President’s Message, February 2009
Library Legislative Day is approaching on February 26th and I have been asked to speak for 5 minutes that morning. I have been trying to decide what I should say to a room full of public librarians, academic librarians, and school library media specialists. Should I talk about the economic crisis and how it has affected us? Should I talk about why we’re important to our respective communities and patrons? Should I relay some of the stories I’ve heard about LMSs doing with little to no funding while at the same time feeling the pressure to contribute to student achievement and better test scores?
Well, as my Dad was fond of saying, all of that is “preaching to the choir.” The library professionals in the room know all of these things. We are living with it every day as we juggle our increasing circulation with our decreasing funds. We are breathing it every day as we bring yet another computer back from the dead just long enough to perform one more time before needing another boost of life support.
It is time for us to stop repeating the message of our importance to each other and start demonstrating it to our administrators, our teachers, and our school community. When Rep. Linder recently said he did not see the need to require a library media specialist in the elementary or middle school it wasn’t because he was being cruel or dismissive. He does not see the need because he does not know what purpose we serve in those schools. When legislators want to “temporarily relax” expenditure controls on media funds it isn’t because they don’t support libraries or information literacy. It’s because they do not know how those funds are applied to direct classroom instruction, curriculum support, and the implementation of information literacy skills. They see a large sum of money with a misunderstanding of what that money is for and it’s just too easy to pick it up for redistribution.
I think our legislators support quality schools and the tools necessary to support a quality curriculum. They want students in Georgia to graduate from high school and be competitive in the nation at large. They want our (and, let’s face it, their) children to be properly educated in an efficient, results-oriented manner. They understand the need to be competitive in math and science hence the proposal for pay increases to fully qualified math and science teachers. Are math and science just doing a better job in the PR department? Well…yes.
What do we do? We advocate! We educate! We stop wringing our hands and hoping the world at large will realize how important we are. We go out and make sure they know where our importance lies. We make a daily effort to influence student success with our particular area of expertise. We certainly need to be competitive in math and science; however, who is going to make sure the math whiz knows how to evaluate information for accuracy? Who is going to teach the student with the scientific mind how to navigate through the countless databases and online sites to find what s/he needs to move forward? More fundamentally, who is going to help those math teachers and science teachers locate the quality resources they need to teach the concepts in the first place?
We are, my librarian friends. We are.
Don’t keep it to yourself.
Until next month…