School Librarians Take Action to Support Arizona Public Education

While we have long known that school district budget priorities are the primary deciding factor as to whether or not a school district employs school librarians, we might have also assumed that the funds available to school districts based on per student spending would also play a large role.

So, one of the surprising (to me) findings of the School Librarian Investigation—Decline or Evolution? (SLIDE) Research Project is that per student spending is not a significant factor in terms of school librarian staffing.

“Districts spending the most per pupil ($15,000+) were most likely to have high levels of librarian staffing and least likely to be without librarians. However, districts spending the least per pupil (less than $10,000) had better staffing than districts spending between $10,000 and $15,000 per pupil. Consequently, there was no clear relationship between staffing and funding” (Lance and Kachel 2021, vi).Judi Moreillon gathering signatures outisde public library branchFunding Counts
That said, funding MUST play a role in Arizona: 48th among the 50 states for K-12 per student spending and 47th in educator salaries. Arizona is also 46th in the nation for the number of state-certified school librarians and at least in Tucson Unified School District (TUSD), decision-makers cite the cost of staffing state-certified school librarian positions as the barrier to equitable access.

The Legislature passed and on June 30, 2021, the Governor signed three bills that will further underfund public education. This is a crisis.

It behooves us as school librarians and people who care about the quality of education for Arizona students to help put three measures on the 2022 ballot to rescind these tax cuts. We must not allow our elected “representatives” to overturn the will of the voters to decrease rather than increase funding for our public schools.Logo for #INVEST in AZ NowThe following are summaries of three referenda currently circulating in Arizona. Signatures must be collected and submitted by September 28, 2021.

Rescind SB 1828: FLAT TAX
This bill changed the Arizona income tax structure. Before SB 1828, we had a graduated tax with the wealthiest Arizonans paying 4.5%. With this legislation, 2.5% is the maximum flat tax liability and all Arizonans will pay at that rate, disproportionately benefiting the wealthy.

The bill reduces state revenue by $1.9Billion

Consequence: The reductions in state coffers affect all ALL types of services, including libraries, K-12 education, police, fire, and more.

Crisis: In Arizona, overturning tax legislation requires a 2/3 majority of the Legislature, which in effect means these cuts will be permanent if not stopped by the voters NOW.

Rescind SB 1827 TAX CAP
This bill capped total income tax at 4.5%. It reduces the state’s general fund by $900Million.

Consequence: This bill reduces K-12 funding by over $250M per year and will impact other services as well. It undermines voter approved Proposition 208, which increased tax collection for public school funding. If high-income individuals pay the 3.5% Prop. 208 surcharge, they would only pay 1% of income tax while others would pay 2.5%. It benefits wealthy taxpayers only.

Rescind SB 1783: Prop 208 Attack
This bill allows any high-earning individual to file as a “small business” in order to reduce their tax liability. It reduces Prop. 208 funds by $300Million.

Consequence: This bill undermines the will of voters who passed Prop. 208 and renders this voter initiative ineffective.

Bucking the Data
As I noted in last week’s post “SLIDE Project Data and Tools: Focus on Arizona Results,” my current advocacy work is in TUSD. I live within the district’s borders and served as an elementary and a high school librarian in TUSD for 12 years in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Today, with state-certified librarians serving only 13 of TUSD’s 86 schools, restoring school librarian positions is first and foremost about equity.

Unfortunately, the SLIDE data is not on the side of students achieving equal access to a high-quality education in Arizona and TUSD.

“Districts with higher levels of poverty, more minority students, and more English Language Learners were less likely to have librarians.  Majority Hispanic districts were more than twice as likely to have no librarians and less than half as likely to have the highest level of librarian staffing” (Lance and Kachel 2021, vi).

And

“This study also discovered that, in most cases, once librarian positions were eliminated, they were not reinstated. By 2015-16, almost 3 out of 10 local districts had eliminated all school librarians, and, by 2018-19, 9 out of 10 of those districts had not reinstated them. A study of the almost 10% of districts that lost, but later reinstated, librarians could be informative regarding factors contributing to such reinstatements” (Lance and Kachel 2021, 85).

Meeting the Needs
All 42,000+ TUSD students, educators, and families deserve access to high-quality school library programs led by a state-certified school librarians. TUSD can be THE district in the state and in the country that bucks the data and shows literacy learning is a high priority in a district with a majority of Latinx students and students who qualify for free and reduced meals and with a large number of students who are English language learners.

Let’s show all our students and their families that decision-makers, parents/grandparents, and voters are committed to giving students the tools they need to succeed. Let’s show that we understand that reading proficiency and literacy learning are the foundation on which all academic subjects and life pursuits depend.

Let’s work together to rescind budget cuts for the wealthy, enact the will of the voters who passed Proposition 208 to increase public education funding, and restore school librarian positions in TUSD and throughout Arizona.

References

InvestInAzNow. 2021. https://investinaznow.com/. Accessed August 1, 2021.

Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra E. Kachel. 2021. Perspectives on School Librarian Employment in the United States, 2009-10 to 2018-19. Available at https://libslide.org/publications/perspectives. Accessed August 1, 2021.

SLIDE Project Data and Tools: Focus on Arizona Results

The School Librarian Investigation: Decline or Evolution (SLIDE) ProjectPerspectives on School Librarian Employment in the United States, 2009-10 to 2018-19” report (Lance and Kachel 2021a) and the SLIDE website offer invaluable information and tools to support school librarian advocates with the data they need to understand the relative health of school librarianship in their states and districts. In last week’s post, I offered information from the  SLIDE Research Study: Initial Findings and Perspectives Report.

In this post, I drill down into the Arizona data from the Report and use the interactive tools provided on the SLIDE website that provide users with access to data at the state and district levels and to create graphs and charts that display these data. The following are Arizona data along with some commentary about what these data mean for Arizona’s students, educators, administrators, and families.

My target audience for this post is Arizona school librarians, the Arizona library community, and librarian advocates. Ultimately, I will share this information with Arizona education decision-makers and voters who should know this information and take action to restore school librarian positions. If you believe that literacy learning is fundamental to students’ success in school and in life then…

The “sobering” national reality regarding school librarian positions is even more sobering in Arizona.

I hope advocates in other states will disaggregate their state- and district-level data to get a clearer understanding of the relative health of the school librarian profession in their communities. I hope these data will prompt us all to take action to improve literacy learning for K-12 students through the expertise of effective school librarians with the ultimate goal of at least one librarian per school.

SLIDE state-level data includes:

  • mandates for employing school librarians,
  • school library standards and guidelines,
  • state government school library official,
  • state data on school librarians,
  • state funding directly to school libraries,
  • state-funded or discounted e-resource, and
  • higher education institutions preparing school librarians.

