What Matters

It may sound silly or perhaps unusual or even startling to those of you who do not know me personally, but I am a little teary-eyed about my last blog as AASL President. What a year it has been! The year seems to have gone by in the blink of an eye! From the beginning I wondered if I could bring anything memorable to AASL and to school librarians. What could I bring that would make a difference? I learned that what you brought to me was what makes a difference! I have now met thousands of school librarians across the country; brilliant, gracious, sensitive, thoughtful people who care passionately about the art and science of school librarianship and the learners you serve. It has been my privilege to share meals, professional learning sessions, really fun conference celebrations, amazing literature banquets, awards ceremonies, casual conversations, deep thoughts, and laughter with you.

Here are the things I hope you have learned from me over the last year:

  • That I share your deep commitment to the work we do as school librarians for the learners we serve.
  • That the school librarian, school library supervisor, school library educator embodied in the personas of Inez, Margot, and Athena are who we all aspire to be in our respective roles.
  • That the National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries guides your practice and arms you with tools to impact learning each and every day.
  • That if we don’t look at our school libraries through the lens of our learners and colleagues, we are probably missing the mark!
  • That I hope you embrace my phrase, Learner-Ready School Librarian, because that is who I believe you are as you align your practice with the National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries to have a Learner-Ready School Library.
  • That my presidential initiative, the new collaborative stemming from it, the AASL School Leader Collaborative: Administrators & School Librarians Transforming Teaching and Learning, and the work of the presidential initiative task force will have a lasting effect on and elevate the important conversation between school administrators and school librarians. I believe that school administrators and school librarians who work together can build powerful partnerships that truly transform teaching and learning!
  • That during my tenure I have provided visibility and awareness about the school librarian profession in the panels on Capitol Hill I have spoken on and in the meetings I have had in legislative offices in Washington, D.C.
  • That the letters supporting school librarians and school libraries I have written and signed as AASL President to entities in many states have resulted in awareness and action that benefit our profession.
  • That listening, being gracious, compassionate, and passionate are paramount.
  • That my conference messages to the states I have visited have resonated with the amazing school librarians I have learned from.
  • That I have left you with a sense of hope and excitement about our chosen profession and the association that represents you.

The power of our stories is profound. Do not underestimate them. Sharing what you do in terms of its effect on your learners is something people can relate to. Tell your stories often. My kind and passionate English teacher daughter shared a quote in a speech I heard her give last month to high school learners and their parents. The quote resonated with me because the writer so beautifully and genuinely elaborates on why stories are vital to our shared commonality. It is from Nigerian writer named Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:

“Make the human story the center of your understanding of the world. Think of people as people, not as abstractions who have to conform to bloodless logic but as people, fragile, imperfect, with pride that can be wounded and hearts that can be touched…I have learned from literature that we humans are flawed, all of us are flawed. But even while flawed, we are capable of enduring goodness, we do not need first to be perfect before we can do what is right and just.” (Amos 2018)

For me, the school library is the place where we can be fragile, be flawed, and can find enduring goodness and truth, where our learners can be themselves, be accepted, thrive, and flourish. A place where learners Think, Create, Share and Grow. As a school librarian you are the conduit for equity, access, knowledge and, yes, kindness for all learners.

It has been my pleasure and honor to serve as your 2018-2019 American Association of School Librarians President.

Carry on my friends, learner-ready school librarians!

With my sincerest thanks,
Kathryn Roots Lewis

Work Cited:

Amos, Shukuru. 2018. “Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Speaks at Harvard class of 2018 [Speech Transcript].” https://tanzlyt.com/author-chimamanda-ngozi-adichie-speaks-at-harvard-class-of-2018-speech-transcript/.

Categories: Community, Presidential Musings

3 replies

  1. Thank you for your beautiful words and for carrying the torch for all of us learner-ready librarians! So proud to call you a friend and colleague. AASL is much stronger because of your leadership over the past year.

  2. Kathryn,
    Well said! We “Future Ready Librarians” are very fortunate to have someone of your caliber lead us as you do. Your teachings and advancements will continue on in us with our students and in our practice.
    Learning from you this past year and in person in Syracuse, NY at NYSLA and with Sara Kelly Johns was professionally enriching, with take aways I was able to reflect on and bring back to Stratham, New Hampshire and incorporate in my work with students and also begin to relate our standards to a project of future work in the Social Emotional Learning growth area.
    All of your tireless work has not gone unnoticed. A great big thank you for all you do and the style in which you do it.

    Warm Regards,
    Mary Lou

  3. Kathryn,

    I think many of us are getting teary-eyed realizing that your time as AASL President is coming to an end, too! It’s been a highlight of my career to serve our association alongside you and to contribute, in my own small way, to the important initiatives you’ve brought to the fore—not to mention seeing your passion and compassion in action!

    With my best wishes,


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