Advocacy in Action: Speak Up for School Librarians with ESSA

What’s happening in your state with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)? This federal plan replaces No Child Left Behind, and includes language regarding “effective school library programs,”  thanks to your advocacy!

In Illinois, the State Board of Education (ISBE) is charged with creating the plan for implementing the ESSA. The Illinois School Library Media Association (ISLMA), with the help of John Chrastka from the nonprofit group EveryLibrary,  worked hard over the summer to develop a plan to ensure that the ISBE includes school librarians as they implement ESSA. Now, as the ISBE holds listening tours all over the state, ISLMA asked for volunteers to speak up.

So I did.

Why?

Because my daughter needs a certified school librarian in her school with dedicated funding for library materials and services, not a paraprofessional trying her or his best with funding only from book fairs.

Because I want my community college students to come to me from high schools with certified school librarians–too many of them don’t. And I can tell by the research questions they ask me at the reference desk and during library instruction sessions that they are seriously lacking in information literacy skills.

Because I want to live in a community that values libraries of all kinds because of their ability to improve lives.

Each speaker at the event could talk for 3-5 minutes, so I made my story personal.  I’m a member of ISLMA, and, once registered to appear at a listening session, received talking points from the current ISLMA President, Patti Fleser.  I was able to coordinate with other speakers before the session I attended at Effingham High School so that we didn’t duplicate each other.  Because of my experience as a high school curriculum specialist, I discussed how school librarians are valuable to school improvement, serving as the natural curriculum and professional development experts in their schools, especially the small schools downstate. School librarians and a retired high school principal spoke concerning school libraries and how they support the concept of the whole child and promote the Illinois Learning Standards.

Guests at the ISBE Listening Session also received updates about what’s happened lately.  At its September meeting, ISBE adopted a college and career framework that consists of a benchmark for declaring a student “ready” for college and career:  a 2.8/4.0 GPA, a readiness college entrance score on the SAT, two or more academic benchmarks or an industry credential, and two or more behavioral and experiential benchmarks.  This led to several school administrators voicing their disagreement with this proposal, with one giving the example of a student who is an expert welder as a teenager. That student won’t be considered college and career ready according to this new proposal (especially if he’s a poor test taker), yet he’s already secured a career with a salary that will eventually pay more than most teachers.  In reply, the ISBE officials reiterated that they welcome feedback, and provided an email address for citizens to send comments and concerns. If you’re concerned about the teens in your communities, these are the meetings that librarians need to attend!  Superintendents, principals, teachers, librarians, the press, and local business leaders were in attendance, and the conversation before and after the event was uplifting and important.

As members of YALSA, we #act4teens. We know that effective school library programs make a school more successful in preparing students for college, career, and life. In the new YALSA organizational plan, one of the three priorities is advocacy to policy makers at all levels to increase support for teen library services. By attending this meeting, speaking up, and emailing comments to ISBE, I was able to advocate for libraries to employees of our state board of education. It didn’t hurt that I was able to build connections with community members concerned with the education of children and teens either.

What’s happening in your state? Check out this blogpost from EveryLibrary to find an ESSA calendar for school library stakeholders and to find more information about ESSA in your state.  What can you do to advocate the teens in your community?

Advocacy – Resources for District Days

Hello YALSA Friends!

Let’s face it, advocacy can be an intimidating charge. The thought of “taking legislative action” can conjure thoughts of putting on an interview-style suit, marching to the state capitol’s doors, and spouting as much legal jargon as possible. In reality, I’ve found that while library advocacy can involve sharp suits and capitol visits, it can also involve a tweet. Or a simple invitation to a library program. Or just introducing yourself to your local, state, or federal lawmaker. I promise this process is not as scary as it sounds.

That said, we’re library people, and our problem-solving skills typically involve some kind of book… right? So here are a couple of short, accessible reads to get an idea of why advocacy matters in our profession and how to get started with doing more of it!

Citizens in Action: A Guide to Lobbying and Influencing Government by Stephanie Vance

Stephanie Vance is pretty fantastic! She spoke at this year’s ALA Legislative Day in DC, and I was blown away by how concise, intelligent, and useful her message was. I used to work in the state capitol building, but even with some experience under my belt, I’ve found this book to be immensely useful. Like her public speaking, Vance’s book is practical and direct. Great stuff for librarians (and all citizens, really) to know about approaching legislators in a poised and prepared fashion.

Grassroots Library Advocacy by Lauren Comito, Aliqae Geraci, and Christian Zabriskie

Co-author Christian Zabriskie from the Queens Library is the Executive Director of Urban Librarians Unite. He has contributed to the Hub on the very topic of library/teen advocacy. I highly recommend this book for a number of reasons: firstly, I read it on a 2-hour plane flight; secondly, it leaves you with a number of practical ideas/takeaways; thirdly, it’s a fantastic introduction, especially if you have little-to-no legislative advocacy experience.

