Speech to School Board Supporting School Libraries and Librarians

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by Kathryn Hardesty, Pacific Middle School Librarian
Pacific Middle School, Des Moines, WA

A shorter version originally appeared May 5, 2011 on Highline Times

It felt like the Academy Awards. But it wasn’t. At the Academy Awards, the recipient has 45 seconds to thank everyone for their contributions to his/her now-publicly acknowledged success. At the Highline School District Board meeting on April 27, 2011, I had 5 minutes to prove that my position as a professional school librarian generates a daily positive impact on the academic achievement of 690 students ages 10-13.

Below is my ‘acceptance’ speech.

Good Evening.

My name is Kathryn Hardesty, Librarian at Pacific Middle School, and I understand it is good practice to open with a joke.

Here goes: “The library is the heart of the academic program in all schools----that’s why there’s a circulation desk!

First semester we circulated almost 9000 titles and had 6000 students sign in. That doesn’t count before and after school and classes scheduled.

 As librarian, I make the library a safe haven from the tyranny of the middle school lunchroom. 

Kids find academics COOL AND COMFORTABLE.

As professional librarians, we are all CHIEF INFORMATION OFFICERS making a direct and positive impact of every student’s academic achievement:

  • WE ARE ALL certificated teachers, most  with Master’s Degrees. Our education encompasses broad and deep knowledge of the arts and sciences. 
  •  WE ARE ALL up-to-date in reading the books our students read in order to recommend literature that ‘fits’. 
  • WE ARE ALL continually learning and incorporating new technology, often begging for or even paying ourselves for training. 
  • WE ARE ALL collaborating with our faculty in both supportive and leadership roles. 
  • WE ARE ALL equipping our students with the relevant vocabulary to succeed, such as the difference between a database and a website. Students will ‘learn to discern’ bias, validity and timeliness of both print and non-print information.
  • WE ARE  ALL working with every student and teacher and every learning style.
  • WE ARE  ALL at the cutting edge of information literacy—the skill of successful researching-- without which students will not succeed in college or in the 21st century workplace.

THE MALL. AHH the mall. Ask a student about the mall and he/she will tell you she is going to the mall for stuff.

I recently had a student come in to the library to ‘go on the computer and go to Google to get some stuff.”

Hmm, lots of time wasted browsing and not finding what you want—tired and frustrated—
Sound like the mall?  Sound like unguided research?

Professional librarians are trained and experienced in guiding students in defining their research question—thesis—so that they can learn to discern the most relevant and appropriate and authentic information in an efficient and timely manner.

Michael Eisenberg, former Dean of the University of Washington Library/Information School
found that many college students are drowning in irrelevant data and frustrated about how find credible information.

And a study in January of this year by School Library Advocacy, “Libraries play a very special role in providing enrichment to those students who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and who need additional help to develop the skills they will need to succeed.”

Finally, I would like to read a statement contributed by John Holmes, head of the Odegaard Undergraduate Library at the University of Washington.

“Librarians help teachers push beyond the safe harbor of the text book, and help their students navigate the open waters of a new and increasingly complex sea of information. Classroom-based instruction alone is not adequate for the learning needs of today’s students. Libraries and librarians ─ specially trained to understand, visualize, and manage the information environment ─ are uniquely and strategically positioned to extend the classroom in time and space, providing structured learning opportunities outside the classroom.  As a university librarian, I see dramatic differences between students whose secondary schools have strong library and media programs and those who come from schools that have eliminated libraries or replaced librarians with other staff not trained in information science. In my view, there can be little doubt that students are advantaged in meeting the challenges of higher education through the hard work and expertise of dedicated school librarians.”

Thank you,
Kathryn Hardesty, Pacific Middle School Librarian