I am immensely proud of this picture. The people you see include 1) Jacqueline Woodson, an author who has won the Caldecott Medal, the Coretta Scott King Award, the Newberry Honor Medal, and the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement as given by the American Library Association 2) Ann Martin, President of the American Association of School Librarians 3) me, and 4) Laurie Halse Anderson, the author of Speak among other books (and if I listed all her accomplishements and awards, you’d be reading for a hell of a long time — what hasn’t she won is really the question?)
And why do I post it? Because we just got together in Chicago this past Saturday to go to bat for librarians and go to bat for students.
It rocked the house!
It also packed the house. Check out this photo I took from the stage just moments before I took the microphone.
But the big point I want to make is that librarians and English teachers are joined at the hips. We are simpatico. Peeps. Homies. Personally, I adore librarians and I have a feeling if I took a poll, there are a heck of a lot of people out there in the world of the Language Arts and public schooling that would have a heck of a lot of good things to say about librarians.
But our brothers and sisters in these of-so-hallowed halls are under assault.
Don’t pretend it’s not happening. Don’t think to yourself, “Well I got my problems,” or “We, in the world of English Language Arts and school are under assault as well,” and don’t throw up your hands and think, “Get in line, Buddy… who ain’t having their screws turned right now?”
Our libraries are being massacred and it’s a freakin’ tragedy!
Let’s be simple. American libraries are a core pillar of democracy. (I truly believe that but if I go off right now to explain what I mean, well… ultimately, I think the statement is self-evident in a way so I am not gonna waste the words right now.)
And as I have said many-a-time, if you want to really judge a school, go check out their school library facilities — and the extent to which the students on campus use the library. Of course you are going to see an over-worked, underpaid, under-appreciated library staff… that’s par for the course. But a school with a run down, out of date, woeful library is almost always going to be a school that is under-performing. There is a direct link.
And it’s not the librarian’s fault. It’s the lack of recognition for the value of a school library being evidenced by the school board, the administration and the parents in the community. Those folks need to own up!
For our own part, Lynwood High School lost their librarian quite a while ago… and we are now a school expected to function without a school librarian. For some reason, the powers-that-be think that a few well-meaning aides can do the job. (NOTE: Our aides are pretty outstanding — I will say that. They have saved my butt more times than I can count. Just rock stars!) But it seems as if the school plan is to let core content teachers direct student learning and cover the gap that a person with an advanced degree in Library Sciences/Media Specialties would typically be expected to provide. And what we can’t cover (huge chasm that it is) is apparently expendable.
And the thing is, this mentality is happening across more and more locations across the nation.
Public libraries are reducing their hours. Or closing their doors. And the notion of “library as a luxury” is starting to permeate in public policy making.
Support our libraries. Check out the ALA website to see how you can do more. (Even being aware is a step in the right direction). And they have so much valuable “stuff” available, it’s just incredible!
Truly, the library’s contribution to America is incredible. And it’s under assault from short-term thinking bean counting ignoramuses!
Maybe Bradbury was wrong. Perhaps it will not be book burning that gets us. Perhaps it’s library closures.