The Roots of an Inclusive Worldview

Chapter 3: Inclusion by Meg Boisseau Allison
and Peter Patrick Langella
Blog post by Meg
"In what ways do school librarians reinforce inequities and injustices by choosing what we remain silent about"

The Roots of an Inclusive Worldview
From a very young age, and because I loved books, I was able to tap into a deep well of inner compassion through the stories and perspectives of some incredible characters. Whether it was Wilbur fighting for his life, because of the indignities of being the runt of the litter, or Cassie Logan confronting the hate and social injustices of the South during Jim Crow.

As I grew as a reader and grew older in life, the set of oppressions under which some of my favorite characters strove for their full humanity, in no small way, shaped my worldview. Not only did life seem heartbreakingly unfair; the systemic injustices that impacted one’s place in the world were something that I instinctively recoiled against, giving roots to a lifelong commitment to equity, justice, and inclusion.

As a sociology major in college, as I came to understand the concepts of power and privilege, systemic oppression, and intersectionality, it gave me an academic foundation from which to position myself in the world. It also provided a framework for my work, years later, as a teacher-librarian. It’s why I strive toward Radical Inclusion in my school library today, and write about it with my thinking partner, Peter Langella.

Undeniably, its roots are within the pages of classic children’s literature. As a young white girl growing up in rural Vermont – surrounded by blue-collar neighbors working hard to make ends meet – books were absolutely my window into a larger and more diverse world. They forever altered my heart and capacity for empathy and understanding. It’s no wonder to me why I am still invested in the fight for justice. It feels full circle to continue to do this work in the container of a library, where the stories and characters from my youth reside and where the voices of new generations of authors continue to expand, mirror, reflect, and shake free identities that have long been marginalized, oppressed, and deemed less than.

Photograph: Amplify Black Voices“Amplify Black Voices” courtesy of Meg B. Allison

Exclusion is Ultimately Unethical
In my work as a teacher-librarian, with Radical Inclusion as a core identity, I strive to be mindful of any number of ways that my role wields power, and then move toward sharing that power, specifically with my number-one stakeholders – young people. In thinking of the role that many school librarians assume as the gate-keepers of our large, collective spaces, I try to disrupt the comfort of my own cisgendered, hetero-normative, able-bodied, college-educated, middle-class identities by interrogating the books that are curated, the programming that is supported, in the topics that are addressed, how the library is organized, and in the many ways our systems and mindsets seek to exclude by default, rather than include.

Because, oh, how easily we exclude!  Any librarian can attest that it is much easier to avoid controversy by making choices about what books not to add to one’s collection, what voices not to include in our programming. Every community is unique, of course, and I live in one that arcs toward progressive and liberal values, but certainly not exclusively. I understand that adding books to our collection that feature LGBTQIA+ characters, for example, will not cause the kind of waves in a state that was the first to adopt civil union legislation in 2000.

But yet there is a kind of gatekeeping that happens on behalf of our student populations, and in Vermont, this was apparent when the book George by Alex Gino was selected to be on our Golden Dome list, igniting a conversation within our Vermont School Librarian Association membership about whether to include this book in elementary school collections. Even though the main character is in the 4th grade, some librarians opted to side-step controversy and simply excluded it from their collections, thus denying the humanity of students whose living experiences mirrored George’s. They were also denying other students the opportunity to grow in compassion and empathy for a character who feels differently than their gender identity assigned at birth. What a missed opportunity for all students, albeit made by well-intended librarians to privilege their own comfort under a misguided attempt to protect students from a tender, emphatic, and ultimately affirming story.

Let me be clear: soft censorship is still censorship. Choosing not to add a book, author, or topic to our collection in the name of protecting our readers or avoiding backlash from our larger community is exclusionary.  It is not an act toward building an anti-racist and inclusive library. It is not an act of courage. It is the path of privilege and comfort, attained by maintaining silence. It is one I have to confront each and every day that I suit up and go into the library and challenge long-entrenched status quos that have privileged my comfort over the dignity and humanity of others.

Peter and I ask in Chapter 3: Inclusion in Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, and have asked at many workshops where we present this idea of radical inclusion to our school library peers, in what ways do you reinforce inequities and injustices by choosing what you remain silent about?  To which I would add: we speak volumes with our actions, and uphold injustice and oppression with our inability – individually and collectively – to take action.

