Priorities, Hopes, and Wishes for This School Library Month

SLJ asked school librarians: What is your No. 1 priority? What do you hope will change before next School Library Month? What is your one wish for school libraries?

April is School Library Month. With school libraries at the center of a political culture war and librarians fighting censorship while still working to meet their daily responsibilities and support staff and students through the pandemic disruption, SLJ reached out to school librarians and asked three questions: What is your No. 1 priority right now? What’s your one wish for school libraries? What do you hope will change before next School Library Month in 2023?

Here's what they had to say.

What is your No. 1 priority right now?

To teach and support content teachers. Together we make learning engaging and share student success with our community and families so they recognize the library program's impact. … The library program is ever-changing, and we as librarians are always evolving. I have learned to recalibrate and provide what is needed and let go of what we've done before.—Ali Schilpp, media specialist, Northern Middle School, Accident, MD

I have a unique position right now, I am one of the only school librarians in the nation that is also an elected School Board Member. I want to use my knowledge and expertise to help school librarians navigate this new reality of book challenges. I am very much focused on helping librarians understand the role that school district policies and procedures have in the book challenge process & how they can help advocate for stronger policies and procedures that make it harder for book challenges to succeed.—Elissa Malespina, teacher librarian and technology coordinator, Verona (NJ) High School

Enjoying my family is my top priority. I am on Spring Break in Orlando, FL, with my family as I type this, and nothing else really matters. Outside of my family, my top priority is continuing to fight for the rights of my students, providing educators with tools and resources, and instilling a love of reading in everyone I meet.—Cicely Lewis, school librarian, Meadowcreek High School, Norcross, GA

My main priority is the mental and emotional well-being of my students, parents, and staff. Providing soul care means that they are receiving access to the resources, access to materials that help to transform their lives, and access to a love that helps to empower them to change the world with love and care!—Christopher Stewart, library media specialist, Bell High School, Washington, DC

We just got our full momentum back as a school library in recent months. It took a while to get everything back up and running again after our physical space was shut down for a year and a half. It really feels like a highly valued gathering space again. My No. 1 priority right now is building on that momentum and making sure my school has a library program that our students and teachers are genuinely excited about.—Ryan Tahmaseb, director of library services, Meadowbrook School, Weston, MA

What do you hope will change before next School Library Month in 2023?

Starting with the U.S. Department of Education, new mandates will be implemented to have full-time certified librarians on staff, running school library programs and serve as a "checks and balance" system to ensure that states and districts are following through on the implementation. I also hope that the Dept. of Education will be creative and provide incentives for states and school districts to create new education policies to enforce these mandates.—K.C. Boyd, librarian, Jefferson Middle School Academy, Washington, DC

I hope that my colleagues will feel respected and supported. I have seen so many exceptional educators cry or quit. It's time for a revolution before we lose our greatest resource...people!—Schilpp

I hope that we can get back to what is best for the students and stop using educational policies to win votes. I also hope to never see another Will Smith/Chris Rock meme again. I hope that we have moved on by next April.—Lewis

I'd love to see much more news reporting that spotlights the perspectives of school librarians in the wake of the very vocal minority of parents who want to limit their children's access to books. As experts on books and literacy and the importance of storytelling, librarians can provide a helpful, logical counter-narrative to the radical views of some parents. We're not seeing enough of school librarian perspectives in these news pieces right now—some, but not enough.—Tahmaseb

What is your one wish for school libraries?

My one wish for school libraries is for the Department of Education to assure families and educators learners will have equitable access. First, by mandating a state level coordinator in all states, providing school librarians with proper support. Second, by creating legislation that requires states to provide a minimum budget for every school library, ensuring schools have funding to purchase resources annually.—Erika Long, consultant and advocate; former school librarian, Metro Nashville Public Schools

I wish that people would trust and respect their librarians to curate the collections that best reflect the needs of their communities. Librarians are experts in this. This is what we do! Let us do our job! I wish that school libraries could be adequately funded and properly staffed with a certified school librarian across the world so that students can have equitable access.—Lewis

I would love to see a certified school librarian in every school in the US and for every school library to receive adequate funding for their collections. School librarians are unique in that we teach every student, as well as collaborate with every teacher, in our schools. It is inherent that school libraries are staffed with certified school librarians trained in maintaining a robust collection, helping students become positive digital citizens, and establishing a culture of literacy.—Amanda Jones, teacher librarian, Live Oak Middle School, Denham Springs, LA

That [school librarians'] knowledge and expertise are acknowledged and trusted.—Malespina

My one wish for school libraries is to be ​guaranteed permanent funding for their positions, collection development, and advancement, as well as funding for the library and intentional literacy architectural design.—Stewart

That they will be staffed by full-time certified librarians in all schools across the United States and abroad so that students can experience the joy, discovery, and safe space of a thriving school library program.—Boyd


Happy School Library Month. What is your No. 1 priority and one wish for school libraries? Let us know in the comments below.



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