Tag Archives: school libraries

Don’t Filter Me: Celebrating the Freedom to Search

29 Sep

As part of Banned Books Week, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) has put together a program to raise awareness about Banned Websites. Although few websites engaging in legal acivity in the United States are literally banned , local practices in many school districts and public libraries effectively ban large segments of content. Wide-scale filtering of web content on library computers is a form of censorship and libraries must be careful to balance legal requirements with their mission to serve their communities.

Because access to Federal funding requires schools and libraries to adhere to the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), many jurisdictions are confused about the level of filtering required. Students, teachers, and librarians are frustrated daily when they discover legitimate educational websites blocked by filtering software. Such filtering may also extend to the use of online social networking sites such as FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube, and Blogger.

Filtering websites does the next generation of digital citizens a disservice.  Students must develop skills to evaluate information from all types of sources in multiple formats, including the Internet. Relying solely on filters does not teach young citizens how to be savvy searchers or how to evaluate the accuracy of information. In order to make school more relevant to students and enhance their learning experiences, educators also need to be able to incorporate the social tools that students use every day into their coursework. Excessive filtering makes this impossible. For a great overview of how libraries can meet the requirements of CIPA and still serve their communitites, read the AASL publication Minors’ First Amendment Rights.

Another unfortunate side effect of aggressive filtering is the isolation of LGBTQ students. Online connections and information allow students to get quality information and helpful resources to understand their emerging sexual identities, regardless of orientation or geography. Many filters arbitrarily block LGBT content, even when it is not remotely sexual in nature. This is a distinct disservice to an already disenfranchised population. The ACLU has mounted the Don’t Filter Me project to help deal with this problem.

The Internet, like the world it connects, can be a scary, sometimes dangerous place. Artificially cordoning off vast swaths of its content “just in case” is not a good strategy, however. Narrowly defined filters (blocking obvious pornography, for example) together with effective instruction  and active student engagement is a much better approach. Let’s remember to help the next generation learn to be a part of their world, not hide it from them.

I Married a Terrorist (?)

27 May

Clearly a threat to society

Yes, (In my best Gestapo accent) vie must interrogate za very dangerous librarians.  The agents of learning and holders of wisdom are nothing less than subversive terrorists!  If they had their way, all of us would be reading and comparing sources and then analyzing information, or talking about the human condition.  I know of what I speak. I am married to one of these sneaky subversive terrorists.

Thank goodness for The Los Angeles Unified School District which has hired attorneys to interrogate these knowledge pushers.  Yes, you heard me correctly–they are nothing more than knowledge pushers. There I said it!  The Los Angeles School District is actually escorting teacher-librarians to the basement of an administration building, “where they are made to sit on lawn chairs while being interrogated by school district lawyers who are seeking to prove that the librarians don’t actually qualify as teachers.”  My how enlightened.

I understand that California, as most states right now, needs to cut costs in a time of budget crisis, but Really?  Really?  They are going to go after librarians in this fashion?  Click here to see the full article. I know I am biased, but please support your local library and support school librarians!

Oregon Librarians Visit Congress

13 May

Rep. Kurt Schrader with Oregon Librarians

Seven librarians from Oregon spent Tuesday, May 10 visiting the offices of all five Oregon Representatives and both Oregon Senators. These visits were conducted as part of National Library Legislative Day. I was privileged to be part of the visiting group as the President-Elect of the Oregon Library Association. Other members represented the breadth of Oregon libraries, including representatives from public, academic, and school libraries.

It was very gratifying to feel a strong sense of support for library issues from all seven offices. Regardless of party affiliation, district geography, or seniority, all Oregon’s members of Congress recognize the value of strong libraries for strong Oregon communities. Our state has been hit very hard by the economic downturn, and libraries are a rare public good available to all; library usage for internet access and job searching is up significantly over the past two years.

The American Library Association’s Washington (ALA) office held a briefing session on Monday to orient us to the key issues. Due to Congress’ current focus on budgetary and fiscal issues, many of these topics do not have active legislation at this time, but it was still important to raise congressional awareness of library needs and concerns.

On the funding side, one critical issue is the funding of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). This funding includes monies distributed to each state on a population-based model. States use the money to support local library programs. In Oregon, LSTA funding supports a variety of programs including:

  • Statewide access to a variety of research and reference tools through local libraries of all types
  • The Oregon School Library Information System (OSLIS), providing access to databases and learning tools for Oregon’s K-12 community
  • Grants and aid to Oregon libraries pursuing innovative and collaborative projects to improve the Oregon library community

ALA is asking Congress to fully fund LSTA at the $232,000,000 level it authorized in December. While the current budgetary situation requires careful scrutiny of all programs, library funding returns value to communities in ways that no other money can. The economic downturn has increased library usage and the funding should be held at least neutral to recognize this value.

Another critical issue is funding for school libraries. Unfortunately, as school funding is slashed, library staff are among the first casualties. This is despite research clearly linking future student success to the presence of strong school libraries, which must include a trained librarian or media specialist to ensure student learning. The No Child Left Behind legislation included no library programs. As it is reauthorized (as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act), it is critical that Congress include language that authorizes and mandates school programs and best practices.

Library Champion, Rep. Grijalva

On Monday, the Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations (ALTAFF), a division of ALA, awarded their 2011 Public Service Award to a champion of school libraries (and all library service), Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ). Rep. Grijalva introduced the 2009 Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries Act, better known as the SKILLs Act.

SKILLs would establish a goal of having not less than one highly qualified school library media specialist in each public school. In addition, it proposes to increase student academic achievement through strategies such as improving the quality of teachers, school library media specialists and principals; and increasing the number of highly qualified teachers in the classroom, highly qualified school library media specialists in the library and highly qualified principals and assistant principals in schools.

It was a true pleasure to meet Rep. Grijalva and hear his generous words about libraries as he accepted the award.

Oregon is very fortunate to have strong library supporters in Congress as well. I truly enjoyed my visits with them and the camaraderie of other Oregon librarians. Anyone else interested in ensuring strong, well-funded libraries should contact their members of Congress and ask for full support of these important library issues.

%d bloggers like this: