texas Association of School Librarians (TASL). It was a heady experience to be a part of the largest state-level professional association for school librarians. TASL members are active and big thinkers. They offer a huge percentage of the sessions and events at the annual Texas Library Association Conference… and TASL sponsors on-going advocacy efforts that extend statewide and online via the TxASLTalks blog and #TxASLTalks, and #TxASL.

Silhouette Image of Woman Shouting into a Bullhorn

The TASL leadership has designed an awe-inspiring and inspired statewide, year-long public relations/advocacy campaign that school librarian organizations across the country can emulate. Read Brooke King’s blog post about their “Let’s Promote Libraries!” initiative. (Brooke serves on the TASL Legislative and Advocacy Committee.) In her 8/18/20 post, Brooke provides five steps for participating effectively, including how to maximize the impact of the campaign via social media to spotlight and share school librarians’ teaching, activities, and events.

If You Promote, We Can Advocate!

Aligned with the 2017 Texas School Library Program Standards, each month’s advocacy topic begins with this sentence stem: “Did you know that school libraries…” followed by one of the standards.

Let's Promote Librarians! Graphic for TASL by Brooke King

Infographic for TASL by Brooke King

TASL created this graphic that includes the questions for all nine months—September through May. As Texas school librarians consider their teaching this year, they have a heads-up on when to share and receive the most recognition for their work and the work of their colleagues.

What really impresses me about this campaign is that is stresses FIVE essential aspects of effective public relations/advocacy campaigns.

First, and perhaps foremost, it is collaborative. Collective action is more effective that individual action. Whether engaged in public relations or advocacy, school librarians will have more success when we sing together in a chorus rather than in solo performances.

Secondly, it is aligned with what matters in school librarianship. In Texas, school librarian standards are part of the Texas Administrative Code. School librarian leaders from around the state collaborated to develop these standards. “Let’s Promote Libraries!” furthers TASL’s promotion of the standards with librarians, administrators, classroom teachers, elected officials, and other community members.

Third, this initiative serves as a virtual professional development opportunity for anyone, TASL member or not, who follows their hashtags this academic year: #TxASLTalks and #TxASL. (They are also using #TxLege to reach a key target audience–the Texas Legislature.)

Fourth, “Let’s Promote Libraries!” is powered by social media AND emphasizes reciprocity. In my experience, reciprocity is often lacking among school librarians and other social media users. We may “like” another school librarian’s work but do we consistently share/retweet the outstanding work in our profession? Do we add comments that emphasize the bright spots in teaching and learning through school library programs? This is an essential aspect of advocating for one another.

Finally, the entire campaign is about connecting. It involves connecting practice to standards. It’s about connecting the work of school librarians to the essential needs of today’s students, classroom teachers, administrators, and families. It involves connecting librarians to one another and each other’s professional learning and social media networks. It’s about connecting decision-makers to information about the critical work of school librarians in educating today’s students.

One could argue that this is a public relations campaign. It is AND it provides the TASL Legislative and Advocacy Committee with foundation it needs to do its work.

On the other hand, this is an advocacy campaign in that it aims to be proactive in reaching out the local, state, and national decision-makers who have the power and authority to support school librarians and fund school libraries. Participants in “Let’s Promote Libraries!” will engender and educate advocates who will have the necessary information to speak up for school librarians and libraries in the 2021 Texas legislative session.

Brilliant, really!

I hope every school librarian in Texas will participate. I hope other states or school districts will think about how they can adapt this campaign for their own teaching and learning communities.

Image Credits:

OpenClipart-Vectors. “Bullhorn Communication Female Girl.” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/vectors/bullhorn-communication-female-girl-2026013/

TASL Graphic: Thank you to TASL Chair Kristi Starr and TASL Legislative and Advocacy Committee member Brooke King for giving me permission to publish the graphic and promote this campaign via this blog post and social media.

