Written by: Lindsey Kimery
Every day in Tennessee, school librarians are busy connecting kids with books, helping our students grow as readers, and are leading in our learning communities, but many of us start the school year facing numerous issues, such as lack of funding, staffing that doesn’t meet state minimum requirements, being assigned additional duties, like testing coordinator, that pull us out of the library, all of which significantly limit the services to students. These issues are usually the result of elected officials not understanding the scope of what we do and not recognizing the value that school libraries and certified school librarians add to schools. On, November 6, we have the power to elect leaders that fund libraries and value our services to students!
As the Advocacy Chair for TASL, I’ve had the opportunity to speak to many of our elected leaders about the importance of school libraries, including our two candidates for governor, Karl Dean and Bill Lee. My message is clear: TASL needs the next governor of Tennessee to appoint a State Coordinator of School Libraries. It’s important we have a certified school librarian sitting at the table with Commissioner McQueen at the Department of Education, advocating on our behalf, for our role as key players in our schools and working to achieve consistency in school libraries across the state. Students in Tennessee deserve no less than to have properly funded, strong school library programs, and libraries staffed by a certified school librarian.
One of the best things that’s come from these meetings is that our candidates now know that school librarians in TN have a strong professional organization, and we are here to answer any questions they have about the role school librarians play in education, and we expect to be part of the conversation about improving education in TN. Here is the information that each candidate has received, which contains an infographic about school libraries in TN and the TASL Position Statement for a State Coordinator. Our ask is not a partisan issue. It’s an education issue. Karl Dean and Bill Lee value education, so the question is- If elected, will they appoint a State Coordinator of School Libraries? Will they value school libraries and expect districts across our state to staff and fund libraries? Our new governor of Tennessee needs to hear from school librarians on these issues after the election because it’s important that we keep our ask visible and expect action.
Then, our work continues. Advocacy is important year round at every level, but it can feel overwhelming. Make a goal to start locally. Email your leaders, call, set up a meeting, invite them to your library. Tell them and show them how their decisions impact your library and your students, and communicate your needs. Elected officials need to hear personal stories from constituents. These stories stick with them. Your voice and your story are valuable, so please share yours. When they are asked about school libraries in your district, what do they know? Inform them. Show them.
But first, let’s vote! Head to your polling location between now and November 6! Wear your “I Voted” sticker as a badge of honor! Post to Twitter or Instagram with #TennesseeLibrariansVote and tag @TASLTN and show that we are not only school librarians who are watching and listening, but we are awake and taking action. Our students are worth it! The future of school libraries and education in Tennessee is worth it!
Registered to vote but not sure where to go or what district you’re in? Find out here!
#tennesseelibrariansvote #markyourcalendars #librariansmakeadifference
Lindsey Kimery is the Library Media Specialist at Woodland Middle School in Brentwood, TN. She is TASL’s Advocacy Chair and is Vice-President of the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival. She writes about library programming and lesson ideas on her blog, LibraryStile.