Ready and Waiting for the First Day of Elementary School, Fall, 2021

Ready and Waiting for You Book Jacket and School Buses in a Neighborhood illustration by Catherine StockBack-to-School 2021-2022
Back-to-school in the coming academic year may be the first time a kindergarten, first, or second-grade student has ever entered a school building. The pandemic, school closures, and remote learning interrupted many young children’s traditional experience of a first day at school.

That’s why Fall 2021 is so important in terms of setting all children on a positive path with warm and welcoming feelings about beginning their school-based adventure in learning. All parents, grandparents, siblings, caregivers, childcare providers, preschool teachers, school librarians, classroom teachers, and school administrators have a role to play. We can communicate the fun and friendship children will find when they join the community of school.

Loco Parentis
Loco parentis literally means “in the place of a parent.” As educators, we have the responsibility to care for children and treat them as our own. Turnaround for Children is an organization that helps educators understand the brain science behind the important connections we make through building relationships. From their website: “Cultivate Developmental Relationships among teachers, students, leaders, and families, because these relationships are a prerequisite for managing student stress and igniting learning” (https://turnaroundusa.org/).

School librarians who serve the entire school community through the largest classroom in our schools with the greatest number of resources are perfectly positioned to be relationship-building leaders. We create welcoming, safe spaces in our libraries and online for ALL students, educators, and families. We must be intentionally open, positive, and consistent in the way we interact with all the members of our learning communities.

“The sense of safety and belonging that relationships provide is truly the foundation for learning, because they create the context that readies the brain to learn” (Stafford-Brizard 2021, 8).

Social and Emotional Learning
According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), “social and emotional learning (SEL) is an integral part of education and human development. SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions” (https://casel.org/what-is-sel/).

Educators are instrumental in creating a caring, respectful learning environment in their classrooms and library spaces where students’ SEL can grow. One of the key elements of CASEL’s Theory of Action is: “Strengthen adult SEL competencies and capacity by cultivating a trusting community that enhances adults’ professional, social, emotional, and cultural competencies and their capacity to promote SEL for students.”

This presents an opportunity for principal-school librarian partnerships to co-create a positive and effective culture of trust, caring, and safety among faculty so they will carry those feelings and behaviors forward when working with students.

“These teachers remember the passions that led them to become academics, and they do not want to lose the primal energy of their vocation. They affirm their deep caring for the lives of their students, and they do not want to disconnect from the young. They understand the identify and integrity they have invested in teaching, and they reinvest, even if it pays no institutional interest or dividends” (Palmer 1998, 170-171).

Ready and Waiting for You
This spring, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers is bringing back my book Ready and Waiting for You (2013). The book’s bold and vibrant child-friendly illustrations by Catherine Stock and its design (my idea) with opening gatefold doors reinforce the repeating phrase: “We’re ready and waiting for you.”

I recorded a pitch for why this book is perfectly timed for Fall 2021. It is posted on the Eerdmans Books for Young Readers’ Facebook page and their YouTube channel.Ready and Waiting for You Book Cover and Photograph of Author Judi Moreillon with Her Dog Teddy

Eerdmans Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=828740571329180

Video Recording on YouTube: https://youtu.be/qNDqwdFztKw

From boisterous school bus mates, a welcoming principal and school mascot to the savvy school librarian and gym, art, and music teachers, too, the children in Ready and Waiting for You meet the entire community of school. When at last they arrive in their classroom, the final lines read: “We won’t be a whole school till you do. Everyone’s waiting for you.”

The importance of extending friendship and fun to every single young child who crosses the threshold to school in Fall 2021 cannot be overestimated. To share an unambiguous message of belonging with each and every child must be the mission of every educator, administrator, and staff member.

Won’t you be a steadfast, caring ally and advocate for all the children in your care this fall? Be sure to let each child know, you’re ready and waiting for them!

Works Cited

Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). https://casel.org

Moreillon, Judi, 2013. Ready and Waiting for You. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Palmer, Parker J. 1998. The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life. New York: Wiley & Sons.

Stafford-Brizard, Brooke. 2021. “Supporting Teacher Well-being in a Time of Crisis.” Educational Leadership 78 (8): 84-86.

