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A Crisis in Colorado Libraries: Join Us for A Virtual Rally

[TO RESPOND OR READ COMMENTS…Click below on Comments!] 

The CASL Board has designated April 18th, 2006, National Library Day, as a day to recognize and strategize solutions to what we see as a crisis in our school libraries.  Increasingly, we are noticing a disturbing trend of various districts eliminating or downgrading school library coordinators and teacher-librarian positions, which ultimately has an impact on every teacher-librarian in this state.  But, we cannot solve this problem alone, which is why we are asking for your help.  On April 18th, join us in a virtual rally.  On this day, we ask that as many of you as possible respond with any strategies or solutions that we and all in our profession can utilize to help reverse this alarming trend.  Please post your strategies/solutions to CASL listserv or CASL blog.  It is only with your help and with all of us acting together that we can help save the future of our school libraries.   


22 Responses

  1. This is a great idea!
    I will share it with my students and see what creative ideas they can come up with.

    Jody Howard

  2. I have two points to make – and am getting a jumpstart on this on Tuesday night –since my schedule tomorrow looks pretty full…
    1. We have got to go beyond “preaching to the choir.” Not only should we be spreading the word and showing concrete examples of the difference we make in the education of kids to influential groups beyond our own, but we should be enlisting the help of those teachers, parents, and kids with whom we have made a difference. If the message comes from outside our own ranks, we have a far better chance of it being heard. One of the librarians in my district recently made an excellent point when faced with a staffing cut. She told her adminstrator “you aren’t hurting me, or my library. You’re hurting the kids. They are the ones that lose the most.” Her administrator listened, and today I heard that the support position will be re-instated next year.
    2. We need to speak the same language that other educators speak. The current interest seems to be with 21st Century Skills. (and rightfully so). I have decided that every opportunity I get, I will let people with influence know that if they want to see examples of 21st century skills being taught and practiced in our schools, they need only observe collaborative learning experiences occurring in our libraries.

  3. I agree with Nancy wholeheartedly about “preaching to the choir” and believe the best way to educate those beyond our own profession is through teacher education programs. Student teachers should be required to collaborate with the teacher librarians in the school where they do their student teaching. Then, those teacher librarians can take the time to educate them and promote this way of teaching–doa bang up job to sell them on it!

    This change is happening in some programs, but should be required for all.

  4. I think it will be hugely important to convince principals that this is an integral part of their staffing budget. 21st century skills will be a great way to sell it– we need them to know that putting computers in schools is not enough. Schools will need a certified teacher to teach the students how to use the new technologies and information resources.

    I wrote the Rocky Mountain News this year about the possibility of adding the library staffing information to their school report cards. Parents never really know whether their school is staffed with a certified person or not. This should be made public knowledge to light a fire under administrators hoping to lure prospective parents to their schools.

  5. Denver is a case in point for this issue. This year so many teacher librarian positions were downgraded that five of us could not secure positions in school libraries and are being forced to return to the classrooms. The school I am currently in was a Power Library under the previous librarian. We have a flexible schedule, which has enabled me to teach far more in my three years here than I have ever taught before. The classroom teachers work with me and have showered me with more appreciation than I have ever received before. My position should have been safe here if anywhere, but at the budget meeting the staff had to choose between downgrading my position or completely eliminating paraprofessionals in the classrooms. They literally had tears in their eyes as they raised their hands, but they had already cut everywhere else they could. The key is in what did not get cut–we still have 1.5 fine arts teachers. Why? Because a few years ago the good people of Denver passed a mill levy to improve fine arts instruction in DPS and wisely worded it so the money would actually increase fine arts instruction, not just be sucked up by existing positions. In the same way, our library collections have improved tremendously since Denver passed an earlier mill levy providing ongoing funds for library books (though we did have to fight to keep that money from being used for classroom “libraries.) The problem is that these are piecemeal measures and, in the case of the fine arts, have unintended consequences. What we need is to work with people from all important components of quality education program so the whole program is protected. In my mind, every elementary school child should have exposure to at least two fine arts, qualified instruction in locating, evaluating, and using information in print and non-print formats, and a PE/health program that effectively helps them develop habits for lifelong health. I’m beginning to realize that second language instruction is also important, but I’m reluctant to add it on since we can’t even get the previous items in place. I believe the people of Denver (and other communities across the state) want this for their children. If we can get the word out to them that these piecemeal attempts end up pitting one important component against another and that their children are losing out, we might make some progress.

