Advocacy, Older Students

Know your history.

Libraries and Adult Education take its roots from a realization and movement in the 1920s that public libraries should focus a good deal of attention on educating patrons.  An American Library Association (ALA) study was conducted in Chicago, which determined not only was there a need, but there was growing evidence that patrons were utilizing the library for these endeavors regardless, thus, the ALA vowed to meet the demand on three main fronts:  1) by providing study materials, 2) by raising awareness about resources available in the community, and 3) by providing outside opportunities to patrons.  

It was also in the 1920s that brought the first legislation mandating adult education and the Bureau of Adult Education (in California) was formed primarily for the purposes of English language instruction and assimilation as part of an expansion of the “Americanization” program.    

Today libraries continue to engage adults (of course, children and teens as well) in the learning process by offering information, classes, and exposure to new technology.  Adult education strives for the same things with a focus on job training.  Where do these two institutions with a similar purpose converge and how have they influenced each other since their inception?  Just a few years ago, the Los Angeles Public Library began offering online high school diploma courses in addition to their adult literacy tutoring programs.  Historically this was the realm of the public adult schools, to cater efforts for undereducated adults preparing them for an adult high school diploma.  Each system fortifies the other, and if working in partnership would benefit patrons exponentially.  It seems that they are in some ways competing.  I argue that public libraries should partner with adult schools the way that they have partnered with K-12, to collaborate on special projects and be a referral service to each other, as was vowed long ago.  These partnerships would ultimately be strengthened by the existence of an adult school library program to liaise between the adult school and the public library.

Advocacy, Pleasure Reading

Ignite love.

On my last day of fieldwork with Mr. Completo, the librarian at a span school in Cudahy, CA, I asked him what he thought the most important aspect of his job was.  He paused for a moment and then showed me a quote he found said by Jackie Kennedy Onassis,

There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.

He said that no matter what we do students will get instruction on the mechanics of reading in their classrooms, but instilling the love of reading is one of the hardest but most important things we can do.  A love of reading can inspire a lifetime of curiosity and learning.  It can be the difference between pursuing a better paying job, going to college, finding your purpose, connecting with others in meaningful ways, experiencing intellectual challenge, pursuing personal growth, self-actualization and self-sufficiency.  


Daniel Willinghem tells parents, change the conversation about why kids should read.  Make it about loving to learn, not about doing better in school.  And let them read whatever they want.  Making judgement calls even if you know they are choosing to read crappy fiction will do more damage then letting it ride as long as it needs to until they’re ready for something more demanding, challenging, literary or informational.  
If there really is a steady decline in the number of students reading for fun starting as early as the third grade, how do you entice students back into the world of stories when they have already moved past puberty or have reached adulthood?  When they have had so many negative experiences with reading, is it possible to successfully encourage an adult student who has had decades of reading failures to try to enjoy reading?  As mentioned in a previous post, Kate Messner says read-alouds are a great way to accomplish this.  Others say exposure and giving students choice.  For parents, having a purpose that is outside of themselves can be both motivating and can lead to greater reading enjoyment.  My dad who read to my brother and I as we grew up often said he came to enjoy some of the stories he loathed as a child; that reading them to us gave him a newfound appreciation for the characters and plot.  



Even though fellow SJSU library student Nicole Ogden expresses some concerns about her busy and chaotic library, I can’t help but feel consumed with envy of her glorious space –  where students can find a workshop of sorts, to do research, use computers, work on projects or study all under one roof and with open access at anytime throughout the school day.  Rereading this – it is the definition of a 21st century library.  I would love to have this type of space for students on my campus!  As it stands now, there are few places, other than the cafeteria and the outdoor tables in front of the school, for students to congregate to study, or to connect with their fellow students in between classes.  Students make requests all the time, “Isn’t there a place on campus where I can go to study?” as if our school has something missing.  Students want a space to get away from their everyday life where they can all at once focus on the their studies, bounce ideas off of their peers, access technology and resources, while surrounded by others.  Learning and studying is not a solitary activity in the kind of library Nicole describes. And that probably is the best way for the library to serve the campus.

