A couple of Lilead fellows are hard at work writing up a presentation proposal for the AASL conference next November in Phoenix. I really like this conference for a couple of reasons--it's a good mix of theoretical, big-picture ideas and things you can implement immediately, it's big without being too big, and most importantly, it's focused on issues relevant to school librarians. Our practice is so much broader and less technical than that of other library professionals. We often find ourself in the position of having to know a little bit about all the things, rather than knowing everything there is to know about a single aspect of librarianship, and that makes conferences like ALA feel really overwhelming.
As library administrators, we often find ourselves in the positon to need to explain what it is exactly that school library programs actually DO--and tailoring that message to the concerns (and vocabulary!) of each audience. The message the Fellows involved in this planning are most interested in in this post-election world is this:
How are library programs uniquely situated to help our communities develop critical literacy skills necessary to navigate a post-truth world?
If this feels like pavement we've pounded time after time already, it is. But there's a new sense of urgency behind it now. The fact is, even adults are not immune to information overload, filter bubbles, and the preponderance of false news reporting. However, if the recent election has taught us anything, helping people develop and use these skills has to be a partnership--we can't go around telling people they're doing everything wrong without encountering pushback.
What helps school libraries now is that we've spent decades positioning ourselves as educational partners. We're often perceived as nonthreatening, aggressively helpful, and neutral in our support of improving educational opportunities for all students. This is a great place to be working from!
I'm really excited to be fleshing out this proposal alongside a group of library leaders in whom I have the utmost confidence! I know there are other important issues facing school library administrators right now, but for me this is something that has come immediately to the forefront. THIS is why we are working so hard integrating school library programs into state ESSA legislation. THIS is why we are working to get every student in every school access to a certified teacher-librarian. THIS is why we are working to increase funding for access to current, relevant research databases and nonfiction collections. THIS is why we are (still) working to change teacher and administrator perceptions of the school librarian as the tech guru or guardian of the books (or, worse yet, a holdover from the ancient era of print).
And this will be what gives me the courage to keep knocking on the doors of influential people and showing up to the table without an invitation.