Would you recommend starting a Friends of the Library program for a school library? Could you discuss some of the benefits as well as the drawbacks to creating a group like this?
Valerie Diggs is a former President of MSLA and currently works as a Senior Visiting Instructor at Salem State University, where she also serves as the Graduate Program Coordinator of the MEd Library Media Studies program
Does your school library need friends? I am not sure any of us could answer no to that question. Libraries of all types have struggled to garner support, recognition, and funding for resources, programs, and other needs to help our libraries run smoothly and efficiently. While parent organizations can be sources of funding and support, their focus is across the entire school. A “Friends” group is just for the library. We need that.
MSLA President Jen Varney is the Librarian at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr School in Cambridge, MA.
As we round the corner on the halfway point of the school year— phew!— it’s been a year so far, eh? Between attempts to go “back to normal,” mask and quarantining controversies, and operating with a skeleton staff throughout much of January, there was more than enough to keep us on our toes. But the culture wars decided to send us one more issue: book challenges and bannings. They are happening at warp speed in the U.S., and are increasingly getting more attention in the news and on social media.
Public Perceptions of the School Librarian: What Outsiders Know about the Role of the Certified School Librarian
Marti Smallidge is the Computer Technology Long-Term Substitute Teacher at Stoneham Central Middle School in Stoneham, MA, and Meghan Stellman is the Research & Teaching Librarian at Rising Tide Charter Public School in Plymouth, MA, and a Library Media Studies M.Ed student at Salem State University.
In a personal conversation, a stranger expressed that a school librarian must “like the quiet.” When he was told that school libraries are often active places, where students learn and interact with each other, he then summed up the role as that of “a babysitter.” (M. Stellman, personal communication, 15 March, 2021). Unfortunately, this attitude is encountered frequently. This prompted us, in the spring of 2021 while studying for our MA in education at Salem State University, to conduct a study to determine the services that school librarians must promote in order to boost their public image and to retain or increase funding. School librarian advocacy focuses mainly on the school administration, but many funding questions are decided by those outside the school building. Little has been written about advocacy directed toward those constituents; this study addresses this gap in the literature. Our study of 88 adult participants from Massachusetts revealed that three-quarters of this sample valued school librarians and more than half understood most of the roles of the school librarian, showing that community members outside of the school library field can act as advocates.
Valerie Diggs is a former President of MSLA and currently works as a Senior Visiting Instructor at Salem State University, where she also serves as the Graduate Program Coordinator of the MEd Library Media Studies program.
Our district (K-8) is kind of a mess with some of the elementary librarians completely doing their own thing so students arrive at the middle school with really varying knowledge. (I think each librarian needs to respond to the individual needs of their own building, but there are some basics every student should have as part of the library curriculum) We have no library director and per usual, no one in the district administration really knows what is happening in the libraries. Some of us think it would make sense to have the middle school librarian also take on the additional role (with increased pay of some sort) of curriculum director. How do you suggest we best present this so administration can see the benefit?
This is a great question and an all-to-familiar scenario. Without anyone to lead and coordinate the library program at the elementary level, it is very obvious that students will arrive at the middle school with a wide variety of knowledge. This is, of course, not what happens in the other academic disciplines, and this is one of the arguments you need to make.
Claudia Palframan is the Library Teacher at Dupont Middle School in Chicopee and
a recipient of a 2019 MA Super Librarian Award.
I am not sure when I became a PAL, or Political Action Leader. It was somewhere around the No on 2 campaign. I had been attending meetings with local legislators about issues I considered important, and the next thing I knew, I was a PAL. We work with MTA senate area coordinators, who arrange meetings with local legislators and also arrange for other advocacy work and opportunities. Because Chicopee is split into several different districts, I work with at least three different senate area coordinators. Election times are busy, but interesting.
When we meet with our local legislators, I speak about what I know, school libraries. I am able to advocate for school libraries. My experiences and membership with the MSLA, and the MTA Library task force are very valuable when advocating for school libraries. When we talk about school funding, I can talk about how many schools do not have librarians, or lack budgets, or have limited student access to the library due to testing, and more. I can talk about how we support English Language Learners and students with special needs. The trick is - keep it short and simple!
For librarians and para librarians who want to learn more about local politics (isn’t it all local), I recommend you become a PAL. Our voices are often lost, there are so many educational issues that seem to take priority, yet we work with all students and staff, and have a unique perspective on educational policies. We know how to do the research, we are good at elevator speeches, and we advocate for our students and staff and need to be at the table. Also, you’ll meet some really nice people who get what we do!
