School Librarian Crisis in NYC August 21, 2013Posted by Patricia Sarles in Advocacy, Hot Topics.
Tags: New York state law, NYC school librarians
In a Wall Street Journal article published last week, (a story also picked up by the Atlantic Wire), it was reported how the New York City public school system is and has been out of compliance with the New York state law that mandates either a full or part-time librarian in all secondary schools, depending on the school’s enrollment. It is because of this law that many of New York City’s school children have the benefit of a librarian to serve them within their buildings, but despite this law, many NYC school children don’t have that benefit. Now the New York City Department of Education is seeking a waiver so that they do not have to be in compliance with this law at all. According to a NY1 News piece, the Department of Education cites that due to changes in “technology and teaching structures, schools can provide adequate library services without a traditional librarian.”
This is the thing though. Because of the control that principals were handed several years ago with the reorganization of the DOE, some principals will decide to keep their librarians anyway and some will breathe a sigh of relief that because of the waiver, they will no longer be out of compliance, even though they were never held accountable to be in compliance with state law in the first place. But does nobody in the DOE realize that this will only increase the achievement gap? We school librarians are already familiar with the research that points to the fact that having an endorsed librarian in schools increases student reading scores. Some NYC principals, recognizing the benefits of having a school librarian, will decide to keep their librarians, regardless of the waiver. But some principals will let go of their librarians. It may be that the children in schools with librarians will do better, while those unfortunate enough to be in schools without librarians will not do as well. Time will tell. But who in the DOE will make the connection? As it stands right now, nobody in the DOE seems to care if there is an inequity in the services that the students receive in New York City public schools as there is no mandate that all children receive the same services they are entitled to within the same system wherever they decide to go to school.
New York state already does not have a mandate for elementary school librarians, which has always been baffling to me. It is in elementary school that children first learn to read and if reading is the foundation for all future gains in knowledge, then why not have a librarian who would encourage their early reading, not just their skills in reading, but to also instill a passion for reading? Librarians = books and reading at the elementary level after all. It is at the secondary level that the role of the librarian expands to research skills in addition to continuing to foster and encourage reading. And speaking of research skills, are our leaders not aware of the Common Core Anchor standards for writing, which require that students “research to build and present knowledge?” Librarians are trained to teach these skills and have been teaching these skills all along. That is why so many of us are on board with the Common Core. Parts of the standards speak our own language. But who do our leaders think are going to teach these research skills? Sadly, there is still a lack of knowledge about what we librarians do, which is sadly evident in this letter to Dr. John B. King, New York State Commissioner of Education from the NYC DOE’s Chief Academic Officer, seeking a variance to “provide equivalent library services in alternative ways.” Why? NYC already has certified librarians. Hire more and they won’t need to seek “alternative ways” to provide “equivalent library services.” We are trained to do what we do. Classroom teachers, literacy coaches, and others who serve children in school buildings are not. They might also not be aware that New York is a PARCC state. The PARCC test will be one of two new Common Core assessments. And it is on this PARCC test that students will be given a “Research Simulation Task”, whereby students will be provided several authentic texts to read and be required to write an analytic essay that synthesizes the information they read. This is one third of the PARCC test, the other two being a narrative task and a literary analysis task.
We know what we do. We have to keep doing what we do and hopefully we will continue to be given that opportunity. We need to keep having conversations with our principals, collaborating with our teachers, and we need to keep writing, especially for journals outside our field. We need to “seize the opportunity” as Olga Nesi, NYC library coordinator, said in an SLJ article last year. This is the era of the Common Core. We know we are vital to student success but we have to ask ourselves why our educational leaders do not see this.
Celebrate Choose Privacy Week May 1, 2013Posted by Jen Habley in Committees, Intellectual Freedom.
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Posted on behalf of the AASL Intellectual Freedom Committee
Today marks the beginning of Choose Privacy Week, an initiative started by ALA to give library users the opportunity to learn about and discuss privacy rights in the digital age.
Privacy has become an increasingly important issue to discuss with students of all ages. Many students do not realize the possible implications of their public digital life, and freely share photos and information on the Internet every day. It is our job as librarians to educate students about how to safely engage in communications through social media and other outlets, how to keep their information such as passwords and bank accounts private, and how to avoid situations like cyber-bullying while online.
