School Library Magic in Orlando

Anyone who works for libraries knows that library magic is the result of WORK, lots of people working together to cause change. Yes, ALA Annual in Orlando was like that – but AASL Division Councilor Diane Chen led the effort to pass three resolutions on behalf of school libraries during ALA Council III.

So, there are several takeaways from this post:

  • Why does Council matter?
  • What do resolutions accomplish?
  • Why these specific resolutions?

ALA Council is the governing body of the American Library Association. Over 200 elected members meet for three mornings at both the Midwinter and Annual conferences. Members represent 53 state chapters (and DC, etc.) as well as all 11 divisions – and then there are the At-Large Members, who are also elected. This video offers a taste of who is there and why they accepted the nomination. Council service is a pretty interesting experience – if only all our federal legislators could work as diligently as your councilors do to forward the missions of libraries.

By the way, the youth divisions are all looking to increase their presence on Council. If you are interested in expanding your understanding of big ALA, get in touch with Vicki Emery on the ALA Nominating Committee. Expand your awareness of how the rest of ALA works and thinks; contribute to the wide ecosystem of libraries. Run for Council!

In addition to approving items related to the association budget and bylaws, much of the work of Council involves Resolutions that explain an issue and request some action. For ALA Council, this is like passing laws in Congress or ordinances on city council. The fun (aka work) comes in the writing of the Whereas and Resolved clauses. The Whereas clauses offer the background a reader or enactor needs to understand the problem under examination – and then there is the “Ask,” the solution, the actual Resolution: what should happen in response to the problem.

First, Council resolved to formally thank the federal legislators who stuck by the Washington Office as we worked for the passage of ESSA. Yes, ALA needs to write thank-you notes just like the rest of us – oh, by the way, you should all be writing those folks notes as well! Thanks to Jay Bansbach and his AASL Legislative Committee as well as ALA’s Committee on Legislation for this, and to Jenna Nemec-Loise ALSC division councilor for seconding it. AASL is definitely working closely with all the youth divisions.

Next, we accepted the Resolution on Equity for All School Libraries.
Resolved, that the American Library Association (ALA), on behalf of its members:
1) endorses the idea that every student should have access to an effective school library program and that school budgets should include adequate funding for these programs;
2) advocates for equitable access to effective school library programs with a certified school librarian at the helm, personalized learning environments, and equitable access to resources to ensure a well-rounded education for every student;
3) works with research committees to document the impact of a well-funded, effective school library program, particularly in minority and rural communities
4) advocates for equitable access to well-curated, high-quality, and accessible electronic information resources by encouraging state departments of education and state coalition partners to establish and maintain funding of digital databases and shared resources to provide greater equity of access to all patrons in states and regions; and
5) continues to encourage school librarians to apply for Innovative Approaches to Literacy grants.

Passage of this document offers all ALA members but especially youth librarians a reference point when they are advocating for equity for all K-12 students, equity of resources and of technology access. This will be sent to legislators as a statement of ALA’s commitment to equity.

And finally, we approved Resolution on Equity for School Libraries for the DOE Making Rules for ESSA.
Resolved, that the American Library Association (ALA), on behalf of its members:
1) urges the United States Department of Education to address equity issues while developing the ESSA legislation rules regarding funding and staffing school libraries, and
2) shares the American Association of School Librarians’ position statement on an effective school library program with the United States Department of Education.

Clearly, this resolution will support the ongoing process of defining exactly HOW school libraries will get funding through ESSA. The brand new position statement on effective school library programs will be a huge help to federal offices as ESSA does not define the “effective school library program” it refers to several times.

These two equity resolutions were written by AASL Council Rep Diane Chen, who did an amazing job shepherding them to approval with lots of help from many folks including seconder Sara Kelly Johns. These are two of your Council representatives who have learned how to make the system work in support of school libraries. Remember that video link above – watch it. Sign up to run for election. We need more folks to run for Council – my first term just ended, but I’ve already agreed to run again. Join me.

At the very least, be sure to vote for all youth-related candidates in the annual ALA election. Yes, the ballot is long – but the results are important. While youth library issues are issues for all types of libraries, it is your youth focused councilors who ensure that the needs of the youth divisions (AASL, ALSC and YALSA) are represented in Council’s docket.

Author: Dorcas Hand



Categories: Association News, News

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