ALA leaders praise Washington state support for school libraries

Contact: Steve Zalusky

Manager, Communications

ALA Public Information Office

For Immediate Release,

April 8, 2008

ALA leaders praise Washington state support for school libraries

CHICAGO - American Library Association (ALA) leaders are applauding legislators in Washington state for giving financial support to school libraries. Members also called on other states to recognize the value of school libraries and library media specialists.

Recently, Washington legislators passed a compromise supplemental budget that would provide a little more than $4 per pupil for school libraries --- part of a $4 million special appropriation.

Earlier this year, leaders from ALA and one of its divisions, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), were invited to support the efforts of three determined Spokane moms who had worked for almost a year to make school libraries a state funding priority. The moms were troubled by cuts to school library media programs, including a Spokane school board’s decision to close a budget deficit by cutting in half the hours of 10 full-time, K-8 teacher librarians employed by Washington’s second-largest district.

The moms, Susan McBurney, Lisa Layera Brunkan and Denette Hill, formed a grassroots organization, the Washington Coalition for School Libraries and Information Technology, starting a Web site,, and collecting more than 5,000 signatures on a petition to pressure state legislators to support a bill that would increase funding for school libraries. They also partnered with Washington Library Media Association, Washington Library Association, ALA and other key groups.

In February, ALA members and staff attended a summit and rally to discuss the key issues facing school library funding. They included ALA President Loriene Roy, AASL President Sara Kelly Johns, AASL Executive Director Julie Walker, ALA Office of Library Advocacy Director Marci Merola and ALA Public Information Office Manager of Media Relations Macey Morales.

"I am delighted that progress has been made and remain optimistic that the Washington state legislature will continue to do the right thing and recognize the important role played by school library media specialists, setting an example for other states to follow," Roy said.

Despite the disparity between a Senate version that would have allocated $12 million and the final bill, the coalition was “exhilarated” by the funding made available by the state legislature, according to a report in American Libraries.

The report said the leaders of the Washington Coalition for School Libraries and Information Technology are now working with members of the state legislature’s Joint Task Force on Basic Education Finance to get the importance of fully staffed school libraries inserted into Washington state’s definition of what constitutes a basic education.

"Beyond the funding for school libraries, this legislation is tangible proof to parents that grassroots efforts work,” AASL Executive Director Walker said. “The journey of the Spokane moms is one of the most inspiring efforts I have encountered in my career."

The group has been in contact with grassroots movements that support school library revitalization and are springing up in such states as Arizona, California and Oregon.

AASL President Johns said, “We are pleased that the Washington state legislature has responded to the efforts of the dedicated parent advocates, members of the Washington Library Media Association and supporters of the Washington coalition.”