Hope and Gratitude

As I write this last blog post as President of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) during what has been a challenging year, I want to extend my gratitude to so many people including:

  • AASL Staff
  • AASL Board Members
  • AASL Chapter Coordination Team and Chapter Delegates
  • AASL Section Leaders and Section members
  • AASL Committee and Task Force Chairpersons and Committee and Task Force members
  • AASL Knowledge Quest Authors and KQ Bloggers
  • AASL Town Hall Panelists
  • AASL Liaisons to ALA Committees
  • AASL Members
  • ALA President Lessa Pelayo-Lozado, ALA President-Elect Emily Drabinski, AASL Liaison to the ALA Executive Board Kathy Carroll, and others at ALA
  • Freedom to Read Ambassadors: Kelly Yang, Dr. Sonja Cherry-Paul, Amanda Jones, and Becky Calzada
  • and so many other school library advocates and supporters

It takes so many of us to keep our organization strong and to support AASL’s mission: “to empower leaders to transform teaching and learning” and to reach for our vision: “Every school librarian is a leader; every learner has a school librarian.”

I have provided summaries of AASL’s work this past year to the American Library Association Council (ALA) at: https://www.ala.org/aboutala/sites/ala.org.aboutala/files/content/ALA%20CD%2028.1%20AASL%20Division%20President%27s%20Report.pdf and to the AASL membership at the AASL membership meeting at: bit.ly/AASLmeet23. Please take a look at this written report and/or the membership presentation for detailed information about AASL’s work this past year.

I also want to extend a huge thank you to all of the amazing school librarians across the nation (and world) that work every day to support their learners. I have so enjoyed having the opportunity to connect with so many school librarians during my leadership visits to state conferences, through Town Halls, at other conferences and events, and through email. School librarians are amazing knowledgeable, collaborative, caring, fun, and strong educators and individuals. I am so honored to be a part of this profession and call you my colleagues.

As I end my Presidential year, I’d like to talk a little bit about hope. As I am writing this, I reread my KQ blog post from June 2021 entitled “Finding Hope” and it encouraged me. It has been a challenging year and school librarians are valiantly working to support their learners’ right to read and their access to information under unprecedented conditions. It is easy to get discouraged and feel despair. However, at the ALA Closing session, Christian Robinson spoke about the dandelion being a symbol of hope for him and spoke to the idea of taking something like garbage and with “care and skill” turning it into something beautiful. {The yellow dandelion reminded me of Milo’s yellow balloon that I wrote about in “Finding Hope.”} Amanda Gorman said something powerful (of course she did) that resonated with me. She said, “Whenever I see darkness, I always look extra hard for the helpers… A small light can do anything.”

So as I close out this year; I want to remind everyone to look for the helpers and there are so many! A theme throughout my writing this year has been that we are stronger together and there are so many helpers among us. As school library colleagues, we support and uplift each other and it is important to continue to do this as we head to Florida in October 2023 to support our Florida colleagues. I hope to see you all at AASL 2023 in Tampa.

There are also so many helpers among our parents and wider communities with organizations like the Florida Freedom to Read Project, Red Wine and Blue, Moms For Social Justice, Support FHPS, Louisiana Citizens Against Censorship, and more. There are student helpers and groups of helpers like Cameron Samuels, the students in Central York, Pennsylvania, the students of the 97 Documentary, and more. There are non-profit groups such as AASL Partners: the Anti-Defamation League Education and Project Thrive, and groups like the Campaign for Our Shared Future and many others. Then, there are those helpers that are filing lawsuits or taking legal action to support intellectual freedom including the White House. These are just a few examples. There are helpers everywhere; we just need to remember to look for them, reach out to them as needed, and also thank them.

Important helpers for school librarians and our profession are Senator Reed and Representative Grijalva and their staff. Through the introduction of the Right to Read Act during National Library Week, they are supporting our students’ right to fully funded and staffed school libraries, our students’ right to read, protections for educators who provide access to materials, and the collection of data about school libraries. In working with Senator Reed and Representative Grijalva through their staff, I have found that they truly understand the importance of equitable access to fully funded school libraries staffed by certified school librarians for all learners. That is why I am so proud to announce that the 2023 AASL Crystal Apple Awardees are Senator Reed and Representative Grijalva. As AASL President, I am so grateful for their understanding and their commitment to introducing this legislation in the US Senate and the US House of Representatives.

Some important reminders. If you have not done so already, please take action to ask your legislator to support the Right to Read Act (bit.ly/right2read23) and join Unite Against Book Bans (https://uniteagainstbookbans.org/take-action/). Also, we are stronger together, so please encourage colleagues to join AASL if they are not already members.

And remember if you need support with challenges or adverse legislation, there are helpers within ALA, please reach out to advocacy@ala.org or aasl@ala.org. And please report any type of censorship to ALA at: https://www.ala.org/tools/challengesupport/report. (You can ask for support from OIF on this same form).

Finally, I look forward to working with 2023-2024 AASL President Courtney Pentland in my new role as Immediate Past President this coming year as well as continuing my role as an ALA Councilor. I also look forward to a new role as a member of the ALA Committee on Legislation (COL). I know in my heart that we are on the ‘right side’ in our fight for equitable access to appropriately staffed and funded effective school libraries and the right to read. I am hopeful that we will continue to see more “Freedom to Read Ambassadors” joining us in this work.

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as AASL President. Please remain hopeful and continue your work supporting all learners and transforming teaching and learning.

With all my gratitude and hope,
Kathy Lester

Author: Kathy Lester, AASL President 2022-2023

Categories: Community

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.