By: Christina Van Dyke, OELMA Secretary and Teacher Librarian at Tolles Career & Technical Center
At the beginning of May, I attended National Library Legislative Days (NLLD) in Washington, DC. I joined Terri Fredericka from INFOhio as well as representatives from the State Library, Marietta and Miami Colleges, Columbus, Toledo and Cleveland Public Libraries, OPLIN, OhioLink, Overdrive and other library professionals. I was the only school librarian, and I felt privileged to be in such good company. As a team, we met with Senator Rob Portman’s and Senator Sherrod Brown’s offices. After the two meetings with senators, we divided into groups to visit Ohio members of congress.
Participating in NLLD gave me the opportunity to listen to Beverly Cain, State Librarian of Ohio, speak wonderfully about libraries in Ohio and Steve Potash, Overdrive CEO, expound on the respect that other states and countries have for Ohio libraries. Nikki Scarpitti, of Columbus Metropolitan Library, and other librarians from large public systems around Ohio talked about great programming that is being provided to their patrons. Terri, OPLIN and OhioLink representatives communicated the digital resource sharing that makes it possible for all patrons in our state to access quality databases.
As I listened to these professionals advocating for our Ohio libraries, I was grateful that we have such strong advocates for the citizens of Ohio. Along with being grateful for these advocates, I contemplated the importance of teacher-librarians around the state. When given the opportunity to speak, I drew attention to the vital role we play in setting our young patrons up for future library use. Students spend years in our buildings and our behavior toward them and our enthusiasm for our jobs will have a lasting impact.
- We lay the foundation of confidence in libraries and librarians that students will draw on in their future;
- As we help them find a good book to read, prepare a speech for a class presentation, search for colleges and scholarships, or research “boring” topics for assigned papers, we are teaching them that libraries are a reliable place to go for future information needs;
- Helping a student find a quiet place to sit and get away from the stress of the cafeteria or classroom will form a memory that the library is a safe place;
- As an adult, trying to learn a new skill, tomorrow’s patron will remember that in their youth the school librarian helped, without criticizing, when they needed assistance with their iPad or other device;
- When they are looking for a book to read to their future children, they will remember the librarian who taught them to love Junie B. Jones and take their child to the library;
- As a new college student panicking over college research, they will remember the patience of their high school librarian as they aided them in database use and citation creation;
- When adults receive “fake news” in their inbox, they will remember the teacher-librarian who repeatedly preached: Check the source!
I am a link in a chain of resources; I need to manage my part of the chain well so that my patrons have confidence in their future college and community libraries. Among all of the tedious tasks that teacher-librarians are asked to do, let’s not forget that we are here to help students become lifelong learners and informed citizens, and hopefully, introduce them to some great books along the way. The library will forever be the greatest resource of information and learning that our citizenry has. Dark school libraries break the chain for many of Ohio’s students and they never receive the skills of those with an effectively functioning school library. We must advocate for all schools to have a library staffed by a licensed teacher-librarian.
Advocacy is hard. Advocacy is uncomfortable. Advocacy takes time. Our students are worth it. Advocate with a phone call, tweet, email or Facebook post. Talk libraries to everyone you meet. Practice your elevator speech. Let’s work together to ensure the chain of libraries remains strong for all Ohioans, regardless of their age, school district or community.