  6. It is becoming more apparent that parental pressure on school districts to implement changes in curriculum, schedule school days around their needs (contradictory to studies), and honor charter plans. Therefore, it only makes sense to appeal to the parents we know will speak up on behalf of teacher-librarians and well-staffed school libraries. There are plenty of substantiated statistics comparing test scores (the current face value of all teaching positions) between schools with active library programs and qualified personnel vs. those without. How might we do this state-wide in an effective, yet economical manner?

  7. Teaching, historically, has been a very private job. We go in our classrooms and close the door and the kids we teach and, perhaps, a select few others, actually know part of what we do. This is changing slowly. We need to learn to truly advocate for ourselves. We need to promote ourselves and our libraries in as many ways as we can possibly imagine. Everything we do needs to be visible. And not just visible, but painted in brilliant color. We need websites for the library, newsletters as often as we can get them out there, a “menu” of things we can do for the teachers in our buildings not to mention a “menu” of things we can do for the students we serve. The doors have to be open as much and as often as they possibly can be.
    My great respect to all in this profession and those who advocate for us.

  8. This is National School Library Month. Instead of “talking” to one another, has anyone written an editorial in a newspaper or called a radio or television station about staffing issues?

    What other means can we use to notify the public? How can we expect people to know of the crisis if we do not tell them?

    Let’s get creative and come up with solutions that we can inact statewide instead of complaining to one another. I am sure there are great brains in school libraryland. Help us plan something!

  9. There are several issues that contribute to the demise of certified librarians. Here are the issues that have affected my career.

    – Budgets
    If the cost of a librarian is put into the building budgets rather than a distict budget line item, small schools suffer more. Since librarians do not cover a specific class load (not being allowed to count the entire student body plus faculty) they are seen as dispensable. Dividing up one fte salary into several paraprofessional jobs looks better on paper. Losing an experienced literacy teacher (which is what a teacher librarian really does well) is overlooked in favor of uncertifed, untrained helpers.

    – Training
    In times of desperation, teachers hoping to be certified librarians have been hired with the understanding that they will eventually get the certification. However, these people often have a rough start and for a variety of reasons are not around long enough to have as positive of an impact on a library program as those who enter the job fully trained and experienced. It takes time to get a good library program rolling and sometimes there is not that time in the budget.

    – The Clerk Option
    DPS, for example, is transitioning many of the teacher librarian positions into library tech positions. The simple reason is that they can get twice the hourly coverage for the same price. The job responsibilities for these tech positions are the same for a the teacher librarians, except for the restriction on planning lessons, teaching and grading(which is often overlooked and done inspite of the legal restrictions – because teachers won’t snitch if they get to leave the room, or another teacher is sitting inside the same walls, or a motived tech desires to teach but doesn’t want to bother with the certification). This is a problem that has developed from INSIDE the library departments themselves. Techs work hard, are often degreed in many areas but not in education. Many do not realized that they are accepting responsibilities that should be compensated for at a much higher rate. As long as techs are willing to take on as much as they do far as little as they are paid they are demeaning their worth and actually eliminating the rational for having more highly qualified candidates who get paid a more reasonable amount. It’s career suicide.

    – Monitoring the Abuses
    Since there is usually only one teacher librarian in a building, there is no other faculty member with whom to do a comparison. Administrators see the title “teacher” and put the same standards on the library employee. This often creates a scheduling problem with attempts to collaborate and finding time to actualy manage the collection. Sending teacher librarians out to lunch duty and playground duty (jobs that should be funded on the paraprofessional level) is a huge mismanagement of budget. Closing the library during the middle of the day cuts services to faculty and students. Allowing uncertified employees to cover classes is a legal violation that would cost a district far more in legal fees than several years of a teachers salary, if there is an incident with a student that takes place while a teacher is absent from the situation.

