Reflection on #ALAAC19

I think it’s important to reflect on any learning or teaching experience. The American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference (AC) is one of those professional development opportunities that compels us to do so. I appreciate ALA and conference participants who post to social media #alaac19 for making that easy. ALA provides a “Looking Back” page on the conference website and will be adding session recordings in four to six weeks. Presentation handouts are available via the conference mobile app.

Of course, meetings, obligations, and choices make it difficult to take full advantage of all ALA AC has to offer. Focusing on the glass half full, I want to share my stand-out experiences.

On Friday morning, my roommate Connie Champlin and I snagged same-day tickets to the must-visit National Museum of African American History and Culture, the newest Smithsonian Museum. We spent most of our visit in the history section of the museum and only had a brief time to take in the culture section. The primary source documents, commentary, and interactive displays are moving and pull no punches. There were many African American children, teens, families, and groups touring the museum. There were numerous times when I wish I could have known how other visitors were responding to the exhibits. I wondered, especially, as I watched a young boy counting bodies in a drawing of a slave ship hold. By contrast in the culture section, Chuck Berry’s cherry red Caddy really shines! (I can’t help it; I grew up in the Motor City.)

Later that day, we met long-time friends and colleagues at the Holiday House reception. This year it was held at the National Press Club. Just being in the room was a reminder of the critical importance of the freedom of the press in sustaining our right to factual information about our government, including the activities of our representatives in Washington, our nation, and global society.

Friday night and Sunday morning, I represented the Teacher Librarian Division of the Arizona Library Association at the American Association of School Librarians’ Affiliate Assembly. These tweets sum up my understanding of the importance of the Affiliate Assembly.

Steven Yates @HeyLibraraman Jun 23
I remain in awe of @aasl’s Affiliate Assembly. A grassroots group coming together to make sure the @AASL board is informed on what’s happening at the state & local levels for school libraries & school librarians. Most of these amazing members are here on their own dime! #alaac19

And my retweet with comment: Judi Moreillon @CactusWoman Jun 24
#aasl #schoollibrarians take a step up in your #schoollibrarianleadership and become active in your state and national organizations. Learn, network, and contribute to the betterment of our profession. #is445

I have been an active member of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) since I started my Master’s work in 1990. (Let’s not do the math…) I have served on or chaired numerous committees and task forces as well as served two tenures on the AASL Affiliate Assembly (AA). The AA shares concerns from the field, recommends other organizations for commendations, and serves as a regional networking channel for state-level school librarian associations/divisions. I also am a member of the Educators of School Librarians Section and the Supervisors Section; I attended their meetings as well.

I highly encourage librarians to get involved in ALA and your chosen ALA division (s). You will learn more than you can imagine and meet and befriend countless lifelong colleagues.

Side note: The AASL President’s Program with author/speaker Matt de la Peña was inspiring. He told a bit of his life story, the male role models who influenced him, and his “secretive poet” beginnings that led him to his career as an author. Matt said this, “Books became my place to feel.” In a world where empathy is in short supply, Matt is paying in forward; his books help readers feel…

Attending the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF) Celebration on Saturday evening was one of the highlights of the conference for me. I’m looking forward to reading my copy of Reading Dangerously: The Freedom to Read Foundation Marks 50 Years, with a powerful introduction by Neil Gaiman. Protecting First Amendment rights is the focus of the FTRF; these rights are core values of librarianship. As librarians serving in any location/position, we must stand with other organizations and lend our support for legal action that protects these rights. If you are not familiar with the FTRF, please learn more at: https://www.ftrf.org/page/About

Judi Moreillon @CactusWoman Jun 24:
Wise and timely quotes from @halseanderson. In dark times, “we are all called to bring our light to the table” “Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.” @ALALibrary Freedom to Read 50th Anniversary Event. #is445 #YAlit #alaac19

Both speakers, Laurie Halse Anderson and Colson Whitehead, were inspired and hard-hitting. I admit I was unfamiliar with Colson Whitehead’s work. I am in queue at our pubic library for the audio CD of The Underground Railroad. (His latest, The Nickel Boys, is still on order.)

