Ready to Talk Ideas, Solutions? Let's Meet in October. | From the Editor

"Now is an especially critical time to inform readers," writes Kathy Ishizuka, SLJ editor in chief. "That means publishing stories centered on the people who power libraries and schools. We are here for it, and we hope you are, too."

“You’re going to connect her with Lin-Manuel Miranda?!” a librarian exclaimed to me over the phone, bubbling with excitement at the prospect.

Alas, I have never been so sorry to disappoint.

Her in this case was Addie Matteson, a school librarian and Hamilton mega fan, who had written a piece for us documenting her “Hamilessons,” which integrated elements of the Broadway musical into her work teaching students at White River Elementary in Noblesville, IN.

Along the grapevine, the commissioning of the post “Teaching with Hamilton” somehow evolved into my arranging a meet-and-greet with the hit show’s creator.

The two bookish history nerds would hit it off, I have no doubt. They’d jump in, unpacking the work of this librarian, who blended primary sources, close reading, and student-led rap battles into one lively history lesson, like the show, an imaginative remix, which resonated with kids, sparking an enthusiasm all their own.

As a school librarian, Matteson wrote, “I connect students to the stories they will fall in love with.”

Telling your stories is the best thing we do here at SLJ. From first-person accounts, like Matteson’s, to reporting on front-line librarians and educators across the full spectrum of their work with children and teens, this is the sweet spot.

There is a feel-good effect, with value in that to be sure. In the larger scheme, the narrative approach helps inform the bigger picture of K–12 education and public library service to kids and families in a much more compelling way than mere facts and data alone ever could.

People like reading about people. We’re hard-wired toward narratives. In a journalistic context, human-driven stories can enhance our understanding, expose us to other perspectives, and enable personal and meaningful connections to the content and by extent the world.

In coverage where the work of libraries and librarians is centered, it illuminates the role of these educators and in so doing supports the profession.

And who else is going to do it?

Education reporting has been in decline, alongside the contraction of newspapers and job losses involving reporters and editors whose work it has been to tell these stories. Fifty local U.S. newsrooms have shuttered due to the pandemic thus far, reports the Poynter Institute.

Journalism, much like the library profession, has a service mandate. A diminished press is less able to perform its role: informing the public and holding government and officials accountable. And without adequate coverage, education, in all its complexity, cannot be fully grasped by the public. Same goes for libraries. Without this attention, people will engage—and care—less.

Now is an especially critical time to inform readers. But importantly, we must also lead them to forge meaningful connections between the work of librarians and educators and the welfare of their children and communities. That means publishing stories centered on the people who power libraries and schools. We are here for it, and we hope you are, too.

Your feedback, through surveys and our reporting, has informed our coverage. And we’re about joined at the hip with the community of educators, librarians, and book people on Twitter.

A new phase is evolving in our plan to engage more deeply with our readers. Part of this strategy will convene virtual gatherings involving diverse stakeholders. We’ll push toward addressing the weighty issues before us and in an ongoing way—call it our take on engagement and solutions journalism. We’ll convene in earnest at the SLJ Summit on October 24. See you there.

 

Kathy Ishizuka
Editor-In-Chief
@kishizuka

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Kathy Ishizuka

Kathy Ishizuka is editor in chief of School Library Journal.

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