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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Connecting Texas to National Advocacy Issues: ALA District Dispatch


by Susi Parks Grissom
 Librarians interested in advocacy issues at the national level will find a great resource in the American Library Association’s Washington Office’s newly redesigned blog, the DISTRICT DISPATCH. The DISPATCH focuses on federal legislation and policy updates that pertain to all types of libraries, including school.  Found at http://www.districtdispatch.org, the blog’s homepage features the daily post, plus links to recent posts in the areas of telecommunications, copyright, privacy & surveillance, and webinars on a variety of advocacy topics.  Readers can easily access past articles on a wide range of topics – including school libraries, digital literacy, and e-books – from a comprehensive listing in a right-hand frame.
Education/School Libraries is a major category under the Issues tab at the top of the blog’s homepage.  This webpage contains information on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as it pertains to school libraries with talking points, as well as links to other education and school library news.  The Take Action tab provides links to help in navigating the ALA Legislative Action Center resources, as well as tools to locate a librarian’s elected officials.  The Resources link under this tab leads to a treasure chest of advocacy training tools, including Advocacy University, with its listing of comprehensive school library advocacy resources.  Other tabs provide extensive resources on legislation, events in Washington, and national policy publications.
With a new Congress beginning its work in Washington, The DISTRICT DISPATCH makes it easy for school librarians in Texas to connect to the national legislative scene.  Subscribe to this informative advocacy tool at http://cqrcengage.com/ala/app/register?0&m=20147 to keep current on national issues, policies, news, and opportunities that impact our Texas school libraries.
Susi Parks Grissom is TASL Legislative/Advocacy Committee Co-Chair

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Take a Teacher to TLA, Return with an Advocate


by Ann Vyoral 

In 1998, a librarian at my former district invited me to San Antonio for a day; she thought I would enjoy the Texas Library Association Annual Conference.  Enjoy was an understatement. I was amazed, I was overwhelmed, I was inspired, and I was hooked.  I enrolled in library school and TLA became the high point every year of my professional development. I went with our district librarians each spring, but I never thought to share the experience with others. 

All of that changed in 2008.  Through a grant, librarians, teachers, a principal, and our district instructional technologist attended TLA together.  Magic happened for all of us at that conference.  Teachers heard their favorite authors speak and attended collaboration workshops with their librarians.  Our instructional technologist declared that it was as good as TCEA.  Our principal attended the Administrator’s Conference, and spent hours in the exhibits.  And in the evenings, we all shared what we learned and discussed how to implement the innovative ideas presented.  We realized that together we had the power to make things happen in our district.  We returned energized and started putting our ideas to work - together. 

Many of these participants returned to TLA, and other teachers joined us over the years. Our instructional technologist became a regular, and four more administrators attended with us, including our Assistant Superintendent.  We knew we had struck a chord when a principal asked why so many teachers were listing a library conference as one of their professional goals! TLA Annual Conference became a very important advocacy tool for the librarians in our district for several reasons. 

First, when educators attend TLA, they gain a greater appreciation for librarians.  They see concrete examples of the incredible programs that school librarians launch, they discover all the aspects of school life and curriculum impacted by a library/media professional, and they hear famous speakers like Julie Andrews, Jamie Lee Curtis, and James Patterson talk about the positive influence librarians had on their lives.  Administrators learn about best practices in school library/media centers, and leave TLA as some of our biggest advocates. A district wide media fair, one book/one school programs, and monthly library technology training were some of the proposed initiatives that resulted from our collaborative attendance at TLA.  In 2011, when librarians rallied at the capitol in Austin, we marched to our local legislator’s office with a principal leading the charge.  No library positions were cut that year in our district.   

Taking teachers to TLA is a great way to develop classroom/library collaboration.  Imagine sitting with a reading teacher as Stephen Krashen talks about the the importance of reading for pleasure to increase test scores, taking a high school teacher to a session with college librarians who are discussing the skills that our current graduates are missing, listening with a middle school teacher as Suzanne Collins explains her character’s names in The Hunger Games. The discussions triggered by experiences like these were invaluable to collaboration in our schools.  

