April is School Library Month for our neighbours to the south in the United States, and the American Library Association (ALA) and its division, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) are sharing some wonderful materials and using effective approaches to share the message. Here are some highlights.
Libraries Change Lives
ALA President Barbara Stripling has made Libraries Change Lives her presidential initiative for 2013-2014. Stripling frames the initiative around three principles of transformative practice: literacy, community engagement, and innovation. Part of the initiative is the Declaration for the Right to Libraries, which frames access to libraries as an essential element of a democratic society. Using resources in ALA’s toolkit, signing ceremonies are being held across the country, and the declaration has inspired several state and local initiatives, as shared on the I Love Libraries website.
Declaration for the Right to School Libraries
The AASL’s Declaration for the Right to School Libraries parallels the ALA declaration, and is being used to inspire School Library Month activities across the country. Community members are being encouraged to sign the declaration, and the AASL is aggregating the responses.
The declaration states, “As school libraries are essential to 21st-century education, we declare and affirm our right to quality school libraries.” It goes on to elaborate on the following key points.
- empower the individual
- support literacy and lifelong learning
- strengthen families
- are the great equalizer
- protect our right to know
- strengthen our nation
- advance research and scholarship
- preserve our nation’s cultural heritage
State of America’s Libraries
The ALA recently published its 2014 report on the State of America’s Libraries. A significant portion of the report is dedicated to school libraries, reporting on the real threats to programs in the current context, but focusing on the potential and promise that school libraries hold for meeting the evolving needs of students and fulfilling larger goals in education, and highlighting relevant success stories. The full report is worth reading, and serves as a model for positive advocacy, connecting potential with community aspirations.
The Library Ecosystem
In an editorial in the Huffington Post (Our Library Ecosystem Is Under Threat), Barbara Stripling calls on the entire library community to recognize that all types of libraries contribute to fulfilling these community aspirations. “Under this view of a library ecosystem, all types of libraries work together to deliver learning opportunities for people of all ages. However, a threat to to one part of the system stresses the entire system.”
The ALA’s bold approach is to be admired. It positions the library as an essential element of a democratic society, makes strong connections to how various library types connect to the goals of their constituent communities, and puts the onus clearly on libraries and librarians to lead relevant change.