ALA has put together many resources for librarians to use including videos, handouts, and position papers. Go to chooseprivacyweek.org for more information on how you can celebrate. Let’s start the conversation with our students.
April is School Library Month April 4, 2013Posted by cstarkey in AASL News, Advocacy, Check this out!, School Library Month.
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Every April school librarians are encouraged to create activities to help their school and local community celebrate the essential role that strong school library programs play in a student’s educational career. The 2013 celebration marks the 28th annual AASL-sponsored School Library Month and the SLM committee has developed new videos, advocacy activities, and suggestions that are available on the SLM 2013 page.
Carla Crews and Carolyn Starkey, librarians at Shades Valley High School / Jefferson County IB School / Shades Valley Technical Academies in Alabama, not only wanted to highlight the “communities matter @ yourlibrary” theme but take the opportunity to advocate creatively for their program.
Having been busy teaching the Freshmen Studies classes to analyze data and create infographics with it, Carolyn and Carla devised a series of designs that utilized data from their library and posted them on a hallway bulletin board along with photos from throughout the year.
Individual infographs highlighted:
Communities connected directly to the library….
Expenditure of librarians’ time…
Items owned and total dollar investment in library…
and finally, visitor statistics.
Let us know what you are doing for School Library Month 2013. We’ll post it on the blog!
Dewey vs. Genre Shelving…the Conversation Continues Here February 15, 2013Posted by Jen Habley in ALA Midwinter Meeting, Check this out!, Hot Topics.
At the recent ALA Midwinter Conference in Seattle, I moderated the AASL-sponsored Hot Topics discussion on “Genre-fying” the collection. Six panelists presented a variety of viewpoints on how to handle and issue that is being widely discussed. A number of librarians have implemented the change, reclassifying their nonfiction titles using letters identifying the genre. Some have used EBSCO’s NoveList as a source for the categories they chose, others have used their own ideas. A few have integrated fiction within the nonfiction. A more limited approach is to “genre-fy” the fiction collection. Those who have made the change point to increased circulation. Librarians who think we should stay with Dewey argue that consistency between libraries is important and the amount of work to make the switch is huge. The debate continues to rage. An upcoming issue of Knowledge Quest will be devoted to the subject.
Below you will hear from two of the members from the discussion panel, Devona Pendergrass and Christopher Harris. Where do you stand on the issue?
Hilda Weisberg is the Editor of “School Librarian’s Workshop”
Dewey or dontwey? That is the question that brings to mind a list of things to remember in making your decision. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water! If it ain’t broke don’t fix it! We heard from Michael Panzer the Editor of the Dewey Decimal System that Dewey is meant to be a fluid system that evolves and changes over time. Although not perfect Dewey offers a logical system for organizing every item in a library, offers users familiarity and consistency and is used in libraries worldwide. Dewey is a living, breathing system that each of us can tweak to fit our own individual needs and those of our students and patrons. Dewey also allows for the use of thousands of additional relative index terms that can be used as additional access points to your Dewey system. Familiarity breeds contempt. Maybe that is what is happening here. Since the system is old and everybody has heard and used the system it must be old and outdated. Heck, I’m old but I’m certainly not outdated and I can and do change every day in my way of thinking and doing but I am not ready to just throw me away for a newer model and neither is my boss. I’m sure my system could be replaced with one younger, prettier and sweeter smelling but as Shakespeare says “to thine own self be true.”
Devona J. Pendergrass is the School Librarian at Mountain Home High School in Mountain Home, Arkansas.
Genre (Subject) Shelving
The biggest hurdle we face in the discussion about reorganizing resources in school libraries is getting over the widely held belief that this is a black-and-white decision between Dewey and chaos. Those of us exploring new spaces beyond Dewey are still using an organizational structure. We have carefully considered vocabularies of subject headings set within a hierarchy that better matches the unique browsing needs of school-aged readers and curriculum-focused collections.
In actuality, I believe that the practice of subject-based cataloging isn’t anywhere near as controversial as it may seem on the surface. The general consensus of the pro-Dewey crowd at the panel seemed to be that libraries need to use better signage to help students find book. You know, signs…with subject words on them. Don’t get rid of Dewey, they cried, but please could we have more words to make it easier for a browsing student to find books.