    – Administrative Background
    Administrative certification does not necessarily require classroom experience. we have had many non-teacher administrators move into leadership positions from areas such as social work, counseling and speech therapy. It is difficult for them to appreciate the impact of having just one more qualified teacher helping out those with large class loads of students with an expansive range of skills and language needs. I always find it uncomfortable to be evaluated by a person with little to no understanding of the program I am running. Why the thought of eliminating teacher librarians during the era of trying desperately to raise reading and writing test scores for student loads that are needing more exposure to the English language, its literature and the vast world of resources puzzles me.

  10. I agree with what others have said. I have had so many teachers and parents worry about what will happen to the library next year since I have been cut in favor of a para. Our building lost 5.5 people including some elective and ELA positions. Our school is also increasing their honors program and want to know what will happen without a trained librarian. The main thing I am telling the parents is they have the strongest voice and need to let their feelings be known to those who count. If parents can understand that these cuts will affect the quality of education for their children, it is one place to start.

  11. I thought this announcement from AASL would make an interesting addition to our discussion today!

    LIBRARIAN Act of 2007 introduced in Congress

    Yesterday, coinciding with National Library Workers Day, the Librarian
    Incentive to Boost Recruitment and Retention in Areas of Need
    (LIBRARIAN) Act of 2007 was introduced in both the U.S. Senate (S. 1121)
    and the House of Representatives (H.R. 1877).

    This bill amends the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide for
    Perkins student loan forgiveness, which will encourage individuals to
    become and remain librarians in low-income schools and public libraries.

    “The LIBRARIAN Act of 2007 is a bold step forward for librarianship,”
    ALA President Leslie Burger said. “With the face of information changing
    on an almost daily basis, bills like this do a great service to one of
    the world’s most respected professions, attracting a younger and more
    diverse crowd with extensive knowledge of the hi-tech services offered
    in today’s libraries.”

    “Further, many of today’s librarians are nearing retirement age,”
    Burger continued, “and we as a society must do all we can to ensure that
    every library continues to be staffed by librarians skilled in both
    their profession and their community.”

    The bipartisan bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Becerra (D-CA),
    along with Reps. Grijalva (D-AZ), Ehlers (R-MI), and Shimkus (R-IL), and
    in the Senate by Sens. Reed (D-RI) and Cochran (R-MS).

    “Librarians play an essential role in our schools and public libraries
    and help to foster a lifelong love of reading in our young people,”
    stated Sen. Reed. “With a shortage of librarians across the country and
    with many more set to retire, we must urgently encourage more people to
    enter the library science field and work to retain valuable librarians
    who are already serving our communities.”

    Said Rep. Becerra, “The loan forgiveness provisions of this bill will
    be a valuable tool in attracting some of our brightest and best students
    to become tomorrow’s educators in the communities where they are most

    The American Library Association strongly supports the LIBRARIAN Act of
    2007 and encourages Senators and Representatives to cosponsor it.

  12. As posted on CASL’s listserve (Feel free to join; click the ‘Join this Group’ button on the right……http://groups.yahoo.com/group/caslcommunity/):

    Have you read ALA’s Position Statement on Appropriate Staffing for School
    Library Media Centers?


    Although it’s been around for many years, maybe it could be of use.

    CSLA in California has a similar statement-see pg. 7 for a sample:

  13. I agree with Nancy White’s comments. Preaching to the choir won’t change enough minds. We need a concerted communications strategy that tells our story to the public and policy makers. Our best advocates are the parents of our students. Let’s work to reach them. A strategy needs to include: Earned media–news stories about good thing we do, letters to the editor. but we also need regular press releases and news tips so that reporters see CASL as a “go to” source when there is a school story. Bonnie can probably be a great resource for us in this work.

  14. I believe we are going to have to reach out the the community anyway we can. Using the school newsletter would be a great way to send quick library facts about your individual school.

