Tennessee Legislative Day 2019

Written by Lindsey Kimery

Legislators received an infographic, a letter with our ask, and bookmarks from the 2019 TASL Bookmark contest.

When it comes to school libraries, advocacy at every level matters. Sharing the impact and importance of our libraries is vital to the continuation of our profession and to the level of support we receive for our programs and resources. We have to make time to advocate in our schools, communities, districts, and at the state and national level. TN Library Legislative Day is an opportunity each year to come together with school and public librarians and library supporters in order to share the value of libraries with state legislators and ask for their support. This year, we had more school librarians than ever before in attendance, and we came prepared to continue our mission of communicating our need for a State Coordinator of School Library Services.

2019 TASL School Libraries report
Data compiled from a 2019 survey of TN school librarians provided an overview for legislators about our strengths and the ways we can support our schools even more with the leadership of a State Coordinator.)

We need an advocate at the state level, communicating the value of school librarians and libraries to state and district leaders, communicating the importance of funding our libraries, addressing inequities in library funding in different school districts, providing leadership for implementing AASL standards and developing stronger school library programs. A state coordinator will communicate with district leaders and state leaders and make them aware of exemplary school library programs and how strong library programs impact student growth positively. Imagine having an expert in our field seated at the table, including us in the conversation of the future of education in Tennessee. This truly is a missing piece in our Department of Education.

Lindsey Blake and Jennifer at Library Leg Day
Blake Hopper, Jennifer Sharp, and Lindsey Kimery with Senator Frank Nicely, who signed a letter to Governor Lee in support of a state coordinator.

As we met with legislators this year, we asked them to sign a letter to Governor Lee, asking him to include funding for a State Coordinator of School Library Services in his FY-2020 budget. We are pleased to report that the following leaders signed letters on our behalf: Senator Jack Johnson, Representative Vincent Dixie, and Senator Frank Nicely. Representative Whitson asked for a follow-up meeting with us to discuss the issue further to see how he can best support us, and Senator Dolores Gresham, who is Chair of the Senate Education Committee, asked that we send her a letter, requesting a fiscal review from the Office of Educational Research and Accountability through the State Comptroller’s office to find out if the position of State Coordinator of School Library Services still exists at the Department of Education, so that we know if this position is already funded or if it needs to be funded. It is our understanding that this position existed at one time. Thirty-six states have a State Coordinator of Library Services, and if our state leaders want Tennessee to continue to show solid growth, they need to factor school libraries into the equation and do what it takes to properly staff and fund our libraries so that we can impact our school communities in a powerful way. Why do our students deserve any less than the best?

Library Legislative Day
Jennifer Sharp, Blake Hopper, Lindsey Kimery with Representative Vincent Dixie, who signed a letter to Governor Lee in support of a state coordinator.


IMG IMLSandTN- CAPTION: Data provided by State Librarian and Archivist, Chuck Sherrill, about how IMLS funding is utilized in Tennessee) In addition to our ask, please contact your legislators to ask them to fund IMLS. The president’s budget currently eliminates and defunds the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which provides $3.3 million annually to Tennessee libraries. Our legislators need to hear how important resources, like TEL, which are provided by the state, are to your school. Chances are, if TEL was eliminated, TN schools could not individually afford to fund this level of database access for their students.

Data provided by State Librarian and Archivist, Chuck Sherrill, about how IMLS funding is utilized in Tennessee.

So, how can you help? Contact your legislators and ask them to appoint a State Coordinator of School Library Services to the Tennessee Department of Education and ask them to fund IMLS. Use online tools like ALA Find Your Elected Officials or  TN Legislature Find My Legislator to know whom to contact. Then, make contact via email, a phone call, or schedule a meeting. It’s important they hear from you, and it’s important that this is brought to their attention repeatedly.  The more, the better. The future of school libraries and school librarians depends on the work we do now.

Want to act now? Visit the Advocacy section of the TASL website for sample letters or emails to use.

SAVE THE DATE for #TNLLD20: MARCH 3, 2020!

Lindsey Kimery is the Library Media Specialist at Woodland Middle School in Brentwood, TN. She is TASL’s Advocacy Chair and Secretary, Vice-President of the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival, and Chair of TN Library Legislative Day 2020.. She writes about library programming and lesson ideas on her blog, LibraryStile.

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