Turnaround for Children. https://turnaroundusa.org/

Images Credit
Used with Permission from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

Virtual Libraries for preK-12 Students, Educators, and Families

School Library Month, Part 2

During the pandemic when many students were and still are learning through hybrid and remote instruction, many school librarians and library organizations across the country stepped up to share resources and co-create resource portals.

All of them were intended to help students and educators identify online resources and tools without having to completely re-create the wheel for each lesson, unit, or project plan. Instead, they could tap into these portals, adapt them for their teaching and learning purposes, and share them with others.

Sharing resources is a cornerstone of school librarianship.

One of these state-level portals has been around for years; others were developed more recently in response to school closures in 2020. All provide resources specific information and resources that may require log-ins for their in-state users as well as resources generally applicable to users in other states.

None of these sites was intended to replace state-certified school librarians and collaborating classroom teachers who design and guide students in their learning process. In fact, the plethora of resources linked to these portals points to the critical need for educators who help students hone their purpose for and proficiency in searching, analyzing and using information, and creating new knowledge.

INFOhio
INFOhio began in 1989 when a group of school librarians developed a plan to “computerize” Ohio’s school libraries. Their vision:

“Each Ohio PreK-12 student has equal access to high quality digital resources for a successful education and future”

and mission:

“INFOhio transforms student learning by providing equitable access to quality resources and cost-effective instructional and technical support for each student, educator, and parent in Ohio” (https://www.infohio.org/about).

sum up the aims of all of these resource portals: equity of access to digital resources.

The site is organized around pre-K (ages 3-5), K-5, 6-8, 9-12, Parent Tools, and Educator Tools sections. The latter is organized by grade level, subject, item type, training and promotion, instructional trends, and Dimensions of Inquiry. Educators, including school librarians, can also receive various types of training and certifications using these resources.

Massachusetts Virtual School Librarian
Early on in the pandemic the Massachusetts Association of School Librarians (MSLA) collaborated with other state-level stakeholders to create their Virtual School Librarian. Organized in instructional levels, elementary, middle, and high school, the site also includes an educator support section. There are currently 133 Massachusetts Library System LibGuides on the site.

One especially exciting and high-impact service was MSLA’s commitment to answering questions posted to the site within 24 hours. Nineteen members volunteered and were organized to respond within three grade bands—elementary, middle, and high school.

To learn more, read about it in Georgina Trebbe and Deeth Ellis’s 6/1/20 Knowledge Quest blog post: “The Massachusetts School Library Association Launches Virtual School Librarian Website to Help Educators during School Closures.”

New Jersey: SchoolLibraryNJ
This project is newly completed. Led by Rutgers University School of Communication and Information, MI Program, the New Jersey Association of School Librarians, and supported by the State Library of New Jersey with the generous cooperation of Springshare, this site is as deep as it is wide.

Sections of the site include grade bands, resources for parents, educators, administrators, and librarians. I will be sharing the Elementary and the Middle School sections in an Arizona Library Association Teacher Librarian Division Professional Development meeting on Wednesday, April 14th. (Patty Jimenez will be sharing Sora-facilitated high school resources.)

I attended the 3/24/21 webinar in which Joyce Valenza, Grace McCusker, and Michelle Luhtala shared many features of the site. Of particular note, the Administrators section offers AASL and other resources to support you as you educate your administrators about your vital role in education. During the session, Joyce invited librarians to contribute to a Padlet to provide possible additions.

You can read more about the site in Steve Tetreault’s 2/5/21 Knowledge Quest blog post: “School Library NJ: Support for an Entire State – and Beyond!” Steve was responsible for the middle school resources on the site.

Or you can view the EdWeb video recording: The Ultimate Research Guide for All Learners (Including YOU!)

New York City School Libraries System: Connect, Create, Lead
Led by Melissa Jacobs, the NYC School Library System has been at the forefront of providing librarians with resources to support hybrid and remote learning. Their Translation of Practice document guides school librarians in making connections from in-person learning and teaching to remote practice, organized in these categories: Learning and Teaching, Information Access and Delivery, and Program Administration.

