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.

World Kindness Day, Love, and Justice

Image of two hands surrounding a heart with the scales of justice in the centerThis coming Friday, November 13, 2020 is World Kindness Day. The mission of Inspire Kindness.com is to “inspire the world’s greatest kindness movement.” World Kindness Day “has the purpose is to help everyone understand that compassion for others is what binds us all together. This understanding has the power to bridge the gap between nations.” The Inspire Kindness website offers posters and other printables, a video, and ideas for celebrating World Kindness Day at school.

Quote to Teach and Live By
During the presidential campaign, I was introduced to this quote from author, scholar, and activist Dr. Cornel West:

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”

World Kindness Day seems to me to be an appropriate time to consider the connection between love and justice. I believe a wise thought such as this one can be our guide as we, school librarians and other educators, negotiate our place in today’s and tomorrow’s civic and education conversations.

During this season of misinformation, disinformation, propaganda, and bold-face lies, we have renewed our commitment to teaching students to be critical thinkers who learn and practice news/media literacy. This is essential work.

See Lia Fisher-Janosz’ 11/03/20 Knowledge Quest post: “We Hold These Truths to Be Self Evident: Learning and Discerning in 2020 and Beyond” and my own 11/02/20 post “News Literacy and Democracy.”

Public Education and Justice
Last week, Arizona voters passed Prop. 208! For students who attend K-12 district public schools, serve in and advocate for public education in Arizona, this hard-won outcome is cause for great celebration. Working toward providing every young person with a high-quality education guided by better-paid educators is both an expression of love and an act of social justice.

This measure includes funding for hiring and retaining state-certified school librarian positions in Arizona district public schools. I was just one among the many who dedicated time and energy to promoting this initiative. My personal thanks go out to all who worked on this effort, including members of the Arizona Library Association and EveryLibrary executive director John Chrastka.

When we resume the Tucson Unified School District School Librarian Restoration Project, we will be meeting with newly elected TUSD board members: Natalie Luna Rose, Sadie Shaw, and Ravi Grivois-Shah. Having the Prop. 208 funds in the bank will definitely make those conversations “sweeter.” (This win is important because it reflects Arizonans’ frustration with the inability of our governor and state legislature to restore public school funding to pre-2008 recession levels.)

Developing Hearts
As we serve young people, school librarians have the opportunity and the charge to guide students in developing their hearts as well as their minds. We have the dual charge to both teach and coteach our school’s curriculum with a focus on information literacy and critical thinking AND to develop students as lifelong readers who develop understanding, compassion, and empathy through reading and interacting with literature.

In order to serve our learning communities in both of these ways, we must practice our core values of equity, diversity, inclusion, and intellectual freedom. As Metro Nashville school librarian Erika Long states: “Librarians must commit to being radical change and equity warriors to ensure no one is omitted” (2020, 13).

The reading materials and learning opportunities we provide through our libraries must reflect our values, reach and speak to all students, and support all educators in guiding students to success. We must collaborate with other educators to engage students with literature, to invite them to discuss diverse literature with their peers and guides—to use literature as a springboard for personal growth and societial change.

SEL = Human(e)
I appreciate this “formula” that Steve Tetreault proposed in his 11/6/20 Knowledge Quest blog post “Finding Moments of Joy.” Whether or not we consider this an “academic” formula, it is true that social-emotional learning helps us develop as whole human beings—as humane humans.

Diverse, inclusive literature can be a large part of a “heart” curriculum because it helps us connect with others people’s experiences. Readers can develop our compassion and empathy, and can grow our human-ness through story.

Living with uncertainty, as we are today, is difficult for many of us, including our students, colleagues, and families. Let’s be sure to practice kindness every day and make a commitment to connect, to educate hearts as well as minds as we move forward into a more just future—together.

Works Cited

Inspire Kindness. 2020. “World Kindness Day.” https://inspirekindness.com

Long, Erika. 2020. “Radical Change Agents and Equity Warriors.” School Library Connection, October, 12-14.

