New England 
School Library Association
 Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut   

Dear Present and Future Members of the New England School Library Association,

NESLA has been busy this year preparing a strategic plan that will guide us in meeting the needs of our six state library associations and their members.  Our primary goal is to promote the health and sustainability of school libraries by forming partnerships and joining initiatives in research and practice. NESLA is offering annual membership, with full benefits, for $20 to all school librarians and their colleagues, including school library paraprofessionals, educators, school library students and their instructors and professors, retired school librarians, publishers and resource-providers, and non-profit library and educational organizations.  Annual membership dues for those who are already members of any state or national library, technology, or educational association is $15. Our goal is 100% membership across New England so we can continue to offer this low rate and engage with our partners to secure a future for school libraries.

How does NESLA, as a 100 year-old association, work to strengthen school libraries?

NESLA takes a pro-active approach by partnering with commercial and non-profit organizations, publishers, legislators, educators, and universities to put strategy into action. Once a school library position is eliminated, it is too late!  

“U.S. Public Schools Have Lost Nearly 20% of their Librarians Since 2000” reminds us of the extent of the crisis.

  • ·      Between 1999-2000 and 2015-2016 public schools lost 20%of full-time equivalent school librarians;
  • ·      The shortage of school librarians hits districts serving minorities the hardest;
  • ·      Increasingly school libraries are run by paraprofessionals as media aides – a position that requires a high school diploma and a certification and which starts at $14.60 an hour;
  • ·      As public school librarians dwindled by 20% schools saw an 11% rise in counselors, 19% boost in instructional aides, and 28% more school administrators.

Every school library position eliminated is an irreversible loss that brings the profession closer to extinction. The time to act is now!

How is NESLA addressing this crisis? NESLA is working with its partners to make all school libraries in New England essential to students, teachers, parents, and school administrators. The themes featured at our centennial 2018 conference, Dancing with the Stars in School Librarianship, drive the following ongoing initiatives and partnerships.

Print/Digital Literacy and Learning. An up-and-coming company, Kano Computing, provides kits that enable students to build and use their own computers. NESLA and Kano are offering a free webinar in March to demonstrate how this technology facilitates technology integration. You can sign up for the webinar at the NESLA website or respond to our invitation to participate in this exciting webinar. If there are enough school librarians interested in using Kano’s kits NESLA plans to negotiate a region-wide collective purchasing agreement.

NESLA is talking with Rosen Publishing about their new social and emotional education materials and possible collective purchasing options for NESLA members. NESLA also offers The Essential School Library, a paper that commemorates NESLA’s 100th anniversary, which can be downloaded from our website for you to use as an advocacy tool in your schools.

Digital Equity and Equitable Access. NESLA supports research that provides evidence-based advocacy for school libraries. NESLA-ites Carol Gordon and Robin Cicchetti worked with the Special School Library Commission formed by the Massachusetts Legislature to study the status of school libraries in the state. NESLA partnered with The Rutgers Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries [CISSL] to conduct the study. The Massachusetts Study: Equity and Access for Student of the Commonwealth is endorsed by the Massachusetts Teachers Association [MTA]. Keith Curry Lance, a researcher well-known for school library impact studies, commented,“ The latest MA study … deserves special comment …  What really sets this study apart … is its focus: equity of access.  While “impact” and “causation” get a lot of airtime these days, equity of access is probably at least as important an issue—and, pointedly, it’s not one addressed by most, if any, of the “impact” studies.  Historically, I believe I recall one or two other such reports—though none quite so masterfully done—and I can’t think of any such studies anytime recently.  Perhaps it is time, given the all-or-nothing reality that appears to be taking hold far too well across the nation. There has probably never been a time when equity deserved so much intensive attention.”

NESLA promotes school librarians’ awareness of digital equity through its partnership with the National Collaborative for Digital Equity [NCDE], a non-profit working to obtain the investment of billions of dollars as required the Community Reinvestment Act [CRA]. This law stipulates that banks must provide economic opportunities to low and moderate income  [LMI] communities in their service areas. The Federal Reserve, through NCDE advocacy, has issued new guidelines that provide for the use of CRA funds for digital equity. NCDE is working to encourage banks to use a systematic approach to their investments by collaborating with schools, libraries, and community agencies to provide hardware, software, and broadband access, as well as access to librarian curated digital resources and services. NCDE and NESLA are piloting the use of Springshare’s LibChat, a live reference service and will recruit and train librarians to support low and moderate income students’ use of the curated collection, which also includes Class Links, an enhanced resource management system for EBSCO databases. NESLA is working with NCDE to conduct research on digital equity and school libraries.

School Librarians as Leaders. NESLA is working with researchers Keith Curry Lance and Debra Kachel who have invited NESLA and state school library associations to partner with them on their research proposal, “The Evolving Role of the School Librarian: How School Decision-Makers are Driving Change.” Their proposal for the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Grant is offered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [IMLS]. As a partners NESLA and participating state school library associations will help the researchers connect with school administrators and school board members to complete online surveys and phone interviews. The intent of the proposed study is to investigate the changing value and expectations of school decision-makers who employ librarians and how that is impacting the school librarian profession. NESLA urges you to join us in supporting this research if the grant is funded. Stay tuned to our website! Keith will provide each participating state library association with their own data from the National Center for Educational Statistics [NCES] state data at no cost to them. Your associations can use these data for your state advocacy efforts. If this proposal is awarded the grant work will begin August 1, 2019.

The School Library Association of Victoria [Australia]is working with NESLA to form a joint mentoring project with possible collaboration with regard to the LibChat initiative.

ALA and AASL. NESLA is working with Region 1 Director, Anita Cellucci who holds a seat on NESLA’s Board as well as on AASL’s Affiliate Assembly to effectively represent school librarians’ interests and concerns at ALA’s mid-winter meeting and national conference, and at AASL’s biannual conference. Anita is a member of AASL’s Executive Board where she represents New England school librarians. Our New England school librarians are the only Affiliate members who are represented by a regional, as well as state school library associations.

I hope that you are as excited as we are about NESLA’s strategic plan to support school librarians and the teachers and students who benefit from their work. Please join NESLA today to help us in our efforts to preserve and advance school librarianship at our bargain rates. Together we can make a difference!

My best wishes for a productive and creative 2019 and a secure future for school libraries!

Carol Gordon, President, New England School Library Association


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