CHICAGO – U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had an informal meeting with the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Board of Directors, newly elected board members and elected leaders from AASL-affiliated state school library organizations on Monday, June 28 during the ALA 2010 Annual Conference. The meeting was scheduled to discuss how school librarians can be included in A Blueprint for Reform, President Obama's plan for revising the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
“School librarians and school library programs are already positioned to lead in the implementation of the five key priorities set out in A Blueprint for Reform,” said Cassandra Barnett in her opening address to Secretary Duncan (Word doc). Barnett identified how school librarians can contribute to the revision of the ESEA. “As teachers, school librarians provide instruction in multiple literacies, technology tools, ethical and responsible use of information and strategies for assessing one’s own learning.”
In his remarks to the AASL leaders, Secretary Duncan thanked school librarians for their commitment to education. He stated that school libraries and school librarians are integral to helping students find their way in the world. “School librarians see the big picture,” said Duncan. However, Secretary Duncan stressed that without the passage of the jobs bill, education would see a level of destruction as never seen before. Schools would find themselves doing a lot more with a lot less.
His remarks to AASL leaders echoed an interview with American Libraries last year, “We recognize the dire straits of tough economic times and the stress the states are under. We don’t want people to take a step backwards and there are all kinds of documented studies that show where you have healthy and strong and vibrant libraries with librarians staffing them that students do better, they read better, their test scores go up,” he said.
Leaders of the association then engaged in a candid and robust question and answer session with Secretary Duncan. In his responses, Secretary Duncan stressed the need for school librarians to advocate at a local and national level for more funding. He said that school librarians need to highlight their exemplary programs and show proof of how they affect a student’s education. Attendees were encouraged to share the extraordinary examples of school librarianship to gain fund.
The session was a boost for leaders of the associations to continue and increase their local and national advocacy for school librarians and their programs. One leader stated, “I’m honored to have been asked to participate in this dialogue.” Many others felt encouraged by Secretary Duncan’s words as a strong indication of his support and understanding of school librarians and their programs.
The American Association of School Librarians, www.aasl.org, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), promotes the improvement and extension of library services in elementary and secondary schools as a means of strengthening the total education program. Its mission is to advocate excellence, facilitate change and develop leaders in the school library field.