School Librarians in Arizona
In 2018-19, as the Advanced Search SLIDE data tool shows, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported 412.34 school librarian FTEs. This is the most recent year of data available from NCES. In that year, the student to librarian ratio was 1:2,259.63

Arizona: Total Students, Librarian FTEs, Students per Librarian

Image created on the SLIDE Advanced Search Page

According to data available from the Arizona Department of Education, these are the state-certified FTE (Full Time Equivalents) employees in our field for the 2020-2021 Academic Year:
602 – Librarians – 196.58
603 – Media Specialists – 86.32
Total: 282.90 FTEs

Arizona’s student-to-librarian and student-to-teacher ratio
continues to head in the wrong direction.

In 2020-2021, the classified staff serving in school libraries figure was this.
061 – Library Assistants – 592.27

In studying the NCES data from 2018-19, SLIDE researchers discovered that in Arizona 7 out of 10 districts employ library support staff in lieu of school librarians. This is the highest percentage of all the states (Lance and Kachel 2021a, vii, 66, 70, 72).

This is educational malpractice.

Image showing state-level data from Arizona

Image created on the SLIDE State Survey Page

State Survey Data: Arizona Compared with Other States
As your state intermediary, I reported Arizona data to the SLIDE researchers. Teacher Librarian Division co-chair Jean Kilker and I conferred to make sure the data we provided were accurate.

Criterion Arizona Other States and D.C. Notes
State-Mandated School Librarians No, not mandated 26 states have mandates, only enforced in 10 states
School Library Standards/Guidelines No 43 states do
State Government School Library Official No 33 states do
State Data on School Librarians Yes 18 states don’t
State Funding Directly to School Libraries No 13 states do
State-Funded/Discounted E-Resources Yes, thanks to the Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records Only 12 states don’t
Higher Education Institutions Preparing School Librarians None 45 states do; states with multiple preparation institutions have more school librarian positions.

Table created with data from the SLIDE State Survey Page (Lance and Kachel 2021a)

“School librarians are least prevalent and most likely to experience job loss in states with no institutions of higher education preparing school librarians” (Lance and Kachel 2021a, vi).

Perspectives on School Librarian Employment in the United States, 2009-10 to 2018-19
The Arizona data from the Perspectives Report (Lance and Kachel 2021a) is telling. The following table shows our national ranking in these criteria compared with 49 other states based on NCES 2018-2019 data. The page numbers are from the report. SLs stands for school librarians. FTEs are full time equivalents.

Criterion Ranking Table/Page Number Notes
Number of SL FTEs – 426.17 31 Table 3, 14 MA – similar total population – 621.15 SLs – ranks 25 (#1 Texas – 4,604.80 SLs)
Percent Change 38 Table 4, 16 30.5% fewer from 2009-10 to 2018-19
Percent Change 28 Table 5, 18 4.3% fewer from 2015-16 to 2018-19
State-level Ratio of SL FTEs per School 46 Table 6, 20 .18 per school
Percent Change 38 Table 7, 22 33.3% fewer from 2009-10 to 2018-19
Percent Change 33 Table 8, 24 6.7% fewer from 2015-16 to 2018-19
Student to SL FTE Ratio 46 Table 9, 27 1:2,679 in 2018-19
Teacher to SL FTE Ratio 44 Table 10, 29 1:114 in 2018-19
District Ratio of SL FTEs per School 47 Table 11, 38 Chart 13, 42 5.6% of schools have at least a .75 FTE

68.7% of schools have zero SL FTEs

% of Districts with Any Librarians 47 Table 14, 53 26.2% of Arizona districts have one or more librarians
States with the Largest % of No School Librarians 46 Table 15, 56 59.3% of Arizona districts have no school librarians

Table created with data from the Perspectives Report (Lance and Kachel 2021a)

District-level Data Tools
Since my advocacy work in Arizona is currently centered on restoring school librarian positions available in Tucson Unified School District (TUSD), the following examples reflect my work. I encourage all Arizona school librarians and library advocates to use the SLIDE tools to access and compare data from their district with other districts within the state or across the nation.

District-level data includes:

  • school librarian employment,
  • employment of selected other educator positions, and
  • selected district characteristics and student demographics.

Profile Tool
The Profile tool allows users to compare data for their own districts with those of comparable districts both within the same state and with similar districts across the nation.

When I first entered TUSD, the tool provided a list of 19 peer districts from across the country based on these criteria:

student population (45K in TUSD), locale (TUSD is a Large, City rather than suburban or rural district), and per pupil expenditures ($8,838).

When I added the number of schools (88 in TUSD), there were only 6 peer districts; when I added English Language Learners (8.54% in TUSD), there was only one peer district: Cherry Creek School District No. 5, Arapah, Colorado.

When I added Free & Reduced-cost Meals (60% in TUSD), there were no longer any peer districts. Other criteria were Majority Non-White (which TUSD is), Majority Hispanic (which TUSD is), and Restrict to Your State.

Comparison between Tucson Unified and Cherry Creek School Districts

Data retrieve/image created on the SLIDE Profile Page

I then used the Cherry Creek School District for comparison. Unfortunately, the NCES data for TUSD’s Library Support Staff is incorrect. In 2020, there were 50.5 FTEs rather than just 1!

What I learned: TUSD is a unique school district in the United States in terms of being a large, urban district, with low per student spending, with a majority Hispanic student population, with a high percentage of students who quality for Free and Reduced-cost Meals. That alone was important information for me in my advocacy work.

As the Perspectives Report notes: “Districts with higher poverty levels, more minority students, and more English Language Learners were less likely to have librarians. Majority Hispanic districts were more than twice as likely to have not librarians and less than half as likely to have the highest level of librarian staffing” (Lance and Kachel 2021a, vii).

Sadly, for the students, educators, and families in TUSD that description accurately describes the district’s demographics.

Inequitable access to the expertise of school librarians is unconscionable and most egregious for high-needs students and schools.

Advanced Search Tool
The Advanced Search tool allows users to access data from the 2019-20 school year, with the following exceptions: Free & Reduced Cost Meals and English Language Learner data is from 2018-19 and Per Pupil Expenditures data is from 2016-17.

For the search for TUSD, I checked every box and asked for percentages in terms of student demographics. The resulting data image is too wide for a screen shot, so I took advantage of the URL feature to share these data:

https://libslide.org/data-tools/advanced-search/?saved=258f

Tool users can also export these data as an Excel spreadsheet.

Conclusion and Call to Action
In Arizona, school librarians are endangered educators nearing extinction. What are we doing to reverse this situation? To meet the needs of today’s students and classroom teachers, schools need the expertise of state-certified school librarians. (See my 7/12/21 blog post “Advocating for State-certified School Librarian Positions.”)

According to the Perspectives Report, “school funding alone cannot explain staffing decisions. Between 2015-16 and 2018-19, districts most likely to have employed librarian consistently were those spending the most—and the least—per pupil” (Lance and Kachel 2021a, 59).

