de·us ex ma·chi·na noun
1. a god introduced into a play to resolve the entanglements of the plot.
2. any artificial or improbable device resolving the difficulties of a plot.
Librarians were upset at life's unjustices this week. My friend David Loertscher was incensed over an article in EdWeek about a teacher's (Justin Minkel) attempt to help children in poverty build home library collections. He wrote to the AASLForum:
Have you read: [The Home Library Effect] and if you can't read the article, you can check my tweets. I am davidloertscher on Twitter.
Anyway, this teacher discovers that each kid that has a home library of forty books makes extraordinary gains in reading. And all the comments gush over what a great idea this is. There are at least twenty glowing responses. I don't subscribe to EdWeek. Perhaps you do and there could be a comment about the school library.
After all these years, I am still wondering how many kids and teens have unlimited checkout privileges from the school and public libraries? And, is there a book bag program in K-2 that sends two or three books home every night of the school year with one title to read to someone else and one title to have read to me?
Does every teacher in the building have a rotating classroom collection from the school and public library?
Do we link every child and teen into summer reading programs?
Is it me or what?
Just how can we claim we make a difference if we are totally invisible?
David, why should I be angry about ANY effort that helps kids succeed? And if we are invisible, who should be held responsible for that sad state?
Not only is the world dissing the role of libraries in reading it seems, but in teaching "digital literacy" as well. As I am following this, Fran Bullington's post "Calling School Librarians to Action! Another Attempt to Undermine Our Jobs!" took the FCC to task for wanting to implement a program designed to help close the digital divide in communities by creating a "Digital Literacy Corps." And heaven forbid, the FCC did not realize we school librarians were already doing such a swell job of this task. Buffy Hamilton's anger spilled over to ALA for not compelling the FCC to include librarians and Jeri Hurd despaired about the fate of the library field as a whole. Buffy sums up much of this:
It’s insulting for the FCC to say that they don’t need the services of librarians, but they’d love to hire someone else to utilize our learning spaces for this endeavor. Do you think we only check out books? That we’re not already teaching digital literacy? That librarians aren’t qualified to be your digital literacy corps? Why not use this funding to elevate and grow libraries and schools as partners in cultivating digital literacy for their communities?
There's a whole lot of angst going on - and I don't get it. What I am hearing is that if I can't play in the game, the game ought not to be played at all. If the solution to a problem doesn't include me, let's just let the problem remain unsolved. How parochial, how selfish, how short-term. And this coming from a field that is supposed to be all about collaboration? Hah!
Why, despite years of promotion and government lobbying by the ALA, does the country at large still not get it? Why is it still so hard to convince some teachers of our usefulness? That we can make their jobs easier? Obviously, whatever we're doing isn't working, and we need new ideas, but I'm at a loss.
Here's my idea, Jeri. Let's stop assuming or even asking ALA or AASL or anybody else to save the butts of invisible librarians. Good librarians (aka those who are locally proactive and are not expecting a deus ex machina intervention from ALA or a state mandate or the Jedi Council) are working on ways to support programs like Mr. Minkel's instead of feeling threatened by it. These librarians are happy to hear about a digital literacy corps since they know that they alone can't offer all the services needed to train entire communities about these vital skills and know that they will personally, individually carve out an important role for themselves and their libraries in these kinds of efforts.
Were I FCC or EdWeek, I just might borrow Coco Chanel's old line, “I don't care what you think about me. I don't think about you at all.” Nobody likes to be ignored. But to get attention, you have to be worthy of it.
End of rant. Have at me.