Blanche Woolls wrote to members of the Geek Squad recently. Her post had such a powerful impact on me that I wanted to share it with you with her full permission.
Here we are, a list of leaders, and what are we doing versus what should we be doing?
In the early 1960s (before most of you were born) Cora Paul Bomar in the N.C. State Department of Education and Mary Helen Mahar in Washington, D.C. gathered a group of activists and they gather statistics on the lack
of elementary school libraries and the lack of quality high school libraries in the U.S.
Somewhere along the way they got Remington Rand to publish a brochure about school libraries that was well
done as an advertisement and it got wide distribution.
The Knapp Foundation funded a project to pair school library credential programs with a neighboring school district and funded teams from school districts to visit these schools. I took a team from Hammond Indiana to
Baltimore. My team, the president of the school board, a parent, another district administrator.
The Knapp Foundation also funded the creation of an excellent film, "And Something More" that told the story of one very good elementary library. It was good viewing for school boards, service organizations, principals,
any group you wanted to show it.
The result, ESEA Title II designated for school libraries. What happened, school libraries.
This was slowly take and placed in other titles. We heard people say things like, "You had your money and now we have ours." Which would make one think that the new school librarians who were using it neglected to
ask others how to spend it.
Since then, AASL has had another grant to show good school libraries. But how and who do we show them.
AASL is meeting in Washington D.C. in June. What is being planned? ALA is taking everyone to the hill. Are we going?
What really needs to be done is a concentrated, documented effort to reach our audiences.
1. Every Affiliate Assembly member should have a list of the Congress members in their state and who should call on that person. The best person is usually a member of the political party of the Congressman. Others can
go along, but offices do check the registration of visitors AND IF THEY VOTED in the last election.
2. They should take along a quick show and tell of the best school library in their district. If there isn’t one, then from the next district over.
3. They should be prepared (have asked the principal/superintendent about the possibility) to invite that person to visit a school library in the district.
4. No whining, only the facts of what is needed for a better chance for the students in that school.
5. Take along your good readers to talk about how they need their library so they have lots of things to read.
And then each Affiliate Assembly member should check that list at least twice to see if progress is being made.
You don’t have to go to Washington in June to make a difference. Each person has an even better chance of finding that Congressperson in their home office than in June in Washington. That will get a lot of publicity,
but school librarians can get some publicity if they invite their legislators to visit their schools.
MLS and PhD from Indiana University
Professor Emeritus, School of Information Sciences, University of Pittsburgh
Director and Professor Emeritus, School of Library and Information Science, San Jose State University
Past President American Association of School Librarians
Past President International Association of School Librarianship
Presently on IRC, past member of Council for several terms