On Sunday, I received the Scholastic Library Publishing Award and attended the Newbery-Caldecott-Legacy Banquet. I have a tradition of reserving a table and inviting friends to join me for an elegant evening to celebrate the award winners. Friends that they are, they made me pose with the award. In addition to being among friends and fellow/sister children’s literature lovers, this year’s program was delightfully diverse:

WeNeedDiverseBooks @diversebooks Jun 22
If you haven’t stopped by our #ALAAC19 booth yet, come visit us in Booth 813E for swag! We have signed advanced reading copies of THE HERO NEXT DOOR and more. #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Public and school librarians should be aware of the activism of @diversebooks (https://diversebooks.org/) This organization is taking a public stand for diversity in children’s and young adult publishing. The Hero Next Door is a collection of middle grade short stories edited by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. (To learn more about the contributors to this collection, search Amazon.) Following @diversebooks and searching Twitter for #weneeddiversebooks are excellent ways to stay informed of this group’s activities.

Yes! We — children, teens, and those who care for and serve them — need diverse books. “Authors, illustrators, publishers, editors, and book review sources share in this responsibility. Working together, book publishing and book promotion stakeholders can ensure that the literature available to children and young adults is of the highest quality and worthy of all readers” (Moreillon 2019, 7).

The 2020 ALA Conference will be in Chicago. See you there?

Best,
Judi

Work Cited

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

Advocacy: A Long-term, On-going Process

Chapter 8: Leadership and Advocacy Podcast: Virtual Interview with Dr. Ann Ewbank

When advocacy becomes a regular part of a school librarian’s daily practice, then the long-term, on-going nature this work becomes clear. School librarians must always serve stakeholders in such a way as to engender their support for the professional work and leadership of the school librarian and the role of the library program in student learning. The history of school librarianship is clear. School librarians can never rest on their laurels and assume that their positions, library budgets, and programs are safe from cuts when budgets get tight, district deficits loom, or national trends in education shift.

Readers of Ann Dutton Ewbank’s book Political Advocacy for School Librarians: Leveraging Your Influence (2019) can find additional support for stepping out of one’s comfort zone and developing persuasive messages. School librarians can also use the American Library Association’s Library Advocate’s Handbook (2008), which includes guidelines for telling the library story, successful speaking tips, including a speaker’s checklist, and tips for talking with the media and dealing with tough questions.

Advocating for the Program
When school librarians have formed a solid base of support for the contributions of the library program to the school community, they are able to mobilize support from stakeholders when the need arises. Keeping the library program in the spotlight through consistent services and public relations are essential. The school or library website and social media, the school or library newsletter, principals’ communications to families, and local broadcast media outlets are all venues to share the library story.

In her article “Tales of the Crypt,” elementary and middle school librarian Kelly Klober from Danville (AR) shares an exciting Living History project and event that involved students in researching the lives of people buried in the town cemetery. Adult participants in the project included classroom teachers, family members, and other volunteers from the community. Kelly included this as one of her tips for success: “Make friends with the press. We always have incredible coverage from our local newspaper, and our high school’s senior seminar class has always been kind enough to video the event” (Klober 2019, 20).

Advocating for the Position
While some argue that school librarians should not advocate for their own positions, I whole-heartedly disagree. If there were a proposal on the table in your district to eliminate all kindergarten teachers, you can bet that kinder teachers (and their first-grade colleagues, families, and more) would be frontline advocates who could clearly state the need to retain these positions. State-certified school librarian positions are no different. There is research-based evidence that supports the value of having a state-certified school librarian on every school faculty. School librarians should know this research. The following examples are from an article published in Phi Delta Kappan Online by Keith Curry Lance and Debra Kachel (2018).

