May 28, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

New Advocacy to Save School Librarians, One Click at a Time

School librarians and supporters have a new platform for expressing their support for keeping school libraries open and fully staffed. Save School Librarians, a project of EveryLibrary, Follet Learning, and state library associations, is an online activist site where librarians, parents, and other interested parties can mobilize and find a solution.

The launch of the campaign comes in the midst of ongoing threats to school library positions. Consider the statistics: 10 percent of the nation’s public schools and 51 percent of its charter schools don’t have

An Illinois School Library Media Association rally in Chicago during the 2017 American Library Association Annual Meeting. Photo credit: Eric Michael Clarke

libraries, according to the American Library Association’s State of American Libraries report released in April. And just last month the Los Angeles Unified School District released a budget for the upcoming year, which would lay off 30 library aides and leave 43 elementary schools without staff, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Until now, school librarians and their supporters had few options for rallying public opinion in the hopes of sparing their libraries and their livelihoods. But John Chrastka, the executive director of EveryLibrary, an organization that finances library voter campaigns, says the loss of dedicated funding for school libraries is just one reason behind the site. “Our concern is on the basics: fixing the disconnect in districts who say they want successful schools and fully prepared students but don’t fund their libraries or employ enough qualified librarians,” he says.

The core of the site is grassroots activism, a one-click action that any library supporter can take to report a threat to their school’s library. After filling out the information, the EveryLibrary team works with the stakeholders in that district or state to, in Chrastka’s words, “get the stars aligned for success.” So, for example, EveryLibrary can use advertising money to launch a very targeted campaign aimed at mobilizing parents and other interested parties through Facebook, Twitter, or direct mail to persuade school boards and superintendents to change the budget. But EveryLibrary can also work with statewide organizations to get laws and regulations approved for better and more equitable funding for the future.

Photo credit: EveryLibrary

While the strategies for success may differ for each school district, Chrastka promises that every report will get a personal response—at no cost. “No one who comes to Save School Librarians needs to pay in order for us to respond,” says Chrastka, adding that this free help is made possible by the site’s donors—“thousands of Americans, dozens of vendors, and Follett in particular.” In addition, a campaign can be up and running in 24 hours.

For Follett, getting involved in Save School Librarians was an easy choice. “Follett has been advocating for the role of librarians on a national level,” says Nader Qaimari, president of Follett School Solutions, citing its efforts at lobbying Congress to save funding for the Institute of Museum and Library Services. “Our partnership with EveryLibrary is a nice fit because it complements that work, but on a state and local level. It empowers specific schools and districts struggling to survive by giving them the necessary tools and support to run grassroots campaigns. This allows us to tackle the problem from both ends.”

Even those who believe school librarians in their community are safe for now can still get involved by signing petitions to save libraries in Washington, Pennsylvania, and Chicago. Participates can also advocate for federal funding or make a donation. Chrastka notes that those who visit the Save School Librarians site are becoming part of the EveryLibrary movement.

“We want to build the biggest list of Americans who care about library issues, whether it’s school or public or any type of library because there are some actions that require a significant amount of public pressure,” he says.

For Chrastka, Save School Libraries will address not only an immediate crisis but will change laws and funding in a meaningful way for the profession.

Qaimari agrees. “Libraries are such an important component of our economy and the fabric of our society,” he says. “We want to raise awareness so that no one has to ever feel the pain, cost, and aftermath of their absence.”

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  1. Roseanne Emig says:

    With all the research and anecdotal evidence regarding the value of certified school librarians it is hard to believe that so many school districts are still reluctant to employ at least one librarian let alone staff each school with a certified librarian.

  2. Jessica Samuel says:

    Many school leaders DO understand the role of school librarians in student success but have hands tied when pressured to reduce funding in support staff. Some states have successfully reclassified school librarians as instructional staff instead of support in their budget codes. Grassroots can build support at the local but until the budget classification is fixed, administrators will continue to cut corners on library staff. The national level support by Follett could help push for states to change this classification with a nation wide campaign and give locals a roadmap how to pursue at state level.

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