Face the Music – Being Honest About the History of School Librarianship

How would you react to history that goes directly against what you thought to be true? While obtaining my master’s in library science, I have come to consider the library as a beacon of truth, and a place that fights injustice and promotes equity and equality. My idea of the library has been a romanticized by my experiences and knowledge. Weigand’s keynote address at the 2021 IASL Conference, and follow up comments and reactions from other library professionals challenged some of my preexisting views on the library, its history and its role in the school.

Image 1
Carrie Coleman Robinson
(Weigand, 2020)

Weigand points out that there has not yet been a comprehensive history of school libraries in the United States. One big finding in his research for his book, American Public School Librarianship: A History, is that, “most of our history shows our professional discourse to be very positive, to be cautious of addressing issues that perplex us” (Weigand, 2021). He tells the story of a black library supervisor, Carrie Coleman Robinson, who was in charge of black segregated libraries in the South and later filed a discrimination suit (See Image 1). Weigand points out that up until this point, the library associations had not dealt with the issue of segregated schools. Then, when the Black Caucus asked the ALA to make a statement about Robinson’s case, they refused. In my mind, this casts a dark shadow on what I believed about the school library as an organization. In one of my first blogposts, I commented on how impressed I was about the comprehensiveness of the ALA and AASL resources and statements. When George Floyd was murdered, organizations, such as the ALA issued statements supporting social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement. They offer statements, definitions of terms, and links to resources to take action, from police reform to racial equity in the library. In addition, the ALA admits that in terms of diversity, “the librarian profession suffers from a persistent lack of racial and ethnic diversity that shows few signs of improving” (“Libraries Respond,” 2021). This, now to my understanding, is a transparency that is necessary to uphold the so called values of the library. However, this is history about which librarians and future librarians should be knowledgeable. It makes our work even more necessary and should us proud of how far the establishment has come, while considering how much more it needs to improve.


Libraries respond: Black lives matter. (2020, June 3). American Library Association. https://www.ala.org/advocacy/diversity/librariesrespond/black-lives-matter

Weigand, W. (2021, July 12-16). Conference opening ceremony and keynote address by Wayne Weigand and panel. [Conference session]. IASL 2021 Annual Conference, Denton, TX, United States. https://iasl-online.org/event-3667867

Weigand, W. (2020, October 6). Separate – and unequal.  American Libraries. https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2020/10/06/separate-and-unequal-carrie-c-robinson-librarian-challenging-racism/

Vision over Small Things

In 2010, I had the pleasure and honor of opening a new middle school in my district. I would be the first choir director of this school and would build its program. After two years, our first principal got a job as Assistant Superintendent for Student Engagement. Our new incoming principal, before the end of that year, sent a survey to the staff asking for our opinion as to the needs of the school or changes we would like to see. When we met him for the first time in the Fall, his observations of the survey were sobering. The feedback given by the staff, outlining changes they would like to see, were specific in nature, but did not address an overall vision of what the school and students in it could achieve. Later, he did something that would become an annual tradition during his tenure at our school. He read a book called, The Spyglass : A Book about Faith, by Richard Paul Evans. In this book, a king rules over a kingdom that is in ruin. A man comes to the kingdom and after having been given room and board in the palace, offers the king the spyglass. Through the spyglass, the king sees a bountiful and flourishing kingdom. This represents what the kingdom could be. The lesson of this gorgeously illustrated picture book, is that in order to achieve success or bountifulness, there must first be a vision.

In the brief, yet powerful IASL session, “Achieving transformational change in the school library,” Green states that if one wants powerful, meaningful change, a few things need to be realized:

  1. There are two types of changes
    1. First-order changes – small improvements but do not change the “system’s core”
    2. Second-order changes – “transformational” and are “deep and meaningful changes” in the system.

2. Change takes time – When one comes up with their vision, it may not take one, two or three years. It may be a goal and vision of one’s career

3. Try to align the library’s vision with the vision and strategic planning of the school, and/ or district. (Green, 2021)

When my new principal polled the staff about changes they would like to see, I suspect the responses he saw were “first-order” changes. For the staff, the annual reading of The Spyglass: A Book about Faith, was powerful. It demonstrated that in order to exact change, there has to be a vision shared with the community, in our case, teachers. This is powerful for current and future librarians, because as Green points out, it is likely that not everyone will support the changes you want. But if you share your vision and that vision aligns with their vision, insofar as the students are concerned, that will make your case more compelling and cooperative. That consequently, will help your vision become a reality.

This year will likely be my last year as a choir director before becoming a school librarian. In these last weeks of summer, it is easy to think of my beginning of the year to-do lists. It is easy to focus on second-order changes – how do we want to arrange seats, how should we go about “giving” music to students? However, through the lens presented by Green, I recognize the difference between these little changes and transformational changes. I am excited to spend ample time considering my second-order changes in addition to my first-order changes. What is my vision for this year and beyond? These reflections, musings, and short and long term goals will be the real precursor to change.

Green, L. (2021, July 12-16). Achieving transformational change in the school library. [Conference session]. IASL 2021 Annual Conference, Denton, Texas, United States. https://iasl-online.org/event-3667867

How Master’s in LS helped me in COVID times

I started my master’s in Spring of 2019. Since then, it has been compulsory to use Zoom, screencastify, flipgrid, whiteboard, google suites, wordpress, and so many others.

When it all went down last March 2020, one of the first things that became ubiquitous was the Zoom. This is something to which I had been exposed in the summer of 2019. These zoom conferences varied in purpose: some to ask a professor a question, others to meet with group members for a project, other times, to attend a synchronous lesson. Then there was INFO…. where we learned the meaning of synchronous and asynchronous. I remember thinking that these terms were completely absent from my day to day jargon in the teaching field. I remember my first Flipgrid in INFO 5000 where I had to record myself saying a few things about myself.

Here we are, this master’s has not only helped me

Now, flipgrids are a vital part of both assessment and giving feedback to students.

Now, asynchronous and synchronous are just as normal jargon as saying “1st period”

Now, Zoom calls, TEAMS calls and Google Meets are comfortable and normal.

Now, I know what the digital divide is in the flesh.

Now, I know now more than ever, the importance, nay how critical it is to have tools to use with your students.