A Seat at the Table | Soapbox

K.C. Boyd describes how her positive mindset in the face of adversity is rooted in ongoing work, including advocacy for school libraries at the national level.

I am a school librarian, and it is the best job on the planet. I often begin my presentations with this mantra, sharing my love and enthusiasm for the field. Throughout my 23 years as a school ­librarian, I have served thousands of students in three school districts. Working in school libraries has helped me grow as a person and find my voice in the world.
In trying times, maintaining hope and optimism is essential in this profession. I take my inspiration from John Lewis’s words at the 2016 SLJ Leadership Summit in Washington, DC, where the congressman highlighted the power of a positive outlook in seeking systemic change. “If you are not hopeful and optimistic, then you just give up,” said Lewis. “You have to take the long hard look and believe that if you’re consistent, you will succeed.”
Recent events have me hopeful and optimistic, particularly in K–12 education. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona has actual experience in the field. And I expect that he will be more responsive to school librarians, who have been grossly overlooked by previous education secretaries Arne Duncan and Betsy DeVos.
I have also witnessed an awakening of district leadership to the importance of school libraries and certified librarians. School districts nationwide have leaned on their school librarian workforce during the pandemic, as evidenced in online forums, where my school librarian colleagues have taken the lead on devising best practices in managing virtual learning. Around the country, school librarians have led virtual field trips and contactless book fairs, and celebrated school-wide events and holidays with related programming, whether in-person or virtually. In my district, DC Public Schools (DCPS), librarians have trained students, teachers, and parents in the use of digital hardware and applications to enhance virtual learning. District leadership has acknowledged how DCPS librarians have “stepped up” to serve the school community.
Even so, the outlook for school library programs and certified librarian positions in DCPS remains uncertain. As this issue goes to press, librarians in wards throughout the city have been informed by their principals that their positions for 2021–22 have been cut from the budget. These losses, along with 2020 cuts in wards 7 and 8, are hurtful to students, who stand to lose a certified librarian to facilitate a strong school library program.
Despite that, I maintain a positive mindset, which is rooted in the ongoing work. This includes advocacy for school libraries at the national level. My participation in organizations such as AASL, BCALA, EMIERT, and the DC Library Association has cultivated my personal learning community, while the Washington Teachers Union and EveryLibrary have helped amplify my voice in this cause.
I challenge school librarians to stand up and fight for students. Share all of the good things that are taking place in your library programs. Exceed the bubble of your school community; seek support from people and organizations that embrace your mission.
To Secretary Cardona: We need your help. Please support school library programs and certified librarians by including them explicitly in federal education policy. Champion our skill base and our work in supporting student learning. And create a checks and balances system to ensure that states and school districts grant the funding ­allocated to school libraries.
These are attainable goals, if school librarians have the support of the education community. School ­librarians must be given the opportunity to have a seat at the leadership table to ensure that schools provide this critical programming to students. We must move toward achieving goals that are set by our school districts and, most important, ourselves.
Our children deserve nothing less.


K.C. Boyd is a librarian at Jefferson Academy, Ward 6, DC Public Schools.

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