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Afterschool programs in libraries are awesome –go tell someone!

Libraries and schools have a longstanding partnership, working together to support kids and teens in a variety of ways.  The most obvious way libraries have assisted schools is through simply loaning books, but many take this further by providing tutors, carrying special collections aligned with school reading lists, and conducting school visits and research assistance in the library.  And as the title of this post hints, lots of libraries offer afterschool programs specifically aimed at taking over where the school day ends.

Before getting into the wealth of assistance libraries provide, let’s look at the existing need.  A 2014 study found that more than 15 million students are on their own without supervision from 3 to 6 p.m., the window with the highest levels of youth crime and high-risk behavior, and largest percentage of crimes committed against children and teens.[1]  On the flip side, participation in afterschool programs is correlated with lower crime levels, safer overall behavior, greater school attendance and engagement, higher test scores, better self-esteem, and much more.[2]  These outcomes are found across all sectors, and are strongest for at-risk students – a fact that may seem counterintuitive to some.

In 2015 over one third of public libraries reported offering regular afterschool programs,[3] which doesn’t include standalone or ad hoc programs.  With the increasing surge of STEM programming in libraries and establishment of maker spaces and learning labs for patrons of all ages, this number has certainly grown.  Take a look at your local library’s program calendar and you are sure to find an array of afterschool offerings.  Yay, libraries are awesome, and they change lives in very real and important ways!

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Back to (After)School – Building a Positive Environment with a Library Afterschool Crowd – Part 2

This two-part piece looks at ways to manage large afterschool crowds in a library. To read about ways to build relationships and empathy, manage noise levels and energy, and work effectively with staff from other departments, see Part 1. This post discusses behavior and discipline.

To keep things fair, orderly, and predictable in a busy library, consistency is key.  At Addison Public Library, Elizabeth Lynch has found great success using a system called Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS). She says, “The core of PBIS is…that kids really don’t know what appropriate behavior is, especially in a public setting. So the focus is to educate them on what expectations are and think about the systems we’re creating and whether that’s giving them the support they need in the space, or whether we’re making it impossible or difficult for them.”

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PBIS is not only a philosophy, but also involves a set of clearly-defined rules, consequences, and instructions for staff. These are discussed in the sections below. Having clear and explicit rules helps teens learn what appropriate behavior is, and creates consistency in staff responses to troublemaking. It also reduces friction among staff, since everyone is operating under the same rules about what is appropriate and how to respond to infractions.

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Back to (After)School – Desperately Seeking Teens for TAB

With school back in session, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and recruit new blood for our Teen Advisory Boards (TAB). If you already have a good group as it is, it’s still a great idea to recruit new members as their perspective would be incredibly valuable as every teen brings new and interesting ideas. Although some of us may be reluctant to have a large TAB, the sky is the limit when it comes to the size of TAB because the more passionate teens we get, the more spectacular results we will get!

As we recruit new members, it’s super important to get the incoming freshmen on TAB. Freshmen literally have a full four years before they graduate, which means they are more inclined to stick with TAB as they  have a bit more flexibility and availability compared to upper classman who are swamped with AP classes, extracurricular activities, and applying for college.  By taking an interest in lower classman, not only will they find a sense of purpose, they will feel like they a part of something that won’t require tryouts or anything intimidating. However, before we start recruiting like crazy, it’s a good idea to review our applications, guidelines, and procedures just so we can outline what we expect from TAB members.

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Back to (After)School – Building a Positive Environment with a Library Afterschool Crowd – Part 1

 

For some libraries, back to school is more like back to the zoo.

If your public library is in walking distance of a middle or high school, chances are you have what’s known as an “afterschool crowd”–a term uttered as often with alarm as it is with affection. While large groups of teens coming to the library is a gift and incredible opportunity, it can often leave library staff feeling out of control and create friction between Young Adult Services staff and staff from other departments, particularly those who value peace and quiet.IMG_6035 (960x1280)

While I was working on my Master’s of Library and Information Science, I had the pleasure of working for Elizabeth Lynch, the Teen Services Coordinator at Addison Public Library in Illinois. Every day, 60 to 120 kids troop across the street from Indian Trail Middle School to the library in a wave that calls to mind the Invasion of Normandy. The kids are hungry, chatty, sometimes cranky, and full of pent-up energy. Many come from low-income families and their parents work. The library is a safe place for them to stay until they can be picked up.

How do we provide these teens with education, fun, safety, and positive socialization—and keep them from damaging eardrums, property, or our relationships with other patrons and staff? I’ve drawn on my own experiences and advice from Lynch to offer some ideas.

In this post, we will discuss ways to build relationships and empathy, manage noise levels and energy, and work effectively with staff from other departments in your library. In Part 2, we will discuss behavior and discipline.