Given the emphasis on literacy and reading in many schools and districts, it makes intuitive sense that students’ reading and writing scores would be better in schools with a strong library program. In a Washington state study, graduation rates and test scores in reading and math were significantly higher in schools with high-quality libraries and certified librarians, even after controlling for school size and poverty (Coker 2015). Reading and writing scores tend to be higher for all students who have a full-time certified librarian. The Pennsylvania study (2012) found that reading scores for Black students (5.5%), Latino students (5.2%), and students with disabilities (4.6%) where higher when the school had a full-time librarian. Even higher academic gains were evident among student subgroups if their schools had more library staff, larger library collections, and greater access to technology, databases, and the library itself. The 4th-grade NAEP reading data supported the Pennsylvania findings. In states that gained librarians between 2004-05 and 2008-09, average reading scores for poor students, Black students, and Latino students improved more than in states that lost librarians. In states that lost librarians, English language learners’ scores dropped by almost 3% (Lance and Schwartz 2012).

School librarians must advocate for their own positions based on research, on their own practice, and on locally collected student learning data.

Advocacy-at-Large
Inviting print and broadcast media to library program events and writing letters to the editor and op-ed pieces for local newspapers are ways to take the school library story out into the community. School librarians and their advocates can keep school libraries in the minds of the general public as preparation for advocacy appeals and initiatives that will require the support of school boards, families, and voters.

Here are two recently published op-eds that I wrote on behalf of Tucson’s school librarians, libraries, students, educators, administrators, and families.

Missing School Librarians Means Lost Literacy Learning,” Arizona Daily Star, November 3, 2017.

Literacy Matters Every Day,” Arizona Daily Star, March 6, 2019.

And as part of a School Librarian Restoration Project in Tucson Unified School District, TUSD board liaison Kristen Bury of the School Community Partnership Council and I were briefly interviewed by a local news station KGUN9.

Restoration Project Aims to Employ More Librarians for TUSD,” KGUN9 video interview and article.

This letter to the editor was published on April 18, 2019 during School Library Month. “The Library Ecosystem.”

Strategic school librarians engage and enlist others in long-term, on-going advocacy efforts to ensure that school library stakeholders will have equitable access to the resources, instructional and other services, professional expertise, and leadership school librarians and libraries provide. Keeping the public informed is essential when the time comes to seek their support for specific advocacy appeals.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. How are you engaged in long-term, on-going advocacy?
  2. Who do you need to ask to join you in this effort?

Works Cited

American Library Association. 2008. Library Advocate’s Handbook. 3rd ed. http://www.ala.org/advocacy/advocacy-university/library-advocates-handbook

Coker, Elizabeth. 2015. The Washington State School Library Study: Certified Teacher-librarians, Library Quality and Student Achievement in Washington State Public Schools. Seattle: Washington Library Media Association.

Ewbank, Ann. 2019. Political Advocacy for School Librarians: Leveraging Your Influence. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Klober, Kelly. 2019. “Tales from the Crypt.” Knowledge Quest 47 (4): 16-20.

Lance, Keith Curry, and Bill Schwarz. 2012. How Pennsylvania School Libraries Pay Off: Investments in Student Achievement and Academic Standards. PA School Library Project. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED543418.pdf

Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra Kachel. 2018. “Why School Librarians Matter: What Years of Research Tell Us.” Phi Delta Kappan Online. http://www.kappanonline.org/lance-kachel-school-librarians-matter-years-research/

Building Connections for Learning in the Neighborhood

In my blog post last week, I recommended that people see Emilio Estevez’s film The Public when it is available in their community. This week I MUST follow up that recommendation with another. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?—a film about the life, work, and empowered positive impact of the amazing Fred Rogers—is a touching, sweet, emotional, and illuminating film about a man who made an incredible difference in the lives of countless young children and their families.

I have always remarked that one attribute that separates educators from (many) other adults is that we care about other people’s children. School librarians whose “kids” are all the young people in their schools must have expansive hearts to accommodate the personal and academic needs of all the youth we serve.

