As I realize that there are only 6 more weeks (!) of my presidency, it’s easy to think of all the things that didn’t get accomplished. I thought I might go on a listening tour, start a mentorship program, work on some DEI initiatives. Instead, about 6 weeks into my term, I was called into a 4-hr long Saturday afternoon Zoom meeting with the ALA Intellectual Freedom office. In that meeting, state chapter representatives were warned of a new and intense wave of book challenges and ‘adverse legislation.’ And after that, Intellectual Freedom became the defining theme of my 2 years in office.
It’s going to get worse before it gets better; and let’s face it, it’s gotten pretty bad. According to the ALA, MA was a hot spot across the country for book challenges in 2022 (https://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/by-the-numbers). We do not actually live in a bubble. The would-be censors are here and they are well-organized. If you hear of any challenges to any titles or any proposed policies or legislation that would affect how librarians do their job, PLEASE let us know. We can only help in cases we’re aware of, and we as a profession need to be helping in all cases.
Despite the wave of Intellectual Freedom concerns, MSLA has accomplished a lot in the past two years. We had a 2nd successful virtual conference, and this year finally came back together at UMass Amherst for the first in-person conference since 2019. Areas have hosted virtual and in-person get togethers. The strategic planning committee hosted several focus groups and a draft of the new strategic plan is almost complete. The office staff has been working on our website transition to Wild Apricot. Our advocacy efforts continue with meetings with DESE curriculum leaders and attendance at Legislative Day.
I am very much looking forward to MSLA’s forthcoming year. We will launch our new strategic plan and continue our Intellectual Freedom efforts. We are launching a new mentorship program with Boston Public Schools to help them fill their dozens of new librarian positions. A new Board will take office in July with fresh ideas and enthusiasm. I can’t tell you about Annual Conference ‘24 just yet, but as soon as contracts are signed Professional Learning Chair Alix Woznick will announce, and I promise you, it will be epic! I am all kinds of excited. And of course, we are in exceptionally good hands with soon-to-be-President Barb Fecteau. I have so enjoyed working with her this year - she’s passionate about the work and has a wicked sense of humor. The best possible combination! And I am not really going anywhere - I’ll be around as Past President (yes that’s a thing), helping Barb as necessary and continuing to focus on Intellectual Freedom efforts.
It’s a tumultuous time to work in education in general, and school libraries in particular. Just remember that what you do matters a great deal, and THANK YOU for doing it. It has been an honor to serve MSLA - the most thoughtful and dedicated group of professionals I will ever have the privilege to know.