Accountability
All of which makes me consider how we can collectively hold ourselves accountable. And hold ourselves accountable to our values we must. We can do this through building strong networks and seeking support. So often, teacher-librarians make decisions of import in a vacuum, largely due to the fact that we are the only ones in our buildings. But I would urge each of us, that anytime we choose to exclude a book – or idea – or program – from our libraries, we get second and third opinions. That we bring our decisions to our library advisory boards. That we pose the question on Twitter and other places where teacher-librarians from diverse backgrounds gather. That we push through our discomfort and get closer to being more open to experiences and identities that differ from our own, and accept that while we might not always get it right, we are cowardly for not trying. We are not doing our students with the most privileges any favors, and at worse, we are harming historically marginalized students by moralizing and patronizing their identities.

Compassionate-Action
Holding ourselves accountable will help each and every one of us move closer to a place of Compassion-Action. Peter and I explore this framework within our chapter, positing that it levels-up empathy, by igniting action. We believe that it’s not enough to have a change of heart: that if true equity and justice is to be realized, those of us with positional power and intersectional privilege must combine empathy with action and move toward compassionate action. That in the words of Dr. Lilla Watson, an Australian Aboriginal elder and activist, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time, but if you have come here because your liberation is wrapped up in mine, then let us work together.”

We can ignite this power within our spheres of influence – within our libraries – by sharing power, sharing space, building containers for compassionate action, and being transparent to our stakeholders about our decision-making processes.

To which I say, in order to achieve Radical Inclusion, be it in your school library, your district, and in your statewide or national memberships, we must share power with those who have been historically excluded and marginalized, starting with our students. Anything less than this ensures that systems of oppression will remain firmly entrenched, not just in our hearts, but in our collections, policies, practices, and pedagogies. The school library must be an active site of liberation in the co-creation of conditions for freedom, liberty, and justice for all.

Reflection Question
Peter and I invite school librarians to join in our ongoing reflection and discussion about Radical Inclusion on Twitter. We ask:

“In what ways do school librarians reinforce inequities and injustices by choosing what we remain silent about?” (Allison and Langella 2021, 51).

You can follow the discussion using the hashtags #SLCoreValues and #Libraries4Action.  Additionally, join us at AASL in Salt Lake City for our workshop on Radical Inclusion.  We look forward to leaning in and learning with you!

Additional Resource
Butler, Sarah Lorge. 2018. “Parents Are Divided Over a Book in a Popular Student Reading Program in Oregon.” New York Times, May 8. Available at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/08/books/george-alex-gino-controversy-oregon.html. Accessed September 18, 2021.

Works Cited
Allison, Meg Boisseau, and Peter Patrick Langella. 2021. “Diversity.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 37-54. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Watson, Lilla. 2004. “Recognition of Indigenous Terms of Reference,” Keynote Address at “A Contribution to Change: Cooperation Out of Conflict Conference: Celebrating Difference, Embracing Equality,” Hobart, Tasmania (September 21-24). Available at https://uniting.church/lilla-watson-let-us-work-together/. Accessed September 19, 2021. Note: Lilla Watson prefers that the words be credited “Aboriginal activists group Queensland, 1970s.”

Image Credit: “Amplify Black Voices.” Vermont State Capitol, Montpelier Vt. June 2020. Courtesy of Meg B. Allison.

 

Collaborating for Diversity and School Library Programming

Chapter 2: Diversity by Julie Stivers, Stephanie Powell,
and Nancy Jo Lambert|
Blog post by Judi Moreillon

“Books that reflect our students and our world need to be intentionally and seamlessly displayed, promoted, personally read, and incorporated into the classroom curriculum.” Julie Stivers (36)

Collaborating with Others to Build the Collection
The goal of building and maintaining a culturally responsive school library collection is for diverse resources to be used for learning by students, educators, administrators, and families. School librarians who have diligently developed such a collection must collaborate with others in order to ensure that the library’s resources are integrated into the reading and learning lives of students and broaden the perspectives in the classroom curriculum. Collaborating with students and other educators is essential for the librarian and the library to reach their capacity to transform learning and teaching.

In Chapter 2, Stephanie Powell describes how she and her library partner work with students and classroom teachers. When a group of students approached the library staff to support them in starting a digital literacy magazine focused on students’ responses to the pandemic, the librarians and library were reaffirmed as students’ allies and further built relationships. The library staff also attends educators’ planning meetings and Professional Learning Team meetings to discern and solicit students’ and educators’ library collection development needs. Stephanie notes, these activities give “librarians the opportunity to be visible in and supportive of the needs of our students” (35).