School Librarian Advocacy in the Time of the Coronavirus

These are uncertain times for many school librarians across the U.S. This summer, some are fighting to keep their positions even though they went the extra mile to support students, classroom teachers, administrators, and parents during the COVID-19 spring school closures. Others are fighting to restore school librarian positions because some decision-makers have come to the understanding that the pandemic and equity/social justice require all hands on deck and that school librarians have an essential role to play in education whether learning and teaching are conducted face to face or remotely this fall.

Megaphone with School Librarian Advocacy Text

It is in this climate that advocacy for our profession is most especially welcome. And this past week, we had Virginia Spatz from CommunityUnderCovid.com (Community thru Covid) to thank for that.

Ms. Spatz conducted an interview with Elizabeth Davis, President of the Washington, D.C. Teachers Union and Kathy Carroll, President of the American Association of School Librarians. These three leaders discussed the role of school librarians on “Wednesday Act Radio.”

This is the link to the entire broadcast and this is the link to the piece with the exchange between Elizabeth Davis and Kathy Carroll (with thanks to K.C. Boyd and Debra Kachel for sharing this information on ALA Connect.)

Take-Aways
I listened to the latter and these were a few of my take-aways:

Ms. Davis gave a huge shout-out to D.C. school librarians for stepping up to the plate to help the Washington Teachers Union make the case for restoring and maintaining school librarian positions. All school librarians should have steadfast advocates like Ms. Davis. See background information below.

Ms. Davis also noted that when every D.C. school faculty includes a librarian, they must be allowed to focus on professional work; they must not be asked to do odd jobs like custodial work or “duties as assigned.”

The D.C. school librarians were proactive in aligning their work with district priorities and with standards. By advocating for school libraries and their positions, they were had a seat at the table and were able to garner advocates among the union leaders.

AASL President Kathy Carroll is an articulate and effective spokesperson for AASL’s support for professional school librarians. (AASL has supported this effort by the D.C. librarians.)

Ms. Carroll also noted the many ways school librarians supported remote learning during the spring 2020 school closures. She emphasized how the work of school librarians helps educators, administrators, and families reach their goals for youth.

Both Kathy and Elizabeth noted that listeners must vote for decision-makers who support equity in public education and library services, and school librarians for all, in particular.

The Best for Last – Gratitude and the ASK
Ms. Carroll was genuinely appreciative of Ms. Spatz for conducting the interview and for Ms. Davis’s understanding of the critical need for D.C. school librarians and her exemplary advocacy on their behalf. Kathy’s sincere gratitude was a positive way to conclude the conversation…

But Ms. Davis squeezed in the last word. She did what all advocacy campaigns must do. She made the “ask.”

She gave listeners the phone number of the Washington, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson. She asked that everyone phone Mr. Mendelson and ask him for the necessary funds to adequately address the needs of D.C. students and schools, including providing funding for school librarians.

Chairman Mendelson’s number is: 202.724.8032

I made that call this morning. What about you?

Image Credit

Tumisu. “Megaphone Loud Scream,” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/illustrations/megaphone-loud-scream-loudspeaker-911858/

Background information: EveryLibrary.org through SaveSchoolLibrarians.org worked with the D.C. school librarians to advocate by collecting signatures on an online petition. This effort was part of the political pressure placed on D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser who increased the 2020-21 public education budget 3% or $70M, creating an opportunity for the Washington Teachers Union to seek restoring and maintaining school librarian positions as part of their negotiations. Read the Washington Post article.

School Librarians and Achieving Equity in Fall 2020

Image shows a traffic light: red (problem), yellow (analysis), green (solution)As I review my blog posts since this spring, I notice a reoccurring theme: equity. A majority of school librarians, classroom teachers, and administrators have long been concerned with all K-12 students’ access to an equitable, relevant, culturally responsive education. For many education decision-makers and members of the general public, the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement have put the inequities in K-12 students’ access to equity in public schools into sharper focus.