Tetreault, Steve, 2020. “Finding Moments of Joy.” Knowledge Quest (blog), November 6, https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/finding-joyful-moments/

Image Credit:

GJD. “Heart Love Passion Peace Sign.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/vectors/heart-love-passion-peace-sign-2028061

Support Arizona Students and Educators: Save School Librarians

Image: Arizona Ballot Proposition 208Arizona’s district public schools have an equity problem. Many students and educators are learning and teaching without the support of a state-certified school librarian in their school. This lack of access to the knowledge and skills of library literacy leaders is an equity issue. As a matter of social justice, all students and educators deserve the support of a highly qualified school librarian.

Proposition 208: The Invest in Education Act
This fall Arizona voters have an opportunity to help transform K-12 public schools. Proposition 208, the Invest in Education Act, will be on the ballot. The proposition levies a 3.5% state income surtax on individuals earning over $250,000/year and couples earning over $500,000 a year.

When the proposition passes, 50% of the funds collected will be earmarked for increasing salaries, hiring, and retaining educators, school librarians included. (To learn more about #INVESTInEd view the Yes on Prop. 208 video).

The fact that school districts can use these funds to hire and retain state-certified school librarians means the Arizona library community is “all-in” for this proposition. The Arizona Library Association (AzLA) and the Teacher Librarian Division (TLD) of AzLA are partnering with EveryLibrary, Investined, and the Arizona Education Association to promote voting and passage of this voter initiative.

The Problem in Context
Arizona is one of six states that has not yet recovered education funding since the last recession. In fact, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, between 2008 and 2015 Arizona’s funding for education adjusted for inflation declined 36.6%.

Even with the #20×2020 teacher salary increase passed by the Arizona Legislature in 2018 as the result of the #RedForEd movement, Arizona teachers rank 46th in the nation for average teacher pay. California is second highest and New Mexico ranks 36th. Arizona cannot retain teachers if they can earn so much more in neighboring states.

According to an Education Law Center study cited by U.S. News and World Report in January of this year, Arizona’s school funding in 2016-2017 amounted to $5,477 per pupil, falling far short of the national average, $14,046.

Clearly, K-12 education funding in Arizona is in dire straits. Underfunded schools and priorities that have not included school librarian literacy leaders have resulted with very few state-certified school librarians remaining in positions in districts throughout the state.

It will take a coalition of like-minded people and organizations and a long-term commitment to fix what is broken.

Successful Advocacy Campaigns
Successful advocacy campaigns require building partnerships with other people and organizations that share our values. AzLA and TLD members promote and provide library services to Arizona’s youth and families. Literacy and voter education are central to our mission. We care deeply about the present and future of young people’s access to high-quality education and to the health of our democracy.

Partnering with EveryLibrary is giving us the opportunity to bring something to the table when we meet with the Invest in Education Act leadership. Together, EveryLibrary, AzLA, and TLD have launched a “Take the Pledge to Vote YES! on Prop. 208” campaign.

When we work together to build support for voting and for this proposition, we will assure education stakeholders that the library community is committed to improving education funding in our state. We are committed to passing this initiative and to working together to provide literacy learning opportunities for Arizona’s youth.

If you are an Arizona voter, we invite you to Take the Pledge to Vote YES! on Prop. 208. If you live in another state and have friends or relatives in Arizona, please share the Pledge with them.

Note: In November, 2020, Prop. #208 passed with 51.7% of the vote. Since that time, it has survived lawsuits filed by the Goldwater Institute and the business community. As of this writing (2/18/21), it has so far prevailed against attempts by the Arizona Legislature to undermine this critical increase in funding to meet the needs of K-12 district public schools.

Thank you.

Image courtesy of the Arizona Library Association. Used with permission.

