Author: Len Bryan, School Program Coordinator, Texas State Library and Archives Commission
School librarians and those of us who support them must take full advantage of a tremendous opportunity with the recent passing of federal legislation that reauthorizes ESEA (the Elementary and Secondary Education Act), first signed into law by President Johnson in 1965. Its reauthorization – ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) was signed on December 10, 2015, and the AASL, ALA, the Colorado State Library, and the Texas State Library and Archives Commission have all begun to weigh in on how this legislation potentially affects school library media programs, and just as importantly, how state agencies, local education agencies, and librarians themselves need to become actively involved in its implementation.
Here in Texas, we have published a set of recommendations for the State Library, The Texas Education Agency, The Texas Library Association, and local librarians. https://goo.gl/5eXJ80 These recommendations offer a summary of ESSA’s potential impacts on school libraries. It also attempts to outline our potential next steps in ensuring all Texas students enjoy the benefit of strong, fully supported school library media programs. I have worked with our Director and State Librarian, representatives from the Texas Library Association, and representatives from the Texas Education Agency’s Grants and Federal Fiscal Compliance Office to establish a collegial working relationship and discuss these recommendations. Every organization works just a bit differently. For example, some are more formal than others. Whatever the specific process looks like for your campus, district, or state agency, do what it takes to get a seat at the table for the important conversations that affect students.
Those of us in state-level roles must model the behavior we expect from our local librarians. If I can take advantage of a chance to reach out to a state official I have never met, offer my assistance, build rapport and trust, and ultimately become part of the team that implements ESSA changes in Texas, then surely district and campus librarians can do the same with the administrators they work with much more closely. I published a communications course that may be of assistance: https://gibbon.co/lpbryan/communication-for-the-teacherlibrarian
If we expect local school librarians to fully understand their roles and responsibilities, we must work with stakeholders to offer training, consultation, and talking points to assist them in crafting their messages to local and state officials. The Texas recommendations include several starting places for talking points, including librarians’ teaching capabilities, providing professional development, implementing literacy plans, writing grants, and leveraging community partnerships. One of my goals for the next few months is to coordinate the delivery of this training to local librarians in a variety of settings.
Finally, state agencies must make a concerted effort to tell school libraries’ stories, highlighting what excellent school library programs look like, how they operate, and most importantly, how they positively affect student achievement. Unfortunately, many decision-makers have never seen a highly effective, modern library media program or how it can change students’ lives. This is one of our most important charges – to broadly communicate the potentially crucial impact a highly effective school library media program can make on student achievement.
The Texas recommendations may be also found on the AASL ESSA Tools Page at: http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/legislation/essa
“School Librarians and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).” American Library Association, 12 Jan. 2016. http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/legislation/essa
Bryan, Len. “The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA): Recommendations” Texas State Library and Archives Commission. PDF File. 4/14/16.