At the same time, many education decision-makers seem to lack an understanding of how school librarians and libraries serve academic programs and our non-negotiable commitment to equitable access. There are currently schools, districts, and entire states discussing how school libraries will be repurposed and how school librarians will be reassigned to classroom teacher, teacher substitute, or other positions when library spaces are used to achieve social distancing, study halls, or childcare during school hours if schooling is held in person.

Reaping the Results of Spring, 2020
If schooling in fall, 2020, is remote, decision makers must be aware of the importance of school librarians’ roles as leaders in classroom-library collaboration for online instruction, advocates who get physical books into the hands of students and families even when the library is closed, technology mentors and troubleshooters, virtual book and other club sponsors, and more. School librarians who served on school and district decision-making leadership teams in spring, 2020, had the critical opportunity to ensure that the work of school librarians and the affordances of the library program were part of the solution to a crisis situation.

If school librarians demonstrated essential services in spring, 2020, then they have solid grounds on which to advocate for their continued role in their schools’ academic program. They can document their work and will have engendered advocates among students, colleagues, administrators, and families for having stepped up during a crisis. If, on the other hand, they, as one high school librarian told me, “didn’t do much,” then they will not be on firm ground going forward.

Changing School Paradigms
As I noted in my May 15, 2020, Arizona Daily Star op-ed “What the pandemic has taught us about K-12 schooling in Arizona,” many schools, districts, and states across this country and around the world should have paid heed to the academic as well as social services schools and educators, including school librarians, provide in their communities. The lack of access to an equitable education for all U.S. K-12 school students should be glaringly evident.

In his 6/20/20 blog post “Reopening Schools with a Focus on Equity,” Dr. Pedro Noguera asks a question that all education decision-makers should be asking themselves as they plan for fall, 2020: “Is American education ready to respond to the urgent needs that have been exposed?” In his post, Noguera challenges readers (educators and others) with a thought-provoking list of dominant paradigms in critical need of change, including “deep and persistent disparities in achievement based on race and class” and learning characterized by covering the material rather than deep engagement, curiosity, and stimulation. While I believe school librarians can be leaders in responding to Dr. Noguera’s entire list of needs for change, these two, in particular, are offer specific and direct ways school librarians can lead in transforming schooling.

The Achievement Gap, Curiosity, and Simulation
When we look at the achievement gap, we traditionally look at standardized test scores in reading and math. For the most part, school librarians have a greater opportunity to impact achievement in reading than in math. In the area of reading, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test, for example, focuses on three types of literary texts and three broad categories of informational texts that vary by grade level. (The test is given to a sample of fourth- and eighth-grade students.)

Looking at our own research in school librarianship, we can make a strong case for how our work helps reduce the reading achievement gap. “School librarians provide critical support to teachers and administration by recommending and teaching strategies and sources that develop reading comprehension and analysis of informational text in all content areas” (Gretes 2013, 3). If it’s not already, this must be a focus on school librarians’ work going forward.

Inquiry learning, which puts students’ own questions at the center of the process, is designed to simulate their curiosity to pursue personally meaningful answers to questions and solutions to problems. As co-designers of inquiry learning, collaborating school librarians have the opportunity to work with classroom teachers and specialists, whether face to face or online, to increase students’ motivation to engage in standards-based inquiry. We can also teach and co-teach specific skills used during inquiry, such as searching skills, bibliography formats, and resource analysis, and monitor students’ progress. We can model and guide students in using information and ideas ethically. We can help students select the most effective technology tools for demonstrating their new knowledge. Alongside classroom teachers, we can co-assess students learning in all of these areas.

Advocacy and Meeting Other People’s Needs
The best way to build advocates for the work we do it to help others meet their needs. Being an integral part of the success of administrators, classroom teachers, students, and families during spring, 2020, positioned school librarians to grow advocates and secure their rightful place in the future of K-12 education. As schools prepare to reopen physically or online, we will reap the benefits (or consequences) of the actions we took during school closures.