While funding isn’t the only problem, it is a piece of the puzzle. For example, according to a statement by Superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo at the July 13, 2021 Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) board meeting and budget hearing, he and the entire TUSD Board are in agreement about restoring school librarian positions to all 86 schools in the district. At present, there are just 13, leaving 73 schools underserved.

Filling this equity gap will take a huge infusion of funds
(more than $6M/year) that the district simply does not have.

On Friday, July 16, 2021, I attended a training offered by Save Our Schools Arizona (https://sosarizona.org/); on Sunday, July 18, I picked up referenda petitions and began collecting signatures. Next week, I will report on the three referenda that Arizonans who care about public education are working to put on the ballot that will reverse Draconian tax cuts that deplete state revenues. Reversing these cuts could impact whether or not school districts in Arizona will have the funding needed to restore school librarian positions, as promised in Proposition 208, which was passed by the voters in November, 2020.

References

Arizona Department of Education. 2021. School District Employee Report. Available at http://www.ade.az.gov/sder/ReportGenerationPublic.asp. Accessed July 24, 2021.

Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra E. Kachel. 2021a. Perspectives on School Librarian Employment in the United States, 2009-10 to 2018-19. Available at https://libslide.org/publications/perspectives. Accessed July 24, 2021.

SLIDE.org. 2021b. Data and Tools. Available at https://libslide.org/data-tools/. Accessed July 24, 2021.

SLIDE.org. 2021c. State Survey. Available at https://libslide.org/state-survey/. Accessed July 24, 2021.

 

SLIDE Research Study: Initial Findings and Perspectives Report

The School Librarian Investigation—Decline or Evolution? (SLIDE) Research Project is an exploratory project conducted under the auspices of Antioch University Seattle and funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services. The project began its work in September, 2020, and will conclude the investigation in August, 2023. This study will determine patterns in the continuing national decline in school librarian positions and how school districts decide to staff libraries for K-12 students in the U.S.

Excerpt from poster published inTeacher Librarian

Image Credit:
Kachel, Debra E., and Keith Curry Lance. 2021. “Data Speaks: Preliminary Data on the Status of School Librarians in the U.S.” Teacher Librarian 48 (5): 30-31.

Published Project Reports
Researchers Dr. Keith Curry Lance and/or Debra E. Kachel have published two articles and a poster in Teacher Librarian that illuminate state-level survey data from the SLIDE study that may help you in your district-level advocacy (SLIDE 2021).

Ms. Kachel’s February article “Data Speaks: Addressing Equity of Access to School Librarians for Students” includes these alarming facts: “Nationally there has been a twenty-percent decline in school librarian positions over the past decade” (Kachel 2021, 52), andseven million students in the U.S. have no access to a school library with a certified school librarian” (49).

The Status of State Support of School Library Programs” appears in the June, 2021 issue of Teacher Librarian (Kachel and Lance 2021). In it, they share the results of a survey of all 50 states and Washington D.C. The State Survey page on the SLIDE website provides access to state-level data that was collected via the survey. On the website’s Publications page, SLIDE provides reports based on the state-level survey data.

While all states have certification requirements for school librarians, only 43 have school library program standards or guidelines. Ten states plus D.C. have enforced requirements for certified school librarians; 16 states have requirements that are not enforced. Arizona is one of the states that has no mandated requirement.

The researchers found that the school librarian positions decreased between 2009-2010 and 2018-2019 by 9% in states with enforced requirements, 23% in states where mandates are not enforced, and states without mandates experienced an average 29% decline.

Enforced mandates matter.

Arizona is one of 17 states that has no full- or part-time state-level employee at the Department of Education who oversees school libraries. Thirty-six states reported school librarian shortages; 22, including Arizona, reported shortages in the past 3 years. Arizona is also one of just five states with no higher-education institutions that prepare school librarians. The researchers also learned that more preparation programs lead to more school librarian positions.

A table in the June Teacher Librarian article provides a snapshot of data sampling from thirteen states that have ratio staffing that codifies the number of students that are to be served by either a part-time or full-time librarian.

The article also includes a “Data Speaks” poster and references that will be important for advocates in their work. (The image for this blog post is an excerpt from the poster in the June issue of Teacher Librarian).

The important takeaway from this article, poster, and data is spotlighted on the poster. “As of 2020-21, the 50 states and D.C. vary dramatically in the extent of their support for the presence of school librarians in public schools.”

The lack of equity in access to the expertise of school librarians
is a nationwide issue.

Perspectives on School Librarian Employment in the United States, 2009-10 to 2018-19
On July 19, 2021, the SLIDE Project released the Perspectives report (Lance and Kachel 2021a). In a press release for the report titled “Most Vulnerable Students Impacted by Declining Numbers of School Librarians,” the researchers note these facts from 2018-2019 National Center for Education Statistics data gathered from 13,000 local school districts:

  • Three out of 10 districts had no librarians in any of their schools.
  • More than 4.4 million students in high-poverty districts (50%+ free or reduced National School Lunch Program) had no librarians.
  • Almost 3.1 million students in predominantly Hispanic districts were without school librarians.
  • Almost 4.1 million students in predominantly non-white districts were without school librarians.
  • Smaller and rural districts were more likely to have no librarians than larger and suburban districts.
  • Nine out of 10 charter schools had no school librarians (Lance and Kachel 2021b).

The Perspectives Report includes an executive summary, introduction, national-, state-, and district-level perspectives, and a conclusion. Each section is available as a separate .pdf file. Tables and charts throughout the report clearly illuminate these data and the researchers’ analysis.

In the report conclusion, the researchers state this: “If school librarians (regardless of job title) are to have a long-term future in U.S. public education, the school library community needs to better understand the perceptions, values, and priorities of those who make staffing decisions” (Lance and Kachel 2021a, 83).

Endangered Educators
Today’s effective school librarians teach media literacy, online safety, and digital citizenship. They codesign and coimplement standards-based lessons with classroom educators including determining instructional strategies, resources, and technology tools to support the classroom curriculum. School librarians promote reading and teach students to apply comprehension strategies as they read to learn. They select resources and manage the library collection for the benefit of all students, educators, and families.

Research shows that “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). Decades of research shows a positive correlation between the work of school librarians and student achievement, particularly in reading (Lance and Kachel 2018).

Yet, the initial findings of the SLIDE Project show school librarians are endangered educators.

Next Steps in the SLIDE Project
Over the next year, district-level decision-makers will be interviewed to learn what factors are influencing whether or not they employ school librarians to serve the students, educators, and families in their districts. Interviewees will be asked about their current staffing model for school libraries and how and why they made the decision to use the model.

Coming next week:  I serve on the SLIDE Advisory Council and as the Arizona State Intermediary for the project. In that role, I provide Arizona data and connections to the research team. I will share information focused on Arizona school librarians in next week’s 7/26/21 post.

