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April 16, 2014

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Colorado Media Specialist Takes Library Fight To The Road

When it comes to advocacy, school librarian Mike McQueen plays it big—wrapping his RV with stickers and signs to encourage his community of Jefferson County, CO, to vote in favor of two bond measures and save school libraries.

“Too many teachers and librarians don’t market and advocate for themselves and what their library programs are all about,” says the teacher librarian at McLain Community High School. “So communities haven’t been hearing all the good things happening and that gives the impression they’re not needed.”

McQueen hopes to change that in his town and get his community rallying behind issue 3A and 3B. Issue 3A is a mill levy that would raise $39 million a year to add more teachers, reduce class sizes, and ensure teacher librarians stay in schools. The latter, 3B, would raise $99 million to help repair and maintain school sites. The goal is to prevent proposed budget cuts that could include the removal of all middle school librarians and the reduction of elementary school librarians to half time, says McQueen.

“I think this is a national issue,” he says. “But it’s a problem that can be prevented. Too often I have seen school librarians cave in.”

It’s an unusual move for a school librarian who once thought he didn’t like to read—not counting the manuals on Photoshop and four-wheel-drive cars that he would devour.

“When I started my career as a librarian, I secretly thought I didn’t like to read,” he says. “But then I found a lot of boys like to read nonfiction—and a light bulb went off and I realized I do love to read.”

McQueen wants to ensure that other kids have access to books, libraries, and librarians who can help them overcome any resistance to reading as well. Working with other school librarians in his district, McQueen has launched a Facebook page, mobilized walks, recruited colleagues to march in parades—and even borrowed $7,000 to buy stickers and a printer to cover his RV as a moving billboard. He parks daily at a local restaurant, where more than 16,000 cars catch his message to vote yes on 3A and 3B every day. (He’s done the math.)

McQueen plans to continue his campaign to save school libraries until Jefferson County’s November vote— and ensure children have a place where they can discover the joy of reading.

“If libraries don’t brag about the good things they do, then communities don’t think it’s a big deal to cut there,” he says. “So I am very feisty, and so are a handful of my colleagues.”

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Lauren Barack About Lauren Barack

Lauren Barack writes about the connection between media and education, business and technology, and is the recipient of the Loeb Award for online journalism. She can be found at www.laurenbarack.com.

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