  15. We must reach as many people as we can. Maybe we can write an article for the newspaper. Also write articles in the homeowners association in your neighborhoods to get the word out. Libraries are just too important and make such a difference in kids lives to do nothing. Think where we will be and our kids in a few years if nothing is done! Libraries and Librarians are critical to the success of a school in raising test scores. So let’s get going and get the ball rolling and do something to let the public know this is happening!

  16. Show them the data!
    Some of my School Library students at the University of Colorado at Denver are sharing results of their Action Research projects with their principals today. The principals can’t ignore the data! They’ve worked really hard at articulating practices that make a difference at their schools. Way to go!

  17. There are so many good comments here and I especially like the ones that are a call to action! What can we do? Yes, we need to work with others outside our profession; yes, we need to speak the language of the administrators; yes, we need to share the data; yes, we need to advocate for our “worth”. And, we need to do all of these things, every day….Whew! Maybe we should each pick one thing to do to help others understand what we are all about. We could write an article, write a newsletter, share what we have learned at a conference; promote a good children’s book with the staff at the next staff meeting; have an appreciation day in the library for parents and staff….there are so many things we can do. But there are only 24 hours in a day….so we must make this a priority so that we will be able to continue working with students and helping them achieve their actual potential!

    Many of you have heard me use the term, “baby steps.” Here is another example of how we can start to accomplish change.

  18. I agree that data is one of the best ways to show our worth. Some ideas for doing this include:
    1. Correlate library circulation data with CSAP reading scores…generally you’ll see if a grade or class has a higher circulation than another, the CASP scores are higher too.
    2. Utlize data from CSAP standard 5 (the research standard). Chart the number of collaborative research lessons completed with a teacher or grade level. Correlate this data and hopefully you’ll see an increase in standard 5 scores with teachers or grade levels with higher collaborative lessons.
    3. Display and share (quality) student research work completed in the library through out the school.

  19. All good comments. (Just wish they were larger than 3 pt font on my screen!) It is encouraging to see positive and concrete recommendations. It is equally disappointing that this continues to be a subject of concern for teacher librarians after so many years (decades?) of being the topic du jour when more than three TL’s gather to debate the “how’s it going” question. It is unfortunately easy to offer suggestions. Find ing the critical mass of people in- and out- of the profession to carry them out remains ellusive. To look ahead, I will offer a look back, first.

    In all the time this has been a topic of interest, what has changed? A few I can cite: Standards-based instruction. More testing. More mandates thru legislation; fewer $$ to enact them. Increased departure of the experienced; auguably, less involvement, strategically, from those replacing them (if they are replaced). Many state studies on the effectiveness of libraries. Improved access to professional development and degree-granting programs for those seeking endorsement. Waning parental involvement in school programs, thus fewer people to raise a hand about keeping the library as a priority.

    What hasn’t changed? Everyone wants better education; few step up to pay for it. Administrators unwilling to lend credence to the studies as a basis for library support. School districts invest millions in one-off programs for quick success, at the expense of the tried and true programs, like libraries. A desire for high scores and instant gratification; impatience when goals aren’t met. And (yes, I’ll get backlash for this) no vocal majority IN the profession willing and able to develop and delivery a consistent message to those OUT of the profession that libraries are more than books. Too much emphasis on the problems (“my principal doesn’t understand me”) and not enough on solutions (“I meet weekly with the principal and monthly with the PTA/O to outline my instructional connection”) Libraries appear expendable; therefore, they are.

    Many solutions to the changed and unchanged environment are outlined by others. No need to rehash comments above.
    Some questions for personal consideration:
    Walking acress the capitol lawn today I treked through yet another herd of students, chaperones and teachers doing the field trip thing. What a wasted opportunity.

    Could this right of spring help garner support for schools and libraries? Would it make a difference if 2 or 3 kids and parents from each bus load approached a house or senate member to say, “you know, our school really could use more library materials. When will you restore that $2 million that was cut from libraries a few years ago?” Would it make a difference if a few kids put a letter in the hands of a house or senate aide’s hand saying what their school needs; could “more money for library books” be on that list?