Washington (State) School Libraries Tools and Guides
The WA Digital TeachKit is designed to help K12 educators select, understand, and use commonly-adopted digital learning tools in Washington State. It was created by Washington teacher librarians and members of the Washington Library Association School Library Division and led by Shana Ferguson, Christie Kaaland, Hillary Marshall, and Mark Ray. The site is divided into two sections: Tools and Guides.

The Tools section includes frequently used digital tools with information organized by first steps, next steps, instructional design, management, differentiation and adaptation, and hybrid strategies. Some links include Wakelets and other collections of information and tips.

The Guides section is “designed to help educators understand different kinds of digital tools and services and how they can fit into your instruction. If you’re not sure which tool fits which need, these guides are designed to help you make the right choice.”

So, as to be redundant: None of these sites was intended to replace state-certified school librarians and collaborating classroom teachers who design and guide students in their learning process. In fact, the plethora of resources linked to these portals points to the critical need for educators who help students hone their purpose for and proficiency in searching, using and analyzing information, and creating with new knowledge.

Image Created with
kalhh. “Learn Media Internet.” Pixabay.com, https://pixabay.com/illustrations/learn-media-internet-medium-977543/

Civic Education with Kidizenship

“A democracy must be reborn anew every generation, and education is its midwife.” – John DeweyI believe that civic education has never been more important than it is today. In January just before President Biden was inaugurated, the Arizona Daily Star (Tucson’s daily newspaper) asked readers to submit what they expect for the next four years. My letter to the editor was published in the Star on January 20, 2021:

Civic Education Expectations for the Next Four Years

“A democracy must be reborn anew every generation, and education is its midwife.” – John Dewey

Many educators across the U.S. are reconsidering how to teach civic education in our K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. It is clear that youth and adults alike need:

  • to hear an unambiguous message about the critical importance of voting in a participatory democracy and a clear understanding of the electoral process;
  • to know the provisions of the First Amendment and be able to make a distinction between free speech and hate speech;
  • to know how to engage in civil dialogue and learn to have respectful conversations about controversial topics; and
  • to learn multiple ways to positively and nonviolently enact change in classrooms, schools, and communities.

It is my fervent hope that civic education for youth and adults alike will lead to a national electoral process that honors the votes of all citizens and is characterized by confidence and trust in our democratic process.

Kidizenship
You might imagine that I was thrilled to learn shortly thereafter about a new (to me) civic education organization called Kidizenship.  Kidizenship was founded by Vanderbilt University professor and Bloomberg columnist, Amanda Little.

From a grades 5-12 perspective, I especially appreciate their motto: “You may be too young to vote, but your voice is powerful. We want to hear it. Enter a contest, Show us YOUR America.”

Designed for tweens and teens, Kidizenship is a non-partisan, non-profit media platform for youth to share their voices beyond the classroom. The combination of civics education with creative self-expression and community action is especially powerful.

Speech Contests
Kidizenship is using social media to promote and share their contests. Their latest nationwide creative civics contest invites 8- to 18-year-olds to compose and perform a 2-to 3-minute presidential speech. For the “Make Your Speech” contest, young people are asked to step into the Oval Office and take on the responsibility of serving as President of the United States. They are to tell their constituents about their vision and values for our country and what they will accomplish in the next 4 years.

The contest is co-hosted by YMCA Youth and Government programs nationwide and will be judged by actor Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Obama White House speechwriter Jon Favreau, Representative Will Hurd of Texas, and civic leader Baratunde Thurston. The deadline for submitting speeches is April 16th.

This contest will be judged in two age categories 8-12 and 13-18. There are cash prizes for first-, second-, and third-place winners.

Classroom-Library Collaboration Opportunity
Classroom teachers (civics, ELA, history, social studies, and more) and school librarians can collaborate to plan and implement a mini-research (or inquiry if you have more time) and writing series of lesson plans to support students in developing, recording, and submitting their speeches. The connections between classroom curriculum standards and a host of digital and information literacy standards is limitless. Plus the open-ended nature of the project supports student voice and choice.

Research could include listening to and analyzing presidential speeches in terms of the vision and values they represent. Here are two of many possibilities.

  • The American Rhetoric Speech Bank has a searchable database that includes many U.S. presidents’ speeches—both recordings and transcripts.
  • The Library of Congress has recordings of historical presidential speeches with an accompanying lesson plan.