Building Inclusive Programming
Julie Stivers charges school librarians to be literacy leaders who work to diversify the literature canon in schools.

“Diverse library programming cannot exist in a school where classroom texts for language arts are overwhelmingly White” (26).

Collaborating with classroom teachers and encouraging them to incorporate books and resources written by underrepresented groups and diverse perspectives is a leadership responsibility of school librarians.

Advocating for all students with their diverse identity markers will require commitment and perseverance. It will require critical self-examination and honest assessments of one’s own role and the role of the library program in breaking through the status quo. This charge requires courage on the part of school librarians.

Diversity Reflected in Library Programming: Vignette by Gabriel Graña
Gabriel Graña, middle school librarian at RD & Euzelle Smith Middle School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, contributed one of the two vignettes in Chapter 2 titled “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop—Building and Promoting an Inclusive Collection(32-33). Gabriel notes that “representation is a verb” (32), meaning librarians must be proactive in seeking out and representing the stories of all students, including those who do not frequent the library space. Thinking about and taking action for the voices that are unheard is powerful.

One way Gabriel accomplishes this is through talking with all students and encouraging them to make suggestions for library purchases. He also critically examines books under consideration for their attention to multiple identity markers. He gives the example of Kacen Callender’s King and the Dragonflies (Scholastic 2020), a fantasy novel that is a Black Queer story, as the kind of book he remains alert to reading, purchasing, and promoting.

Shared ownership in the library space, collection, and program is key. Gabriel writes, “I’ve been in my library for six years. As the years have progressed, I’ve seen more self-selected, self-formed study groups, organic clubs of students of color who just want to come in and celebrate their interests” (32).

Gabriel recommends following other librarians on social media to stay up to date on the latest in literature and library programming. He uses Instagram to reach out to students to promote books and share his own reading lifestyle. At the time the book went to press, he was organizing a library initiative to involve students and educators to join him in #30SecondBookTalks that would be shared via social media, the library website, and promoted via in-person classes.

Curriculum and Community
As the co-authors note, “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” (34). Readers will find many additional ideas for diversity in collection development and library programming in the Diversity chapter in Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage.

Reflection Question
“What steps can you take to affirm diversity beyond the library and reflect on how you can influence stakeholders—and especially other educators—throughout your school?” (34).

Work Cited

Stivers, Julie, Stephanie Powell, and Nancy Jo Lambert. 2021. “Diversity.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 19-36. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Diversity in a Culturally Responsive School Library Collection

Chapter by Julie Stivers, Stephanie Powell, and Nancy Jo Lambert|
Blog post by Judi Moreillon

Chapter 2: Diversity Co-authors
Since I, Judi Moreillon, have the privilege of writing this post, I am beginning by introducing Core Values in School Librarianship readers to the co-authors of the “Diversity” chapter.

Julie Stivers, MLIS, (she/her) is the librarian at Mount Vernon Middle, an alternative public school in Raleigh, North Carolina. As a 2018 ALA Emerging Leader, Julie helped develop AASL’s Defending Intellectual Freedom: LGBTQ+ Materials in School Libraries and she is the author/editor of Include (ALA, 2021). Julie’s research and practical interests include culturally sustaining pedagogy, building inclusive library spaces, and exploring the power of manga and anime with her students. She connects on Twitter at @BespokeLib.

Stephanie Powell, MEITE, is a librarian at Green Level High School in Wake County, North Carolina. A National Board-Certified Teacher and lifelong learner, she has been a classroom teacher and now librarian for nearly 28 years. She earned a Master’s in Instructional Technology from UNC-Chapel Hill and her Master’s in Library and Information Science from UNC-Greensboro. Stephanie is invested in promoting equity and being an advocate for underrepresented voices through library services. Connect with Stephanie on Twitter @spowel15.

Nancy Jo Lambert, MLS, is a Google Certified Trainer with friEdtechnology and high school teacher-librarian at Reedy High School in Frisco, Texas. She advocates for libraries by telling the story of the learning happening in her library. Named TCEA Library Media Specialist of the Year, Nancy Jo was AASL Social Media Superstar Curriculum Champion in 2019. She is a cisgender, white, bisexual educator and co-founder of #TeachPride and EduPrideAlliance. Connect with her on Twitter @NancyJoLambert and on her websites: reedylibrary.com and nancyjolambert.com.