Effective and caring school librarians create a climate of welcoming acceptance in the library that extends out into the school and into the surrounding community. We achieve that through library programs that affirm diversity, insist upon equity, and strive to help all learners (students, educators, and parents) achieve their capacity to think, create, share, and grow.

This film made so many connections for me with our work in school libraries. These are just a few of them.

In the themed episodes for Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred addressed children’s feelings about war, divorce, race, and other timely topics. He did not talk down to children. He did not shield them from the realities of their lives because he respected their intelligence. Fred Rogers was a courageous educator and friend to children. Today’s educators should be as courageous in helping learners express their feelings and deal with real-world problems and issues.

Our daughter watched Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood is the 1980s. I distinctly remember the pace of Mr. Rogers’ show compared with other children’s programming at the time. It was slower, in many ways more thoughtful, and allowed viewers thinking and feeling time. With today’s focus on academic, social, and emotional learning in many schools and districts (see CASEL), there is much for educators to consider in terms of a slower pace. We can carve out the necessary time students need to integrate their learning into their lives by making time for reflection and time for sharing with others.

The Guided Inquiry Design Framework (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, and Caspari 2012) that includes sufficient time for students to immerse themselves in questions of their own making acknowledges the emotional aspects of learning. As Carol Kuhlthau (2013) found in her research on the information search process, inquirers pass through various emotions as they pursue learning. If Fred Rogers had known about inquiry learning, I believe he would have agreed that such a process is respectful of learners’ emotions as well as their intellect.

One of the most powerful scenes in the film is when Fred Rogers testified at a Senate hearing regarding funding for the Public Broadcasting System. At the hearing, Senator John O. Pastore promised to read Fred’s prepared statement but asked him to talk extemporaneously in his oral testimony. Mr. Rogers began his response by telling the senator that he trusted him to keep his word and read the statement, which Fred has so carefully prepared. Then, he sang him a song about children feeling fearful and developing trust—a song sung from Fred’s heart that went straight to Senator Pastore’s heart. At the end of the song, the senator simply said, “You got the $20 million.”

This is a vivid reminder that when we are advocating for school library programs that help all learners succeed, our knowledge and data do matter. But it’s our stories that touch the heart; they are most often the aspect of our advocacy work that helps people make difficult decisions. Changing people’s minds through their hearts works.

These are some of the quotes from the film that made powerful connections for me and may serve as words of wisdom for today’s educators.

“’Won’t you be my neighbor?’ Well, I suppose it’s an invitation. It’s an invitation for somebody to be close to you” (Fred Rogers).

“Love is at the root of everything – all learning, all parenting, all relationships. Love or the lack of it. And what we see and hear on the screen is part of who we become” (Fred Rogers).

“Someone smiled you into smiling; sang you into singing; read you into reading” (Fred Rogers paraphrase from the film to the best of my memory).

I believe that educators can care students into caring about their own well-being, the health of our/their country, and the future of our planet. When we care for our “neighbors,” we model the empathy that is essential for living, working, and succeeding in a global society.

Thank you, Mr. Rogers, film director Marvin Neville, the film’s producers, and others who brought Fred Rogers’ knowledge, perspective, and heart to the screen. I also believe we become what we see and hear on the screen. I want Won’t You Be My Neighbor to be part of my becoming.

References
Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. “CASEL: Educating Hearts. Inspiring Minds.” www.casel.org.

Kuhlthau, Carol Collier. 2013. “Inquiry Inspires Original Research.” School Library Monthly 30 (2): 5-8.

Kuhlthau, Carol C., Leslie K. Maniotes, and Ann K. Caspari. 2012. Guided Inquiry Design: A Framework for Inquiry in Your School. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Image Credit: Sign distributed by Peace Centers across the U.S.

Question to the Internet Movie Database: What does it take to earn a ten?

 

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