February 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

ALA Council Unanimously Adopts Resolution Supporting School Libraries| ALA Annual 2012

School librarians now have another powerful advocacy tool—and it’s backed by the American Library Association (ALA).

ALA Council on Monday unanimously adopted a resolution during its annual meeting in Anaheim, CA, that reiterates the importance of certified media specialists to academic achievement and calls on all ALA divisions to support our nation’s beleaguered school librarians.

Drafted by the Special Presidential Task Force on School Libraries, the resolution was “formed out of necessity” in response to the ongoing budget cuts and school librarian layoffs, says Sara Kelly Johns (right), the American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) Division Councilor and a media specialist at New York’s Lake Placid Middle/High School, who last Friday proposed the resolution at an ALA membership meeting, where it also passed unanimously.

The Task Force was created at last year’s annual conference in New Orleans by ALA President Molly Raphael to “combat increased reports of threats to school library instructional programs.” Once Council passed the resolution, it became policy.

Although the resolution doesn’t offer specifics, it does form the framework for actions that should be taken to support the profession-and for the first time, it’s endorsed by all ALA divisions, not just AASL.

“The strength of this resolution is that it marshals the expertise and resources of all of ALA to work in support of school librarians and libraries as critical to educational success,” says Johns.

The resolution emphasizes the importance of school librarians, who teach “information and technology skills essential for students in the 21st century,” and calls on the Presidential Task Force on School Librarians to lead the association in its “continued mission to address the urgent need for advocacy for school libraries and school librarians; to address the impact of the de-professionalization and curtailment of school library instructional programs on students and student achievement, and to continue to engage librarians of all types from across the association to advocate for school libraries, which are imperative to the survival and success of all libraries.”

The resolution also states that ALA places a “high priority” on making sure that the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act—our nation’s most important K-12 education law- includes language that “supports the necessity for effective school library programs and credentialed school librarians” so that they can receive crucial federal dollars.

The resolution encourages state associations and affiliates to help influence legislation so there’s “adequate funding and appropriate staffing of libraries in schools at all levels,” and it calls for seeking out “partnerships with national organizations to reach mutual goals of sustaining school libraries.”

Johns says the resolution is so comprehensive that any librarian can use it as an advocacy tool because it “says the entire ALA understands the importance of school librarians.”

Johns emphasized that cuts to school librarians have a direct impact on all types of librarians.

“It has an effect on public librarians who have to pick up the teaching functions of school librarians,” she says. “And academic librarians say they know when their students have had a high school librarian by their ability to do in-depth research with critical thinking skills.”

Johns points to a recent post on her Facebook wall, which illustrates the crucial role of school librarians to everyone.

“A grandmother read about [the resolution] on my Facebook wall and says she’s going to use it to advocate for her grandchildren’s school librarian,” Johns says.

What’s next? “There’ll be a great deal of follow-up,” explains Johns, adding that ALA’s Washington office, along with various divisions and chapters, must now draft a plan for increasing advocacy for school librarians. Maureen Sullivan, ALA President for 2012-2013, and Barbara Stripling, ALA President-Elect for 2013-2014 and a former school librarian, will join as Task Force members.

About Debra Lau Whelan

Debra Whelan is a former senior editor for news and features at SLJ.

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