“Building, maintaining, using, and promoting a diverse, inclusive collection and library program takes both passion and purpose-driven work.”Julie Stivers, Stephanie Powell, and Nancy Jo Lambert 2021, 19.

Culturally Responsive Educators
The co-authors make many references to culturally responsive collection development, maintenance, promotion, and teaching throughout this chapter. As Stephanie notes, “Through (their) three points of view, the lenses of our varied perspectives allow (them) to better understand how librarianship plays an important role in meeting those who we serve where they are and what they need” (20). Bringing their individual experiences as well as their collective thoughts together in this chapter makes it an especially powerful read.

One point all three co-authors make is that school library collections must reflect the multiple identity markers of school populations as well as reflect the diversity of experience and perspectives across the country and around the globe. As Julie notes: “Even if—especially if—your school population is mostly or solely White, you should build a collection that is racially diverse and not restrict students to a single lens” (21). This can be a particular challenge because our predominantly White and female profession must have self-knowledge and engage in critical reflection that causes school librarians to take action to diversify the library collection and ensure its use to normalize diversity in all of its manifestations.

This challenge also calls on librarians to consider authors from underrepresented groups and texts with diverse characters in books published for youth. As Julie points out, statistics from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center continue to spotlight the fact that the number of books featuring animals and inanimate objects are more commonly published and even exceed the sum of the number of books featuring all underrepresented groups combined. (See the 2019 stats at https://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/the-numbers-are-in-2019-ccbc-diversity-statistics.)

Commitment to Diversity
Readers will find support for their own self-education about various lenses for examining texts. The co-authors cite and describe five frameworks that can help school librarians deepen their knowledge regarding diversity:

  • Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors—Rudine Sims Bishop
  • #OwnVoices—Corinne Duyvis
  • Danger of a Single Voice—Chimananda Adichie
  • Plot-Driven Adventures across Identities—Malinda Lo
  • Black Joy—Many Writers!

The value of auditing the library collection using each of these frameworks is discussed in this chapter.

Diversity Audits
One way librarians’ values are manifest in the library collection is the understanding that the library is not a neutral space; what is included in or excluded from the collection makes a “political” statement. As co-author Nancy Jo notes: “By offering youth a free, public education where they have access to information and all sides of issues, we equip them with the skills they need to navigate learning and to form opinions of their own” (24). In the process, issues related to prejudice, discrimination, and injustice will arise.

In order to build a collection and library program that is relevant to students and that prompts their critical thinking, school librarians can use diversity audits to evaluate the inclusiveness of the collection. This requires librarians to use an equity and diversity lens. Initial audits may focus on aligning the collection with the school’s demographics. Additional analysis of the collection involves searching for gaps related to additional identity markers as well as taking a more global perspective on ideas and information.

Audits are not simple nor are they a one-time exercise. In order to maintain a culturally responsive, inclusive collection, librarians must continuously assess both the fiction and informational texts available to students, classroom teachers, and families. Involving students and other educators in developing, auditing, and maintaining the collection not only builds a stronger more useful collection, it also builds relationships. And relationships are key to a successful school library program that ensures that the collection is used in the service of student learning.

Reflection Questions
“How as your own cultural context influenced the books you’ve read—both within school and personally? How has this shaped your collection development framework as a school librarian?” (34)

Addendum:
Access to Joyce Valenza’s Toolkit: Inclusive Collection Collections and Diversity Audits.

Work Cited

Stivers, Julie, Stephanie Powell, and Nancy Jo Lambert. 2021. “Diversity.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 19-36. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Equity from a District-level Perspective

Blog Post by Chapter 1: Equity Co-author Suzanne Sherman“It is very important to our mission to ensure that the district’s school library services truly serve every student” (Searles and Moser, cited in Long and Sherman 2021, 14).(quoted from Long and Sherman 2021, 14)

Transition From a Building-level to a District-level Perspective
At the time Erika Long and I were crafting Chapter 1: Equity in Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, I was entering my 12th year as a school librarian at a large, suburban high school in Knox County, Tennessee. Providing equity had always been at the forefront of my thinking and while I like to think that I was seeing this from a broader perspective than just this particular school, the reality was that I primarily applied the principle to the 2,100+ students I interacted with daily. I attempted in my regular practice to ensure that my energy and accompanying resources in lesson design, collection management, and outreach efforts were all-inclusive and provided entry points for every student.

