…and the horse you rode in on
I was in Perry, Georgia last week for the Region XII Arabian Horse Show. My daughter and I qualified for regionals on our horse, MWF Ultimate, so we were excited to be there. My daughter is a beautiful rider with nerves of steel and she confidently rides “Timmy” into the arena with 19 other horses. I, on the other hand, am a somewhat nervous rider and I always breathe a sigh of relief when I find out that my “49 and over” age-group class has less than 15 riders. It’s not that I don’t know how to ride because I do. It’s not that my horse is not a contender because he is. It’s because I am a worrier by nature and I’m always thinking about all the things that could go horribly wrong while I’m stuffed into a pair of skin-tight riding jods and a dress shirt with a strangling hunt collar. Not pretty.
Well, I rode into the arena with 13 other riders for the championship. I did a decent job with a few minor mistakes but I felt pretty good about myself and my horse’s performance. The judges did not agree. My number didn’t make it onto the board, much less onto a judge’s card. I went out with a smile on my face, though. Why? Because I faced my fear, did the best I thought I could do, and came out still in the saddle – three good things. It wasn’t enough for a ribbon but, for now, it’s enough for me.
Now I’m sure you’re wondering what this has to do with libraries. Perhaps very little but when I thought about that show and then thought about this past Legislative session I saw some parallels. For one, the competition for funding this year was tough. The pie was significantly smaller but it still had to feed the same number of programs. While we did not see a per-pupil reduction we did see our funding rolled into the general operating budget – thus disappearing for many, many libraries across our state. The legislators I spoke with believed that system administrators would not actually re-route their media centers’ money. They did not believe that expenditure controls currently in place are being routinely ignored either but you and I both know that is not the case. It did not matter that we rode in on a beautiful horse and that our talking points were on target – we didn’t make it to the final round and all our hard work seemed for naught.
I’m disappointed that we worked as hard as we did to get the word out to our administrators, our supervisors, our teachers, and our parents and the uproar fell on deaf ears. I’m angry that there is constant pressure on teacher-librarians to prove that we are educators and to prove that we have an impact on student achievement. I’m dumbfounded when I see that media center budgets and staffing are consistently on the chopping block when our governments begin looking for places to save money.
I don’t know about you but I am not one to go home with my tail tucked between my legs. If I don’t get what I want I try a little harder next time. I’m not going to sell my horse to a Girl Scout Camp and I’m not going to throw up my hands, say “oh, well,” and stop fighting for recognition, respect, and funding in Georgia’s school libraries. It’s the right thing to do – and I need your help. Don’t sit back and wait for others to do the work for you, my library friends. Every single librarian that works in a Georgia public school needs to step out of the comfort zone and start being the squeaky wheel. If we remain silent for fear of losing our jobs then, I believe, we will quietly lose them.
Sign up for Summer Institute and help librarians from all over the state align Information Literacy Skills with GPS. Make time to attend COMO XXI to learn something new that you can bring back to your school. Volunteer to be a judge at the State Media Festival to see what students are doing with, in many cases, some very basic equipment. Sponsor a Reading Bowl Team. Show up to Leadership Team meetings whether you were invited or not. Show up to grade and department level meetings with a notebook in your hand and a smile on your face. Invite your principal to have lunch with you in your media center once a month and build some rapport that may go a long way towards getting to deliver the program you want. Whether you’re a proven dynamo or a fledgling that is a little bit afraid to fly you need to take a hard look at yourself and your program to see where you can plug in something new. I know it isn’t easy but excellence doesn’t come that way.
I’m stepping off the soapbox now. The legislative season is over; however, show season is not. I’m going to spend the summer reading Toni Buzzeo’s new book about collaboration and working with media specialists on aligning Info Lit and GPS and reading Librarians as Learning Specialists and looking at CRCT data for holes to plug. Then I’m going to get on my horse and see if I can figure out how to improve our partnership so I can ride into an arena full of horses and know that we are going to shine. Practice makes perfect.