Teachers love authors and books.  At TLA they meet some of their favorite writers, they are exposed to new talent, and they return and share these experiences with their students.   Last year, a teacher who attended with my old district went back to the hotel, spread her books on the bed, and posted a picture on Facebook.  The comments that followed, almost all from teachers, had one word in common - “jealous.”  The comment with the most impact, however, was from a teacher who is now the district coordinator for multiple programs.  Her post said, “TLA changed my life.” The teacher’s response, “Amazing is all I can say.”  And those teachers won’t forget that a librarian introduced them to TLA. 

Finally, one of the most urgent reasons to take teachers to TLA is to get energetic, new faces into our profession.  If we are going to advocate for libraries, if we are going to persuade school administrators that every school should have at least one certified librarian, if we feel strongly that every child can benefit from interaction with a qualified professional, we must ensure a supply of exceptional library candidates to fill these positions.  When we take experienced teachers and administrators to TLA, they become advocates.  When we take creative young teachers to TLA, they often return wanting to become librarians!  If we agree that it is imperative for a good school librarian to spend time first in the classroom, then our audience for university school library programs is obviously teachers.  The librarian who let me tag along with her 20 years ago knew that all I needed was an experience like TLA to convince me that this was the professional move that I needed to make. How many potential candidates are out there waiting for that same push? 

Sometimes we want to keep special things to ourselves.  But TLA is a secret librarians should share. Reignite your own enthusiasm as you see the conference through the eyes of a first time attendee.  Advocate for your profession, collaborate with your teachers, and recruit new librarians all in one place.  Take your teachers to Austin this year, and that place could be TLA. 

Ann Vyoral currently works at Education Service Center, Region 20 as an Educational Specialist, Digital Resources and Library Services. She was an English teacher for 14 years, and a librarian in Rockport, TX, for 14 wonderful years.



Thursday, January 15, 2015

No Librarian – An Author Notices What’s Missing


by Dorcas Hand with P. J. Hoover 

Texas Lone Star author P.J. Hoover reflected recently on an author visit she made to a school where there is no librarian this year for 2014-15. There was a certified librarian in 2013-2014, the person who had so carefully planned the visit before she left, and only let PJ know after the details were set. 

It felt like all magic and life had been sucked out of the library. I know this is very subjective, but I can't really think of a way to better describe it. There were no starry-eyed kids who loved reading coming in to check out books. There were no student library aides, excited to have half a class period to work in the library. There was no personality in the library. And kids will sense all this, and realize that the district is putting less value on the library overall, and it will rub off on them. 

  • When the couple of students who came in looking for books arrived, there was no librarian available to assist them. The new media person has been busy with the Chromebook initiative to get a Chromebook in the hands of every student in the district. She was not even in the library. [Clearly, when there was a librarian, things were different and the expectation remains, like a ghostly echo.]
  • When students asked during author presentation if author's books were available in the library for checkout, the answer was no, with no promise of getting books in future. The school is spending money to bring an author in to get the kids excited about books and reading, and then the students are not able to check out the books of the author who presented. It is a very large disconnect. [Clearly, when there was a librarian, things were different and the expectation remains, like a ghostly echo.]
  • The media person in charge of the library gave the overall impression of being unenthusiastic about the library in general, possibly from being so involved with other matters. If the visiting author senses this, then the students will sense this, too. [Clearly, when there was a librarian, things were different and the expectation remains, like a ghostly echo.]
  • Okay, and because I think it is a reflection of the level of enthusiasm, the author visit was completely unprepared for. The screen wouldn't come down. The projector didn't work at first. The microphone wouldn't work. Presentations were in the cafeteria during meal preparation time. [Clearly, when there was a librarian, things were different and the expectation remains, like a ghostly echo]
  • The media person did not even attend the author's presentation until the second half of the last session. [Clearly, when there was a librarian, things were different and the expectation remains, like a ghostly echo.] 

[This editor is reminded of 2010 AASL President Nancy Everhart’s downloadable poster: 100 Things Kids Will Miss if They Don’t Have a Librarian in Their School. The poster is downloadable.]