Magazine article CSLA Journal

Teacher Librarians and the Advocacy Road: Working with Local Unions and Task Forces

Magazine article CSLA Journal

Teacher Librarians and the Advocacy Road: Working with Local Unions and Task Forces

Article excerpt

My journey as a teacher librarian (TL) began in 2008 when my professional duties were providing library services full-time at my intermediate school. The start of the next school year brought changes that resulted in library services being reduced to half-time, which translated into being in the library three periods and in a classroom three periods. This plan was soon replaced with the next district library plan: intermediate school TLs were assigned library duties for one period and the other five periods they were assigned to teach in the classroom.

For the next three years, library services followed the 1:5 model until, in May 2013, a district letter stated that TLs would no longer be in the library during the school day for the following school year. So, within a six-year span, the teacher librarian position went from full-time status to library services being provided solely outside of the school day.

Union Support for Teacher Librarians

The funding decisions made by my district (and many others throughout the state) prompted action on behalf of the teacher librarians. In 2008, the union president helped TLs prepare and present a library services document to the school board in an effort to curtail the cutbacks. Unfortunately, that effort did not result in the reinstatement of library services. Since this strategy was not getting the desired results, I decided to begin my advocacy from a different approach. In 2013, I was elected as a union representative for my school site. I had no idea where this new role would lead me, but I was willing to try this route to help create a new library plan for our district.

A Library Task Force is Formed

At the very first union meeting I attended, I was asked about my site's issues. The door was opening sooner than I had predicted! I shared the concern that library services were nonexistent during the school day at each school. In the next month, a union board member contacted me about helping to create a library task force to implement change. This process was edifying because we researched California education codes that relate to school libraries, thoroughly read credential authorizations and the Model School Library Standards (Ong, 2010), and scoured the Common Core State Standards (National Governors Association, 2010) for relevant information to support library staffing.

The union library task force began small by including intermediate TLs, and then expanded to include the high school TLs. Meetings were held to solicit help in researching, gathering support, and creating the document to present to stakeholders. From September to June, I attended all union meetings and was often called upon to speak to union representatives about library services. I never shied away from any impromptu questions or the opportunity to share updates. I had a captive audience willing to learn about library services through their questions.

Task Forces Merge

In January 2014, the district and union library task forces merged together. The new district library task force members included an assistant superintendent, three principals, two teacher librarians, the union president, and the union secretary. This new task force met a few times to discuss the role of teacher librarians, new library services, and ways to support teacher librarians. The members were influential district leaders, willing to listen to new ideas, who wanted to form a vision for "new" library services for the district. What a great opportunity to help make positive changes for the district!

Presenting to the School Board

In the spring of 2014, the union decided to have members speak at a school board meeting. …

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