Is a Good Offense
I met the California State Library Association folks this weekend to talk about the Napa experiment. The talk went well — a few key points emerged. State Standards — of course — telling a teacher how a book matches the standards is just the necessary guidepost. Then we spoke about what other tools teachers will need, so they can see the on-screen book as a resource. In other words — if the goal is to take a trade book, a library book, and make it into a classroom resource, we have to figure out what ancillary materials will be necessary to accomplish that. Good first step.
But even as we were talking about what is coming, there was a strong undertoe in the meeting — librarians experiencing, or fearing, what is being taken away: jobs, even libraries. The severe budget cuts make survival the crucial issue. But I heard there something I’ve also noticed here in New Jersey, where we have similar issues — even as librarians are stunned, scared, hurt, etc. they are also starting to take a more assertive position. They are realizing that the path to job protection is not defense it is offense — making very clear to many people in many ways what they (the school librarian) and their materials (the school library) have to offer. The crisis forces the librarian to be an advocate — to make clear to people with purse strings what they gain (or stand to lose) in having a strong, qualified, school librarian.
This is easy for me to say, I am not in those trenches. But what I heard was not coming from me — it was from the people who are on that line, defending their jobs and careers. And for librarians asserting their value, the fact that we authors and publishers are using digital tools in new ways — Skype, site license, et.c — gives them a new way to define and express their special value to the school community. That is again why we who create books and you who select and share them need to figure this digital moment out together.