Most of us fondly recall a school librarian from our childhood. Maybe that person pointed us to a book that expanded our world. Maybe she or he shushed us, teaching respect for the silent spaces where serious thinking can happen without distraction. National School Librarian Day is April 4 and is a terrific opportunity to spotlight the role, recall our gratitude, and pay it forward.
The day is part of School Library Month sponsored by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) during the entire month of April. This year’s spokesperson for the event is New York Times best-selling author of young adult books Jason Reynolds, who notes that “there’s a good chance the coolest person in the building works where the books are.” He also makes the astute observation that in addition to their ability to point students to books and reference materials, “librarians also usually have the ability to connect with students on a personal level, because, well, they’ve read the most stories, which makes their potential for empathy and openness ceiling-less.”
Reynolds’ charming biography on Amazon, says, “What Jason knows is that there are a lot—A LOT—of people, young, old, and in-between, who hate reading. He knows that many of these book haters are boys. He knows that many of these book-hating boys, don’t actually hate books, they hate boredom.” His 2017book Long Way Down was a Newbery Honor Book, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book, and a Printz Honor Book, and was longlisted for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.
As suggested by his comments, a skilled, enthusiastic school librarian has plenty of tips and techniques for countering boredom. For example, Tamiko Brown was selected as School Library Journal’s 2017 School Librarian of the Year. The Journal notes that Brown, inspired by a student Maker Faire hosted by President Obama at the White House in 2014,” took students to a Houston Maker Faire and then hosted one at her STEM magnet school in 2015. (According to makerfaire.com Maker Faire is “a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity, and resourcefulness.”) Brown then became “the district’s first elementary librarian to create collaborative learning spaces” and also integrated maker space and STEM activities into daily library and classroom programming with mobile maker space carts” that teachers can check out. “For kids to learn outside of school hours, Brown designed initiatives including a Minecraft club and take-home maker space kits.”
That vision, imagination, and expanded role are increasingly part of the job title today. Two years ago, Sari Feldman and Julie Todaro, wrote “Librarians in the Digital Age: A Response to the Wall Street Journal Column,” for American Libraries Magazine. They enthusiastically noted that “Rather than being pushed aside by the information revolution, our public libraries alone continue to host more than 1.5 billion visits annually—or about 4 million per day. Our school and academic libraries are destinations for millions of students daily for research and information literacy assistance from expert librarians.”
Still, despite significant responsibilities, “A Perfect Storm Impacts School Librarian Numbers,” by Debra Kachel, published in the School Library Journal, March 16, reports that a confluence of national, state, and local/school district issues have contributed to school librarian cuts.
According to Kachel, trends affecting numbers include, to name a few, changes in national school accreditation programs, reduced enrollment and cuts in university school librarian certification programs, the erosion of state funding of schools, and school officials who “tend to have little knowledge of the research correlating quality school library programs and certified librarians with improved student achievement, including higher reading, writing, and graduation rates…”
But you know how important school librarians are, so help cheer on one near you. First, if you know a fantastic school librarian, nominations for the 2018 SLJ School Librarian of the Year close May 21. Here’s information on the application process. Also, through April 10, with any schoolzone.com cart over $25 get a free copy of the adorable Jog, Frog, Jog storybook to share with your child’s school library.
Toot your school librarian’s horn, and toss a little confetti. This is one time to avoid being quiet in the library!