Annual Report: Activism for School Libraries

Across the country, threats to school library programs and school librarianship are well known and ongoing.

Across the country, threats to school library programs and school librarianship are well known and ongoing.

EveryLibrary’s approach to addressing those threats is a combination of direct actions with local school leaders and a new approach to fixing state-level funding for education that include school librarians and school library programs. Our work is rooted in the state-by-state promise of ESSA, the Every Student Succeeds Act, and is driven by the promising data about student outcomes when there is a school librarian in their academic lives. In 2019 we built tremendous momentum through our initiative and state library association partnerships to address both parts of this solution.

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Since launching our initiative in June 2017, over 46,000 Americans have taken an action for school librarians and school libraries. During 2019, EveryLibrary supported dozens of individual school librarians who faced crises through that platform. We worked to lobby leadership in school districts when cuts to library budgets were threatened. From Oakland to El Paso to Philadelphia we stood alongside our school librarian colleagues to fight cuts and support them through these challenges. 

During the Trump Administration, the role of the federal government in education policy and funding has diminished significantly. Here at EveryLibrary, we see that real change for school librarians can only happen at the state and local level. We believe that school librarians must be included in every state’s educational funding formula and that the role of school library programs must be included in states’ education policy frameworks. In 2019, we are proud to have stood alongside our colleagues in several school library associations to address these core policy and funding issues for the profession through their legislative outreach and advocacy. 

In 2019, we continued this focus on education policy by joining and supporting national education coalitions as well as engaging the policy discussion directly as conference presenters and though-leaders. In February we presented a policy panel at the South by Southwest EDU conference called “Why is the Largest Classroom in the School Empty?” and a session called “Libraries are Being Starved – Whose Fault is It?” to carry our message to other key educational stakeholders. We were happy to continue our training partnership with the ISTE School Librarians network to help improve the political literacy skills of the profession. 

We are particularly grateful to Follett Learning and the team at Follett for supporting our site and district-level advocacy work in 2019. Their organizational commitment to school librarians is deep and authentic. Without their donor support, we would not have launched and sustained this initiative and could not accomplish these important wins for school libraries. 

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A mission-critical part of EveryLibrary’s school library focus is to help our colleagues at state school library organizations to operationalize better legislative advocacy, engagement with policy and rules-making, coalition roles, and voter-facing outreach campaigns for statewide education initiatives. We do this by partnering to train, coach, support, and guide their leadership teams to become better equipped for policy conversations. In 2019, EveryLibrary continued to work closely with several state school library associations to help advance their legislative agenda or address impending problems head-on. 

Another key component of our work is coordinating strategy with association leaders and, when possible, contract lobbyists. What we also bring to the partnership is our digital reach and social media advertising expertise. We regularly augment our association partners’ limited budgets by spending our funds in state to advertise their petitions, calls-to-actions, and political agendas. Our donors allow us to go beyond toolkits and training workshops to be partners in making the change our colleagues seek in their own states. 

Iowa School Librarians Under Threat
In February, we helped the Iowa Library Association defeat a bill in the Education Committee that would have reclassified school librarians from a “shall have” position to a “may have” position in districts across the state. This was both a tactical and an existential threat to the future of school librarianship and we are proud to have helped kill it in committee. 

Iowa Library Association Legislative Agenda (ILA)
Continuing with our colleagues in Iowa, we helped build awareness and engage actions among the public for their legislative agenda in 2019. One of their three key asks was for new recognition and support for Teacher Librarians in state code. Hundreds of Iowans made their voice heard in Des Moines as a result of our partnership. 

Georgia Library Media Association (GLMA)
EveryLibrary partnered with the Georgia Library Media Association to ensure that school librarians were properly compensated for their work in FY 2020 budget cycle. We supported their lobbying efforts to reach the Governor to ask for an inclusive raise for all certified educators including school librarians.

Pennsylvania School Librarians Association (PSLA)
In 2019 we continued our partnership with PSLA to push for passage of House Bill 1355 / Senate Bill 752 that would ensure a certified school librarian in every public school. Our digital advocacy and outreach to the public across Pennsylvania supported and strengthened PSLA members’ diligent lobbying in Harrisburg. While the bills are still in committee, over 55 bi-partisan co-sponsors are now aligned in both chambers to consider this groundbreaking school library legislation. 

Michigan Association for Media in Education (MAME)
There is a literacy crisis in Michigan. Only 8% of schools in Michigan have a full-time certified school librarian on staff. Michigan ranks 47th in the country for its ‘students to librarians’ ratio. This year we were proud to continue our public engagement in support of the Michigan Association for Media in legislative agenda. We have targeted the House Education Committee to move HB 4392, HB 4393 and HB 4394, three bills that would radically improve the outlook for school librarianship in the state and, therefore, improve the test scores and academic outcomes for all Michigan students. 

Florida Association for Media in Education (FAME)
Florida school librarians were missing from a key educational funding program called the Best and Brightest, and our colleagues at the Florida Association for Media in Education wanted to change that. We helped them reach across the state to activate the public to contact the Florida Legislature and Governor DeSantis. We are happy to report that they succeeded. 

National Education Coalitions for School Libraries
We want to bring school librarians into revenue-focused coalitions outside of the library world. Our interest in new revenue for education is not common in library advocacy settings, possibly because it requires school library stakeholders to join broad-based coalitions outside of libraries. Coalitions place library organizations alongside educational unions and political action committees. As the first and only national political action committee for libraries, EveryLibrary is comfortable in this role. When we join a coalition, we not only become a signatory to coalition statements but also actively promote our mutual agenda through social media ads and direct actions. 

National Summer Learning Association (NSLA) Coalition 
EveryLibrary was proud to join a coalition of national, state, and local partner organizations to urge Congress to pass the "Summer Meals and Learning Act of 2019" (H.R. 3667 / S. 2070).  We joined the coalition because summer is a critical time for children, especially those in low-income households, with poor food security and limited access to learning options. The Summer Meals and Learning Act would help close and fund an important gap in summertime supports by providing schools with grant funding to keep their libraries open and accessible for learning alongside their summer meals programs. It is an important opportunity to support at-risk and hard-to-reach students through school libraries, in collaboration with public library systems.

Future Ready Librarians Coalition
EveryLibrary was excited to join the Future Ready Librarians coalition to focus our supports on systemic changes to education policy at the state and local level. The Future Ready Librarians focus is an extension of the Future Ready Schools (FRS) initiative at the Alliance for Excellent Education aimed at connecting school librarians to the strategic work of school districts. We will continue to work closely with state association partners and the ISTE Librarians Network on advocacy, trainings, and coalition building to advance our mutual goals.