Usually, I compose my blog posts well in advance. I'm glad I didn't do that today, because there was a flurry of activity that is best reported now.
A couple of weeks ago, the Ontario School Library Association heard that the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, in an attempt to save money, planned on dismantling their elementary school libraries and shipping the books to classroom collections. They also decreased their staffing to a miniscule four library technicians. Several OSLA members met for an emergency planning meeting to create their advocacy campaign and official response to the dreadful decision by this specific board.
It just so happens that People for Education, the non-profit advocacy group, released their annual report on the state of Ontario schools. It was very disappointing to learn that in 2009-2010, only 57% of elementary schools had a teacher-librarian on staff. Less than a decade prior, that figure was 80%.
The combination of the school board eliminating libraries and the People for Education report meant that school libraries were very news-worthy today. AT 10:30 a.m., Global TV contacted my school to see if they could film a segment to air at 6:00 p.m. that evening about what school libraries offer students. I received permission from my board's media department and started to make arrangements. The news crew planned to arrive around 1:30 p.m., during my ICT time with a grade 7-8 class. Thankfully, several of the students go home for lunch and were willing to bring media release forms home to have their parents sign. During lunch, I cleaned the library (school libraries get pretty messy pretty quickly!), attended a pre-set meeting on another topic, and went looking for lipstick. (Note to self: put a tube of lipstick in your purse!)
Cortney and John from Global TV were professional, pleasant, and genuinely interested in what we do in the school library. The students used the descriptive feedback I provided for them to improve their wiki pages - a media assignment. They filmed me conversing with the students on their wiki assignment, tidying the shelves (something I do very infrequently - usually my library volunteers handle it) and asked me a few questions. Thank goodness for editing! I know I've been told often to have your "elevator speech" always ready - a short, concise blurb about why school libraries are important and what they do for students - but when asked to describe what teacher-librarians do, in a nutshell, and to explain it without edu-babble in a succinct way ... I have to confess I stumbled a bit today. How can you convey the passion for personal reading, the critical evaluation skills for researching, and all the other things teacher-librarians do in a memorable sound bite?
This isn't the first time that my students and I have been on the news. In fact, just this past Friday, several students appeared on The National - CBC interviewed them while they were at the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading Awards at Harbourfront. It was a great opportunity for them to experience how media is produced (they were surprised to see that, out of a twenty minute interview, only about a minute of footage was used in the broadcast) and share their passion for reading. (I will include the link to the news segment in a follow-up blog post.) Another news station phoned today to arrange an interview, but the producer decided to pull the story - why, I'm not sure. However, I'm grateful that so many news agencies have been reporting on school libraries: The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, CBC, and Global TV. As I said in a Twitter post, when teacher-librarians complain about cuts to school libraries, it's seen as merely self-preservation. It's not about that; it's about students and learning and love of learning. The more voices speak up, the more fuss and frenzy we hear from different quarters saying that cuts aren't right, then the more legitimate the arguments become and the more likely people are to pay attention and maybe, possibly, do something about them. This is a media frenzy I can seriously agree with!