Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fund School Libraries!

I got this e-mail yesterday from the ladies at (the 3 moms from Spokane fighting to save school libraries), and I thought as library supporters, you might be interested in this issue.  FYI, the district in discussion is the one where I work. Take action and save our school libraries!

Dear Library and Information Literacy Supporters-

Thank you for speaking up for school libraries, teacher-librarians and 21st century skills; we now number over 11,000 who believe this institution, its stewards, and what they teach are vital to our students and our collective future.  This effort was launched by 3 Moms in Spokane but is sustained by your willingness to engage — as many of you who have been early supporters may remember, you were dubbed by an Olympia insider as a 'citizens' army.'

The notion that libraries could be headed towards extinction and that teacher librarians remain  'highly endangered' became all too real over the last 24 hours.  A parent volunteer in Federal Way recently noticed that plans for the new Lakota Middle School did not include a library.  What has been proposed? A 'librateria', a multipurpose area that would serve as both the library and the cafeteria. Why has this happened? Lack of funding.

In 2006, full-time certificated teacher-librarians in Federal Way were reduced to part-time, resulting in some of the worst ratios in the country.  Twenty-two of the 23 elementary schools were reduced to half-time librarian services.  All 11 middle and senior high schools reduced services of a certified teacher-librarian to only one day a week.   These reductions have led to the following current ratios:

-1 elementary teacher-librarian: approx. 800-1000 students
-1 middle/high school teacher-librarian: approx. 4,000-4,800 students

Due to parent and student concern, a community meeting has been planned for tonight (Thursday, 10/23) at the Lakota Middle School at 6:30 p.m. -- 1415 S.W. 315th Street, Federal Way.   PLEASE PASS THE WORD! As one of our Senate champions told us over the session, 'Keeping this issue alive in the public eye is the most important thing you can do.'

Where does this issue stand with the state? So many of you have taken the time to email the Joint Task Force that is redefining basic education (we know because the staff for the Joint Task Force have talked about it!). What has resulted? Recent proposals have 'recommended' that local districts fund school libraries/librarians.  The bad news? Proposals haven't recommended school libraries/librarians be considered 'basic' or that information
literacy be included as a 21st century goal for the state of Washington. As one lawmaker put it recently, "these are issues of local control." Based on your 1,000's of comments citing equity, democracy, literacy, and so on, we think you disagree. It is important to be on record responding to proposals before they are final.

WE NEED YOU TO SPEAK UP ONE LAST TIME  before a final report is issued in 6 weeks —- collectively we can make the case. Libraterias, part-time custodian/librarians and collection averages that are twenty years out of date have been the result of the state's decision over 30 years ago to not define school libraries as a part of basic education—this opportunity won't come again soon.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?    TAKE ACTION ! (Each takes less than 5 minutes)

1.  VISIT to read the Joint Task Force's legislative members' proposal (under documents) and weigh in. Puget Sound we need you; ALL of the authors hail from metro-Seattle, so it is crucial that West-siders engage on this.  They have opened a blog for comments; please be thoughtful, specific and constructive.

2.  EMAIL THE TOP EDUCATION OFFICER OF THE STATE and Joint Task Force member, Dr. Terry Bergeson, directly and ask her to specifically add language that makes information literacy an educational goal.  Her email address: If you believe every child deserves a well-funded, 21st century school library program, then please tell her you believe it is 'basic' for all children and ask her to fight for it. Please cc her opponent, Randy Dorn, at   The race is a close one and will be decided prior to final recommendations.

3.  PLEASE EMAIL THE GOVERNOR'S EDUCATIONAL POLICY HEAD and Joint Task Force member, Judy Hartmann at (you can use the same email text you used above). It is crucial that at the gubernatorial level it is clear that Washingtonians see this issue as a part of 'world-class education' and a priority of government. 

It was said that the $4MM in 4 months that we fought for in the spring would be impossible, but WE DID IT because collectively we created a tsunami of will.  Please take your 5 minutes and weigh in at this crucial juncture, and please forward us your notes to We will send them to your legislators if you put your zip code in the re: 

Does this kind of engagement work? YES! A district's delegation recent made this issue a platform priority.  A recent talk with a Senator who is also a professor at the University of Washington yielded the following: "I'm concerned that our collection averages are 20 years out of date for the gender images being fed to our children."  The cultural and technology images are just as scary — remember the Yakima Indian Reservation school? Some of the texts pulled this summer were 'The Red Man's Cookbook' and the book announcing the launch of DOS.  If we don't speak up, 1MM Washington kids stand to remain divided between the information-rich and the information-poor.

Thank you so much.

Lisa, Susan and Denette

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