I’m very proud of AASL’s work on the reintroduction of The Right to Read Act by Senator Reed and Representative Grijalva and the endorsement of the bills by ALA, AASL,the National Education Association (NEA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and PEN America. (https://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2023/04/ala-aasl-praise-library-legislation-expand-access-students-nationwide) The bicameral Right to Read Act would increase student access to effective school libraries staffed by certified school librarians, protect students’ Constitutional rights to access information in school libraries, extend liability protections to all educators including school librarians, and would increase federal data collection about school libraries.
If you have not already taken action to ask your legislators to co-sponsor this legislation, please do. It is so important and it only takes a few minutes by using this link: bit.ly/right2read23
Reintroduction of this act, while important, does not take away from the need to also advocate for equity of access to school libraries and our student’s right to read at the state and local levels. Across the country, our state associations and local groups are doing just that. If you are one of those state or local advocates, working to support our students, thank you! Your work is so vital – especially under the current political climate.
I have written throughout the year about the importance of working together, standing together, and supporting each other. In the President’s Column of the September/October Knowledgequest Journal (https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Presidents-Column-Intentionality.pdf), I wrote about the importance of state-level advocacy work and made the assertion that “We Are All Advocates.” Even if you cannot be one of the individuals doing the main advocacy work in your state or locally, you are still an advocate. That advocacy can be loud or it can also be quiet depending on your own situation and environment. However, it is important that we all keep telling our story about the great work of school librarians and about the importance of equity of access to the information and experiences provided to our students when they attend a school with a school library staffed by a certified school librarian.
It is also important that when we speak with colleagues, family, friends, neighbors, etc. that we let them know about the current movements to restrict our student’s right to read and to impose penalties on school librarians. The majority of Americans are against book banning and have trust in librarians. We need to activate those supporters. The Unite Against Book Bans website has great talking points to use and share with others (https://uniteagainstbookbans.org/toolkit/).
It is also important that if your state (or national) association puts out a call to action, that you pay attention and take the action requested. We are all busy; however, the persons organizing these calls to action typically make them easy for others to complete. Also, it is great if you can encourage others to take that action as well. We are stronger when we stand and work together and support each other and when we bring along others to stand beside us.
ALA and AASL are available to support you. If you or your state association need support to fight adverse legislation (or support favorable legislation) or if there are local school librarians needing support to maintain or add positions — please do not hesitate to reach out either to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. The ALA/AASL policy is to follow the guidance of state and local advocates on how best to support them. This is important because we do not want to disrupt or cause harm to any state or local advocacy work.
In addition, if you need support in facing challenges in your schools, please report the challenge using this online form and, again, do not hesitate to ask for support. You do not need to face these challenges alone.
Finally, I would like to invite anyone interested in state-level advocacy to attend the AASL June Town Hall: Share and Connect: State-Level Advocacy. This Town Hall is hosted by AASL and the AASL Chapter Assembly. Please join me and Chapter Assembly Chair Barbara Johnson and state-level advocates Tricina Strong-Beebe (NJ) and Eryn Duffee (WA) to discuss the importance of advocating at the state level for equitable access to effective school libraries staffed by certified school librarians and for our core value of intellectual freedom. Panelists will share and discuss some ideas to prepare, organize, strategize, and develop state-wide advocacy work.
Here are some details about our discussion:
Barbara Johnson (Connecticut) – organizing advocacy work at the state-level – leadership/committees
Kathy Lester (Michigan) – developing relationships with legislators; discussion on Advocacy Days
Eryn Duffee (Washington State) – building relationships with other library types (or other organizations) What works, what doesn’t work? What are barriers?
Tricina Strong-Beebe (New Jersey) – developing regional response teams – state advocacy for finding, informing, and having people respond to issues across the state
There will be time for attendees to join in the discussion, ask questions, share their thoughts, etc. We hope you will join us.
Author: Kathy Lester, AASL President 2022-2023