Call to Action

Spring 2016 #EAChallenge: Championing School Libraries and School Librarians

Everyday Advocacy
Use the resources on the Everyday Advocacy site to help make your voice heard! Photo courtesy of ALSC.

The Spring 2016 Everyday Advocacy Challenge (EAC) entered its third week on Tuesday, March 15, with this Take Action Tuesday prompt:

Champion the importance of school libraries and school librarians.

Read on to find out how Skye Corey, Rosemary Kiladitis, and Stacey Rattner took on the Week 3 challenge with a few small—and even some huge—steps that make a big difference for students of all ages!

Skye writes:

At the heart of Everyday Advocacy is the belief that small steps make a big difference. As part of this week’s challenge, I took the small step across the road to visit the neighboring middle school librarian.

We had a great conversation, and I left with a page-long list of practical steps that I could take to support the work that she does. From MakerSpace outreach programs at lunch, to weeding help, to coming up with a better system of exchange for when students return public library books to the school—there were so many simple, actionable ideas discussed! I can’t wait to work together with the Youth Services team and the school librarian to make these ideas a reality!

If I had to share just three points with others who are thinking about taking that small step of reaching out to the local school librarian, I’d say the following:

  1. Don’t be afraid to take the first step! School librarians are just as passionate about advocating for children as public librarians, so fear not! (Read Stacey’s paragraph to see how amazing school librarians can be!)
  2. Schedule time to check-in with the school librarian on a regular basis. Cultivate this important relationship so that when they need help or have a great idea, you are the first person they contact.
  3. Do all that you can to remove barriers within the relationship. Listen well, be flexible, and go above and beyond to make the relationship easy for the school librarian.

What a wonderful challenge this has been, and what a great opportunity to walk alongside all those who are committed to making a better future for children through libraries.

Rosemary writes:

This week’s challenge had us advocating for the school libraries and librarians. Boy, do they need it! These last few years, we’ve read article after article about school libraries closing as budgets shrink. “They can use the Internet for their research,” people say. But who will teach them how to research, I ask?

School librarians are increasingly in sparse supply, at least in my area of urban Queens, New York City. I had a class visit from a relatively new public school yesterday, and their teacher told me that despite having a beautiful library, there is no school librarian to run it! The children rely on public library visits to get library time. My own experience with my 7th- grade son is similar; he hasn’t been in his middle school library once in the two years he’s been there, and the only time he seems to be in the library is for a Scholastic book sale.

Limiting access to children’s school libraries limits children’s access to information. In underserved areas, this further increases the education divide and the digital divide. Everyone needs to understand that elementary and secondary school librarianship is so much more than storytime. A class trip once a year is not going to provide children with the tools they need to learn research skills; how to classify and find information; and what a good information resource looks like. Having regular access to a school library and a library professional will give kids a head start that they need in life. It will put the power in their hands, building confidence and the ability to question and learn.

School librarians have just as much to say as any other library professional! Pick up any copy of School Library Journal, Horn Book, or VOYA, and see the articles they write. They’re on Pinterest, and they’re blogging and collaborating. I thank school librarians wherever I meet one because I started out my education with a great one and think every child has the right to one.

How can we advocate for our school librarian partners? We need to stand together with them and tell the decision makers that education is important, and librarianship is a vital part to every child’s education:

  1. Underserved neighborhoods need more access to libraries, not less.
  2. School librarian is not an optional position.
  3. Put librarians back in schools where they belong.

Stacey writes:

It’s been quite a week of advocacy for me. Monday afternoon I met with my superintendent, and think I made some inroads.

We are a small district, facing another difficult budget year. Additionally, we are closing a middle school and moving from three buildings to two in the 2017-18 school year. My superintendent asked me almost immediately why he should hire someone only to let them go in a year, and I was prepared with an answer:

With our renovations, we will be adding an “Innovation Lab” in our elementary school. Why not staff that with a certified school librarian who knows how to collaborate; is familiar with Common Core and the all the curriculum; can work with every grade level; and is comfortable with technology and makerspaces?

Well… He got it! He said he never thought of that before but it sounded like a great idea!  I might have even found a pull to get funded, albeit partially, to go to ALA to find the right person!

Today I talked more with my principal and tonight (drum roll please) I stood up (sweat dripping down my side) at the School Board meeting and shared how important it is to be consistent and have a full-time school librarian in every building. I doubt anything will happen this year, but I can sleep tonight knowing that I tried.

In the meantime, I have a great relationship with the Youth Services librarian down in our small but active public library. Mia has lead an after-school book group during my Mock Newbery project with 5th graders.  We are lucky enough that the school and the library are only about half a mile apart.

When it is warm enough, I have walked down with students on a “field trip.” Mia has talked up library programs and given out library cards (I send home applications ahead of time and actually have a stack of blank ones at my circulation desk), and kids even check out books (as many as they care to carry up the hill back to school!). She has come up to school to assist with author visits and, of course, promote summer reading.

Now I also know that Mia can fill gaps we may have in our district without two full-time secondary librarians. She can also collaborate with me and therefore increase our full-time employee at the elementary school, so to speak.

Mia and I have a date to meet next week about summer reading, and I have my list ready to discuss how this can be a completely collaborative effort.  Thankfully, Mia is always open to my crazy ideas!

Skye Corey is a librarian at Meridian (Idaho) Library District; Rosemary Kiladitis is a librarian; and Stacey Rattner is a librarian at Castleton (N.Y.) Elementary School. Skye, Rosemary, and Stacey are participants in the Spring 2016 Everyday Advocacy Challenge, a 15-member volunteer cohort convening from March 1-22.

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