The topic of this blog post is SO overdue! Before I get to it, though, I must say Happy School Library Month! AASL’s School Library Month Committee has taken an already outstanding celebration to the next level this year. I tip my hat to Jillian Ehlers (chair), Cynthia Alaniz, Michelle Cooper, Shannon DeSantis, Hattie Garrow, Cathy Pope, and Denise Tabscott, along with AASL staff liaison Jen Habley and board liaison Katie Williams. Please take a moment to like, share, or retweet some of the great information being shared through social media…or just enjoy and share the PSA from our fantastic spokesperson Jason Reynolds!
ALA believes in and supports the school library profession in some pretty amazing ways. ALA President Jim Neal has shared with me that he has received an exciting and overwhelmingly positive amount of correspondence following his March American Libraries column “Fight for School Libraries.” I am profoundly grateful that Jim is elevating school libraries as a conversation point in ALA and I will share more about his initiative in a future post, but I wanted to take a moment to highlight two specific ways that ALA helps AASL advocate for school libraries that we may not talk about enough.
First, the ALA Office for Library Advocacy (ALA OLA) works closely with AASL to assist communities across the nation to provide joint letters from Jim and me concerning school library funding and staffing issues. Recent letters have gone to Tamalpais Union School District (California), Talbot County Public Schools (Maryland), and Community Unit School District 303 (Illinois). Do you know of a funding or staffing issue that is coming up for a board decision? If so, please let AASL know today! ALA OLA helps identify targeted locations to submit op eds as well. While I am sure the wonderful staff of ALA OLA work this hard for all types of libraries, please know that they work tirelessly (even when away from the office!) with AASL on school library issues to be sure that our members’ voices are heard when funding and staffing issues are being discussed in communities across America. Please utilize this member benefit if you hear of a community in need of our voice.
Second, the ALA Washington Office remains a perennial voice for us on national issues no matter the political climate on the Hill. Their District Dispatch keeps those interested up to date on any national legislative or policy issue that librarians should be watching. Recent school library-related victories that may not have happened without the expert work of the Washington Office include ESSA and Innovative Approaches to Literacy. Our library colleagues across ALA have supported us in these endeavors, and the Washington Office makes it extremely easy to support any library-related issue through the Legislative Action Center. Even if you are not comfortable contacting your representatives, at least bookmark the Action Center to stay current on what bills could be impacting the future of libraries at any given time. Another way to show your willingness to help is to participate in Virtual National Library Legislative Day coming up on May 7-8.
The American Library Association fights for libraries, information centers, media centers, learning commons, makerspaces, learning centers, learning labs, instructional materials centers, and __________________ (insert your locally relevant school library synonym here). Feel free to comment below with more ways that ALA supports the work you do. This only begins to scratch the surface, and I am committed to continue serving our profession through ALA because our collective voice continues to have power—power that staff across ALA amplify with their expertise each day.
Author: Steven Yates, 2017-2018 AASL President
Steven Yates is an assistant professor and coordinator of the school library media certification program at the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alabama. He earned a doctor of philosophy in instructional leadership with an emphasis in instructional technology in 2017.