I’m glad to hear that my fellow graduate student Angela Larkin is ready and willing to be an outspoken advocate for libraries.Her article, Advocacy, Neutrality and Getting Political came at a time when grass roots advocacy is on an upswing, in part fueled by the energy of the Women’s March in January. I love the image she shared, with a protest marcher holding the sign, “You know things are messed up when librarians start marching.” Why is that such a funny and ironic statement? Because librarians are not known for standing up and speaking out publicly, rather they are guardians of privacy, helpful but quiet, and more in love with keeping things quiet and orderly than embracing the chaos of activism and democracy.
She brings in references from a School Library Journal article that librarians are not neutral. (Eckert 2016) In carrying out our work with book selection, protecting the civic rights of our patrons, guarding privacy and defending intellectual freedom, there are many times when we are called to be advocates in our practice of collection development, program management, and operations.
I agree with Larkin’s stance that while it is very important for librarians to speak up for their programs at the school site and district level, professionals need to engage much higher up in the political system. By participating at this policy and budget allocation level, their efforts may have a more widespread and systematic impact.
I had the unique opportunity to engage in political advocacy this week. I have a part time job working as parent organizer for Common Sense Kids Action. Yesterday I brought a van of parents and teens to Sacramento to visit lawmakers in their offices and advocate for a new Senate bill- The Bill of Rights for Children and Youth (SB18). When we visited the office of Senator Bill Dodd, he asked what we thought about his new draft legislation SB-135 which aims to change education code and require that media literacy be taught in schools and media literacy professional development be provided to teachers, from grades 1-12.
I took the opportunity to thank the Senator for his desire to include this in the state standards, and suggested that we allow trained teacher librarians to be the ones to head up this charge, in collaboration with the social studies teachers he specified in the language. I explained that this is exactly what we as teacher librarians are trained to teach, and I also expressed how California been behind other states, with the lowest number of teacher librarians in the country –roughly one for every 7,187 students. I suggested that his bill might include language to strengthen library media programs and teacher preparation across the state. I also believe that including and modeling an integration of library understanding of how teachers collaborate with their school’s library media services need to be part of the basic teaching credential programs as well.
I know my advocacy on this issue cannot stop there, it is just a beginning. I need to send him a follow-up thank you note for considering my request. I need to keep track of the progress on this bill and advocate for libraries to other lawmakers who may be working on the bill – especially members of the Senate education committee who will indeed be reviewing and revising the details. I need to tell other library professionals about this bill and ask them to reach out to political leaders too. All that must happen while working my job back at the school library. That’s what it takes! Collectively, we can get noticed and hopefully make a difference.
Bill of Rights for Children and Youth, S. 18, 2017-2018 (Cal.). Retrieved from https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB18
Eckert, C. (2016, August 12). Libraries are not neutral. School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2016/08/opinion/libraries-are-not-neutral-opinion/
Larkin, A. (2017, February 12). Learning Journal Post 2: Advocacy, Neutrality, and Getting Political [Blog post]. Retrieved from Call Number Ninja website: https://callnumberninja.wordpress.com/2017/02/12/learning-journal-post-2-advocacy-neutrality-and-getting-political/
Pupil Instruction; Media Literacy, S. 135, 2017-2018 (Cal.). Retrieved from https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180SB135
Statistics about California school libraries. (n.d.). Retrieved from California
Department of Education website: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/