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Looking Back, Looking Forward, Looking UpGerri Fegan

When I was asked recently about whether things were “looking up” for school libraries, I had to wrestle with my inner jokester to provide what I thought would be a sincere answer: “well, it all depends on what you’re looking up.”  I didn’t say that though.  What I did say was, “School libraries are in tough shape, but school librarians have never been stronger because we keep good company.”  I said that with all honesty.  In the past two years, I have been able to rely on members of MSLA to be there whenever we call: to support our students in academic excellence, our colleagues in professional development, or our state in legislative efforts.  Your comments on the listserv and at conferences have helped all of us to form alliances with the other stakeholders in children’s education efforts.

Other organizations, such as the Massachusetts Reading Association have shared the floor with us on current affairs as evidenced by our recent successful Anti-Bullying Summit.  Their collaboration with us will continue to provide both of our organizations with stimulating new discussions about literacy and independent reading.  MassCUE continues to support us as well with invitations to present at their conferences, and they were also helpful with our Anti-Bullying Summit.  The New England Library Interest Group chapter of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL/NELIG)  is in the process of creating a joint statement with us.  A new collaboration is in the offing:  the Massachusetts School Counselors Association has expressed an interest in working together for the social well being of our students by collaborating with us on presentations at each of our conferences.  Our partners at the Massachusetts Library Anti-Bullying SummitAssociation have been our strongest link to legislative efforts by including school libraries into their Legislative Days each year at the State House.  In terms of allies, things are looking up.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has invited members to serve on the Educational Technology Advisory Council and the State Literacy Team under the Striving Readers grant. The Commissioner answered our call immediately when he was invited to be the luncheon keynote speaker at the Anti-Bullying Summit who did say that he loved school libraries.  Connie Louie, the DESE Instructional Technology Director has applauded our organization’s efforts and recommended that all instructional technology directors across the Commonwealth to use MSLA’s use our Bullying Prevention Wiki .  Susan Wheltle, Director of the Office of Literacy and Humanities and Dorothy Earle from the Office of Reading and Language Arts have often presented at our conferences and are always eager to present to our members.  Things are looking up.

That brings me to the friends we have made in the Massachusetts legislature.  The Library Caucus, now headed byKate Hogan, leader of Library Caucus Kate Hogan (Dem. 3rd Middlesex), promises to be instrumental in helping us organize many resources around MSLA’s need for supervision and advisory personnel at the DESE.  It is our hope that work begun by previous representatives will continue to that end.  The Caucus was very attentive during this year’s Legislative Day speeches and meetings and they have invited us to present to them to bring them up to speed on our goals.  Things are looking up.

I don’t think enough is said about the support MSLA has received from the American Association of School Libraries.  They have been in the forefront of many of the issues we currently deal with here in Massachusetts and their work has actively changed the way we all do business.      AASL’s Learning 4 Life initiative will bring a new spirit into our curriculum by supporting the ethical citizen education that is lacking in other content areas.  It aligns our current standards to the Common Core and is more robust than previous standards.  We all benefit from their efforts and I strongly encourage MSLA members to join AASL and attend conferences and webinars.  They are the source for cutting edge professional development.  The AASL Advocacy Toolkit is probably the best source for all school librarians in danger of losing employment and they continue to add more to it every day.  They have recognized the Plympton School in Waltham for its Vision Tour and two of our board members have served (Ann Perham) and are now serving (Valerie Diggs) as AASL Regional Directors representing all of New England.  Things are looking up.

The Massachusetts Teacher’s Association is about to consider a standardized school library job description written by MSLA so that they can fairly represent all school librarians in union issues.  Paul Toner, president of MTA, is eager to get started on this work so that school librarians can feel more secure in their roles as teachers.  This is very promising.

So, with friends like these……where are we going?  There’s a lot to do and we need your voice and spirit to help us accomplish our goals. 

Attend. The MSLA Annual Conference in Hyannis (March 4-5, 2012) promises to offer a lot of new workshops in technology, social networking, reading and literacy, advocacy, the Common Core Crosswalk, and creating lean, mean, and green school libraries.  Our keynote speakers are the best ever.  The Bookmark Contest will actually be judged at the conference with a gallery for onlookers to watch the process and winners will be announced at the Sunday night banquet. 

Assimilate. The AASL L4L Lesson Plan Database will allow members to soak up all the knowledge of our colleagues from all fifty states with just a keystroke.  State Coordinator and Lead Moderator for the database, Kathy Lowe, is now in the middle of sorting through all the wonderful lesson plans coming in from star library teachers.

Advocate. The Massachusetts Library System, who was only one year ago decimated and reborn, is still working to provide all types of services to every citizen in Massachusetts. They need our support to get the funding they need to keep going.  Make no mistake, they have demonstrated the ultimate support for MSLA members for many years and, in light of their financial crises, it is nothing short of a miracle that we still have interlibrary loans, professional development workshops, and collective purchasing opportunities that could have easily disappeared without a strong collaborative relationship. 

Act Like a Leader. The demand for creating the “lean, mean and green library” has become an essential component of school library management and MSLA will be asking for more ideas from library design gurus and our membership.  Making sure that administrators know we save them money, promote online resources, utilize interlibrary loans, and encourage technological projects to save paper can promote us as administrative partners.

In closing, it’s been a busy two years.  I can say with all honesty that the MSLA Board has served all of you with integrity and diligence and it has been an honor to work beside them.  Please do not hesitate to contact your area director with ideas, comments and initiatives that will help your region.  We will be calling on you for your assistance when we need it.

Join me in passing the gavel on to Valerie Diggs.  She is a good friend, colleague, and tells a great joke.  More importantly, she is one of the strongest advocates for our profession and will keep things looking up.

My best to you all,

Gerri Fegan


Picture of Rep. Hogan by Linda Coviello

Last Updated ( Friday, 29 April 2011 )

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