ALA Midwinter is always an interesting time. There is a lot of hard work and challenging decisions to be made, but there is also something rejuvenating about being surrounded by people who care so much about libraries and young people.
Our week began with an information policy workshop where ALA leadership, all types of library representatives, and trustees worked side by side to unpack tough national issues like protection of student data, the digital divide, technology policies, basic and digital literacies, advocacy in a democracy, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), coalitions, universal literacies, and action strategies. It was a fascinating experience to work and think alongside experienced political and government employees like Marjory Blumenthal, Alan Fishel, Jenny Backus, and Gwenn Weaver.
I would like to personally congratulate and thank AASL membership. You voted in a Board of Directors who work as a cohesive team to consider national school library issues and policy in a thoughtful, thorough, and effective manner. Throughout Midwinter, the Board was thoughtful, brilliant, engaged, effective, and productive. Some key decisions include:
- Advocacy and Legislation Action Coalition: This coalition will create opportunities for anyone and everyone interested to be involved and informed through monthly meetings. Guest experts from inside and outside of AASL will be invited to share trends, training, information, and much more during these conference calls. Membership will be invited to add agenda and discussion items for coalition calls.
- Practice Committee: By practice we mean school librarian responsibilities or our charge as a profession. The establishment of this committee will help make AASL a more proactive, instead of reactive, organization. The Practice Committee will review and analyze trends and issues in the profession, promote research and policy, and advise the board on issues of concern.
- AASL Policies: Continuing the efforts to review, update, and streamline AASL policies and procedures, a comprehensive overhaul and analysis concluded with the approval of Policies D (finances), E (nominations and elections), and F (government).
- AASL Committees and Sections have been hard at work with challenging and complex tasks brought to them through Executive Committee, Board of Directors, and Affiliate Assembly concerns. Many preliminary reports were reviewed and initial action taken. Committees and Sections met throughout Midwinter, digging in to begin or continue work in a thoughtful, intentional, and thorough manner. A humble thank you to our committees, sections, and volunteers for your time and efforts.
When Midwinter began, although signed by the President less than a month previous, the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was on everyone’s mind. During the final days of political debate, a record number, over 10,000 messages, were sent to politicians through the ALA Washington Office Legislative Action Center (I strongly encourage you to get yourself registered). This was over 10,000 youth advocates, library trustees, and librarians from all library fields coming together to make our voices heard and let Washington know that students have a right to and a need for an effective school library. After a decade of dedicated efforts to help government officials understand the importance for young people to have access to an effective school library, we are back in the discussion. Throughout the process of ESSA trickling down to the state and local level, we will be working at the national level to provide feedback and input into the analysis and interpretation at every opportunity afforded by the U.S. Department of Education. But your work is not yet done. Be sure to stay connected through the AASL ESSA landing page and KQ Blog as these will be our key communication tools over the next year as ESSA is unpacked and rolls toward your state. You and your state professional organizations, at the state and local level, will need to be active, reactive, and proactive.