The issues of the teacher librarians and para-professionals in California School Libraries. Please share your concerns, feedback and questions.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Introducing Our New President

A Message from Our New President

I am so excited to start my term as President of CSLA, and I have this opportunity to tell you about a few of the goals I have set for my presidency. I am grateful to you for giving me this opportunity and will strive in every way to be worthy of your confidence and to fulfill my duties the best I can. I will have the distinction, perhaps, of having the shortest term of service as President since I will be handing over the gavel to Liz Dodds in August as we are re-aligning our terms to coincide with the terms of the Southern and Northern region boards and at the same time to preside over two Membership meetings since our next annual membership meeting will be in three short months at our Annual Conference in San Diego.

In my work, I will remember my predecessors and the examples they have given -- Sandra Yoon, Connie Williams, Rosemarie Bernier, and Diane Alexander. I have closely followed the work of two presidents, Pam Oehlman, and Jane Lofton. They have both become role models whose work is a joy and honor to continue. At the same time, their achievements have posed high expectations and goals for my own term, now, as I carry on after Jane.

I have been able to witness how intensely, skillfully and elegantly both Pam and Jane have represented CSLA across the state bringing our organization back into a healthy financial position. Jane’s theme, "School Libraries Link Lifelong Learners", has continued the work of her predecessors, emphasizing the active, visible role of school libraries. CSLA and its members are indebted to you, Jane, for your excellent work for the good of CSLA.

For the past two years, our association has been run completely through volunteer power, without support or office staff. One of the first goals is for the executive board to approve a job description and find an exceptional administrative assistant to support the day-to-day activities of the association. This will free up our officers to pursue additional projects to enhance our association.

My aim during my term as President of CSLA is to continue to promote strong school libraries staffed with both Teacher Librarians and qualified paraprofessionals. Therefore, I have chosen as my presidential theme “Journey to Expertise”. I firmly believe that for many schools the library is seen simply as a place or perhaps a program, but exceptional libraries have exceptional people working in them. A strong school library cannot be measured merely by the building, the tables, the computers, or the books. One of the pillars of strong libraries (not just school libraries, but all libraries) is the democratic ideal of freedom of access to information and knowledge. The Internet now puts this access literally in the palms of the hands of most students. What has been overlooked is access to the information expert. The expertise of the person in the library and the expertise in teaching students how to access, evaluate, integrate, originate, and use information safely and responsibly is critical for students to become efficient and effective users of information and ideas.

Public schools are facing unprecedented change as we are changing not only what we teach, but how we test our students AND how we are funded. We can’t sit back and hope the library is remembered while schools are implementing the Common Core State Standards, the students are expected to take Smarter Balanced assessments, and local school boards struggle with competing interests lobbying for their programs through the Local Control Funding Formula.  We must remain vigilant, participative, and cultivate long-lasting relationships with our colleagues at the CDE and our legislators. I am thrilled that the CDE has reinstated the School Library Consultant position, and that Renee Ousley-Swank, our longtime member and colleague has stepped into that role. I am thankful, also, that Barbara Jeffus will remain active and involved for the good of CSLA.

However, even as our focus on advocacy for public school librarians must be steadfast, I believe we must remember to remain inclusive. Our membership is diverse, including public schools teacher librarians and paraprofessionals and independent school librarians. We need to leverage the expertise of our independent school librarians. While public school libraries have faced years of budget and staff cuts, many private and independent schools have thriving school library programs that offer us opportunities. Some of the public schools have also maintained their libraries and staffing. They can share their expertise by providing professional development and showcasing what can be done when programs and personnel are valued. We are dedicating ourselves to inclusion and offering more for all our member groups.

We need all our library colleagues to showcase the good things happening in school libraries, to act as advocates and spokespeople for school libraries to make the decision-makers and politicians, and all other relevant stakeholders, aware not only of the benefits of school libraries to society but, at the same time, of the needs of libraries if they are to fulfill their tasks.

Therefore, we need innovative ways to make libraries more visible. One example is my goal to create a Score Your School Library app. This app will be available online, and for iPads and Android devices. The score will be determined through a series of questions that focus on four key factors for strong school libraries; (1) level of access, (2) expertise of staff, (3) facility design and strength of collection and resources, and (4) comprehensive instruction using the California Model School Library Standards. We must encourage as many schools as possible to find out their library score. We want administrators to know their libraries score because they care about rankings. We will be able to gather data about schools across the state, we will be able to create press releases that celebrate the schools with the strongest school libraries – think of articles trumpeting that a school has one of the Top 10 school libraries in the state.

And finally, my goal during my presidency is to facilitate the continued progress of the important issues facing CSLA. I will by no means do this alone but together with my colleagues, and especially through the vice presidents. The State Board of CSLA, the Northern and Southern Region Boards, the many committees and our Foundation Board all have extremely competent members with whom it is a pleasure to work for the betterment of CSLA and school libraries.

I would be remiss if I didn’t extend special gratitude to Kathie Maier, my conference chair, to the continued support of Jane Lofton, now our Past President, to the new state board officers, to the CSLF, and to the committee members and region boards … all combining to do the real work of the organization. Without your commitment, my job would be impossible to do.

I hope for your continued support and confidence in my upcoming presidential responsibilities. Doing this job together, we will achieve the best results in advancing CSLA’s goals and in building strong libraries for strong students.  

Janice Gilmore-See
CSLA President

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