Posts tagged ‘advocacy’

Name Change from Media Specialist to School Librarian- moving forward?

by April Bunn, Media Specialist, Teacher-Librarian, School Librarian


The American Association of School Librarians (AASL)  decided to change our job title. We’re going to be called School Librarians… again.

The board of directors voted for the change at  January’s  midwinter meeting in Boston. The response has been heated.

Response to the news:

What’s in a Name?, LearnCentralWebinar

Nancy White’s Calling All School Librarians!

Cathy Nelson’s Techno Tuesday

School Library Journal

Many feel this name change represents a loss in a long-standing battle with our image . University of Washington I School professor and school library advocate  Mike Eisenberg responds, “To me, it’s retro – conjuring black and white images of stereotypical 1950s librarians.”

My first response is one of fear.  Taking the words ” media specialist” out of my title will just give the powers that be (Board of Ed. or the state) more juice to eliminate my job. Public and academic libraries have held on to the traditional title without change through the years, so what’s the difference? In schools, we’re in a crises of unknown identity- Administration still doesn’t know exactly what we do.

“Branding” the Name and the Space

In New Jersey we are School Library Media Specialists- at least that’s what’s listed on our teaching certificates- but not necessarily the name listed in our outdated job descriptions and contracts. In other places the most common title is Teacher-Librarian. In a power-house packed webinar, called What’s in a Name?Mike Eisenberg encouraged us to find a consistent “brand” in what we do. Our librarians, our spaces, and our local and national organizations all have different names (i.e., Media Center, School Library, Information Center).  In the Garden State, we were ahead of ourselves when the Educational Media Association became the New Jersey Association of School Librarians in 2006, to match the national organization of AASL, and help people understand who we are. Maybe we just didn’t see that this change was always in our future?

Do we need the word “Teacher”?

As an elementary teacher, I would prefer to have “teacher” (Teacher-Librarian) in the title, but either way, it’s a “kinder and gentler” name for what I do- Media Specialist was always a foreign concept to young children.  It also coordinates much better with my colleagues in public and academic libraries.

What do we do?

The problem continues to be that the public doesn’t understand all that we do in a 21st Century learning environment. As a single-operator school librarian,  I wear every hat, from traditional storytelling and book searches to Web 2.0 infused lessons,  and I work every day to keep my program afloat and dynamic.

In an effort to include advocacy in this post, I looked for a good job description for our position. I like this one, by Sara Kelly Johns, President of AASL (and currently running for ALA President), describing our essential (and varied) role in the school-

Media Specialists:

  • work with educators to design and teach curriculum
  • create curriculum and promote an engaging learning experience tailored to the individual needs of students
  • evaluate and “produce” information through the active use of a broad range of tools, resources, and information technologies
  • provide access to materials in all formats, including up-to-date, high-quality, varied literature to develop and strengthen the love of reading
  • provide students, educators, and staff with instructional materials that reflect current information needs.

Budget Cuts  & Lost Jobs

If the state and school boards really understood what we do, they wouldn’t approve massive job eliminations during budget cuts, like the local situation in Woodbridge, where they eliminated all the elementary school librarians, serving 16 schools,  in a massive budget cut this year (by the way, in that article, they called them “librarians”).

If there is a person in the position of school librarian who is indispensible, making an impact (and showing it!) on student achievement, creating a culture of collaboration, and being a leader in the integration of 21st century skills – whether that person is called a school librarian, library media specialist, or teacher-librarian – they will survive this and any future budget crisis.

– Nancy White, on CASL’s blog

Advocacy tools:

I love my job, no matter what the name or the place is called. I pledge to continue to work as hard as I can to keep my board and community aware of what I am doing as Media Specialist, Librarian, or Teacher-Librarian in our Media Center, School Library, or Information Center.

School Libraries Work!-outstanding resource,  including research statistics on the impact of school libraries on student achievement.

NJASL Advocacy Wiki– great resource, including procedures and contacts divided into areas of concern

I hope we can save ourselves before it’s too late, and stop this nonsense of cutting positions that are essential in the 21st Century.


February 20, 2010 at 8:09 am

Advocate in 2008 – Wait, don’t tune me out!

You might think this doesn’t really apply to you, or that it won’t really affect you, or (most likely) that you do care but you don’t have time for it . . . but the truth is, we all must be advocates for libraries all the time, especially here in NJ, and what better time than 2008?

2008 provides us with the easily rhyme-able number 8 and is a “great” year that provides us with many ways to call for action:

Advocate in ’08!
Be Great in ’08!
Communicate in ’08!
Demonstrate in ’08!

Personally, I really love all of these, but we have to do much more than just come up with cute rhyming mottoes.

I know you have been bombarded with information about contacting Governor Corzine’s office to request that the New Jersey Knowledge Initiative (NJKI) be fully funded. As you probably know, NJKI was funded for $3 million dollars. Then, it lost $1 million of it’s funding. If it isn’t fully funded we will lose it on February 29. BUT PLEASE, stick with me here.