References

Gretes, Frances. 2013. School Library Impact Studies: A Review of Findings and Guide to Sources. Prepared for the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. Available at https://baltimorelibraryproject.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2013/09/Library-Impact-Studies.pdf. Accessed July 15, 2021.

Kachel, Debra E. 2021. “Data Speaks: Addressing Equity of Access to School Librarians for Students.” Teacher Librarian 48 (3): 49-52. Available at https://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/html5/reader/production/default.aspx?pubname=&edid=6b457264-4b51-4275-87a1-c8ed62b44733&pnum=4. Accessed July 15, 2021.

Kachel, Debra E., and Keith Curry Lance. 2021. “The Status of State Support of School Library Programs.” Teacher Librarian 48 (5): 8-13. Available at https://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/html5/reader/production/default.aspx?pubname=&pubid=eae030fd-f08f-4952-9fd7-f475edae2de1. Accessed July 15, 202l.

Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra E. Kachel. 2018. “Why School Librarians Matter: What Years of Research Tell Us.” Kappan Online. Available at https://kappanonline.org/lance-kachel-school-librarians-matter-years-research/. Accessed July 15, 2021.

Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra E. Kachel. 2021a. Perspectives on School Librarian Employment in the United States, 2009-10 to 2018-19. Accessed at https://libslide.org/publications/perspectives/. Accessed July 19, 2021.

Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra E. Kachel. 2021b. Press Release: Most Vulnerable Students Impacted by Declining Numbers of School Librarians. Available at https://libslide.org/news/. Accessed July 21, 2021.

SLIDE. 2021. State Survey Reports. Available at https://libslide.org/news. Accessed July 15, 2021.

Advocating for State-certified School Librarian Positions

Dear School Librarianship Readers,
Below is an op-ed I submitted to the Arizona Daily Star on June 3, 2021. It was not published.

Between that time and this, the Arizona Legislature and Governor Doug Ducey passed a 2.5% flat rate for all Arizona state tax payers. Before this legislation, those in the top tax bracket in Arizona had a 4.5% cap so according to Capitol Media Services and as reported in the Daily Star on 7/3/21, 53% of the “savings” for the new tax structure will go to those making more than $1million a year.

In addition, the new tax structure will cap anyone’s taxes at 4.5% including the 3.5% surcharge for Proposition 208, and creates a new category for small-business owners to allow them to sidestep the surcharge for public education.

These changes from our progressive (and fairer) state tax rates were a direct result of Arizona voters passing Prop. 208 in the fall of 2020. This initiative added a 3.5% surcharge to individuals making more than $250,000 and couples filling jointly making more than $500,000 a year; the surcharge is to be collected ONLY on the amount of income OVER these two thresholds.

Before the flat tax passed on a party-line vote, Prop. 208 would have collected $800million for Arizona’s public schools, including funding for school librarians, social workers, and counselors. That amount will be reduced by at least $300million unless…

Arizona voters, especially those of us who supported and voted for Prop. 208, can stop the cuts. We are determined to put an initiative on the fall 2021 ballot to rescind these tax cuts. Polls showed that the majority of Arizona voters did not approve of the cuts so it is likely we can prevail. The work to collect 150,000 signatures begins as soon as the initiative petitions can be crafted and printed.

Today, I’m sharing the unpublished op-ed below in hopes that some piece of this information will support you in your advocacy work for district public school education and hiring and retaining state-certified school librarians.

In addition to the initiative effort, it is clear that Arizona voters must elect different legislators who will follow rather than thwart the will of the voters.

Sincerely,
Judi

3 June 2021

A Note to Governor Ducey and Republican Arizona Legislators Regarding Arizona Public Education:

While you’re at recess, I hope you will rethink Arizona’s budget proposals.

The $1.5B tax cuts you are considering that will disproportionately benefit Arizona’s top earners are ill-timed and reckless. The fact is our state economy is in good shape. Governor Ducey’s own State of Arizona Executive Budget Summary, Fiscal Year 2022, forecasts a structural surplus of $141million, resulting in an ending cash balance of $855million. This revenue, which belongs to all Arizonans, plus our current tax structure could be used to put our state on the path toward a positive and sound education future for our children.

Arizona voters who passed Proposition 208, the Invest in Education Act, know the facts. In 2019, Arizona ranked 48th among the 50 states for K-12 per student spending and 46th in average teacher salaries. Arizona schools have lower per-pupil administration spending than any other state in the nation.

District public schools are severely economically challenged to provide equitable educational opportunities.

It shouldn’t have taken a pandemic for the public to realize the underfunding crisis in our K-12 schools. In 2020, no students, families, or districts should have been scrambling to provide the learning tools of this century in order for students to fully participate in remote learning. Internet access, laptops and other devices, and technology troubleshooting support should have been as common as pencils and pencil sharpeners in every school. Schools should have had the necessary technology infrastructure to give all students, educators, and families success during remote learning, and yet, a year and a half since the first school closures, opportunity gaps still exist.

This year, standardized test scores will likely show a decrease in students’ literacy proficiency due to a number of factors including the transition to remote learning, stress in home environments, and reduced participation in learning opportunities that educators worked tirelessly to provide.

Research shows that school librarians are key educators who make a difference in student learning outcomes. With their knowledge of print and digital resources, including technology tools, school librarians helped students, classroom teachers, and families navigate remote and hybrid learning. Arizona ranks 46th in the nation for the number of state-certified school librarians so many school communities did not have librarian support during school closures.

In addition, studies are showing that students’ social and emotional health has been negatively impacted by the pandemic. According to the American School Counselor Association, Arizona ranks dead last among the states with an average of one counselor for every 905 K-12 students.

These statistics do not describe a K-12 district public school system that is preparing students for success.

Last November, Arizonans voted to reverse a three decades in the making crisis in underfunding schools. We voted to address the teacher shortage, increase educator pay, and train future educators. We voted to increase the number of school librarians and counselors in order to shore up the academic and social-emotional health of our students. We voted to invest in education to improve the prospects for our students in a competitive global economy.

When schools lack key faculty members who are trained literacy learning, technology integration, and health experts, students and educators do not have the support they need and deserve.

It’s time to remember that you represent the people of Arizona. We are the “special” interest group who elected you to meet the challenges and solve the problems that individual citizens, groups of advocates, towns, cities, and counties cannot meet and solve on our own. Our district public schools are our collective responsibility.

The current budget surplus and tax structure plus Proposition 208 provisions that provide a permanent funding stream can support school districts in equitably meeting the high-level of literacy and technology opportunities our children must have to succeed.

Don’t shortchange our students! Wealthy Arizonans do not need tax breaks at the expense of our children.

End of Op-ed

Addendum: In a July 7, 2021 article “In a Drive to Cut Taxes, States Blow an Opportunity to Invest in Underfunded Services” by the non-partisan Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy, Arizona is not alone. Ohio, New Hampshire, North Carolina among others are mentioned alongside the Grand Canyon State. “After a year in which the gross disparities in our economy became even more apparent, tax cuts for thriving high-income households should not register as a priority.”

