The Heartbeat of the School

Last week I was at ALA in the humongous conference center in New Orleans! Always a great event. Although the conference center was so very large, that I didn’t see many folks from NC. I wouldn’t have even known they were there except for Facebook.

One of the highlights of the trip was the AASL Awards Ceremony. We got to meet our Daria_009digital leaders, grant winners, and librarians of the year. This year, the AASL Distinguished School Administrator award went to Mike Daria, Superintendent of Tuscaloosa City Schools.

Dr. Daria understands the value of school libraries to the culture of classes, schools, and districts at a level that is rarely seen. Please read what he says in a recent edition of Knowledge Quest. I talked with him for a few minutes after the awards ceremony. I repeated what he already knew – that so many in the upper ranks of education have no idea what a difference a good librarian can make in a school. He told me that he didn’t either, until he listened to what school librarians had to say.

Here is what I know today. We must continue to fund libraries at high levels in our schools. Libraries can be the greatest strategy in bringing equity through access to our schools and students if they are funded appropriately.

Yes! Someone in authority who gets school libraries!

Most of us are underfunded, expected to teach a full slate of classes, and do all our library duties on the side. Many have no assistants, no budget, no time. Librarians are being replaced in many schools by an assistant, or worse (as if that wasn’t bad enough!) libraries of books are being redistributed to classrooms so the library can be remodeled into some other type of space.

I want Dr. Daria’s message to be heard by his peers across the country! I want them to make a decision to rise to his challenge! The reality is that many just will not listen. Or maybe it’s not so much that they won’t listen but they are just too busy for the written or spoken word. Maybe they need personal evidence to make his words resonate with them.

This puts the onus of school library advocacy right back squarely on the shoulders of school librarians. We can talk all we want, but we need to show our staffs, schools, districts, and states the difference school librarians and libraries make in the lives of students. We need to highlight the successes and examine the failures. We need to get loud and figure out the best ways to share and provide the evidence of the value school libraries provide!

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