Writing, Presenting, and Recording

  • Students could collectively brainstorm and discuss their visions for the country as well as the values on which their visions are founded.
  • As they are composing their speeches, students’ peers and both educators can offer writing conferences to help speechwriters hone their ideas and fine-tune their speeches.
  • In small groups, students can present their speeches orally to classmates and seek feedback before polishing, video capturing, and submitting their speeches.

And if you are ambitious, you could organize your own local contest to complement the one sponsored by Kidizenship.

I look forward to hearing the speeches of the winners and following Kidizenship’s future opportunities to expand civic education beyond the classroom, the library, and out into the community.

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.

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.

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.

Librarians Curate During the Pandemic

Image: Handshake word cloud - cooperate, serve, communicate, unite, and moreSince school closures began, school and public librarians have been collaborating to share online resources to support at-home teaching and learning. They have been sharing widely to help other educators, families, and librarian colleagues to help youth continue learning outside the four walls of the school or library building. Librarians are sharing their curation efforts on distribution lists, in blog posts, and on Twitter and Facebook.

The response of the library profession to the pandemic makes a strong case for how librarians can help educators around the world address one of the critical hot topics identified by 1,443 respondents from 65 countries and territories who responded to the International Literacy Association’s (ILA) “What’s Hot in Literacy” survey (formerly annual, now biennial). The goal of the survey is to rank topics in terms of what’s hot (talked about) and what (should be) important at both the community and country levels.

Respondents to the survey identified “providing access to high-quality, diverse books and content” as one of the top five critical topics (Bothum 2020, 24). You can access an online infographic summary of survey and the full report.

Librarians are consciously or not addressing global educators’ critical need for “high-quality, diverse books and content” during the pandemic. That fact contributes to the body of evidence related to the essential role(s) of librarians in education. To my knowledge all of these resources that follow are shared ethically following copyright laws or with permission of the authors, illustrators, or publishers whose work is shared.

Jennifer Brown, Youth and Family Services Manager, Suffolk Public Library, Suffolk, Virginia, has curated spreadsheets focused on author read-alouds, craft, music, and other resources for storytimes, tips for hosting online storytimes, and more.

Sabrina Carnesi, Newport News, Virginia, middle school librarian/school librarian educator, curated the links school librarians shared during the March 24, 2020 American Association of School Librarians Town Hall meeting. Close to 200 (!) resources were curated by Sabrina and shared by colleagues across the country to support virtual instruction while schools are closed:

Haley Cooper, Abbigail McWilliams, Amelia Owdom, and G Trupp, IS445: Information Books and Resources for Youth graduate students at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign iSchool curated a standards-aligned pathfinder of resources for 4th-6th grade students and educators to explore a timely topic during the pandemic: food insecurity and food culture.

Zakir Hossain, teacher-librarian at the ICS Inter-Community School Zurich, Switzerland. curated a libguide with open access ebooks, databases, copyright-free images, and sounds.

Kathy Lester, Plymouth, Michigan, middle school librarian has curated three lists, which she is using with East Middle School Library patrons and has shared these resources on several distribution lists.

eBooks

Storytimes

Other Online Resources

The National Emergency Library (NEL) has made 4M digitized books available to users without a waitlist. These resources can help educators provide students with access to books while their schools, school libraries, and public libraries are closed.

Thank you to these school and public librarians and the NEL for curating/making these resources available to us.

School librarians know that coplanning standards-aligned lessons and units of instruction with our educator colleagues is the ideal way to gather paper print or online resources for students’ learning. We can still collaborate with classroom teachers online during school closures, and we can use our librarian colleagues’ curation efforts as resources for that collaborative work.

Thank you for all you are doing to remain safe and healthy and to provide for your library users. I hope all librarians will continue to curate and share their work with others. We are stronger together, and together, we demonstrate our value to our library patrons even more so during this time of need.

P.S. And if you are looking specifically for online read-alouds for the students, families, and educators you serve, I have embedded additional resources from the 3/23/20 comment section into the blog post.

Work Cited

Bothum, Kelly. 2020. “What’s Hot in 2020—And Beyond: ILA’s Biennial Report Highlights the Topics Most Critical to Shaping the Future of Literacy.” Literacy Today (January/February).

