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School Librarians & Change – Part 3 of 3 by Nancy White

Change is in our midst. To be sure, there is nothing more constant than change, but I believe 2010 is going to be the year that stands out for school librarians in Colorado. In the third and final chapter of these blog entries on change, I will examine the impact of the declining economy and budget cuts school districts are facing and how this could impact school libraries.

I don’t envy school and district administrators – they have some rough waters ahead.  They are being forced to make decisions they don’t want to make, cut programs, cut staff – whatever it takes to balance the budget, while still meeting the needs of all students. How will they decide- what stays –and what –or who – goes?  I expect that most districts have similar goals when scrutinizing the budget for money-saving measures:  Keep the cuts as far away from the “classroom” as possible. So where does that leave the school library?

A few years back, Colorado had a major initiative on the ballot, Amendment 39, otherwise known as “The 65% Solution.”  It is interesting to note that, thanks in part to the wonderful efforts of our Colorado Association of Libraries (CAL) lobbyists, school libraries were included in the definition of classroom spending. Otherwise, had this initiative passed, school libraries would have been on the chopping block if districts were forced to cut spending that was not defined as direct support to classroom instruction.

 First Class Education’s web site now notes, “librarians and libraries are important and have a direct impact on classroom instruction.” First Class has added these items as inside the classroom expenses on state ballot measures. (Waterous, Frank. (20 September, 2006). 65 Percent Solution Spending Plans for Colorado School Districts. Available http://thebell.org/PUBS/IssBrf/2006/0865Percent.pdf)

 That was then, this is now.  Chances are, the decision about keeping cuts as far away from the classroom as possible is being made now at your local level – by your principal, or your district administrators. So the question is – what do they believe about school libraries?  That largely depends on YOU.  Do they understand the important connection between the work that you do, through one-on-one instruction and support and collaboration with classroom teachers that has such a tremendous impact on student achievement? Do they know that you are the one who can lead the way toward assuring students obtain the essential 21st century skills identified in the new content standards? Have you shared your story?

The school librarian “advocacy hat” is one that can never be cast away.  And now, more than ever, with budgets being slashed, and an alarming trio of initiatives making their way to the Colorado ballot that would require further budget cuts for schools, you really must be sure that they understand. The library touches every person in the school – students – teachers – administrators – parents. How will you tell this story?

Here are three things I believe can help you in your advocacy efforts. 

Do Less of This Do More of This
1. Measuring  and sharing success only with circulation statistics Measuring  and sharing success connected to student’s reading scores,  and increased mastery of 21st century skills
2. Emphasis on “save the library” Emphasis on equity in education: frame it from the impact on student achievement
3. Telling your story alone Get your community to tell your story for you…teachers, parents, students – everyone you touch – together – share your success stories far and wide!

 Change is in the air.  Are you ready?

Nancy White
CASL Co-President


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