February 17, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Spread the Word: Administrators and Principals Must Advocate for School Libraries | Feedback

Another great SLJ issue! However, I think that what [Keith Curry] Lance and [Debra E.] Kachel share in their article (“Librarian Required,” Mar. 2013, pp. 28–31) is really nothing new nor groundbreaking in any sense of teacher-librarianship research and advocacy. We know that teacher-librarians matter to achievement in schools. We—teacher-librarians and our few external advocates—but that’s about it.

But here’s the real problem: we don’t have the ears of those we need to have. We need to get these articles and this research into the journals of the real educational decision makers: administrative officers. Gary Hartzell is so on the money in his belief that when we publish in teacher-librarian oriented magazines and share with our administrators, it really comes across as only self-serving. So true!

It’s not about what but a question of where. Would it not be more powerful and productive to get these sorts of articles and related research into administrative officer magazines (for example, Phi Delta Kappa) and go where the decision makers go to advocate for change in school libraries and a revaluing of teacher-librarian role?

I feel as though these types of articles (and their related research) are only speaking to the choir when they appear in magazines like School Library Journal, Library Media Connection, and Teacher-Librarian. I say keep the research coming, but remember that we need to get the word out to the folks that make staffing and financial decisions. In most provinces in Canada (and I would suspect in most of the United States), we need to grab the ears of the school principal and superintendent and bend them a little bit more.

Keep up the amazing work!

Jeff Yasinchuk, Teacher-Librarian
L.V. Rogers Secondary School
Nelson, BC

A librarian’s critical role

Lance and Kachel’s article, Librarian Required” (Mar. 2013), makes it sound like just having a librarian in the building makes all of this wonderful stuff happen. The role that the librarian takes on in the school is critical as to whether the program affects students. Librarians who are active with the students and classes in their schools; who co-plan and co-teach with the staff; who actively seek ways to support the teachers, the students, and the curriculum do have a powerful influence on students. If they stay in the library only to check out books; only read stories to the youngest students; only order, catalog, and shelve materials; or only assist with the materials within the four walls of the library, then do they really make that much difference? There is also the problem with librarians being placed on the master schedule by administrators to cover classes. This takes the potential for developing a good library program away. There are so many factors that influence the power of a library’s program to create the statistics you mention. I would have just liked to have seen the story include some of the activities librarians do within their schools to make these students perform so much better in school.

Wynelle Welsh, Instructional Support Specialist, Ed. Tech.,
SC/Stewart/DODDS Cuba School District
Ft. Stewart, GA

Jobs at risk

Thank you for writing your editorial, The Cost of Cuts” (Mar. 2013, p. 11). I am an educator in Baltimore County Public Schools, where our library media specialist positions are at risk. Recently, our school board proposed changes to a policy to eliminate language that requires certified library media specialists in our school libraries. The library office was also reorganized from being a part of the curriculum and instruction department to research, accountability, and testing. These moves undercut library media specialists’ value as teachers and send the message that their presence in schools is not essential to student success. Thank you for pointing me towards Kachel and Lance’s study. I will be using their data in future advocacy efforts.

Lindsay O’Donnell
Baltimore County Public Schools, MD

 Research is a puzzle

I am writing in response to the review of my book Daredevil (Apr. 2013, p. 150). I do not feel that the reviewer understood the complexities of researching the book so I would like the opportunity to share them with you (I do go into more detail about specifics of the review on my website).

While working on Daredevil, I drove to the National Air & Space Museum in Virginia, where Betty Skelton donated much of her collected memories. The collection is immense! She saved almost every news article about her. There are also many press photos of her, such as Betty and her little dog Tinker, smiling wide-eyed into the sun. I liked the faded photographs of her with her parents. Those made everything more real for me.

After studying the time period and hunting down more articles, I was struck by how Betty’s opinion on women’s rights wavered throughout the years. At times she said that the 1960s wasn’t the right time for women to go to space, but at other times she said that it was. What were her true feelings? It’s hard to know for sure. After the war, women were expected to return to the home. Imagine Betty defying the standard by daring to do her own thing! I think to be able to do her part well she had to feminize what was traditionally a “guy” thing by wearing feminine clothes and donning high heels after exiting the plane. Doing this was a way of not alienating her male counterparts. But she was simultaneously gaining media attention by looking gorgeous. Part of the frustration, challenge, and fun of doing research is that it’s a puzzle. But sometimes not all of it will be put together, because only the subject holds the final pieces.

One thing I tell children is that websites often contain incorrect information. But…newspapers do too! Many researchers use the “3” rule. If you don’t read the same piece of information at least three times then it’s unusable. The issue that arises, for example, is that articles using information from The Associated Press go viral. If something is incorrect, it can be reprinted in dozens of newspapers. That same incorrect information can be recycled for years. Even when someone is quoted, they can be quoted again years later about the same event, and say something completely different! This is because memories change. This is why writing nonfiction is largely a decision-making process.

My number one priority is my readers—the kids.

Meghan McCarthy, Author

 Library programming

Thank you, thank you, thank you Rebecca for sharing your thoughts and passions in “Building Bridges: Up Close with Librarian Assistant Rebecca Zaran Dunn (Extra Helping, Apr. 18, 2013)! I can’t tell you how much reading this interview improved my week. I attended a class yesterday for my certification, and I left with the impression that I was doing programming and activities at my library all wrong. I’m a children’s librarian who has to think a bit outside of the box when it comes to programming for my school-age kids because they simply won’t come in if I don’t. Once they get through the door and get to know me a little more, I can then sneak books and literacy things into the conversation. I’ve had huge success with non-traditional library programming, but after yesterday I still found myself feeling like I’m doing it all wrong. You echoed my thoughts on library programming and my transition into the library world perfectly, and made me feel like there is someone else out there who is more like me. Thank you.

Ashley Pickett
North Country Library System
Watertown, NY

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