I’ve been to a bunch of large conferences in the past month that were focused on the school library and teacher-librarians. These conferences included Internet@Schools West, the School Library Journal Leadership Summit, and the FAME: Florida Association for Media in Education conference. At each event, I met wonderful groups of individuals who were talented, passionate, creative, innovative, and positive about the role of libraries for young learners. They shared their ideas and insights and were working hard to ensure that these diffused throughout the world.
I also saw this passion overflow into real tears, anger, and hand-wringing about the state of staffing, budgets, and resources for libraries. Everyone is worried to the max, and they’re concerned more about the threat of shallow political and financial thinking to the success and futures of their learners than they are about their own positions. And that’s a real indicator of a true profession—one where its role in society comprises the big-picture point of view. This is just like lawyers and medical professionals (doctors, nurses, etc.) who should always care more about civil order and health before their own personal economic interests.
So what to do about the current mess we find libraries who serve learners in?
Here are some suggestions for starters:
Anger is OK. If you turn it inward, then it will only damage your own health. Don’t stop at anger. Move it up a level. Work to use that anger to motivate yourself to do something.
Tears are OK. Tears are the result of our passion for school library programs and frustration at making progress and gaining respect. Capture that passion and mine it for the energy and karma you need to make a difference. Move past tears and grief.
Hand-wringing is OK too. It’s only OK if it forces you to polish up your thoughts and messages about the results and values you represent. Express your worries in groups—virtually and in person. Do it to find your tribe—those who feel the same way you do and are willing to invest time and energy to make things better.
So start from the point of view that you are not alone. Now move forward with these tactics. Do them now and do them fast. The right speed is the speed at which you can move your tribe. Progress is not an event or a goal; it’s a series of steps and missteps that moves us forward. The real effort is in breaking the inertia and staying positive and supportive of each other.
Here are some hints:
1. Find your tribe. It may already exist in a union, state, or national association. Start small and begin encouraging people to join you. But remember, research has shown that it only takes a small committed group to lead the achievement of great things such as civil rights, women’s rights, etc.
This article is available in its entirety in a variety of formats — Preview (free), Full Text, Text+Graphics, and Page Image PDF — on a pay-to-view basis, courtesy of ITI's InfoCentral. CLICK HERE.