Rally for School Librarians in Illinois – SaveSchoolLibrarians.org
“Rally to Restore School Librarians” held at the Thompson Center in Chicago on Friday, June 23rd
Over 110 school librarians and supporters call on the governor and state legislators to improve school funding and ensure a licensed school librarian in every Illinois school.
The Illinois School Library Media Association (ISLMA) held a demonstration on Friday, June 23rd at the Thompson Center to call for the restoration of school librarian positions in schools and districts around the state, and improvements to funding for school library program budgets for all Illinois students. The “Rally to Restore School Librarians” kicks-off a year-long effort to encourage the governor and General Assembly, along with school boards and superintendents across the state, to address state aid for school libraries and local staffing priorities. Along with ISLMA, the rally was organized and supported by EveryLibrary and the Urban Librarians Unite (ULU). Rally endorsing organizations included the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), the School of Information Studies at Dominican University, the American Library Association, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), and the Illinois Library Association (ILA). Follett Learning, EveryLibrary's partner on the SaveSchoolLibrarians.org project, was proud to support this event and ISLMA's efforts to restore licensed school librarians in schools across the state.
“School districts in Illinois are making the wrong choice by cutting school library budgets and laying off licensed school librarians,” says Patti Fleser, 2016-2107 president of ISLMA. “The school library is the largest classroom in the school, and it needs a collection that supports student achievement. School librarians support not just classwork but the discovery and achievement of the whole child.”
The Rally opened with incoming ISLMA president Roskovensky outlining the problems we are facing throughout the state. Testimony was given by Elizabeth Semande, a student from Spoon River Valley, about how she and her classmates don't receive the educational support they need because their librarian was cut. Scott Walter, a parent of a Chicago Public School (CPS) student, spoke about how the cuts to CPS school librarians have been made even though education leaders have been putting a focus on skills that are taught in the library and developed with teachers collaborating with instructional partners in the library. ISLMA President Fleser concluded the speaking with encouragement that ISLMA will continue to advocate for the students of Illinois.
Protesters then took home thousands of comment cards to be signed and sent to Governor Rauner and their own state legislators. Already over 1,650 Chicago parents have already contacted Mayor Emanuel and the CPS Board asking them to restore school librarians with this petition.
We echo what our colleague Julie Todaro, President of the American Library Association, said when she spoke to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the recent ALA conference: “We hope to see a future that shows increased backing of the school libraries…. Chicago Public Libraries are fabulous and your partnerships are great, but the loss of school librarians is great and there are some extraordinary Chicago Public School Librarians out there.”
Numerous studies show that a licensed school librarian positively impacts student achievement. School librarians teach students to evaluate information that they read, critically and competently. Information literacy and internet safety are at the core of their work. Districts across the state from Chicago and the suburbs to downstate rural communities have eliminated librarians. Staffing levels across the state have reached a crisis point. As Illinois looks to restore equity to our education system through implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act, the time is right to re-engage about budget choices that improve student outcomes, including library programs and librarians.
“Effective school library programs are vital to student achievement,” says Jacob Roskovensky, High School Library Media Specialist-Charleston Community Unit School District #1 and current president of ISLMA. “We know that a licensed school librarian in the library is a vital member of the faculty and an effective educator for our kids. We want every student in Illinois have access to the collections and programs that support their curriculum, and a school librarian on staff who can help.”