As a former school librarian and a retired school librarian educator, I can only spur you on from the sidelines. My greatest hope is that the critical roles of school librarians will not be lost in the conversations about reopening schools–that our contributions to student learning and teachers’ teaching, and our profession will thrive long into the future.

Work Cited

Gretes, Frances. 2013. “School Library Impact Studies: A Review of Findings and Guide to Sources.” Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. http://bit.ly/2USKkQ9.

Image Credit

geralt. “Traffic Lights Problem Analysis,” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/illustrations/traffic-lights-problem-analysis-466950/

School Librarianship in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 2

Image: Equity spelled out in Scrabble letters.I believe a high-quality education is a human right, and literacy is the foundation for all learning. From my perspective, every student and educator in every school across the country and around the globe deserves to have a literacy learning leader in the person of a certified school librarian. However, lack of funding and misplaced priorities at the state-, district-, and school-site levels have resulted in fewer and fewer professional school librarians and a loss of equitable education for all.

Over the past decade, and in some cases longer, many state legislatures have chipped away at district public school funding. (For the unconscionable situation in my state, see the Arizona Center for Economic Progress’s 5/27/20 “K12 Budget Webinar.”) With ever-shrinking funds, school districts have been put in the position of making difficult choices and far too many times school librarian positions have been seen as “extras” and have been eliminated.

In addition, and as unfortunate, our local reliance on property tax-based funding for public schools undermines an equitable education for all. This perpetuates a system that results in “have” and “have not” districts. Districts with less tax revenue struggle to provide complete academic programs, including well-resourced, fully-staffed school libraries, up-to-date technology tools, art, music, and more.

Site-based hiring practices have also negatively impacted school librarian positions. Without leadership from district-level leaders, far too many site-level administrators fail to understand the value of having a professional educator guiding the literacy learning that takes place through the largest, most well-equipped classroom in the school—the school library. If cutting librarians is based on their poor job performance, then the appropriate response would be to put them on plans of improvement or replace them rather than depriving students, educators, and families of professional library services.

What Is a Librarian to Do?
The school closures of spring 2020 created an opportunity for school librarians to demonstrate to administrators, colleagues, and families their many contributions to student learning outcomes whether or not anyone had access to the physical space of the library.

It is in that context that I share indicators that demonstrate the roles effective school librarians fill in their learning communities as leaders, instructional partners, teachers, information specialists, and program administrators. In these five roles, they:

Leader
Culture of Learning

  • Create a sense of belonging, ownership, and inclusion in the physical and virtual spaces of the library.
  • Design a welcoming and universally accessible online library presence.
  • Provide and advocate for equitable access to diverse resources representing all cultures/identities and divergent points of view in multiple genres and formats.

Library Advocacy & Support

  • Collaborate with administrators to assess students’ and classroom teachers’ needs and develop and implement plans to address them.
  • Communicate clearly and frequently with library stakeholders (students, other educators, administrators, families, and greater community) in order to share the impact of school library resources and the library program on student learning.
  • Seek learning community support for library initiatives to improve student learning.

Instructional Partner and Teacher
Collaborative Planning

  • Reach out to teaching teams and attend face-to-face and virtual team meetings to support colleagues’ teaching goals.
  • Reach out to classroom teachers and specialists to coplan and integrate the resources of the library into the classroom curriculum.

Integrated, Collaborative Teaching

  • Coteach with other educators whether face to face or online to engage students in critical thinking, deep learning, and the ethical use of ideas and information.
  • Co-assess student learning outcomes with other educators to improve instructional strategies and resources and ensure continuous improvement for students and educators.

Reading and Information Literacy Instruction

  • Promote reading for information and for personal enjoyment.
  • Coteach how to locate, find, analyze, and use information.
  • Coteach making meaning from texts in all formats (reading comprehension).

