Advocating for School Libraries and Librarians is Everyone's Job

By Barbara Begin Campbell

When our Advocacy Committee first met, we agreed that support for school libraries and librarians would be part of our mission. Over the past decade, most states have seen a decrease in funding for school libraries resulting in fewer professional librarians to lead programs and curate collections. School Librarians and Library Media Professionals are certified teachers as well as librarians with specialized knowledge and skills, and are true educational partners, crucial to the success of all students. As political climates and budget priorities change, school libraries and Library Media Centers are often among the first to see cuts. The impact and benefits of vibrant school library programs on student success has been well documented, but often, administrators, school boards, and legislators do not fully understand or appreciate the value.

Patrons at the college level exhibit an increasing lack of basic information literacy skills, such as being able to search a library catalog, determine availability of an appropriate resource, locate scholarly articles in databases, or identify biased or false information on the internet. These skills are important for any college student, but especially for those who plan to become teachers.  Students coming from K-12 schools without strong library programs and professional librarians are at a disadvantage right from the start. As teacher preparation programs send new teachers out into the field, those finding jobs at schools without professional librarians or vibrant school libraries will once again be at a disadvantage.  Lacking guidance, many teachers are unaware of the wonderful, free resources provided to all Michigan residents through the State Library of Michigan and the Michigan e-Library (MeL).  Their services are funded by the Federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), and recently, these programs were in danger of elimination and decreased funding.  

Every voice is needed to support and advocate for school libraries and librarians.  For plentiful information and resources, visit the Advocacy page of the Michigan Association for Media in Education (MAME).  Be attentive to news of legislation and policies which impact K-12 schools and libraries, and when appropriate, reach out to legislators.  The ALA page dedicated to Advocacy, Legislation & Issues and the home page of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) are great places to start.