But here in Arizona, the rich got the tax cuts and the K-12 schools got shortchanged – again! So, now it’s time to once again start circulating those petitions to undo the harm.

References (Required by the AZ Daily Star that accompanied my op-ed submission)

American Association of School Librarians During Remote and Hybrid Learning. 2021. Knowledge Quest (blog). https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/final-school-library-snapshot-survey-results

Arizona Governor. 2021. State of Arizona Executive Budget. https://azgovernor.gov/sites/default/files/summary_book_with_addendum_2-1-21_0.pdf

Arizona PBS. 2019. Arizona School Counselor to Student Ratio Worse in the Nation. https://azpbs.org/horizon/2019/05/arizona-school-counselor-to-student-ratio-worst-in-nation/

Hough, Heather J. 2021. Learning Loss and Test Scores. Brookings. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2021/04/29/covid-19-the-educational-equity-crisis-and-the-opportunity-ahead/

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

National Education Association. 2021. Research and Publications: Arizona Education Rankings. https://www.nea.org/research-publications

https://www.nea.org/resource-library/teacher-pay-and-student-spending-how-does-your-state-rank

SLIDE.org. 2021. School Librarian Numbers. https://libslide.org/

Woolf, Nick. 2020. Social-emotional Toll on Students. InsideSEL. https://insidesel.com/2020/11/19/the-impact-of-the-covid-19-pandemic-on-student-learning-and-social-emotional-development/

The Future of School Librarianship: Why Administrators Matter

It is true that research on the understandings and perspectives of school principals has been conducted over decades. Whether or not there are state mandates for school librarian positions, we know that district-level and site-level decision-makers are the leaders who ultimately ensure support for school librarians. They approve hiring or making cuts. They support funding for materials. They decide whether or not school librarians will have an official spokesperson (read that district-level supervisor) who has a seat at the table when literacy learning gaps are being identified and solutions are found.

Bullhorn with words: School Librarian Advocacy

The future of school librarianship
depends on advocacy
from district- and site-level administrators.

School Librarians: Endangered Educators
If our profession was doing a stellar job of demonstrating how our work with classroom educators closes gaps and improves student learning outcomes, then there would be no need to continue to study administrators’ understandings and perceptions of our work.

But that is not the case. We know this because school librarians are endangered educators. Nationally there has been a twenty-percent decline in school librarian positions over the past decade (Kachel 2021, 52), and seven million students in the U.S. have no access to a school library with a certified school librarian (49). If equity is indeed a core value of the profession and we care deeply about other people’s children whether or not they attend our own school, then we need to get serious about how we can align our work to meet administrators’ needs and how the roles we play in education are perceived and understood.

The hard part is that in many schools and districts across the country state-certified school librarian positions, if they ever existed, were cut more than a decade ago. A generation of students, classroom teachers, administrators, and families have never known the scope and potential of school librarians’ contributions to learning in this century. They have not experienced collaborating school librarians as culture-builders and instructional leaders and partners. They have not experienced libraries as hubs of technology-infused learning, library collections that include resources in multiple formats, and librarian leaders who integrate tools and resources to help students and classroom educators succeed.

It is a tough sell when the “buyers” haven’t had first-hand experiences of highly qualified school librarian leaders and vibrant library programs with school-wide impact.

“Today’s” School Librarians
It may be understood that school librarians develop library collections. They match print and digital resources to curriculum and the needs of the students, educators, and families in their learning community. For close to three decades, they have been technology as well as book experts who support classroom teachers by integrating digital and print resources and tools into the classroom curriculum.

Most of all as experienced educators and instructional partners, school librarians collaborate with classroom teachers and provide the support needed for specific learners, small groups, or entire classes of students depending on students’ needs, teachers’ learning objectives, and the required standards. School librarians’ teaching is flexible based on just-in-time instructional needs. (If librarians are not engaging in instruction, that is not a function of job descriptions or national standards, but rather the way the librarian or site administrator understand the job. That should not be allowed to continue in this century.)

Effective school librarians offer job-embedded professional development because when they coplan, coteach, and co-assess student learning outcomes, they are learning alongside colleagues in real time, with real students, within the real supports and constraints of the school’s learning environment (physical or virtual). Classroom teachers and school librarians become reciprocal mentors for one another. The result is a collaborative teaching force that can help the school reach its capacity for educating every student.

Learning from Administrators
So why are we still studying the understandings, perspectives, and needs of school administrators? The answer to that question is as simple as it is complex. Because we cannot exist without administrators’ support.

Pam Harland, Anita Cellucci, and I have completed a study of video content created by the seven-member AASL School Leader Collaborative (see the May 3, 2021 blog post). We will be presenting “The Influence of Standards on School Administrators’ Priorities for School Librarians” during a Research Into Practice session at the AASL National Conference in Salt Lake City in October, 2021.

There is much to learn from studying these exemplary administrators and even more to gain by practicing the high level of school librarian leadership they expect from their school librarian cadre.

Work Cited

Kachel, Debra. 2021. Data speaks: Addressing Equity of Access to School Librarians for Students. Teacher Librarian 48 (3): 49-52.

Advocacy NOW: Save School Librarians

“School librarians need an advocacy network, especially when challenges or possible solutions undermine the potential of the school librarian and library program to serve the literacy learning and resource needs of students, classroom teachers, and families” (Moreillon 2018, 133.)

Advocacy for full-time, state-certified school librarians in every school is one of my passions and a motivating purpose in my life’s work. When I taught preservice school librarians, I stressed the non-negotiable responsibility to take up school librarian and library program advocacy as a way to take action for a high-quality education for K-12 students and teaching experience classroom educators.

Advocacy and Public Relations Word Cloud

I believe that equitable access to the skill set of professional school librarians and the rich resources of school libraries give students and educators opportunities to reach their capacity to learn and teach how to read effectively and to efficiently locate, evaluate, and apply relevant information in order to create new knowledge.

The inequitable distribution of professional school librarians in K-12 schools across the U.S. is a matter of social justice.

Washington, DC Public Schools Librarians
Our colleagues in Washington, DC are being threatened with a decision to allow principals to deem school librarians as “excess” educators and eliminate their positions. You can read about this poor decision on EveryLibrary’s SaveSchoolLibrarians website and on Nancy Bailey’s Education Website.

This is the personalized introduction I added to the EveryLibrary letter and sent off last week:

Dear Mayor Bowser, Dr. Ferebee and Paul Kihn,

I am an advocate for equity in education. Equity includes access to print and digital resources via school library programs led by state-certified school librarians who teach students reading comprehension and critical thinking skills that help them navigate today’s information.

