Working to Restore School Librarians Across Illinois
EveryLibrary and the Illinois School library Media Association (ISLMA) announce a joint advocacy pilot-project focused on restoring school librarian positions and school library programs and collections budgets in certain schools and districts across Illinois. This unique and targeted advocacy project is intended to bring together research, activism, and support systems to help encourage school boards and leadership to make a renewed choice about librarians and libraries in their schools. It builds upon the strategic effort that ISLMA has made to highlight the importance of effective library programs in the state ESSA Implementation Plan. It will go beyond policy and into action to lobby for positions and programs across the state.
“Effective school library programs are vital to student achievement,” says Jacob Roskovensky, High School Library Media Specialist- Charleston Community Unit School District #1 and president-elect of ISLMA. “The library is the biggest classroom in the school and supports all students. We want every student in Illinois have access to the collections and programs that support their curriculum.” ISLMA is focusing its Restoration Project on 8 schools and districts that are geographically dispersed across the state and serve demographically diverse populations. “At ISLMA, we believe that a licensed school librarian in the library is an vital members of the faculty and an effective educator for our kids”, adds Roskovensky.
A “Rally to Restore School Librarians” is planned for Friday, June 23rd at noon at the Thompson Center in Downtown Chicago to kick-off this year-long effort. Districts across the state in larger cities and 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 school boards and leadership about the staffing and budget choices that improve student outcomes, including library programs and librarians. ISLMA and EveryLibrary have already launched their first petition to Chicago Public Schools board and the Mayor to bring a new focus on school librarians in CPS.
EveryLibrary is a national political action committee dedicated to building voter support for libraries. “We know that schools who have trained and certified librarians on staff have better outcomes for their students,” says John Chrastka, EveryLibrary’s executive director. “We are uniquely positioned to help reach parents and residents in the selected school districts to share that story.” EveryLibrary is co-managing this advocacy project with ISLMA and will bring its extensive network of supporters and activists to the effort. “We believe that once folks hear about the impact on test scores, graduation rates, and individual student growth that comes from effective school libraries, they will respond,” says Chrastka.