The difference is that those of us working to move beyond Dewey in organized and documented ways are actually doing more to ensure that librarians who follow will have a clear map to understand the changes. Pretending to maintain strict adherence to Dewey while moving books between sections is more confusing just building a new, fully explained system that works from the beginning.
In the end, we are all asking for the same thing; a hybrid solution that uses the back-end power of the DDC, but displays subject words to students. A system that provides support for the flexibility and local changes required for the adult-centered, public library-focused Dewey to be truly successful in schools.
Christopher Harris is the director of the School Library System of the Genesee Valley (NY) Educational Partnership and editor of the American Libraries Magazine E-Content Blog.
Can One Word Condemn a Book? January 17, 2013Posted by Jen Habley in Intellectual Freedom.
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Written by Elyse Cregar on behalf of the AASL Intellectual Freedom Committee
With Black History Month approaching, there have been many recent articles in the media about the use of the N-word. Should we as librarians consider censoring a book based on the inclusion of one or a few of these words? Considering the age levels we represent and the budgets we have to work with, of course, we must carefully consider the value, appropriateness and educational significance of the materials we order, according to our current book selection policy. And what of books already on the shelf? This question came up recently in my position as a district elementary librarian.
A local publisher donated a book to us that was very beautifully produced, having lots of color prints and regional stories that reached back in time. However, even though many of the stories and reproduced paintings were appropriate for middle readers, one story caught my eye because it contained the N-word. After looking over our district book selection policy, I regretfully decided not to include it in our library collection. When the editor of this book contacted me I conveyed my decision to him along with my concerns.
The editor pointed out to me that the children I served should view the truth of history as it was, not as we would like it to be, and that nothing about the word “nigger” could be construed as offensive. He felt that the tale in his volume described a good man and was, in fact, a loving tribute to this man’s memory.
My reply to the editor was that we know from researching original documents that much of history written at the time, depending on the writer, was not always the ‘truth’. I agreed that the spoken and written words in the stories in this book were in use at the time they were written, and that certainly was a truth.
“However,” I replied, “Are such stories appropriate in a 21st century collection of books for children? As we (adults) read and learn from historical documents, do we assume that George really ‘preferred being called ‘Nigger George’? ‘ Jus’ call me Niggah Geo’ge’ he would say with an infectious grin that won him everlasting friends wherever he went.
I would have to question that assumption, even in the context of the time this story was written in the first half of the twentieth century. Even though this book is a generous donation and in many ways a beautiful edition, I find it would be not only inappropriate for our collection for K – 5 students, it would quickly be found to be offensive, disturbing and justifiably questioned. It is my personal hope that the N-word will pass out of usage entirely. It is a sad reminder of a cruel time in our history. I leave it rather to adult readers to choose these materials as they will.”
A fascinating tour might take place in your own library. The folk tale section, I found out, contains some ghastly examples of what was considered appropriate back in the day. Our selection policy allows for the weeding of “antiquated materials.” Some of these tales contained myriad uses of the N-word spelled out in various forms. However, as you proceed with your own process, do consult your school district’s book selection policy. If there is no specific wording on procedures in your district, including weeding, this might be a good time to submit policy suggestions to your administrators. There are myriad selection policy resources to consult at ALA.org.
Is the value of a book, perhaps one that has received mostly positive reviews, so important that one use of the F-word or the N-word, the A-word or the SH-word, in a certain context would override any other standards? Are the classics and books of those historical periods exempt if teachers and librarians can still refer to them in an educational forum?
Some thought-provoking suggestions can be found at these sites: The Southern Poverty Law Center offers a great article and notes that this discussion/activity is appropriate for grades 9 – 12: http://www.tolerance.org/n-word-straight-talk
The controversy over the King of Contention: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is ongoing, with an interesting history of that classic to be found at http://www.betterlivingthroughbeowulf.com/?p=6616
Social Media and Intellectual Freedom December 11, 2012Posted by Jen Habley in Check this out!, Committees, Filtering.
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Posted on behalf of the AASL Intellectual Freedom Committee
As school librarians and teachers of digital literacy, we understand that social media provides the opportunity to engage in a global community, to be individual and collaborative creators of information, and to explore a seemingly infinite amount of new ideas and interests. Despite the exciting educational applications, many schools still filter social media sites. Blocking this content is not required by the law, and may affect your students’ First Amendment right to access information. Furthermore, filtering social media may give parents and educators a false sense of security and encourage students to violate acceptable use policies by accessing the sites in other ways.
