Thursday, January 5, 2012

ASLA Twitter Chat Review 1/3/2012

Read my @Storify story: "ASLA Twitter Chat ReCap: 1/3/2012"


*Disclaimer: This post is not necessarily a recap of the ASLA Twitter Chat session, but an opinion piece on the topic discussed.

Funding woes was the topic of discussion this past Tuesday evening.  This topic is of particular concern to librarians in the state of Alabama as we have been in pro ration for the past four years.  For the last four years the Alabama State Department of Education has allocated $0 for school libraries.  It should be kept in mind that Alabama State Department of Education funds for school libraries have always been intended to supplement library budgets allocated by local school districts.  Thus, if your school library (in Alabama) has not been funded for the last four years, the first line of defense should be within your own school.
The Improving Literacy Through School Libraries is the only the only federal program exclusively for school libraries and is designed to boost academic achievement by providing students with access to up-to-date school library materials and Congress voted not to fund the program in FY2011.  While ALA is calling on Congress to restore support for libraries as the FY2012 budget debate continues.

Depending on ALA, AASL, ASLA or legislative action to protect libraries is short sited and the least effective strategy for improving budget woes.  The building and maintaining of relationships have the greatest impact, negatively or positively, locally and nationally. It is through these relationships that advocacy for our programs naturally occur.  One parent telling a school board how important he thinks the library program is to his child is more powerful than a dozen AASL brochures. One teacher willing to tell the principal that library services have helped her class be more successful secures library funding better than any mandate. One community group that works with school libraries to build information literacy skills is more effective than any set of state or national standards. But the kicker is that we need to make sure we build the kind of relationships with parents, teachers and the community that are strong enough that members of these groups will speak on our behalf.” 

So what can you do? 

Know your patrons. If the local school board were to vote to replace you (the certified librarian) with an aide or to close the library what reaction would your teachers, students, parents have regarding this decision?  Would they advocate for the library program or not care one way or another?

Shamelessly self promote.  Leverage social media and the Web.  While school librarians don't commonly brag on their achievements, detailing what you do via an online presence is essential in this economic climate.  Make sure your community knows what you provide. Build an identity that exemplifies a clear, stated mission.  Invite parents, community leaders, school board members, city council representatives, and local and state politicians to events at your library. 
Step up the tech.  If you are not the leader in your school where technology is concerned you MUST change or become obsolete.   "So start small," advises Gwyneth Jones, a librarian at Murray Hill Middle School in Laurel, MD, and ISTE board member. Whether it's building a wiki or a blog for your library [or embracing new technologies like eBooks and cloud computing], “It's time to put on our big girl or big guy panties" and make that change.”
Know where your school district’s money comes from. Schools get funding from a variety of sources. The percentage that any one of these sources contributes to a budget can widely vary from state to state, and even from district to district. But nearly all public schools get some funds.  If media and technology programs are to be viewed as core to the educational process, then funding for them should be from the regular school budget, not dependent on state budgets.
Learn about your district’s budget and who controls the budget.  Establish a solid, positive relationship with this person. Volunteer or run for governing committees. 
Learn how to write an effective budget. Too often budgets have relied on state or national standards as a rationale for funds for resources and collection building. Rely instead on a budget which is justified because it supports the specific needs of your individual curricula, students, and teachers. The fact that Mrs. Green’s science students need more current and varied resources for their solar system unit will carry more weight that any state rule or national standard.
Work with other groups and participate in local politics.  Offer to give short talks at service groups like Kiwanis, Sertoma, and Lions. Inform the community about your program, and fill the talk with specific times your program helped individual students.
Remember, in the end that it isn’t the budget we prepare or the technology we use… "Every element of librarianship comes back to the human experience. “

Congress Denies Federal Funding for School Libraries in FY2011." School Library Journal. 15 Apr. 2011. Web. 05 Jan. 2012. <>.
Ishizuka, Kathy. "Tech Trends: ISTE 2011: Don Your 'Big Girl Panties'" School Library Journal. 11 July 2011. Web. 05 Jan. 2012. <>.
Johnson, Doug. "Budgeting for Mean Lean times." Blue Skunk Blog. Nov.-Dec. 1995. Web. 05 Jan. 2012. <>.
Johnson, Doug. "4 Rules of Library Advocacy." Doug Johnson's Blue Skunk Blog. 12 Sept. 2011. Web. 05 Jan. 2012. <>.

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