By now, you have all seen this:

Special Message from New Jersey Knowledge Initiative staff:
“Access to RefUSA (and other databases) may end on February 29, 2008 due to a cut in state funding for the NJ Knowledge Initiative. To help keep this resource for NJ, please call Governor Corzine’s office at (609) 292-6000 and ask that the Knowledge Initiative be fully funded for 2008.”

You might not think it really matters if you call. You may think this really isn’t your fight – that this is for the State Library and for NJLA and Pat Tumulty and others to do. Well, this IS all of our fight and making a phone call DOES matter and only takes literally about two minutes.

You pick up your phone and dial the number. Someone answers. You literally say, “I am calling to request that the Knowledge Initiative be fully funded.” The person says okay I’ll put down the message. You say thank you and hang up. THAT IS IT. I’m not kidding. I don’t mean to be condescending, but sometimes it is the simplest things that we don’t do.

For those of you who have placed the call, and I know there are many of you, thank you! I also appreciate everyone who has echoed my testimony that this is a very quick and simple thing to do.

Does it matter if you do this or not? Well, yes. They are counting all the calls. I personally have always believed that one person can make a difference. I can’t promise that your call will be the one to put us over the top, or that this phone campaign will definitely work, but I personally would feel terrible if I didn’t call at least once and we lost the New Jersey Knowledge Initiative.

Do you know what NJKI is?

There is information here. There is also an article from the Daily Targum that is very informative here. Also, SJRLC Connections provides a lot of good information. You can find information from NJLA and the New Jersey State Library.

You might think if you don’t work in or use an academic library, a special library, a scientific or business environment or governmental agency that this doesn’t matter. If you work in a public library, you probably use and know the popularity and value of at least ReferenceUSA. If you work in a school library you may not use the resources of the NJKI. Does this mean you don’t need to call? No, saying that this isn’t a resource you use and so you can ignore these pleas is like the old refrain, “First they came for the Communists, but I wasn’t a Communist so I did nothing.” We all know how that ends. (I know, it’s controversial and possibly incorrect, but….you get my meaning here.)

Now, I am not picking on school libraries – many school library staff have called, and this may sound extreme, but if we do not learn how to, and commit to, doing a better job of speaking up about our value, we literally will not be around anymore.

Even after this NJKI challenge passes – whether we win or lose – there will always be other issues to face. Please think about the ways in which you can become a true advocate for libraries in 2008.

Hopefully, we’ll be able to say Celebrate in ’08 and beyond!

January 6, 2008 at 10:01 pm

Support Emergency Legislation to Remove Municipal Libraries from the Levy Cap . . .

Go! Do it! NOW!

Support emergency legislation to remove municipal libraries from the levy cap . . . THERE IS A VOTE TOMORROW!

I just wanted to share the link to look up your legislator – it is EASY! You can look on the right side by alphabetical list, municipality, district, etc…

You get your district and you click on that to see the people and contact info.

I JUST CALLED them – I have always e-mailed in these cases but today I CALLED because I had just been in one of the webinars on WebJunction for the Spanish Language Outreach Program with some people who talked about advocating.

It only took me about 5 minutes!
The people are nice!
They want these calls.

I identified myself as a librarian living and/or working in the district and asked for them to support the emergency legislation to remove municipal libraries from the levy cap. I said there is a vote tomorrow.

They already knew what I was talking about!
They took my name and seemed very interested to hear from me.

You either leave a message or talk to an assistant who takes the information.

REALLY – it took me less than five minute total for me to call three people!


Original message from Pat Tumulty:


We need your assistance right now to contact your NJ State Senators. Not tomorrow. Right now. Please ask your state senator to support emergency legislation which would allow an adjustment to levy cap calculations for local public library funding.When the new municipal cap levy legislation was passed this year, municipal libraries were included as part of the calculation for the levy cap.

This, unfortunately, created an inequity for the 245 communities which support municipal libraries. Communities which support county libraries have library expenditures excluded from the municipal levy because county libraries are funded by a dedicated tax and, therefore, outside the levy cap.

New Jersey League of Municipalities, the New Jersey Library Association and the NJ State Library have been working for a month on what we hoped would be a solution to this issue by adding language to state budget bill. Unfortunately, we were told last Friday, that this solution would not work and that we would need legislation. We must correct this inequity before July 1 because urban communities begin a new budget year on that date and would become subject to the levy cap. All other communities will be impacted with the budgets beginning on Jan. 1, 2008.

The Assembly, under the leadership of Assembly Majority Leader Bonnie Watson Coleman, will consider emergency legislation to exempt municipal libraries from the cap legislation TOMORROW- Thursday, June 21.

We have every indication that there is support for this legislation.We are less certain of Senate approval, and we have learned that the Senate will cancel next week’s scheduled meetings and recess for the Summer. Therefore, it is imperative that this legislation pass tomorrow.

We must have this emergency legislation enacted in the Senate before the Legislature goes on summer break. Please contact your State Senator’s legislative office today and tell them you support emergency legislation to remove municipal libraries from the levy cap and that it must be enacted before summer recess.

Pat Tumulty, Executive Director
New Jersey Library Association

June 20, 2007 at 1:31 pm 2 comments

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