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Update on the Every Student Succeeds Act

As you probably know, the new federal education bill, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), was passed in December.  Since this is such a huge shift in policy, the law has not actually been implemented yet because state and local education agencies need time to plan for and adjust to the new law.  AASL is developing resources to help school librarians and school library advocates use this in-between time to speak up about the important role school libraries play in the success of students.   Check them out on their web site Continue reading

Speak up for Teens this August

District Days offer the perfect opportunity for legislative advocacy. District Days are a period of time in which Congress is out of session and members of Congress are back in their hometowns. This year, District Days begin on August 1st and end on September 5th. This would be an excellent time for library staff to show elected officials how important libraries are and even get them to visit your library. Members of Congress are always busy in Washington and don’t get many opportunities to visit their local library and really see and understand all the services that libraries provide. It is important that they know this so that they can promote legislation that is beneficial to libraries and teens. If legislators actually see and experience all that libraries do they will be more likely to take action on behalf of libraries and teens. District Days offer library staff and teen patrons the chance to inform members of Congress of their constituents’ needs and help educate them on an issue that they might not know too much about. It can also help forge a relationship with elected officials that would be instrumental in bringing the needs of libraries to the minds of members of Congress, helping them make legislative changes that can only aid teens and libraries.

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YALSA @ ALA Annual 2016: Update on Board Meetings, Discussions & Actions

Hope everyone had a great 4th of July!

As we celebrated our country’s independence last weekend, YALSA, too, has sought to break free from past models of association work and is currently exploring new ways to engage our members that better meet their interests, skills and busy lifestyles.

It was with those #teensfirst  and members’ first ideals in mind that the 2015-2016 YALSA Board approached our work before and during ALA Annual last month as we worked on aligning existing YALSA groups, programs and services with the association’s new Organizational Plan.

Here are some highlights:

– The Board adopted the following consent items, which were items that were discussed and voted on previous to annual, including:

– The Board also approved a more concrete structure to support and revitalize interest groups.

– The Board approved experimenting with new kinds of member engagement opportunities, especially virtual and short-term ones.

As part of its effort to align YALSA’s existing work with the new Organizational Plan, as well as update member engagement opportunities so that they better meet member needs, the Board began a review of all existing member groups at our June meeting.  While the Board was not able complete the review, we did come to decisions about some of the groups.

– The Board agreed that the following committees’ structure and workflow will remain as they currently are:

  • Alex Award Committee
  • Editorial Advisory Board for YALS/YALSAblog
  • Financial Advancement Committee
  • Margaret Edwards Award Committee
  • Mentoring Task Force
  • Michael Printz Award Committee
  • Morris Award Committee
  • Nonfiction Award Committee
  • Odyssey Award Interdivisional Committee
  • Organization and Bylaws Committee
  • The Hub Advisory Board

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REMIX: What’s New At YALSA session, ALA Annual Conference

Are you a member of YALSA?  If you are not, you should be.  YALSA’s newly adopted organizational plan is creating an organization that is “more nimble, more modern and more reflective of the needs of teens and
our members”, according to Past-President, Candace Mack.  The changes in YALSA are daring to imagine a new vision of teen services in any library that serves teens.

On Saturday, at ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, YALSA’s leadership held an informational and focus finding meeting, “What’s New with YALSA” for membership.  Those who attended the session served as a focus group of members who had the opportunity to hear the organizational plan, and then provide feedback about what that plan looks like to them.

The first question posed to the group:  “What opportunities for member engagement do you find most useful?

  • Members were quick to point out that YALSA’s trainings provided wonderful opportunities for meaningful and timely learning.
  • YALSA offered so much to members in terms of grants and awards. Several people in the room indicated that they had applied and received a YALSA grant or award in the past.
  • YALSA’s blogs are all content meaningful, never fluff. Whether a quick glance or an in depth read, a visit to the blogs always provided useful information.
  • Serving on a committee, taskforce, jury, or in an office, afforded them an opportunity to demonstrate and develop leadership opportunities that may not have been available in their workplace.
  • YALSA’s programming at conferences and the YALSA Symposium continue to provide the best quality to dollars spent among all of the affiliates under the ALA umbrella.

The next question for the group: What have you found specifically meaningful about these opportunities?

Webinars and Trainings:  Experienced members pointed out that YALSA’s webinars, trainings, and blogs seem to always provide the timeliest information to address what is going on in their libraries now. Serving the Underserved trainings were timely when services to teens were in question in many libraries in the country.  These trainings provided an advocacy and programming approach for librarians on the front lines to use to demand more for teens.  When those trainings had met their purpose and teen services began to gain a foothold in libraries across the country YALSA was not afraid to say that they had served their purpose and move on. When studies showed that boys reading was lagging behind their female counterparts, YALSA began offering programming ideas and training to draw the young male reader.  In addition, YALSA has never been afraid to embrace our teens and promote equality, diversity, visibility, and inclusion no matter how teens identified themselves or what they may be facing in life.

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