Information Specialist
Information Access and Delivery

  • Reach out to colleagues to support educators’ and students’ use of digital devices and tools and electronic resources.
  • Integrate the paper print and virtual resources of the library into the school’s face-to-face and remote academic learning program.
  • Provide instruction to support students and educators in using electronic resources ethically and safely whether from home or from school.
  • Provide online tutorials to support students and educators in using electronic resources effectively.

Program Administrator
Library Management

  • Align the library vision, mission, and goals with those of the school and the district.
  • Use library management software to generate reports and use data to improve library services.

In-School and Remote Collection Aligned to Curriculum, Classroom Teacher, and Student Needs

  • Assess and develop the paper print and electronic library collection to meet the instructional needs of colleagues.
  • Assess and develop the library collection to meet the academic and personal reading needs of students.

Funding & Budget Management

  • Write grants and seek funding to provide students and other educators with resources, including technology devices and tools.
  • Manage the library budget responsibly and help guide district-level purchases to meet the academic program and personal learning needs of students, educators, and families.

Taking Action
Serving as an effective school librarian is a complex job. It requires a passion for learning and literacy and a steadfast commitment to serve the entire learning community. There are exemplary librarians serving at this high level across the U.S. and around the globe. For two examples, see last week’s post School Librarianship in the Time of Coronavirus, Part 1.

If you are an effective school librarian or other educator, please share with me what I missed. If you are a school administrator or school librarian educator, consider how we can shore up the school librarian profession to ensure that all students, educators, and families have equitable, high-quality library services.

Image Credit

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

100% Online K12 Learning

"We Miss You" Photograph of the Marquee at Collier Elementary School, Tucson, Arizona

Educators and education decision-makers are currently engaged in an unplanned experiment in online learning. The inequity of access to broadband and technology devices that many educators and students have experienced since the Internet came to school has been exposed and finally, one would hope, cannot be denied. Educators and students have struggled for years with the push for the “flipped classroom,” a hybrid of face-to-face and online learning, when far too many young people have not had the ability to access online resources outside of their school buildings.

But those of us on the “inside” know that broadband and devices are far from the only inequities that undermine student learning in 2020.

Like many of us who have been in the teaching profession for decades, I have been wondering and feeling concerned about how school closures are affecting student learning today and will affect learning and teaching in the future. Last week, Nancy E. Bailey posted “Reimagining Teacher Appreciation in 2020: Pushback on the Takeover of America’s School.”

Her article prompted me to post a link to her article on five Facebook Groups commonly followed by school librarians. In addition to the link, I posed this question: “Would 100% of your students (and families) thrive with 100% online K-12 learning?” This question netted 72 comments in two days. One response questioned the political nature of Nancy’s blog post and 71 replied “no” or commented about the specific ways that their students are not being served today and will not be served by 100% online learning in the future.

Learning from Home
In addition to access to individual (or equitably shared) technology devices and high-speed Internet, there are many other socioeconomic and family-specific factors that can support or hinder a student’s ability to succeed online. Here are a few:

  • Food security;
  • Healthcare access;
  • Adults’ work schedules or how losing one or more jobs has affected the family;
  • Older (responsible) siblings and adults available to support students during the times they are expected to be online;
  • Functioning relationships among all family members;
  • Older siblings’ or adults’ ability to support student learning in terms of background knowledge, language competence, and cognitive abilities;
  • Older siblings’ or adults’ ability to provide support for children with special needs;
  • Older siblings’ or adults’ willingness to maintain the routines needed for a supportive learning environment.

Of course, all of these factors were at play when students were coming into school buildings to learn, but they are and will continued to be heightened factors if learning becomes an 100% online endeavor.

Note: Please take a minute or two to read the mother’s response to Nancy’s post, number one in queue.

What Schools Provide
Schools provide a safety net for many children and teens. The pandemic should have made all U.S. adults aware of the social services our district public schools provide far beyond their academic mission and specific curriculum standards-based outcomes. Many schools provide students breakfast, lunch, and supper as well as meals over the summer. Proper nutrition reduces absenteeism and makes a difference in students’ ability to concentrate and learn. No hungry child should be expected to learn on an empty stomach.

