It’s not about us

April 7, 2010
We need to get out more.   That is a universally accepted fact in the library world.  My additional point, though, is when we do, we should never talk about libraries.  We shouldn’t talk about how wonderful we are, nor how we are key to the instructional process.   We need to talk about learning, and about students, and about equity, not about libraries.
This train of thought crossed my mind today as my dean sent yet another conference call for papers out to the faculty.   As I read the call,  I realized that yes, I could go to the heartland of Illinois, and I could talk about what I know about making schooling work for all students, and how to use inquiry to educated informed citizens.  I could talk about ways to get and keep students reading, as well as about my current passion for teaching students self-assessment strategies so that they will know how to evaluate information they are receiving. 
I also realized that I can’t go to everything, and I am working on the skill of saying no.  But before I hit DELETE, I thought about how we in libraries will every so often have such perfect aim when it comes to shooting ourselves in the foot.  Sometimes, I hate to say it, school library people act just like sulky teenagers at the dinner table, staying silent and huddled over the food, waiting for someone to notice that they are not engaging in the conversation so that they can complain loudly about being ignored.  Having raised two daughters, I recognize the behavior.    Even with the current conversation about ESEA, we are shouting and demanding that we want to save school libraries.  No, we don’t.   We want to save students.   We want there to be one place in the school where there is a level playing field, and where not affording the latest ipad, ipod, i-whatever doesn’t matter, because resources are abundant and plentiful for all.   It is the only hope some students have. 
One opportunity to make these points are these types of conferences, especially conferences attended by the people we most want to impress, which are those that prepare teachers and principals.  There’s a ton of them.  The American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (  meets every year, as well as scads of other education conferences, attended by higher education types.   Deans and department chairs especially go to AACTE.  If we want a direct line to talk about what pre-service teachers need to know about inquiry and about resources (again, without mentioning the L word), that is where we need to be (if library people are presenting and using library examples,  they will get the message without feeling hit over the head with a big ole power point saying….LIBRARIANS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANYONE ELSE). 
In some ways, that tactic has been very successful at AERA (American Educational Research Association) and the new REISL SIG which is based on school libraries.  In looking ahead to the AERA conference (end of April in Denver), there are REISL juried papers, but there are topics relating to school library research in many other SIGs as well.  Although the SIG must maintain a membership high enough to still be active, we have been able to go mainstream.   When a SIG devoted to issues of poverty in K-12 education has a juried paper relating to equitable access to school libraries, we have scored big.   
 I have a passing interested in school library history, and I was fascinated to learn that even in the early 1900’s, one of the biggest problems of the field was the perception that no one understood our value to the educational process.  So if 100 years of whining hasn’t worked, maybe it’s time to just get over it, and work on the major problems that our students have.  They are being left behind at an alarming rate, and I think our profession has much to offer those interested in making sure that all students learn.  
If you want to see the call that sparked all of this, here it is:  For Call for Proposals and complete information, please visit the conference website at .  

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