At various points in my career in Knox County Schools, I served in district leadership positions which allowed me from time to time to have a glimpse of the bigger picture and to see some of the challenges around providing equity on such a large scale. Those experiences were partly what led to my decision to apply for the Library Media Services (LMS) Instructional Facilitator position for the district. I was selected for the job and transitioned from the school library setting into the role at the district office in January, 2021. I knew at this point that my vantage point was shifting and suspected that my understanding of equity in school libraries would be as well.

Collectively Learning
I was extremely grateful for the professional development I received during my first week in my new position as it solidified my thinking about collective efficacy and the role it would play in shaping my work. When I saw that one of the primary goals is to help our department of 90+ librarians grow in their practice as a whole, I immediately saw equity in the equation.

As I undertook specific tasks such as continuing the work outlined in Chapter 1: Equity wherein my predecessor and supervisor collaborated with the Knox County Public Library to provide library cards for all KCS students and partnered with one of the preschools to organize and rethink those libraries, I was able to see firsthand the impact this was making in the community.

I was quickly introduced to planning for professional development (PD) and, again, I saw the power of equity on this larger scale. Through careful planning and thoughtful consideration of our different adult learners’ needs, it became clear to me that ensuring that the PD we offer the school librarians in our district is meaningful and relevant has to be at the heart of my practice.

Consistently providing the entire department opportunities to engage with research-based practices and grow in their understanding of what it means to deliver high-quality instruction and maintain current and relevant collections has the capacity to level the playing field for all students when librarians implement their learning in their individual schools. Exploring ideas pertinent to school libraries such as the ones we included in our 2021 summer PD sessions: on-demand access to materials, building inclusive collections, Universal Design for Learning, and Social and Personal Competencies, highlights for the librarians these principles of equity and ultimately has the power to positively impact their instruction and programming.

Achieving Empowerment
Our chapter concludes by saying, “The first step in working to achieve equity within schools is ensuring that all learners in every school have access to a certified school librarian or district leaders who advocate for resources and services within underserved schools where this is not feasible from a staffing standpoint” (15). We are fortunate enough in our district to be allocated the funding for both a supervisor and an instructional facilitator in the LMS department and this is not something that I take lightly or for granted.

The charge that comes with providing resources for all students and dedicated support for the school librarians points always to the pursuit of equity. Modeling the practice becomes a means of providing structures for the librarians and ultimately empowers them to deliver the same equitable services to their students, classroom teachers, administrators, and families.

To learn more about the role equity plays in planning for instruction and services, explore Chapter 1 in Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021).

Reflection Question
“Brainstorm services your school community lacks. Develop out-of-the-box to meet those needs and create a timeline implementation. What barriers might arise, and how will you overcome them?” (16).

Work Cited
Long, Erika, and Suzanne Sherman. 2021. “Equity.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 3-17. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Equity and Social Justice

Chapter 1 Co-authors
Since I, Judi Moreillon, have the privilege of writing this post, I am beginning by introducing Core Values in School Librarianship readers to the co-authors of the “Equity” chapter.

Erika Long, MSIS, is a school librarian in Tennessee. Among other professional activities, Erika served on the AASL Presidential Initiative Task Force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and on ALA’s United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals Task Force. Erika brings her teaching through the library program experience as well as her tireless advocacy for social justice to her writing in this chapter.

Suzanne Sherman, MIS, is a former English and Spanish teacher turned librarian. She was a school librarian for 15 years before moving into a coaching role as the Instructional Facilitator for Knox County Schools’ Library Media Services in Knoxville, Tennessee. At the district level, Suzanne focuses on supporting the school librarians in both instruction and management. She also works on collaborating with other district leaders in the Teaching and Learning and School Culture departments. Suzanne takes action for the district’s mission: “To provide excellent and accessible learning opportunities that empower all students to realize their full potential.”

Erika Long and Suzanne Sherman open our book and their chapter with this one-sentence theme:

"Equity is a matter of social justice." Erika Long and Suzanne ShermanWhat Is Equity?
Erika and Suzanne use a National Education Association’s definition of social justice as the first pull quote in their chapter. Since the toolkit they refer to is no longer available, I believe this quote from NEA sums up their intention: “Systemic equity involves a robust system and dynamic process consciously designed to create, support and sustain social justice” (NEA 2021). Equity requires a systemic approach, one for which school librarians with their global view of the learning community are perfectly positioned to lead.