PreK-12 students, especially those who have not had literacy learning opportunities in their homes and neighborhoods and lack access to a wide-variety of reading materials, need the support of literacy leaders. Likewise, classroom teachers benefit from the resources and instructional knowledge school librarians bring to the collaboration table.

EveryLibrary’s piece:

Losing school librarians is a crisis for any school. Ward-by-ward across D.C. it is an educational tragedy. When the American Rescue Plan includes over $368 million in direct aid for DCPS, this isn’t the right way to balance the budget. We need to focus on building-up our students and families up after COVID disruptions.

There is never a right time to “excess” school librarians. I am concerned that allowing principals to cut their school librarians will create a bigger achievement gap. We should be investing in more certified school librarians and improving collection development budgets. We can support Title I programs and fight learning losses by investing in our school libraries. #DCPSNEEDSLIBRARIANS

I encourage you to make time to speak up for our DC school librarian colleagues and their library patrons. Please add your voice to this advocacy effort.

Follow #DCPSNeedsLibrarians and @Boss_Librarian

Michigan School Librarians
AASL president-elect and librarian at East Middle School in the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, Kathy Lester penned a May 3, 2021 op-ed titled “To boost literacy, Michigan must invest in school librarians.”

“From the December 2019 (Michigan) staffing numbers, only 8 percent of our schools employ a full-time certified school librarian, 25 percent employ at least a part-time certified school librarian, and approximately 52 percent of our schools do not employ any library staff.” As Kathy firmly proclaims, “Without staff, you cannot have a school library.”

Kathy is asking legislators, educators, and community members to support House Bill 4663, introduced by Representatives Daniel Camilleri, D-Trenton, Matt Koleszar, D-Plymouth, and Amos O’Neal, D-Saginaw, which would require a school board to employ at least one certified media specialist for each school library operated by its district.

Follow Michigan Association for Media in Education and @LibraryL

Pennsylvania School Librarians
On May 17, 2021, SLIDE: School Librarian Investigation: Decline or Evolution? researcher and school librarian advocate Deb Kachel published an op-ed titled “Students need equity in school library programs.”

According to a survey conducted by the Pennsylvania Association of School Librarians, the gap between “have” and “have not” schools is widening in their state. Forty-eight districts report having no school librarians in any of their school buildings, impacting almost 90,000 K-12 public school students. The high-poverty districts seem to be the most affected.

Deb notes, “Only a state requirement for certified school librarians, like HB 1168 (which has been referred to the Education Committee) and an enacted fair school funding formula will provide the equity that all Pennsylvania’s students need and deserve.”

Follow @PSLA_News and @lib_SLIDE.

New Jersey School Librarians
The state Board of Education proclaimed April “School Library Month.” Then in an April 7, 2021 article posted by Politico, “‘Vital’ school librarian positions disappearing, state Board of Education told,” New Jersey School Librarian Association President Beth Thomas reported that school librarian job cuts are happening across the state. Beth wrote, “This is the first time seen we have seen the position officially abolished per district policy (in Essex County).”

According to the preliminary data from the SLIDE national study as many as one fifth of New Jersey school districts do not have a certified school librarian although the state’s administrative code mandates the position.

Follow New Jersey Association of School Librarians and @bibliobeth.

Arizona School Librarians?
Don’t get me started…

Your tweets could help our colleagues
in DC, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

Equity and the First Amendment
If you have not as yet read ALA Freedom to Read President Barbara Stripling’s article “School Librarians, Equity, and the First Amendment,” I hope you will do so. In it, she writes this: “school librarians must take a leadership role in ensuring that all young people have equitable physical and intellectual access to diverse content, the right to receive and read that content, and the self-confidence and determination to exercise their right to speak.”

That requires that we ALL stand-up for the “have” students and educators in our own schools and districts AND for the “have not” students and educators in schools and districts that lack state-certified school librarian leaders in their schools.

Let’s create an unstoppable advocacy network—beginning with our support for one another.

Work Cited
Moreillon, Judi. 2018. Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy. Chicago: ALA.

Image Credit
Moreillon, Judi. 2018. Figure 8.1: Public Relations and Advocacy Tools. Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy, 133.

Leading Learning: Advice from the AASL School Leader Collaborative

Last Friday, American Association of School Librarians (AASL) past-president Kathryn Roots Lewis posted “Celebrate Your Influence!” on the Knowledge Quest blog.

This is a must-read, seriously consider, reflect upon, and take action guide for all practicing school librarians, librarian candidates, and school librarian educators.Word Cloud in the letters W and ELeaders and Instructional Partners
The responses from five of the seven School Leader Collaborative (Collaborative) members reinforce the critical actions school librarians have taken during the pandemic. The school librarian’s role as a leader and the Collaborate Shared Foundation (and action taken during the role of instructional partner) are dominant threads throughout the Collaborative members’ comments. These principals and superintendents know the school library can and should be at the center of the academic program and that school librarians can and should lead from the heart of the school.

Although many school librarians have been serving as leaders and instructional partners for decades, the necessity of leadership and classroom-library collaboration came into acute focus during school closures, hybrid and remote learning. These practices must continue into the future if we are to demonstrate our value and reach our capacity to influence teaching and learning in our school communities.

Maximizing School Librarian Leadership
I believe that the testimonials of the Collaborative suggest that educators thrive in a positive school climate characterized by a can-do spirit. In their comments, they ask school librarians to be adaptable and flexible, intentional and effective communicators who practice grace and patience, and serve as outcomes-oriented coteachers who can be assertive team players.

School librarians must be coleaders in building and maintaining a collaborative culture of learning. “Leaders must communicate optimism to their followers. Optimistic leaders support people in taking the first and then the next steps in a change process. School librarians can be coleaders who positively affect school climate and culture through successful classroom-library instructional partnerships” (Moreillon 2018, 130).

Advocacy
From the perspectives of these administrators, the positive results of (more) school librarians serving as leaders and instructional partners has been a “good thing” for students, educators, and administrators.

This MUST become the new normal for our profession!

Publicizing the work of the Collaborative creates an opportunity for advocacy for all of us. But first, it is incumbent upon all school librarians to take action to work toward the highly influential role of instructional coleader in our schools.

After we have taken on that responsibility, sharing the understandings, experiences, and suggestions of these school leaders can help school librarians influence the actions of administrators in their schools and districts. Combining exemplary practice with administrator support will help us achieve our rightful place at the center of teaching and learning.

Coming Soon at the AASL Conference
Pam Harland, Anita Cellucci, and I have just completed a research study of content created by the Collaborative. We will be presenting “The Influence of Standards on School Administrators’ Priorities for School Librarians” during a “Research Into Practice” session at the AASL National Conference in Salt Lake City in October, 2021.

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi, 2018. Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy. Chicago: ALA.