MSLA President Laura Luker is the library teacher at Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in Hadley, MA
Hello MSLA members, and welcome. As our respective school years get up and running, I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself as the incoming MSLA President. My name is Laura Luker and I’m a K-12 library teacher at the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in Hadley. This is my tenth year as a library teacher and my fifteenth year as an educator. Prior to working in the library, I was a secondary English and reading teacher, a background which I feel gives me an excellent footing for collaborating with classroom teachers. In my spare time, I foster rescue dogs and dabble in aerial circus arts. I am equally as enthusiastic about running as I am about cake.
Personal details aside, I’d like to convey to each of you how honored I am to have been asked to be President of this organization. I’m passionate about the work we all do each and every day - not only connecting kids with books, but also helping them to be discerning, involved world citizens. I appreciate the opportunity to advocate for our work being recognized by the broader world.
Dr. Robin Cicchetti is the Librarian at Concord-Carlisle Regional High School.
On Saturday, September 8, 2018, 32 school library advocates met at Concord-Carlisle Regional High School to discuss the MA School Library Study and begin the process of articulating a vision for turning the recommendations into a reality. The focus group included representatives from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, the Massachusetts Library System, the Massachusetts Library Association, the MSLA Executive Board, and numerous K-12 school librarians.
Judi Paradis is the Library Teacher at the Plympton School in Waltham
and a recipient of a 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Special Legislative Commission on School Libraries in Massachusetts wrapped up four years of work this winter. A report was submitted to the Legislature, and recommendations were approved by the Commissioners. Good news, right?
And it is! For the first time, we have:
Patsy Divver is the School Librarian at Millis Middle/High School.
This past September, I read about a promotion for the “Mass Literacy Champions” grant, and considered applying. Like many other intentions, I “forgot” about exploring it, and didn’t reconnect with the idea until the MassCUE Conference. There, I spoke at length with Julie DeFrancesco, Mass Literacy Director, who both explained the program and encouraged me to apply.
Sue Doherty is the school librarian at Pollard Middle School in Needham, MA,
and received a 2017 Service Award.
“Shout for libraries. Shout for the young readers who use them.”
The Patrick Ness quotation above became part of my school email signature in 2015, the year all the district’s middle school libraries were closed and all the certified elementary librarian positions were eliminated, and it was still there the next year when the district cut the remaining two certified librarians along with the K-12 coordinator of library and media services.
Like so many districts that rely heavily on state and federal funds, Brockton Public Schools was suffering multi-million dollar losses of education funding in a lean and increasingly competitive fiscal environment for urban public schools. Because there are no mandates for school libraries or librarians in Massachusetts, we were an easy cut to make. However, because what we do contributes to student learning in so many ways, whenever I saw an opportunity to advocate and shout for school libraries and librarians during that time period, I took advantage of it.
I was deeply honored to receive a 2017 MSLA Service Award for the work I did in response to all those cuts, and would like to take this opportunity to share some of the advocacy I undertook during that time period and beyond. We will need to continue to fight for library programming for all students, especially now while there’s a push towards more school privatization and deep austerity budgets for low-income school districts. We can all contribute to this fight for equitable access to school library programs, both within our own districts and on behalf of students in districts where there are no librarians left to fight for them.
Barbara Fecteau is the Librarian at Beverly High School
and the recipient of a 2017 Super Librarian award.
Recently I went to a book launch at Newtonville Books, a smart, adorable independent book store - like something out of a Nora Ephron movie. As I was waiting in line to have Mitali Perkins sign my copy of You Bring the Distant Near (which you should be reading right now!), I listened in to the conversation of the two well-heeled women in front of me in line.
Super Well-Dressed Woman [seriously, lipstick on a Sunday afternoon? Why??]: Look at that display of banned books. Hmmm... I guess there must be issues going on in the high schools so they have to ban these books.
Slightly Hippie-Dippie Woman [Indian print skirt, birks, dangly earrings – ever so patient]: These probably aren't books that are banned here, just books that have been banned in other places.
S W-D W: Well, if schools are banning them, there must be a reason...
Roger Rosen is the President and CEO of Rosen Publishing
and the 2017 recipient of the MSLA School Library Advocate Award.
Following is a copy of Mr. Rosen's speech to MSLA at the awards dinner for our annual conference on May 7, 2017 for which he received a standing ovation. We want to share this with all who missed it, or for those who want to ponder his passionate defense of school librarians. Thank you, Mr. Rosen, for all that you do for school libraries nationwide. We are very fortunate to have you as our advocate.