What Is the Connection to Social Justice?
The right to access information is a human, constitutional right that the authors encourage colleagues to stand up for in their work as school librarians. The early months of the pandemic exposed many inequities in terms of technology tools and broadband access that prevented students from success with remote learning. School librarians and other educators were well aware of these opportunity gaps long before schools closed—gaps that still exist 18 months later as another academic year is beginning.

In their chapter, Erika and Suzanne talk about advocating for equitable access as an “obligation to ensure” all students have access to the resources they need to succeed. “Librarians have a duty to ensure every young person has access to any resource, at any time, and commit to making equitable access a reality for all” (Long and Sherman 2021, 5). This obligation was/is never more pressing than during times of remote and hybrid learning.

Chapter 1 Vignettes
Ali Schilpp, school librarian at Northern Middle School in Accident, Maryland, and Sarah Searles and Amber Moser, district-level librarian leaders in Knox County Schools, Tennessee, offer the vignettes in the “Equity” chapter.

In her vignette, Ali shared her passion for serving the students who live and attend school in her small, rural town. She noted how school closures spurred her district to provide broadband access to students who lacked it. Ali worked to prepare classroom educators to provide virtual learning as she positioned the library as the hub for instructional and technology support that benefited the entire learning community. She also noted: “A librarian is the one educator in the school who works directly with every student. Each year/semester/quarter students’ teachers change while the librarian remains a constant ally throughout their school years” (cited in Long and Sherman 2021, 9).

Sarah and Amber shared their district-level perspective in terms of equitable opportunities for all students in their large, urban school district. Their focus was on summer reading as well as literacy learning more broadly. They collaborated with the public libraries in their community to extend students’ pleasure reading and learning beyond school campuses and establish an understanding that libraries support people for lifelong learning. Through this partnership, barriers, such as parental documentation and physical library visits, were overcome when students gained access to the public library’s digital resources. Sarah and Amber note: “We are passionate about our commitment to undertake the work of facilitating equitable access district-wide as a point of social justice for everyone in our school community” (cited in Long and Sherman 2021, 15).

Commitment and Courage
School librarians hone their global perspective on discovering who is left out and find solutions to address the learning needs of every student. They seek to serve the underserved and ensure an equitable educational environment and experience for each learner. School librarians are allies and advocates who take action and show courage when change is necessary to meet their obligation and commitment to equity.

“There are many in our ranks who are self-proclaimed social justice warriors and yet, systemic policies, procedures, and preconceived notions, coupled with either lack of knowledge or the tools to fully implement equitable practices in the field, create stumbling blocks toward reaching the goal” (Long and Sherman 2021, 3).

It takes commitment and courage to confront policies, procedures, and the status quo, and school librarians are the leaders who can and will stand up for the hard things. For the sake of students, colleagues, administrators, and families, school librarians will continually take action for equity and to reach for social justice.

Reflection Question
What steps will you take to ensure equitable access for all learners? (Long and Sherman 2021, 16)

Works Cited

Long, Erika, and Suzanne Sherman. 2021. “Equity.” In Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage, ed. Judi Moreillon, 3-17. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

National Education Association Center for Social Justice. 2021. “Racial Justice in Education: Key Terms and Definitions. Available at https://www.nea.org/professional-excellence/student-engagement/tools-tips/racial-justice-education-key-terms-and. Accessed August 17, 2021.

Core Values in School Librarianship: Fall Semester Book Study

This fall, the Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage (Libraries Unlimited 2021) contributors and I will be sharing two posts for each of the nine chapters in the book. Beginning today with this introduction through the last week of December, blog readers can read recaps of chapters or more thoughts and experiences of chapter co-authors. (As you know, one challenge with a published book is that once it’s off to the printer, it is fixed in a way our learning and practice never are!) You can find the line-up of posts on this blog. I will be adding links to each of the posts as they are published.

Introduction: A Passion for School Librarianship
As the book’s editor, I wrote the introduction. In it I share my motivation for this proposing this book. I know that my own enculturation into and my passion for the core values of school librarianship guided my library practice, my work as an educator of preservice school librarian, and my continued involvement in the profession and advocacy work. Equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom combined with the values we share with classroom teachers such as collaboration and literacy as a pathway to success have been at the end of my work/life.