Schools provide healthcare services, especially for families who lack sufficient medical coverage. School nurses not only apply band-aids but diagnose common childhood illnesses and refer children and families to free or low-cost providers. Educators, including counselors, notice when youth show signs of emotional stress or emotional or physical abuse. They provide support, referrals, or enact their reporting responsibilities as each child’s needs warrant.

The most effective schools expand and enrich student learning. In addition to classroom learning, those schools provide well-stocked libraries staffed by state-certified school librarians. Librarians connect students with literature that meets their individual reading as well as their academic needs. Librarians integrate the resources of the library into the classroom curriculum; they are literacy teaching partners with classroom teachers. Effective elementary schools also provide music, art, and physical education—each taught by educators with expertise in their subject area as well as child development. Secondary schools provide dance, drama, choir, orchestra, band, and more.

Learning Is Social
When students and educators are together in a classroom, library, or lab, or on the athletic field face to face and in real time, they learn with and from one another in ways that are not quantifiable on standardized tests. Social Emotional Learning (or SEL) has been a focus in many schools and districts for more than a decade. SEL is “the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions” (CASEL). For some, parents may be providing support for developing SEL in students’ homes; for others, the school environment may be better suited to this responsibility.

Schools educate the whole child. Students develop their interests and spark their passions in clubs, on sports teams, and by participating in service projects facilitated by educators and coaches. These activities provide hands-on experience in collaborating with others, working toward goals as team players, and expanding their view of post-K12 graduation possibilities. These activities prepare youth for succeeding in the workplace, building strong families, and growing their communities; they prepare young people for life.

In the most effective learning environments, students learn with classmates from diverse backgrounds and with different abilities; they have the opportunity to build understanding and empathy for others. Educators have the opportunity to model and teach respectful, civil discourse through planned discussions and spontaneous conversations that engage students in deeper learning. Turning and facing a classmate or an educator during a conversation is not the same as seeing that person’s face in a thumbnail on a computer screen. In schools, students prepare to be informed and active citizens in our democracy as well as more successful workers and future parents.

While it is unclear whether or not our schools will reopen this summer and in fall 2020, it is important for educators to clearly articulate what K-12 students would miss if they were required to conduct their schooling fully online. It is critical that educational decision-makers involve students, educators, and families in determining how schooling will be conducted in the future.

 

Work Cited

Collaborative for Academic, Social, Emotional Learning (CASEL). “What Is SEL?” https://casel.org/what-is-sel/

Image Credit: Photograph by Judi Moreillon

Advocacy Tools from the AASL School Leader Collaborative

Advocacy Word Cloud: leadership, job description, school librarians, interview questions, decision-makers, school administrators, videoThank you to the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) past-president Kathryn Roots Lewis for her presidential initiative that resulted in resources now available to school librarians and other school library advocates (see her Knowledge Quest 4/29/20 blog post “School Administrators and the Power of School Librarians”).

Kathryn’s initiative centered on championing the work of effective school librarians with educational leaders. The resulting advocacy tools are invaluable to practicing school librarians and district-level school librarian supervisors who can share them with library stakeholders, and to university-based school librarian educators who can use them in teaching preservice school librarians.

In this blog post, I shine a spotlight on three of these now essential advocacy tools.

Advocacy Video: “Administrators Partner with School Librarians
In this video, the seven members of the AASL School Leader Collaborative offer testimonials related to how their school librarians serve as leaders in their learning communities. Thank you to Shawn Arnold, superintendent, Valdez City Schools, Valdez, Alaska; Sean Doherty, superintendent, School District of Clayton, St. Louis, Missouri; April Grace, superintendent, Shawnee Public Schools, Shawnee, Oklahoma; Kelly Gustafson, principal, Pine-Richland School District, Wexford, Pennsylvania; Joel Hoag, principal, Franklin Special School District, Franklin, Tennessee; Kim Patterson, principal, Grossmont Union High School District, El Cajon, California; and Melita Walker, principal, Columbia Public Schools, Columbia, Missouri.