Image credit
Johnhain. “Handshake Regard Cooperatie.” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/illustrations/handshake-regard-cooperate-connect-2009183/

District-Level School Librarian Advocacy

This month I contributed an article focused on our effort to restore school librarian positions in Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) to School Library Connection (SLC). If you are an SLC subscriber, you can find “We Need You! Forming Effective Advocacy Coalitions” in the “Political Literacy 101” section of the site. (The article will be publicly available until the next SLC issue is published.) If you are not a subscriber, you can always access and read other articles on the “Community” page, which is the splash page for the magazine, and consider subscribing. (I hope you will.)

Too often school librarians find themselves alone in speaking up for their work. Creating the context and conditions for library stakeholders to speak for our essential role in today’s education is a top priority for school librarian leaders. (See Chapter 8: Leadership and Advocacy in Maximizing School Librarian Leadership).

When we collaborate with classroom teachers and support the initiatives of our principals, they can (and will!) become some of our staunchest allies. When families are aware of how we are contributing to their children’s literacy learning, they, too, will join the ranks of our advocates. When central office administrators, school board members, and community members speak up for our work, we have the advocates we need to realize our goals for school library programs.

The Context: Arizona
A series of poor decisions made by the Arizona Legislature for more than a decade have denied district public schools of the necessary funding to meet the needs of K-12 students and families. School districts lacking local bond and budget override support have been in the position of making difficult decisions in terms of allocating meager resources for staffing, infrastructure maintenance and improvements, learning materials, including library resources and technology tools, and more.

In addition, the continual expansion of publicly funded charter schools has siphoned off monies that would have gone to district public schools in the past. To add insult to injury (and labeled “choice”), open enrollment has allowed parents the option of leaving their neighborhood schools to attend schools in more affluent districts. The lack of funding and support for district public schools that accept all students within their boundaries and open enrollment students, too, is dire.

The Context: Tucson Unified School District
TUSD is a high-needs, urban school district. Seventy-two percent of TUSD students are from federally identified minority families. Seventy percent receive free or reduced lunch and many are eating three meals a day at school sites across the district; most schools have clothing closets. The Educational Enrichment Foundation, which was created to provide academic support for TUSD students and educators, has responded by meeting the physical needs of students with personal hygiene products and struggles to achieve its original academic mission.

I served as an elementary school librarian in TUSD from 1992-2001 and in a high school until 2003. That year, our district-level library supervisor’s position was eliminated, and my high school second librarian position was cut to half time. (About twenty other site-level librarian positions were reduced that year.)

At the time of these cuts, there were 96 state-certified school librarians serving 59,250 students, a ratio of 1 librarian to 617 students. Today, there are 13 state-certified school librarians serving (about) 44,000 students, a ratio of 1:3,385.

It is clear TUSD students, educators, and families suffer from a lack of equitable access to the literacy opportunities of a well-resourced school library led by an effective state-certified school librarian.

Central Administration Advocates
Like many urban school districts, TUSD superintendents have not remained in their positions for sufficient time to make structural improvements in the district. Since I left the district, I have been unable to connect with a superintendent who was open to considering rehiring librarians and supporting library services as a high priority in a cash-strapped district.

That was the case until 2017 when Superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo was hired. Dr. Trujillo came to TUSD having had the experience of full-time, state-certified school librarians in the Phoenix Union High School District. I met with him in the summer of 2018 to convince him it was long past time to restore TUSD school librarian positions and revitalize its libraries.

Dr. Trujillo did not need convincing. Instead, I learned that he was seeking advocates to work with him to convince the school board of the necessity of effective school librarians and library programs to students’ success. “We found common ground in focusing this effort on the district’s Middle School Improvement Plans in the area of reading. (While there was no need to conduct market research to begin our project, it was critical that we established shared goals on which to build this effort)” (Moreillon 2020).

TUSD School Librarian Restoration Project and Community Advocates
I reached out into the community to form a small but mighty advocacy group. Beginning in the fall of 2018 to the present, we met with and continue to communicate with school board members; we speak at governing board meetings during the calls to the audience. Based on a recommendation from a school board member, we connected with the TUSD School Community Partnership Council. We made presentations at the Arizona Library Association conference.