Banned Books Week and The Freedom to Read

Censorship is a deadend. Find your freedom to read.This week, classroom teachers, librarians, and libraries across the country are honoring the American Library Association Office of Intellectual Freedom’s annual Banned (and Challenged) Books Week, September 27 – October 3, 2020.

The observance began yesterday with the publication of the Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books: 2010 – 2019. This list is compiled and published every decade and once again testifies to the fact that books written expressly for youth dominate the list.

The top seven books on the list were written expressly for children and young adults. Perennial “favorites” on this list, including Captain Underpants, Hunger Games, and Speak, are some of the books that young people repeatedly request, read, enjoy, share, and eagerly discuss. Those are the books that should be in the hands of our youth. (See last year’s 9/24/19 post about Speak!)

Each year, the OIF publishes the ten most frequently challenged books from the previous year. The 2019 list should cause all school librarians to pause and reflect on their own commitment to students’ intellectual freedom and right to read. Nine of the ten books were written expressly for children and young adults. Of those nine, four are nonfiction titles focused on sexuality, gender identity, or LGBTQIA+ experiences. Let me repeat. Four of the nine are informational titles: biographies or narrative nonfiction.

Why would be deny students access to information presented in age-appropriate books?

Four Book Jackets for the Books Listed Below

Four Frequently Challenged Books – 2019

#2. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin – Narrative Nonfiction

#4. Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth – Expository Nonfiction

# 6. I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas – Biography

#10. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson illustrated by Henry Cole – Narrative Nonfiction

At this time in the lives of our K-12 students and in the life of our country, school librarians must raise our voices with and for young people’s access to ideas and information. For as long as I have been in the profession, school librarians have facilitated many different kinds of learning experiences centered on students’ right to read (See Banned Books Week Projects blog post 2016.)

Since 2011, school librarians have also been observing Banned Websites Awareness Day to hone a spotlight on over-restrictive filters that compromise students’ and educators’ access to information. It will be held on Wednesday, September 30, this year.

Last Thursday, I attended the ALA Connect Live: Intellectual Freedom webinar. Thank you to ALA President Julius C. Jefferson, Freedom to Read Foundation President Barbara Stripling and ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee Chair Martin L. Garnar for this program. (See information about ALA Connect Live! Programs.)

Here are some resources:

Check out the Banned Books Week Facebook page. There will be live events throughout this week.

For research related to banned books, read Banned Books: Defending Our Freedom to Read by Robert P. Doyle (2017).  ALA offers a link for members-only online access. You can also purchase the book for $15.00 from the ALA Store.

There are resources to support the popular “Dear Banned Author” program including printable and virtual postcards, author addresses, and tips for libraries in hosting virtual programs.

On Friday, October 2 at 6 p.m. CT, ALA is hosting a national watch party of “Scary Stories,” a documentary about the censorship history and impact of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz. (I cannot count the replacement copies I purchased of Schwartz’s book during the ten years I served as an elementary librarian!) Libraries can learn how to stream the film for free, or host their own watch party.

Follow these Twitter hashtags: #BannedBooksWeek; #BannedBook; #BannedAuthor

Learn more about the webinar series hosted by Intellectual Freedom Round Table, the Graphics Novels & Comics Round Table and Image Comics.

I hope you will join me in proudly wearing your “I read banned books” button and continue reading, recommending, and discussing these books with youth.

Image Credit

American Library Association. http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/bannedbooksweek/ideasandresources/freedownloads

 

#lafcon Learning

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

And so many sessions, so little time!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Chrastka: “Politics is people or money.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Library Advocacy and Funding Conference

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

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

These are selected session topics under “Advocacy:”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the link for #lafcon registration.

I look forward to using and sharing what I learned.

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

Statewide, Year-long Advocacy Texas Style

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

Silhouette Image of Woman Shouting into a Bullhorn

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

If You Promote, We Can Advocate!

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

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

Infographic for TASL by Brooke King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brilliant, really!

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

Image Credits:

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

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