February 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Five Trends That Make 2015 Worth Celebrating| Editorial

The New Year has always been a time of optimism for me, but this winter is different. As we arrive in 2015, I am heartened by positive tendencies in several arenas that will influence our work in school and public libraries. Taking a page from Elizabeth Bird, whose “What’s Trending?” cover story looks at emerging themes in kidlit (p. 20), I’m seeing five major trends that dovetail to create the opportunity for a new holism in our work.

The rise of hands-on learning. The maker movement has been cooking for a while, but we’ve hit a tipping point in understanding its application in libraries—and increasingly in classrooms—with new and exciting STEAM (STEM + Art) initiatives. This includes the embrace of libraries as places for participation over transaction. We’re dedicating our May 2015 issue to all things maker and looking to surface great projects and tools for you to use.

E-Rate modernization. The infusion of an additional $1.5 billion to the E-Rate program is a win for kids and families and the schools and libraries that serve them. They will benefit from faster, more widely available Internet connectivity and from the resulting innovation in institutions that are better enabled to serve this digital culture. They are also better equipped to take the hands-on learning in our physical spaces to the next level with online collaboration, enhancing digital literacy. Just like STEAM, this won’t drive itself, as the funds must be applied for, so make it happen.

Frank discussion of diversity. 2014 brought passionate and sometimes confrontational discussion of the issues surrounding diversity in our culture. The insight from the #WeNeedDiverseBooks initiative and the groundswell of protest in support of #BlackLivesMatter are just two examples of positive outcomes of addressing the unfairness and brutality that persists in our society. Many of us saw clearly how far we have to go to create a bias-free culture that truly celebrates the multitudes among and within our communities. We prioritized constructive work around issues of race, class, gender, sexual preference, and more. SLJ, for one, adopted a statement that illustrates our commitment to diversity, dedicated the May 2014 issue and ongoing coverage to diversity, and has partnered with We Need Diverse Books to help foster positive change.

Deeper cross-institution collaboration: Maybe the recession forced it, but collaborative effort no longer seems to be left to individuals breaking through silo walls in defiance of outdated turf warfare. Instead, public and school libraries are more deeply connected with one another at the institutional level and with other local organizations. Examples abound, in the great work around early learning in Cuyahoga County, OH, in K–12 in Nashville, TN, and in high level strategic thinking about libraries by the Aspen Institute, the Center for an Urban Future, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Collaboration fuels more comprehensive approaches to service, allowing planners to respond to gaps at the edges of traditional services. In spite of these efforts, major gaps persist, so such generous thinking is needed more than ever.

The context of the whole child. Children don’t stop at the doorways of the institutions that serve them, so our approach to serving them should acknowledge the complexity of their lives. I see signs of movement from the collaborations like those noted above to approaches to education such as the one articulated in Mooresville (NC) Graded School District’s mantra “Every child, every day” and the efforts to expand the definition of success—such as Tacoma (WA) Public Schools implementation of the Whole Child Initiative—as we grasp the need to support the many literacies needed to navigate the world in person and online.

All of these trends help us to connect the dots as never before. They call on us to see our kids and our services in a more complete and ambitious light.

That’s what’s inspiring my optimism for this new year. What’s inspiring you?

SLJ’s Best Books is available as a PDF. “Get out there,” Parrott urges. “Work this list!”


Rebecca T. Miller

This article was published in School Library Journal's January 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Rebecca T. Miller About Rebecca T. Miller

Rebecca T. Miller (rmiller@mediasourceinc.com) is Editorial Director, Library Journal and School Library Journal.

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  1. Deborah MacInnis says:

    John Dewey, yes that John Dewey, came up with the idea of educating the whole child in 1902. How the world has changed.