Most recently, we worked with the human resources (HR) department to revise the school librarian’s job description. Five middle school positions will be advertised this spring (2020), and our advocacy group will support HR in attracting the most qualified candidates. We have offered to meet with principals of these and other schools that are considering restoring their school librarian positions.

We are encouraged by our supporters and the progress we have made. We have been surprised by some literacy organizations that informed us they do not “do advocacy.”

We believe as past ALA President Jim Neal wrote that “libraries constitute an ecology of educational, research, and community services. In this environment of inter­dependency, we, as a family of libraries, must embrace advocacy for school libraries as foundational to the success of our collective work for students who love to read, as we prepare them for college, career, and life” (Neal 2018). And so, we carry on this work.

This Visme infographic summarizes our communication strategy and is fleshed out in the SLC article. If you are in a similar situation in terms of eliminated school librarian positions, we hope you will use what we have learned to take up the call, identify advocates through points of shared purpose, and work together to restore state-certified school librarian positions in your communities.

Works Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2020. “We Need You! Forming Effective Advocacy Coalitions.” School Library Connection (February).

Neal, Jim. 2018. “Fight for School Libraries: Student Success Depends on Them.” American Libraries Magazine (March 1). https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2018/03/01/fight-for-school-libraries/

Community Connections

I believe a school librarian’s first order of business is serving as a leader within the school building itself and then within the school district. The focus of Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy is librarian leadership that benefits students, other educators, administrators, and families within the school building and district.

That said, instructional leadership and advocacy are two areas in which school librarians’ leadership activities can extend into the community outside the school building. When the greater community is aware of the school library program, advocacy appeals for more resources, staffing, and other types of support will be supported by local businesses, non-profit and civic organizations, and by voters.

Instructional Community Connections
School librarians can be the connectors who bring the resources of the community into the school building. Human resources are often overlooked by busy educators. Bringing in guest speakers and experts in their fields builds bridges for learning and perhaps future career choices for students. School librarians can coordinate or work with a school community liaison to facilitate volunteer tutors and other services offered by individuals and non-profit groups.

Taking students and learning out into the community is another area for school librarian leadership. Field trips to public and academic libraries, museums, universities and colleges connect students to community resources that can support learning. Getting outside the school building and visiting parks and nature preserves or attending fine arts performances enriches students’ lives.

Off-campus student jobs and internships are other ways school librarians can support student learning. As a high school librarian, I wrote a number of reference letters for library aides and other students who were seeking employment or apprenticeships. Based on my experience of students’ work ethic and willingness to learn, I could confidently recommend them to business owners and community organizers.

Community Advocacy Connections
There is no question that the community outside the school building can provide powerful support in advocating for the school librarian’s position and the library program. The more students and educators are out in the community the greater the community’s knowledge of their talents and their needs. When students share their learning, musical or other talents at a school board meeting, parents, voters, and the press are there. In a small school district where I served in a combined junior high/high school library, I co-sponsored and sponsored two sets of student presentations. One was a classroom-library online literacy circles collaboration; the other was the library geek squad who researched and presented the need for computer upgrades.

Making sure the school district and local town/city press cover the contributions of the library program to student learning helps educate the community about the vital learning and teaching facilitated by the school librarian. This will take a strategic and concerted effort on the part of the school librarian and school/district administrators who understand the literacy and learning value added. If and when the school board decides to address a budget shortfall by eliminating school librarians, there should be a hue and cry.

Community and Sustainability
When the school and school library are positioned in the community as sites for literacy and learning opportunities, school library programs have a greater opportunity to survive in the ever-changing, ever-evolving education landscape. It is up to each and every school librarian to make the commitment to sustaining a program that is worthy of stakeholders. “Developing excellence in school library programs and a credible collective advocacy story is a path to sustaining the vitality, integrity, and the future of our profession” (Moreillon 2015, 26).

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  1. What are the benefits of maximizing community connections?
  2. What connections are you making with resources, including human resources, to bridge school and community?

Work Cited

Moreillon, Judi. 2015. “Quick Remedies Column: Collaborative Library Stories. School Library Monthly 31 (8): 25-26.