If we are to expect our students to be responsible technology users, we must allow them the right to use it. The unique communities of Web 2.0 require a certain amount of literacy for participation and many of the sites have minimum age requirements, which means that teens must navigate their complex and dramatic social lives at the same time that they start exploring the realm of Facebook and Twitter. Restricting access to social media in school leaves students to socialize in a space that many falsely view as private and without supervision. As a result, children may make poor choices, such as neglecting their homework or engaging in cyberbullying. We should create supportive environments in which students can explore the web and all of its possibilities while modeling social norms and digital etiquette.
There is a great support network available to help you gain access to social media in school through ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. Their website provides a list of divisions and committees, as well as links to a variety of resources. For quick reference, download the Intellectual Freedom Brochure from the AASL Intellectual Freedom Committee.
Where are you in the conversation about social networking and mobile devices at your school? April 24, 2012Posted by Wendy Stephens in Technology.
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AASL, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), and other leading education groups authored a report aimed at helping inform and guide educational decision makers as they reconsider policies around the use of mobile technologies and social media in schools. A full report, “Making Progress: Rethinking State and School District Policies Concerning Mobile Technologies and Social Media,” is available at http://www.cosn.org/MakingProgress.
As I read the document, I could see myriad ways librarians could become the go-to person on these important trends in educational computing. For example:
1.The use of mobile Internet devices and social media by young people is widely prevalent. The use of student-owned mobile devices for classroom instruction is growing, and more schools are moving from policies that ban their use to integrating them into the classroom guided by school librarians in the most effective techniques and tools to implement student-owned technology.
2.Students and schools experience substantial educational benefits through the use of mobile devices and social media as modeled by school librarians integrating a range of technologies in their libraries and schools.
3.There are legitimate concerns about the use of social media that need to be addressed. School librarians have insight into privacy, security, and cyber citizenship skills students will need to function in a digital environment.
4.Current federal, state and local policies and procedures need modification or clarification in order to respond to current realities of expanded social media and mobile devices in schools. School librarians are excellent point-people with regard to both student-owned hardware and both the current and potential utilization of networked resources for educational purposes.
5.Equity is a vital issue to consider when establishing policy around social media and mobile technologies. School librarians can help ensure equal access for students regardless of their level of access to networks outside school and their technological comfort.
What other roles do you see school librarians playing in this transition?
Highlighting one student’s call for school library advocacy January 18, 2012Posted by Wendy Stephens in Advocacy.
An Ohio high school senior tasked with a school reform assignment turned his attention to the ongoing crisis in school libraries. Jonathon Roy’s research assignment for language arts teacher Jessica Gerber at Mount Gilead High School uncovered the body of research affirming the value of well-trained school librarians and includes a plan to fill a mandate for highly qualified school librarians.
The entire class crafted research project and presentations on topics related to school reform. While other students tackled issues like GLBT rights and school uniform policies, Jonathon chose to highlight the plight of school librarians in the era of drastic budget cuts. He turned up more than sixty studies demonstrating the clear relationship between school libraries and student achievement.
Jonathon, who has helped in the library at his school since his sophomore year and participates in the Philosophy Club organized by librarian Deb Logan, stresses that his local program is different from what many might expect. His school’s program focuses on skills like determining the credibility of online sources and how to properly formulate citations, the sort of integrated instruction which Jonathon found typifies today’s school libraries. Jonathon emphasizes that these are “helpful thing you will actually use.”
His research included a polling component using SurveyMonkey, seeking input from his respondents about their experiences with and attitudes towards libraries. Jonathon found many adults and student aren’t aware of the dire predicaments many libraries find themselves in and don’t realize the instructional potential of school libraries.
Jonathon’s paper concludes with an action plan for shifting textbook and other monies to fund credentialed librarians in every building. He provided a link to the latest White House petition for his classmates on a bookmark in a call for student advocacy. “As students, we should get more involved and stand out and say we really enjoy the library and not let it fall through the cracks,” said Jonathon, who was captain of the cross country team this year and is active in Mount Gilead High School’s theater program and show choir. He has not chosen a college yet but plans on studying psychology.