Some sample excerpts from the video: “I think that librarians serve as the heart of the school. I think they serve as a support system for so many different people in the buildings beyond just the students. We need to make sure that people have the right mental model about what a school librarian does for a school and make sure we are fostering that” (Sean Doherty). “The impact of the library or the librarian can only be in direct proportion to your (administrators) own willingness to elevate, encourage, and empower that person or that space as a central part of the learning experience for all of your students and staff” (April Grace). “My school librarian and librarians across districts in Pennsylvania are the ones who are feeding the administrators. My success as school principal and administrator in Pennsylvania is a product of being shaped by school librarians” (Kelly Gustafson) (AASL 2020a).

Similar to “Principals Know: School Librarians Are the Heart of the School,” this video, focused solely on the perspectives and experiences of administrators, provides school librarians with insight into how their work is perceived and valued by education decision-makers. As an advocacy tool, it can support school librarians as they speak with and encourage administrators, school board members, and community leaders to become advocates for the school librarian’s role in education for today and tomorrow.

School Librarian Interview Question Matrix
In collaboration with AASL’s 2018-2019 Presidential Initiative Task Force, the AASL School Leader Collaborative developed a set of interview questions based on the five roles of the school librarian (leader, instructional partner, information specialist, teacher, and program administrator) and organized around the six shared foundations (inquiry, include, collaborate, curate, explore, and engage) from the National Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries (AASL 2018).

These questions provide future and practicing school librarians with specific criteria around which their job description and performance could (should?) be measured. While all of these questions are illuminating in terms of the school librarian’s potential to impact the learning culture in their school, these were the questions that stood out to me in the leader role:

* Give an example of how you would build a culture of collaboration throughout the school. How would you measure success?

* Give some examples of how you have been a leader, change-maker, thought leader.

* Describe your global learning network. How do you learn about trends and best practices in education and school libraries? (AASLb).

School Librarian Job Description
The AASL School Leader Collaborative and the 2018-2019 Task Force also codeveloped a school librarian job description. These are some of the descriptors that stood out for me.

  • Collaborates and coteaches with classroom educators to establish learning objectives and assessment strategies to develop individual and group inquiry-based learning experiences.
  • Champions equity, access, and intellectual freedom for users within the physical space and beyond, including 24/7 access to the online library catalog; digital and audio books, and various information sources.
  • Models and champions digital citizenship and safety and adherence to copyright and fair use requirements.
  • Teaches all members of the learning community to engage with and use information in a global society (AASLc).

Again, this is an invaluable document that can be used in so many ways to strengthen practice and the profession at large. Having worked with the Tucson Unified School District superintendent and the TUSD human resources department in fall 2019 to revise the school librarian job description, I will review our work in light of this document.

The Value of These Documents
These resources can only reach their potential to influence and strengthen the profession if school librarians review these documents, put effective behaviors into practice, and share the resulting student learning outcomes along with these tools. Then, these tools can help us reach our capacity to serve the learning and teaching needs of all library stakeholders.

Let’s take full advantage of the opportunity and express our gratitude to Kathryn Roots Lewis, her 2018-2019 Presidential Initiative Task Force, the AASL School Leader Collaborative, and the school librarian leaders who nominated them for making these resource available to us.

Works Cited

American Association of School Librarians. 2020a. “Administrators Partner with School Librarians,” YouTube.com, https://youtu.be/9fkTsLHFkS8

AASL. 2020b. “School Librarian Interview Matrix,” AASL.org, https://standards.aasl.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/SL-Interview-Matrix.pdf

AASL. 2020c. “School Librarian Job Description,” AASL.org, https://standards.aasl.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/SL-Job-Description_3-30-2020.pdf

 

 

 

Image Created at WordItOut.com

 

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/