I was all set to go with a different piece of fan mail when I opened this note from a school librarian. I’ve deleted her name and school district, for the sake of privacy:
It is with much regret that I tell you I will have to cancel your author visit to __________ School District, NJ. Due to our school budget not passing and budgets cuts in May the library program in both of our buildings is being cut. I will not have a position in September. Though, I am fortunate that I can retire. I was looking forward so much to having you be our author for 2009- 2010 for our students and teachers. I know we did not have any specific dates. This is such a hard e-mail for me to write.
___________ Librarian, for now
Well, how do you reply to that? As a small mom & pop operation, I work directly with the teachers and librarians who contact me for visits. We exchange many emails, sometimes talk on the phone. And many times I come away really, really liking these people. More than that, I come to admire them. I see the work they do, their enthusiasm for books, the commitment they have to the children in their schools. In tough economic times, our libraries are more important than ever. It’s insane that’s where we make the first cuts.
I share her letter because she is not at all alone, and her plight effects us all. I’m hearing more and more stories like this one. I want to remind readers, parents, teachers, and librarians alike, of The American Association of School Librarians Crisis Toolkit, which I’ve written about before in a post titled, “Who Needs a Librarian Anyway?”
The Toolkit begins:
If you are looking at the AASL Crisis Toolkit, chances are your program is danger of being reduced or eliminated. This kit is designed to assist you as you build meaningful and effective support for saving your program. That means educating and rallying stakeholders to speak out on behalf of school libraries.
If cuts are not imminent, visit AASL’s School Library Program Health and Wellness page for prevention strategies. The ideal time to start advocacy efforts is before there is a crisis.
The kit is remarkably comprehensive, and includes topics such as “Crisis Planning,” “Crafting Messages,” “Getting People Involved,” “Research,” “Advocacy,” and more. There are also handy links to studies that have found correlations between library programs, media specialists, and test results. One point keeps coming up: Librarians need to communicate with and educate the parents in the community. If you do something great, let people know about it. For too many people, their concept of a school librarian is antiquated and ill-informed. “What does she actually do, anyway?” Well, let ’em know. Send out a newsletter, publicize your programs. If an author visits, invite parents and PTA members to get involved. Share the findings from study after study that links library programs to improved scores on standardized tests. Let them see the important work you do — before it’s too late.
As for the letter above, I mustered this reply:
I’m very sorry to hear about the budget cuts, and your retirement. I’m sorry for the pain and disappointment you now feel. Times are hard and there are very human costs. I believe that things will get better, eventually; in the meantime, I hope that schools make wise choices in their decisions. It seems too easy, and far too short-sighted, to cut librarians and valuable programs from the educational system.
As for me, don’t give it a second thought. Good luck to you — and stay in touch.
NOTE: I wanted to get this out today, because I’ll be away for a few days on a road trip to see the New York Mets. This is the 4th annual trip with a great friend who lives down in NYC. So far we’ve been to Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia — and this year we’re headed for Pittsburgh. Baseball with a buddy always makes me happy.
Thanks for stopping by.