Fake News, Validating Resources



It’s not just the kids who need a lesson (or many) in validating online resources – I couldn’t believe my colleague today.  While Wikipedia is often my go-to reference in conversation, I had to remind my colleague that using it on academic papers, or in her case, as the basis for several pilot projects being implemented at our school, was not the most effective way to demonstrate her understanding or gain respect from her professional peers.  She looked at me in dismay, wondering how she had been citing Wikipedia all along in her administrative credential program without a single professor calling her out.    Give Me Some Truth blogger and fellow SJSU library student Pamela Van Halsema reminds us to set the bar higher not just for our students, but for the teaching staff too.  Patience is what they need, she says, to weed through bad Google results earnestly seeking something of quality – I say we could all use a little patience.  And one way to influence our students is by setting the example – model diligence. Revise your search terms.  Don’t be afraid to check the second page of Google results.  But, I fear professional development may be needed for my colleagues to be able to do this with confidence.  That’s another job for the TL….

“I wish I could teach a simple formula or give a quick checklist that could provide foolproof verification of a trustworthy source.”

But that’s just it..research is a frame of mind; it demands patience, persistence, and the belief in the quest.  Guidance and tools help, but there has to exist the understanding that not all sources are created equal and there are serious risks and consequences when we gather information that has gone unchecked.


Advocacy, Diversity


An art installation of 857 empty school desks stands at the National Mall in Washington

Diversity behind the desk.

As yet another white female future school librarian, I am frustrated by the lack of diversity within the field of school librarianship.  I live in California where this is simply unacceptable – what is it?  Teachers are not this white, but the ranks become increasingly colorless in the world of school libraries…even in Los Angeles one of the most diverse city in the country (Yes, folks. Even NYC has a smaller percentage of speakers of languages other than English.)  So what is up with that?  I love that author blogger Meg Medina, one of the founding members of We Need Diverse Books, shoots right for the kill and asks the new Richmond Public librarian why only 3% of librarians are latino/a, to which Ramirez exclaims, “it’s a pipeline issue.”  Library schools and universities should obviously be doing more to reach out to diverse students.  I mean what the hell?  If we claim that diversity is a major tenet of librarianship, a lot more folks should be pissed off about this and more than just lip service should be offered to change this reality.  The Feral Librarian ignites a lively discussion about what she calls the Unbearable whiteness of librarianship – I was surprised by these kinds of angry responses…


How can the person above (hopefully not a librarian) write that after reading this


or taking a look at this…2017-03-13_2037

The quantitative and qualitative data is real. So let us take some responsibility as professionals to live our ideals to the fullest, knowing that our student patrons are better off when the faces they find in the library are reflective of themselves.  May those faces not just exist on the shelves, but staring back at them from behind the circulation desk.



Drop back in.

The School Library’s Role in High School Dropout Prevention: TL as dropout recovery worker

I was so excited to read  earlier this semester that there is definitive proof of a TLs positive impact on high school dropout prevention.  I wrote in my final response for the School Library Management Reading assignment,

The most eye-opening idea from the discussion was regarding the extent to which an effective school library program can impact at-risk students, such as what was expressed by Gavigan and Kurtis (2010) and Jones and Zambone (2008).  These findings were especially revelatory and relevant to the work that I currently do with at-risk young adults and adults; specifically, if a strong library media program and TL have a greater impact on student achievement than per pupil spending and student teacher ratio (Lance, 2002), than my adult school in Los Angeles which serves some of the most marginalized students in the city, surely can make an argument for introducing a school library program on our campus. This would be the first adult school library program in California and in the US as far as I know.  How invigorating!

So this begs the question, how many alternative schools and dropout prevention programs consider the input of a TL?  


Defy labels.

The Reluctant also known as Infrequent Reader

Reluctant reader is a phrase that really makes me cringe.  It places a lot of blame on the student who has any one of a host of reasons for their distaste of reading.  The assumption is a reluctant reader is a less competent reader.  My grandparents, although college educated, did not read for pleasure, and perhaps my dad, although he loves to read technical material and magazines, fell in their footsteps seldom reading literature for fun.  

I think it’s probably fair to say that without audiobooks, my partner and I, who are both good readers, would probably not read much for pleasure either.  What does it mean for a child to be completely uninterested in stories and literature?  Where does the reading reluctance stem from?  The assumption is it stems from a disparity between the age of the reader and the reading level – meaning an older student who is not reading at grade level will struggle to find literature that both appeals to her topical interests and is written at her reading level; hence the popularity of hi-lo books.  So it stems from a lack of reading skill.  Leveled reading programs that incentivise reading such as Accelerated Reader are based on the philosophy that the only way to become a better reader is simply through reading.  Do these programs help since all of the students are participating in the leveling or does it make struggling/reluctant reader stand out more?  My supervising teacher librarian was very disappointed after spending a lot of time leveling students from a long-term ELL class only to experience not a single student check out a book.