Helping Dr. Biden Hear Our Voices

Hope for Education

In August 2020, when the Democratic Party nominated Joe Biden for the Presidency, Biden announced his acceptance from the library of the high school where his wife used to teach. And Dr. Biden addressed the nation from her former classroom. This heartened educators across the country. At the least, education would be a topic to consider during the election. And potentially education would be an important topic within the White House.

Joe and Dr. Jill Biden; image via School Library Journal

With Joe Biden recognized as the presidential election winner, educators hearkened back to those earlier moments in the campaign. How might this electoral outcome impact schools?

United We Stand

This year has been a difficult one for everyone. Educators are one of the groups particularly affected by the ongoing pandemic conditions. So it was heartening when Dr. Jill Biden, future First Lady, tweeted out on November 24, 2020

Dr. Biden’s Tweet from Nov. 24, 2020

Thousands responded to her message–it earned over 187,000 likes and tens of thousands of responses, quotes, and retweets. It was a ray of hope in a dark educational time. 

But as wonderful as it was to have someone acknowledge the importance of educators, some were disappointed. Many reminded Dr. Biden that among the important figures she listed, she forgot to include school librarians. 

Rallying the Troops

One of those voices was the President of the New Jersey Association of School Librarians, Beth Thomas:

Tweet from NJASL President Beth Thomas from Nov. 24, 2020

As more and more school librarians and their representative organizations reminded Dr. Biden of the vital importance of strong school librarians, it became clear that there was a dilution of those voices among the many responses, pro and con, educators and not, to Dr. Biden’s message. 

So it was that shortly after, Thomas reached out to her peers in other state organizations. She hoped to deliver a clear, strong message from a national coalition of school librarians. 

NJASL President Beth Thomas’s Tweet from Nov. 29, 2020

#BetterTogether

Thomas started receiving responses from state school librarian organizations around the country. Working with the ever-amazing school librarian and school library advocate K.C. Boyd, the dynamic duo reached out to AASL to help further the messaging effort. 

AASL and ALA had been working on a letter to the incoming Biden administration for weeks. They wanted to communicate to the Biden team the school librarian’s integral role in equity initiatives in schools. AASL and ALA sought sign off from the chapters on the letter once it was finalized. And on January 7, 2021, AASL, in conjunction with ALA and state school library associations across the country, sent a letter to Joe Biden’s transition team. Among other things, the letter calls for a refinement of education data to include the role of school librarians. It also requests recognition of the importance of school librarians in the education process. Additionally, the letter calls for statutory inclusion of school librarians in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and federal support for school librarians.

In addition, Dr. Biden has been added as a speaker at ALA’s Midwinter Meeting. This is sure to be a great opportunity to connect with her, both as an organization and for our members.

More Important Than Ever

As the events of January 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol have clearly demonstrated, misinformation and unreliable sources of information are rampant. And as we have seen, this can be literally dangerous.

Now, perhaps more than ever, the world needs reliable information, carefully curated resources, and lesson on information literacy. These are a large part of the raison d’etre of the school librarian. We need to all share this message, and share our skills. 

Help carry the message to Dr. Biden and the White House! Share the message that #SchoolLibrarians are a #NecessityNotALuxury! 

Sources:

AASL. 2020 “AASL, ALA, and 48 State-Level School Library Associations Post Letter to President-Elect Biden | Knowledge Quest.” Knowledge Quest (Jan. 8). knowledgequest.aasl.org/aasl-ala-and-48-state-level-school-library-associations-post-letter-to-president-elect-biden/.

American Library Association. n.d. “Dr. Jill Biden | 2021 ALA Midwinter.” 2021.alamidwinter.org/speaker/dr-jill-biden.

Biden, Jill. 2020. “We Are Going to Fight for Educators and Students.” Twitter (Nov. 24) twitter.com/DrBiden/status/1331352474674933761?s=20.

School Library Journal Staff. 2020. “School Library Takes Center Stage at Democratic National Convention.” School Library Journal (Aug. 19). www.slj.com/?detailStory=school-library-takes-center-stage-at-democratic-national-convention-joe-biden.

Thomas, Beth. 2020. “@DrBiden Access to a High-Quality #schoollibrary Program with a CERTIFIED #schoollibrarian Is Essential.” Twitter (Nov. 24). twitter.com/bibliobeth/status/1331401965486673920.

——–. 2020. “Would Any Leaders from These State School Librarian Orgs Be Interested in Submitting a Joint Statement to @DrBiden and @Transition46.” Twitter (Nov. 29). twitter.com/bibliobeth/status/1333072054397128704?s=20.

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Author: Steve Tetreault

Steve has been teaching for over 20 years, mostly middle school English Language Arts. He has earned an M.Ed. (2006) and an Ed.D. (2014) in Educational Administration and Supervision, and completed an M.I. degree in Library and Information Science (2019). He is certified as a teacher, school library media specialist, supervisor, and administrator. He is an old dog constantly learning new tricks!



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