Image Credit

johnhain. “We Unity Cooperation Together.” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/illustrations/we-unity-cooperation-together-566327/

School Library Month and The Book of Abel

2020 School Library Month Promotion: Everyone Belongs @Your School LibraryApril is School Library Month. At this time each year, school librarians reach out into our school, local, state, and national communities to show how school libraries matter—to students, educators, families, and communities. School libraries provide access to print and digital books and resources and learning opportunities that invite students into the literacy club, shore up their reading and information literacy skills, and set them on the path to success in school and in life.

I have led and observed many school library programs over the course of my career as a school librarian and school librarian educator. In my experience, there is no such thing as an exemplary school library program without an exemplary state-certified school librarian at the helm.

The greatest asset any library has is a librarian.
R. David Lankes

AND exemplary school librarians are collaborators who find like-minded passionate literacy learning advocates among their administrators, classroom educator colleagues, and families. If one of our essential goals is to lead a culture of reading, then we must form partnerships with others to maximize the impact of our knowledge of literature, curriculum resources, technology tools, and instructional strategies for the benefit of all students.

The greatest assets school librarians have are collaborating colleagues.
Judi Moreillon

With our collaborating colleagues, we can take action to ensure equity, diversity, and inclusion beyond library spaces into classrooms and out into the larger community. We can ensure students’ right to read and their intellectual freedoms of choice and voice. We can create school-based cultures of reading and learning that enrich the lives of all who are privileged to be members.

Literacy Champions
I trust all school librarians have had the experience of working with passionate literacy champions who share their responsibility to create and sustain vibrant cultures of reading. Like you, I am grateful for all educators, from all grade levels and disciplines, who take up this charge alongside us.

Although I didn’t have the pleasure of teaching with her, Daphne Russell is one of those standard bearer classroom teachers who knows that books and reading not only change lives; they also save lives. In April, 2019, I wrote a review of Daphne’s book Read or Die: A Story of Survival and Hope and How a Life Was Saved One Book. In that post, I noted how exemplary school librarians strive to find the “right” book for individual students and support classroom teachers in effective reading motivation and comprehension strategy instruction.

To quote from that post: “If school librarians at any instructional level hope to influence students’ enjoyment of reading, reading proficiency, and successful quest for accurate information, they must create opportunities for individualized reader’s advisory. They must acknowledge the greater influence of the classroom teacher on student learning. They must ‘let’ classroom teachers be the first to bring new books into the classroom to share with students. They must coplan and coteach with classroom teachers and specialists. School librarian leaders must collaborate” (Moreillon 2019).

Sadly, not all outstanding educators like Daphne have experienced school librarians as literacy partners who support the growth and development of individual readers and educators’ literacy-for-all aspirations for their students—non-readers, struggling and striving readers, and avid bookworms alike.

The Book of Abel
Daphne has written a screenplay based on her experiences as a book-pushing, life-changing literacy warrior classroom teacher. The Book of Abel follows a young man who, with the encouragement of his teacher, finds himself and his path forward in life through books.

In the video Daphne produced to promote her film, she includes testimonials from students. I believe many students (and adults) whose lives have been changed or saved through books would provide similar stories—stories that school librarians and classroom teachers could use to make the case for including diverse books in the classroom curriculum (see the 1:11 mark on the video).

At the end of the promotional video, Daphne gives us a sense of how the story will end when she describes how viewers will be moved, perhaps to tears, by the impact of reading on Abel’s life.

Shhhhh
Top secret… spoiler… but no surprise to the school librarians reading this blog post. At the end of the film, Abel will find a home for his reading soul…. in the library.

Please join me and consider contributing to Daphne’s GoFundMe effort to produce and distribute her short film The Book of Abel. (Note: Tuesday, April 6th is Arizona Giving Day.)

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2019. “Read or Die: A Book Review and a Call to Action.” School Librarian Leadership (blog), April 29. http://www.schoollibrarianleadership.com/2019/04/29/read-or-die-a-book-review-and-a-call-to-action/

 

Literacy Partners Become Advocates

Judi Moreillon Author Visit 2019 Louisville, KentuckyFor as long as I’ve been in the profession (30+ years), advocacy has been a hot topic in school librarianship. Unfortunately, far too often we start our advocacy efforts when school librarian positions are threatened, library budgets are slashed, or scheduling changes inhibit students’ access to the resources of the school library or the expertise of the school librarian.

To ward off these threats to a complete and equitable education for our students, school librarians must be in a continuous cycle of marketing, public relations, and advocacy.

Data Sources
Marketing involves listening to and learning from our library stakeholders. We must understand their needs as well as their perceptions of how the librarian and the library program can help them meet their needs. School librarians often engage stakeholders in surveys to collect these data. Once collected, we analyze the results and make the appropriate changes to our programs.

There are, however, other sources of data that can also guide our school library program decisions. The International Reading Association (ILA) conducts a biennial “What’s Hot in Literacy Survey.” Comparing this larger data set and national trends and initiatives in education to our own local data collection can further guide our program decisions.

The 2019 ILA survey results appeared in a 2020 report that points to three actions school librarians can take to demonstrate how their work helps elevate the literacy learning of students and positions them as literacy partners with classroom teacher colleagues, administrators, and families.

I wrote about these school librarian contributions in my hot-off-the-presses Literacy Today article “School Librarians as Literacy Partners: Taking Action on the What’s Hot in Literacy Report” (2021).

Early Literacy Skills Instruction
Elementary school librarians are in a position to influence outcomes for preschool children in their learning community. In many cities across the country, various governmental and non-governmental bodies are taking up the charge for high-quality early childhood education. Research has shown that children’s positive preschool learning experience put them on a path for academic and life success (U.S. Department of Education).

Here are three examples of supporting preschool children from my own practice as an elementary school librarian (two schools) and literacy coach (one school).

  • At Corbett Elementary (1994-1997), I offered preschool storytimes for the Head Start program that met on our campus. We also earned a grant to create literacy backpacks. Each backpack included at least one book, a journal, a toy or other prop, and literacy learning information for Head Start families.
  • At Gale Elementary (1997-2001), I was a half-time librarian with a full-time assistant. At first, she and I collaborated to plan a weekly storytime and book checkout for the developmental preschool program held on our campus. In a short time, our assistant offered this service on a day when I was not on campus.
  • At Van Buskirk Elementary (2001-2002), I served as the literacy coach. The Spanish-speaking community liaison and I offered a before-school family literacy program for parents. After they escorted their school-age children to their classrooms, we held a storytime and book-making, or other literacy learning experience for parents and preschool-age children.

Equity and Opportunity for All Learners
Equity continues to be a top five critical issue in the ILA survey, and it is a core value of school librarianship. Erika Long and Suzanne Sherman frame the equity chapter in Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage: “Equitable access is a matter of social justice” (Long and Sherman 2021, 3).

Making a commitment and taking courageous action to serve as equity partners to ensure equitable access to rich and relevant literacy learning experiences in our schools is a leadership role for school librarians. While school librarians have been keenly aware of the opportunity gaps that were exposed during school closures, all educators and education decision- and policy-makers have now gotten a wake-up call.