"All school librarians need a firm foundation to provide strength and direction during these rapidly changing and challenging times" (Moreillon 2021, ix).These are indeed rapidly change and challenging times. Grounding our practice in our core values gives us a necessary and needed firm foundation to stay strong as we speak up and out for the benefit of our library stakeholders. The pandemic, Black Lives Matter movement, and backlash from various quarters of society have converged to create a time that is testing our mettle. I truly believe we must act now.

Destabilization
Accelerations in technology, globalization, and climate change result in a “constant state of destabilization” (Friedman 2016, 35) all of which affect the education landscape as well as society as a whole. For example, laws recently passed by some state legislatures that intend to constrain educators’ teaching and students’ learning regarding U.S. history will be tested in practice as well as in courts of law. When librarians are guiding students’ social studies inquiry, we must hold to our values and ensure that learners engage with accurate historical records, think critically about our nation’s past and present, and discuss issues that are relevant to their lives—today and in the future.

In this environment, we are called upon to recommit and hold tight to our values: equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom. We may be the only educator in our buildings who holds these core values. As such, we cannot fail to take courageous action when warranted for the benefit of our learning communities.

Co-leading Change
We cannot, however, act alone. While we must embrace ambiguity, stretch our flexibility, and exercise our initiative, we must reach out to others to co-lead change in our schools and districts, state and national associations. We need a tribe to keep us centered in our values. The education profession, of which school librarianship is an integral part, needs a tribe of like-minded dedicated colleagues to move our work forward.

People don’t care how much you know
until they know how much you care.

Dr. Jean Feldman

During these challenging times, many educators, school librarians among them, are feeling vulnerable; others are quite understandably afraid. This may be particularly true at this time for those who are making professional decisions that affect their families as well as their students. It is incumbent on us to practice empathy as we co-lead with our administrators and teacher leaders. Empathy is a key tool in our work as we strive to take compassion action.

Choosing Courage Over Comfort
In her book Dare to Lead. Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts (Vermillion 2018) Brené Brown challenges those of us who live our values to speak up about the “hard things.” She describes integrity in this way: “choosing courage over cover; it’s choosing what is right over fun, fast, or easy, and it’s practicing your values not just professing them” (189).

In our book, the contributors offer inspiration, thoughts, and experiences as guides to help you lead through our shared library values in your learning community. We invite you to share and comment on our blog posts and join in via our social posts as well. We look forward to hearing how you are enacting core values in your library this fall and positively influencing the teaching and learning and work of your administrators, colleagues, students, and families.

Reflection Questions
Each chapter in the book concludes with reflection questions. In addition to your personal consideration or to discussions with your near colleagues, we invite you to respond to these questions on this blog or via our other social media posts.

If I were to add such a question to the book’s introduction, this would be it:

How are you expressing empathy for others and practicing self-care
as you launch the 2021-22 academic year?

Additional Resources
Circulating Ideas Podcast by Steve Thomas: Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage Interview with Judi Moreillon (7/13/21)

Core Values in School Librarianship: Collaborating for Social Justice – School Library Connection Webinar (6/28/21)

Taking Action for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Intellectual Freedom in School Libraries at #alaac21 (6/21/21)

Works Cited
Brown, Brené. 2018. Dare to Lead. Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. London: Vermillion.

Friedman, Thomas. 2016. Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in an Age of Acceleration. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Moreillon, Judi. Ed. 2021. Core Values in School Librarianship: Responding with Commitment and Courage. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

School Librarians Are Teachers of Reading

It’s back-to-school time across the U.S. (and in many places around the globe) and school librarians are considering how best to enact their libraries’ mission statements and goals in the 2021-2022 academic year.

While there are many unknowns, there are two consistent themes that have emerged from a year and a half of intermittent remote, hybrid, and in-person schooling. Students, educators, administrators, and families have missed the community of school and the culture of learning that encourage all stakeholders as they achieve academic success and support students’ social-emotional health. And educators and families are concerned about the pandemic’s impact on students’ reading development.“No subject of study is more important than reading…all other intellectual powers depend on it.” Jacques BarzumThis quote from Jacques Barzum, known as a philosopher of education, can be our guiding light as we welcome young people back to school, reach out to classroom educators to support their curriculum goals, and help administrators revive a culture of deep learning in our schools.

