Section of School Librarians (SSL) Update
Submitted by Michelle Miller, SSL President
We continue to be busy contributing to the development of the NYSED draft for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for New York. Our librarian representatives continue to attend monthly meetings and weigh in on the plan that allows for increased school library opportunities for school districts. We expect to have additional guidance and information from various states about ESSA and the implementation process as we meet with our national partners at ALA Midwinter 2017.
Our winter board meeting is scheduled for the second week in February. This meeting is often our most productive meeting. We will be finalizing plans for the Leadership Institute in August as well as reviewing details for the spring conference. The SSL spring conference will be in Buffalo at the Millennium Hotel, May 4-6, 2017. Guest speakers include Gene Luen Yang, Kristina Holzweiss and Gordon Korman; we will also welcome AASL President, Steven Yates. Recent current events have created an opportunity for librarians to share their knowledge and expertise in real world settings. The basket of lemons has been delivered; now we need to make lemonade. This will be a focus of our winter meeting as we coordinate and create strategies for librarians to take a proactive stance within their buildings and communities.
The NYLA Conference was a wonderful opportunity for our school librarians to connect and learn from other library partners. Stacey Rattner, our Vice President for Conferences, facilitated programming that was engaging and relevant for all who attended.
In 2014, after years of threatened and actual staffing and program cuts, NYLA introduced legislation to require that schools guarantee students’ access to school librarians – the first such legislation in nearly a decade. Over the last 18 months, we have attacked this issue in earnest; NYLA worked with SSL and the community of school librarians to develop new legislation and undertook a building-by-building census of New York State’s school librarians, in partnership with SLSA. The census has concluded, and we are now excited to briefly detail the initial analysis of those results.
Current Law & Regulatory Framework
New York State Law fails to guarantee any student will have access to the specialized services provided by certified school library media specialists (cSLMS). Instead, NYSED Commissioner’s Regulation §91.2 requires only limited access to cSMLS services for those students in secondary schools, and wholly ignores elementary school students – children at their most critical stages of educational development. Even if NYSED were to amend §91.2 to include elementary schools, its continued failure to enforce the existing language exposes the inadequacy of the entire regulatory framework. In order to best protect the educational opportunities of all students, access to cSLMS must be guaranteed by state law.
Most importantly, the census data illustrates the necessity of our proposed legislation: while the disparity in compliance rates between secondary and elementary schools show the requirements of §91.2 have a positive impact, substantial statewide noncompliance with those requirements proves the regulation is not enough.
The census data provides us with many angles from which to advocate, and as we continue to analyze and apply this information, more will emerge. As we gear up to begin our push in the 2017 legislative session, we will continue working with SLSA and SSL to develop effective messaging on this issue. Added to that is the importance of recruitment of school librarians to the field. We will work to create stronger partnerships with schools and colleges to highlight the school library path and the benefits of this teaching career.