    Is the Colorado library community as a WHOLE ready and willing to take up the charge for better school libraries? Does anyone else in and out of CAL care besides those in CASL who know what’s going on?

    Are the trustees in public libraries hearing from their school people about the importance-and demise-of the school library programs…and are THEY talking to the right people, or being asked to?

    Are TL’s taking this issue prominantly to other organizations–CEA, AFT, CASE, CASB, etc in a way that is tied to goals and mission of THOSE organizations?

    Are school TL’s writing letters or calling elected officials locally and statewide to be involved in library events? If they attend, do they get the thank you with a 30 second plug for “this is what we do, this is a problem we have, can you help” speech?

    Are there too many people in the business community who think of the library as dusty books, and not a tech-based program teaching what kids need to know to enter the job market in a few years? Does anyone have a good way to change that perception?

    Are too many TL’s and aides still doing the book talk, check out thing with no connection to the real needs of the students and staff?

    Is anyone talking to their State Board of Ed member, and other politicians when they have town meetings? Are you on their mailing list/RSS feed so you get notified in advance?

    Is anyone willing to attend a panel discussion in Aurora on May 12, city council building 10-12. that has just been announced by State Board of Ed member Karen Middleton to look at the problems in that district, which is itself a microcosm of many districts statewide?

    Is CASL–and those not members–ready to partner with the State Library on a summit to look at the issues raised through this forum and start planning a tactical, strategic approach that CAL could begin incorporating into the long-range legislative agenda and Colorado Knowledge Initiative?

    So far, 13 people weighed in on this today. The last question to you is, what will motivate the other 1000+ school library staff to see this as a common concern, and not just something for “someone else” to take care of?

    This is not an overnight problem; it won’t be an overnight fix. Politics, education, and the polarization of opinions from both camps puts us in a difficult position. Nobody wants to have to fight for the profession, but everyone must be willing to, or there will soon be little left to fight for.

    I remain, your humble servant,
    Gene Hainer
    Colorado State Library

  20. What about taking pictures of students (getting permission for publishing of course) in the library doing all the great things they are doing and writing a story to go with it? It could then be sent to the “Hub” section of the newspaper. That’s something that is read by a lot of parents because their own sons and/or daughters are in those quite often. If we do this frequently enough we will get the message out without it looking too much like we are tooting our own horns or trying to “convince” someone about something. Yet the message is there. Especially if a quote is in the story about the work between the librarian and the teacher and how it would have been an okay project, but working in the library made it that much better. Just one idea.

    Toni Weller
    UCD Library Student

  21. Hi, Gene,

    I would be more than willing to work with you on a Summit for school librarians. This is something that I am sure that the CASL board will also want to discuss.

  22. I don’t think you can educate people into placing value on anything. The way you increase value is to truly BE valuable. We all know we have something of value to offer, but we too often wait for the opportunity to put it into practice. We need to actively “sell” our services to our school communities. We must increase our visibility and be attentive to teacher needs.

    What teachers need most is time. Time to plan, time to think, time to reflect, time to brainstorm new ideas. This year, when collaborating with teachers, I have been collaborating with a whole team of support people — the talented/gifted coordinator, the IB coordinator, and the literacy coordinator. We will meet with an individual or a group of teachers to plan a unit, and we will offer all kinds of support, from handout creation to co-teaching. Teachers walk out with a unit plan that includes information literacy, differentiation, and IB components. In this way, they develop “showcase” units which prove they are implementing all of our building goals.

    Because I know what it means to teachers, I have dedicated part of my library budget to pay for a half-day sub so teachers can have release time for this kind of collaboration. Because I (and my principal) have placed a high value on this time by devoting funding to it, and because it answers an important need for teachers, it has been an incredible success. Teachers who have tried this kind of collaboration see the value, and others hear about it through the “grapevine.” Collaboration has become and integral part of the culture at my school, changing the way people approach unit planning.

    If you don’t think people value what you do, maybe they don’t understand what you do. Give them the opportunity to find out first-hand. In my humble opinion, you won’t convince them any other way.

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