Thank you so much for this prestigious honor. It is a privilege to work with all of you as we advocate for school libraries. There has never been a more important time to do so. I believe your profession, and the certified skills with which you practice it so successfully, are bulwarks in the defense of our democracy. Is this perhaps the reason your jobs and your funding have been under constant pressure? If one were given to conspiracy theory—as I, in darker moments, find myself to be—I would say it is distinctly possible. Are there not forces in our country that would like to see citizens incapable of critical thinking, unable to discern distortions and outright lies in reporting, speeches, and data? Would these dark forces not like to see citizens become vulnerable to the reduction of complex issues to simple binaries because as students they did not go to schools with rich resources in their school libraries led by top professionals who could help them become media literate, adept at knowing “fake news” when they see it and not when someone tells them.
Laura Luker is a library teacher at the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School
In these times of fake news and uncertain facts, it is more important than ever for young people to have access to quality, trustworthy sources of information. As school librarians, we are charged with teaching students the vitally important skills of critical reading, questioning, and seeking the information necessary to participate as informed members of society. However, for school librarians striving to teach information literacy, next school year’s lesson plans may contain far fewer resources.
2017 brought the return of MSLA Twitter chats. The first was held on Tuesday, January 10th, on the topic of advocacy. Twitter chats are a great way for members to share ideas without having to go to an actual meeting. It is a virtual meet-up, or collaboration from the couch! The Twitter platform also makes it easy to share online resources and links. If you weren't able to join the chat last month, or want to revisit the resources shared, follow the link below to the archive of the January chat:
The month's Twitter chat was held on Wednesday, February 8th, on the topic of information literacy and fake news. To view the chat and the resources shared, follow the link below:
Mark your calendars -- the next Twitter chats will be held on Tuesday, March 14th and Wednesday, April 12th, both at 7:30 PM
If the September issue of School Library Journal has not made it to the top of your reading pile, you may not be aware that Anita Cellucci, MSLA President, and Laura Gardner, Southeast Area Co-Director, were two finalists for the School Library Journal Librarian of the Year 2016. Check out the articles profiling them at the School Library Journal website:
Dr. Carol A. Gordon is a 2016 winner of the MSLA Service Award
What does equity mean?
Mary Gaver’s early school library impact studies inspired an avalanche of research that established the belief, “Every child needs a school library.” (1958). An awareness of the “equity issue’ has steadily grown as literacy research demonstrates proximity to reading materials results in children reading more, and children who read more, read better (Krashen, 2004; 1995). Information science research shows information is the raw material for knowledge building, and that intervention at the point of need is critical for young information users to become information literate. School librarians have also embraced digital literacy to provide digital access in an environment of instruction, application, practice, help, and revision. While access to digital content depends on bandwidth capacity and speed or the number of devices students can access, acquiring digital technology does not automatically result in digital equity. School librarians know that students do not have full access to digital content without developing multiple literacies. There is no equity without an education that provides access and opportunity.
Samantha Whitney is a librarian at Gloucester High School
and a winner of a 2016 MSLA President's Award
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, and find your eternity in each moment.”
― Henry David Thoreau
While completing course work in my school library teacher program, one of my professors advised us to lay low, observe behaviors in leadership, identify those with influence and to not make waves in the first couple of years on the job. I often reflect on this advice as I pass the ocean every day on my way to school and how happy I am that I did not completely follow that advice. Getting involved in my community and making waves helped to advance my school library program initiatives and position the library as an integral learning resource. Most importantly, the decision to jump in quickly has made me a confident, knowledgeable, and effective teacher.
Judi Paradis is a Librarian at the Plympton Elementary School in Waltham, MA
and a 2016 winner of the MSLA Service Award
I didn’t intend to spend 10 years giving most of my spare time to MSLA, but things lead to things, especially when they begin with an outrage. It was 2003 and I had just switched careers to become a school librarian in my home town. I loved my job to the point of obsession. The principal praised the program I was building; parent volunteers were showing up in droves; and kids were coming before and after school to get books and do odd bits of independent research. And then…..the budget crashed. Suddenly the library program disappeared and I was not only unemployed but outraged. While I quickly found another post, my outrage did not subside. MY VERY OWN CHILDREN were still in a town without a library program. As I drove 7 miles to work each day, all I could think about was that they didn’t have what the kids two towns over had—and all because we didn’t have an office park or a strip mall.