“School closures during the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the critical need to address equity in terms of access to digital resources and technology devices, which may or may not have been available in classrooms” and students’ homes (Moreillon 2021, 11). These learning tools should have been available through school library programs.

Providing Access to High-quality Diverse Books and Content
School librarians are charged with making access to high-quality diverse books and content universally accessible throughout the school. Librarians must curate a collection of resources that reflect the diversity of the students, educators, and families we serve. We must also expand the collection to include broader national and global perspectives on the human experience.

In our role as instructional partners, we can go the next and critical steps. “We then take our knowledge and commitment—our purpose—and use it to transform the collections throughout the school, including classroom collections and the books chosen as classroom texts. For our students, seeing themselves in the library is not enough—they need to see their rich and whole selves in the curriculum and school community, too” (Stivers, Powell, and Lambert 2021, 34).

Literacy Partners Become Advocates
When school librarians take action to meet the needs of our library stakeholders, we engender advocates for the library program and our role as literacy learning leaders. The relationships we build with our literacy partners combined with the evidence of impact we collect create the foundation for continuous advocacy efforts. Then, when and if there is a threat to educational equity that affects the school library program, our advocates and the data to support our cause will be at the ready.

Works Cited

Long, Erika, and Suzanne Sherman. 2021. “Equity: Equitable Access Is a Matter of Social Justice.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 3-18. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Moreillon, Judi. 2021. “School Librarians as Literacy Partners: Take Action on the What’s Hot in Literacy Report.” Literacy Today (March/April): 10-11. Available at http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/b46eaa78#/b46eaa78/12

Stivers, Julie, Stephanie Powell, and Nancy Jo Lambert. 2021. “Diversity: Diversity in Resources and Programming Is Not Optional.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 19-35. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

U.S. Department of Education. “Key Research Studies on Early Learning Effectiveness.” https://www.ed.gov/early-learning/research

Advocacy During Times of Austerity

On Thursday, February 11, 2021, the Arizona Library Association (AzLA) and its Professional Development Committee hosted a webinar given by EveryLibrary executive director John Chrastka: “Advocacy During an Austerity Budget.” You can access the video recording of his presentation on the AzLA YouTube channel as well as John’s slide deck. John addressed the concerns and possible solutions to school and public library advocacy efforts during the post-pandemic budget cycle, a time of austerity (in terms of revenue).

I tweeted some of my take-aways during the session. I’ve added my school librarian and library connections after each one.

“Scarcity scares human beings!”

Important for #librarians to prepare for challenges: state/city/county/school district budgets will be negatively impacted by economic fallout from pandemic. “Watch out for austerity budgets! Scarcity scares human beings!” @MrChrastka @EveryLibrary @azlalib #aasl #libraries

Most states and local governments have projected general fund revenue declines as the result of the pandemic. At the same time, costs have gone up due to COVID expenditures. The situation will be dire for many unless there is a substantial federal relief remedy. (Please see John’s slides for data.)

Note: The loss of funds for public schools will be devastating, which is why Arizona Proposition 208, the Invest in Education Act, passed by voters in November, 2020, is so important. It provides dedicated funds for hiring educators, including school librarians.

School librarians can counter the fear and conservatism that decision-makers feel. We must position our work as the number one priority for the 2021- 2022 educational health of our students and our schools. That said, “Before educators and school stakeholders will advocate for (school librarian-led) transformation of teaching and learning, they must see how educational innovations align with their priorities” (Moreillon 2018, 130).

COVID-Slide

In austerity framework, most productive components or politician/administrator pet projects survive. Very few “nice-to-have” services post-pandemic. Must demonstrate to parents/school board/admins how #schoollibrarians can reverse COVID-slide for Ss. @MrChrastka @EveryLibrary @azlalib #aasl

Responding to the COVID-slide is the way we do so. We know that far too many students have lost ground during remote or hybrid learning. Progress in traditional and multiple literacies has been undermined for students who lack/lacked access to devices and resources, including support for learning in their homes. We know that classroom teachers, particularly those who have simultaneously taught groups of students in face-to-face and online classrooms, have been stretched and have needed and still need support.

Research in school librarianship has consistently affirmed that schools with state-certified, collaborating school librarians positively impact student achievement, especially in reading (Lance and Kachel 2018). School librarians whose literacy work impacts successful learning for all students and the effective teaching of all educators can be the number one priority for superintendents, principals, and school boards.

Gap-Fillers

Must address people’s post-pandemic concerns/fears. #schoollibrarians must be gap-filler rather than nostalgia restorer. Stories/data of success or failure w/path to improvement (integrity). @MrChrastka @EveryLibrary @azlalib What are #library high-impact solutions? #Lilead #aasl

This is the time for school librarians to share how we can continue to fill the gaps exposed during school closures. We must gather our advocates, principals, other educators, families, and students, to speak up for how school librarians provided and will continue to provide much needed instructional support, including technology support.

If schools that lack professional school librarians did not/do not have that support, then decision-makers must be made aware of what students, educators, and families have to gain by hiring school librarian literacy leaders for the ’21-’22 school year. School librarians are the educators who can help students, educators, and families reverse the COVID-slide and fill the gaps going forward.

Coalition Building

Who else cares about #literacy & K-12 Ss/Ts success? Coalitions are essential. There are many people who care about what we do! #schoollibrarians connect & reciprocate to support each other. Show how your work leads to prosperity. @MrChrastka @EveryLibrary @azlalib #aasl #Lilead

All education stakeholders care about the COVID-slide. Who else in your community cares about literacy learning loss? John Chrastka’s slide below lists questions to ask yourself regarding finding internal and external advocates at this point in time (published with permission).

Who Else Cares on Campus? Slide from John Chrastka

Defining the Negative
One of John’s comments that deeply resonated with me was about decision-makers who have eliminated school librarian positions in the past. In speaking to them, our job is the help them see the wisdom of correcting an error. John made the connection with the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Since that is our situation in Tucson Unified School District, I need to think more about this connection and how I can show understanding and compassion as we move forward with our efforts to restore school librarian positions in the district.

Highly Recommended
I highly recommend that all school librarians view this webinar recording and John’s slide deck. See also the SLIDE: The School Librarian Investigation: Decline or Evolution? research study data to compare your state with those around the country.

Gather your colleagues and form your coalitions. This is the time to demonstrate how school librarians are essential to reversing the COVID-slide and filling the gaps for students, other educators, and families in the ’21-’22 academic school year.

Works Cited

Lance, Keith Curry, and Debra E. Kachel. 2018. “Why School Librarians Matter: What Years of Research Tell Us.” Phi Delta Kappan 99 (7): 15-20. Available at http://www.kappanonline.org/lance-kachel-school-librarians-matter-years-research/

Moreillon, Judi. 2018. Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy. Chicago: ALA.