Rugged Individualists Making Common Cause; Access to Excellence Was the Theme - Empowerment for School Library Media Specialists within ALA May Have Been the Outcome

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Access to Excellence was the theme - empowerment for school library media specialists within ALA may have been the outcome ...

School Librarians, most of whom work in one-profession shops, are librarianship's rugged individualists. So it was fitting that the biennial meeting of the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) took place in Salt Lake City, a sparkling place carved from a harshly beautiful environment by other rugged individualists.

Some 2,400 attendees met Oct. 18-22 and relished the wide-ranging contacts with peers, addresses by well-known speakers, hundreds of exhibits, dozens of programs, and building political influence within ALA and with legislators.

Access to Excellence was the theme - empowerment of school library media specialists within ALA may have been the outcome of the gathering at the Salt Palace.

Forty-five percent of the registrants were attending their first AASL function; some 25% weren't AASL members. Ann Weeks, AASL executive director, sees those numbers as an opportunity - for rapid growth of an already large ALA division that will translate into political clout. Evidence of burgeoning political interest could be seen in the ubiquitous styrofoam boater hats with the legend "90% in '90" on the band, referring to a hoped-for AASL vote for ALA officers.

Common cause at WHCLIS II

Four programs focused on pressing the school library agenda at the 1991 White House Conference on Library and Information Science. In the opener, Eileen Cooke, executive director of ALA's Washington office, told conferees effective lobbying was essentially effective public relations work and noted that parts of 55 of 64 resolutions developed at WHCLIS I (1979) have been adopted.

In later sessions, library leaders including Virginia Mathews, Shoe String Press vice president, led discussions to develop an issues agenda to be championed by state groups. Equality of access to school libraries and literacy programs for immigrants topped the list.

"Great ideas - in three minutes"

Charming evidence of the school librarians' individualism was on display at "Great Ideas in Three Minutes (or Less)," which featured more than two dozen presenters each given three minutes to explain a practical idea to the audience. They came so fast it wasn't possible to identify them. As soon as one suggested using chlorine bleach on unwanted filmstrips to clear filmstock for students to create their own, another appeared, apparently carrying an infant. She explained that "books, like babies, require care."

"Would you leave your baby brother out in the rain? Would you write on him with a crayon, or let your dog chew on him?" she asks elementary school students during their first visit to the library. When they answer no, the librarian uncovers the "baby" and produces a book.

Still another recommended having students "adopt a shelf," noting that her students developed proprietary attitudes about maintaining orderly shelves.

"Kids who read succeed!"

National Endowment for the Humanities Chair Lynne V. Cheney had to be good not to be upstaged by several speakers who preceded her.

In welcoming remarks, James Moss, Utah Superintendent of Public Instruction, made the most graceful connection with librarianship this reporter has ever heard from a nonlibrarian. Calling libraries a "joyous workshop of learning," he linked his audience to the monks who crafted the Book of Kells.

Following Moss, ALA President-elect Dick Dougherty spoke of his presidential emphasis on literacy, offering the slogan "Kids who read succeed!"

Lynne Cheney is a pro and wasn't upstaged. Her remarks touched on the NEH report 50 Hours, which offers a humanities core curriculum for college students and "boring" school textbooks. …