Want to hang out with a bunch of really smart people? Spend a day at a convention of school librarians. That's what I did on Friday, November 15 in Hartford, Connecticut at the biannual convention of the American Association of School Librarians. What makes them so smart? They are exemplars of what the Opening Session speaker, Tony Wagner, author of Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, says the country needs if we are going to produce the many young innovators needed for our technology-driven new world order. According to Wagner, it is play, passion and purpose that drive young innovators. They succeed because some adult in their lives feeds their passions and honors their purpose. School librarians are always on the lookout for the child who wants to know more and feeds his/her interests with books and resources that resonate. This is the essence of their job description.
One of the most important skills Wagner says current and future employers want is the ability to solve problems and think critically. This means the ability to ask a question that defines the problem. Librarians are experts at this -- they know how to do a meaningful search, they know databases, they know literature, they know how to use technology to find answers. They know the value of books and that, despite the glut of information available on the web, books are NOT going to disappear any time soon. In fact, school librarians choose this profession because they, themselves, love to read and learn and are driven to share this discovery process with students.
At a time when we are drowning in a sea of information, we need librarians more than ever to help navigate it. The implementation of the Common Core State Standards requires a shift in emphasis to reading more nonfiction across all subject areas and disciplines. No one knows children's nonfiction literature better than school librarians. They are the ones best equipped to collaborate with teachers in innovating new ways of incorporating these books into classroom work. Yet, across the country, the school librarian is one of the most vulnerable positions to be eliminated due to shrinking school budgets. So it is no surprise that the theme of the AASL conference was "Rising to the Challenge."
Barbara Stripling, president of the American Library Association is not taking this challenge lying down. She is spearheading a presidential initiative: Libraries Change Lives -- which promotes and recognizes the crucial role libraries play in literacy, innovation and community engagement for all ages. She told me: "The Declaration for the Right to Libraries affirms the values and impacts that school, public, academic, and special libraries provide for those they serve. In today's fast-paced and isolating society, libraries offer a safe and inviting space where every member of the community can read, access the Internet, learn, create, and engage in civil discourse -- in fact, change his life. The Declaration offers all members of the community, from small children to older adults, the opportunity to stand up for their right to libraries. In schools, universities, and communities across the country, people are signing the Declaration and sharing their stories about how the library has changed their life. Signing ceremonies have been held in individual libraries, at community events, and even at statewide book fests. The response to the Declaration has been overwhelmingly positive; thousands of signatures have already been garnered. "
So, everyone, this is a no-brainer. Stand up for libraries. Support your local school librarians. Information may be at everyone's fingertips but knowledge and wisdom still need the human touch. Libraries and librarians are where it's at. Here's the link for your participation