Reading Reading Reading Reading Reading Reading

From a Culture of Books to a Culture of Reading
Thirty years ago when I entered the profession, school librarians were known as “book people.” Our work focused around reading, selecting, organizing, and promoting books. Later in the 1990s with the mercurial rise of technology launched by the Internet (see how the capital letter dates me), we greatly expanded our scope from books and some tech to print and digital resources in an ever-expanding range of formats.

Simultaneously, literacy learning expectations for students began to rise and continue to do so today with no limits in sight. In this educational landscape, school librarians cannot be satisfied limiting their services to physical and virtual access to reading materials.

School Librarians as Teachers of Reading
We must also do our part to ensure students’ intellectual access to ideas and information. We must be literacy partners who teach, coteach, and reteach strategies to help students comprehend what they read, view, and hear. We must be teachers of reading.

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).

School librarians serve learning communities in the largest classroom with the greatest number of resources with the broadest range of reading proficiency levels in the widest variety of formats. School librarians are certified teachers whose work can have an impact on the entire school.

School librarians use read-alouds and booktalks to promote books and reading. When they model and teach comprehension strategies, such as making predictions and drawing inferences, during these activities, they provide students with opportunities to learn and practice these essential skills for making meaning from texts.

Reading for learning
is what the work of school librarians is about.

Whether reading literature for pleasure or resources for information, students use the decoding skills they learn in the classroom as foundational tools for making meaning from texts. Reading for learning is where the school librarian’s expertise contributes to students’ success. Learning and practicing reading comprehension strategies is the readers’ pathway to being efficient, effective, and critical users of ideas and information.

“School librarians [and other educators] know that students who are unable to make meaning from text cannot be information literate. They also know that to be critical users and creators of ideas and information students must be able to deeply interrogate the texts they read” (Moreillon 2018, 57-58).

Information Literacy and Reading Proficiency Connection
Effective school librarians who meet the needs of students, classroom teachers, and administrators help library stakeholders make the connection between information literacy and reading achievement. This chart of examples can be a guide.

Information Literacy and Inquiry Reading Comprehension
Connecting with prior knowledge using a K-W-L chart, topic web, or other organizer Activating or Building Background Knowledge
Engaging with multimedia resources to build background knowledge Using Sensory Images
Formulating inquiry questions and questioning the author/source while reading Questioning
Analyzing texts for point of view and bias Making Predictions/Drawing Inferences
Making notes Determining Main Ideas
Rereading, writing about confusions, and other strategies for ensuring understanding Using Fix-up Options
Using information or evidence from multiple sources to create new knowledge Synthesizing

*Reading comprehension strategies taken from Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Elementary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact (Moreillon, 2013) and Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact (Moreillon, 2012)

In our role as teachers of reading, school librarians can directly and effectively document how their teaching and coteaching help classroom teachers build students’ reading proficiency.

Library Learning Leaders Don’t Sell Their Skill Set Short
Research also shows a correlation between the work of school librarians and improvement on students’ standardized test scores, particularly in the area of reading (Lance and Kachel 2018). In our independent and cotaught lessons, librarians teach and reinforce reading comprehension strategies at the Response to Intervention (RTI) Level II.

If our work is to lift the reading proficiency of all students, then we must not sell our skill set short. Others must not perceive us as book promotion people only because our skills and power to impact the learning community are far greater. We must not be satisfied with providing physical (or digital) access to books and resources.

We must collaborate with other educators to ensure that students have intellectual access to ideas and information.

“As a profession, we cannot afford to be silent about how our work impacts reading proficiency. We cannot fail to help our classroom educator colleagues reach their full capacity to meet the traditional literacy development needs of all students” (Moreillon 2021, 27).

Works Cited

Gretes, Frances. 2013. School library impact studies: A review of findings and guide to sources. Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. Available at http://bit.ly/2USKkQ9. Accessed August 8, 2021.

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/. Accessed August 8, 2021.

Moreillon, Judi. 2021. Library Learning Leaders Don’t Sell Their Skill Set Short. Teacher Librarian 68 (3): 22-27. Available at https://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/html5/reader/production/default.aspx?pubname=&edid=6b457264-4b51-4275-87a1-c8ed62b44733&pnum=4. Accessed August 8, 2021.

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

Coteaching Reading Comprehension in Elementary School Libraries (ALA 2013)Recommended ReadingCoteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Secondary School Libraries (ALA 2012)

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.