As I read the articles submitted for this issue, I have to admit that I felt a rush of happiness and excitement. For years (even before the economic downturn of the late 2000s), school librarian positions have been on the line. For the entire time I've been in school libraries, the conversation every spring has been around budget cuts. Positions lost, materials budget slashed, etc. The list was long and the conversation was depressing.
Over the course of my career, I've gone from being full time in one building to part time in two places. I've lost support staff. I've had my library materials funding cut. While I had the good fortune to work in places that mostly supported school libraries, even we were not immune from the spring ax. None of these are ever happy places to be in. I was mad, I was angry, and I was disappointed. Sometimes these losses opened the door to new opportunities—but that's a conversation for another day.
However, the stories from Michigan and Montana in this issue were so encouraging. The teams working there are demonstrating just what school libraries are about. They are working their political advocacy by building relationships. They are latching on to the initiatives in their states and demonstrating how school libraries can and should play a critical role. Do they have further to go in their journey—of course. However, they made the first critical step. They started.
As a leader in professional organizations, for years I've heard that the organization should be working to do this, or the organization should be working to do that. Honestly, most of the time the organizations are already doing this or that. Professional organizations have advocacy at their heart. But, typically when I've heard those comments, I've asked. Are you a member? Because member dollars allow organizations to focus on this or that. You can't complain or celebrate about what an organization does if you don't belong. The next question would be what are you doing to help? Organizations are only as strong as when their members come together and use their voices to speak! Reading the stories from Michigan and Montana, you can see that happening.
So, I know what you are thinking! I'm just a building-level person, what could I do? First and foremost, make sure you are working on building the best school library you possibly can within any restraints you have. Making sure that people see what school libraries should be about is so important in helping to paint a picture about why they are critical. Then, make sure the stakeholders in your area are aware of what you are doing. Connect with your administrators, school board members, and your legislators. Invite them in. Let them see the good things happening in your library and why your students deserve the access they have (and maybe start to campaign for what they don't have!).
Then, make sure you are active in your professional organization. Be a member, be involved, participate in library legislative days, and be an active voice for the field. Even when it isn't your program (or even your type of library) on the line, we are a community. We need to support each other and an attack on any type of library is an attack on us all.
Finally, don't assume someone else will step forward. You can't wait for someone else to be out there speaking for libraries. Pick up the mantle and lead the way. The skills you develop in advocating for libraries will only help make you a better librarian for your students and staff. Let's continue to hear more stories like the ones from Michigan and Montana from all fifty states.