"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Advocating for our School Library Program

"Why don't penguins live beyond the equator?

So asks a first grader. This is inquiry. This is student-driven learning. This is what school library programs - spaces and resources and learning managed by teacher librarians - are built for. Library programs engage and empower students in learning and allow for authentic experiences that are embedded with trans-literacy and digital citizenship skills and strategies.
It's School Library Month and we need to shout about our value from the mountaintops.

At least I feel I do. It's budget season in most school districts. In my district the budget for next year is tight and the library program is facing cuts.I hear refrains from Marvin K. Mooney encouraging me,"Marvin K. Mooney the time is now!" It's time to advocate!

I wrote these remarks and delivered them during the public comment period of the School Committee meeting this week. (I have slightly edited them to remove any mention of the district.)

Thank you for this opportunity to speak.

The Mission of our school system is to educate, prepare, and inspire all students to achieve their full potential as lifelong learners, thinkers, and productive contributors to our global society. I believe that our school libraries are a critical component of this mission. We are critical because we impact teaching and learning in many ways.

For instance, one day this week, along with teaching my six scheduled library classes:

  • I planned with a 5th grade teacher on an upcoming research project.
  • I pulled books for a science unit for 3rd grade teachers.
  • I met with a new 4th grade teacher to show the lessons and materials the library teachers developed for an upcoming unit.
  • I helped a few second graders find books for their informational writing unit.
  • I provided readers advisory for two reluctant readers who came to the library outside of their library class.
  •  I helped set up technology for the fifth grade talent show.

And this doesn’t account for administrative tasks such as weeding or processing books.

Our library program delivers high-quality learning experiences, including, but not limited to the following.

We develop and provision for lessons that result in authentic learning experiences.

Engaged students are more invested in learning how to: locate resources, take notes, search for copyright-friendly images; develop keyword searches; and, cite those sources. Many skills are embedded in our lessons. The proposed schedule impacts our ability to deliver lessons like these.

We collaborate with teachers to ensure students are meeting the standards of a Common Core education.
We are teaching partners in our schools. We work with classroom teachers to help teach benchmarks and standards. Together our curriculum prepares our students. The proposed schedule leaves no time for planning with classroom teachers.

We provide teachers and students with just-in-time, curriculum-connected resources and guidance.

Curriculum-connected resource guidance relies upon the library teacher having the time within the school day to meet with teachers and students and to locate resources that serve their information needs. The proposed schedule eliminates this service to teachers and students.

We curate and manage a collection that meets the needs of our educational community.

The library collection is an essential resource for both students and classroom teachers. We build our collections around students, the global community and the curriculum. Our collections allow the students to find themselves on the pages of books and to help them understand who they are as readers. We help set them on a path of lifelong learning. It takes time to curate and manage a collection that meets the needs of each school community. The proposed schedule leaves no time to maintain and manage this valuable resource for teachers and students.

The proposed cuts will result in a dismantling of the program as described above. We will be told that we can’t do the things we have done in the past, but we are a service profession and we will go from people who have said, “yes” to people who have to say “no.” It is our students and our teachers who will feel the greatest impact. The library program supports teaching and learning and is an essential part of the high-quality education that all students receive.

Thank you for your time.

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