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canary.jpgHope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all, E. Dickinson

Hope has been getting a good deal of press lately. And in looking at the work we have ahead of us here in Minnesota trying to pass our bill requiring a librarian in every school, we will need a lot of it.

Seth Godin writes “It’s too easy to criticize hope. And in the end, cynicism is a lousy strategy.”  (See Carolyn Foote's fine post on this line as well.)

From Leonard Pitts' column this morning: “Americans do not move because they are told to move; they move because they are inspired to.” 

Are hope and inspiration our missing ingredients in educational change? Seems like we have the work part nailed!

On a side note, as the world's-worst English teacher back in the mid-70s, I required my HS students memorize Emily's small stanza above. I'm not sure it helped any of them, but it probably didn't do them any harm either.


Talking points for Wednesday

This Wednesday is our state's Library Legislative Day when librarians from all types of libraries throughout the state descend on St. Paul to visit with their senators and house members about our organization's platform. This will also be the day when our "media specialist in every building" bill gets it first hearing. Below are our talking points for that bill, written with the help of Linda Wise, Leslie Yoder and Lisa Finsness.

Talking Points for MEMO/MLA Platform Plank

In order for a student to have the regular service of a licensed library media specialist throughout the school day, a school district must employ at least one licensed library media specialist for each school building in the district. The licensed library media specialist must build age and developmentally appropriate collections of both print and electronic resources, collaborate in teaching the embedded information and technology literacy standards, according to the requirements of section 120B.023, subdivision 2, and develop learning activities that improve student achievement.

POSITION:    Every Minnesota student needs the services of an on-site licensed library media specialist.

  1) Over 18 studies, replicated in states across the country, show student achievement increases an average of 10%-20% when school library media centers are staffed with certified library media specialists.
    2) All Minnesota students are entitled to an equitable education.

Professional School Librarians provide these critical services for children and young adults:

  • They build age and developmentally appropriate collections of reading and research materials that promote independent, life-long learning.
  • They collaboratively plan, teach and evaluate research units with students at all age levels that stress critical thinking skills.
  • They teach critical information skills that all students need in order to be successful in both academic and life settings. (health care, job searches, post sec education)
  • They help students learn and teachers integrate technology into lessons and units.
  • They promote the use of high quality print and electronic resources – book, databases and technologies.
  • They work with their school site teams (or administration?) to leverage assets to insure that the financial investments of technology are fully realized.
  • Most importantly, they level the playing field by promoting digital equity in regard to access and skills, thus helping to reduce the growing achievement gap.

Students and teachers without the services of a qualified school library media specialist are at a significant educational disadvantage. They are less likely to learn and practice 21st century skills of information and technology literacy, to be able to participate in the global economy, and to understand the importance of digital citizenship in today’s world.


  • Minnesota Public Schools have reduced or eliminated the school media specialist position in over 375 public schools, from 2001 to 2004.  [indications are that] the data weren’t any better for 2005 and 2006. Deborah Jesseman, Ph.D, MLS, professor, Minnesota State University, Mankato
  • In Minnesota schools:
    • With above-average student scores on the grade 3, 5, and 8 MCA reading tests, 66.8% were schools where the library media specialist worked full-time.
    • Twice as many schools with above-average scores had full-time library media specialists.
    • 93% of 5-Star Schools in reading and math have library media specialists. (Baxter and Smalley, 2003)
  • "Advocate for and support the role of school library media centers as a foundation for increasing student achievement through information/technology literacy, promotion of reading skills, and curriculum support." Minnesota Department of Education's 2005-2008 State Plan for Technology
  • "School libraries are a stronger indicator of student success than class size, experience of teacher, number of computers, or location of school." Facts at a Glance…Student Achievement and the School Library Media Program (Updated 2006)
  • Nationwide data supporting the correlation between student achievement and professionally-staffed libraries can be found at: Library Research Service's Research and Statistics About Libraries,"Impact Studies."

These are but three of 28 stories of cuts in library professional staff from districts across the state. All Minnesota children need access to good library programs run by trained library media specialists.

  • Bemidji Middle School…[has] one para to serve about 1200 students.
  • "When the [Moundsview] media specialist retired at the end of 04-05 the position was cut to .5.  There are 1,100 students at our  school and we circulate 19,000 books every year…."
  • Of 66 [SPPS schools], only 22 have full-time library media specialists, 14 have part-time library media specialists and 30 have either parent volunteers, education assistants, teaching assistants or no one staffing the library media centers. Students are arriving at the secondary level with no familiarity with libraries and no information seeking skills."


Look out, St. Paul, here we come!




The Terror

terror.jpgEvery reader his book; every book its reader. S.R. Ranganathan

When the book opens, 120 officers and men of the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus have already been trapped in the Arctic ice of northern Canada for two years. Led by the incompetent Sir John Franklin in search of the Northwest Passage (and based on a mid 19th century historical event), the men are working in temperatures of -50 to -100 F, are running out of food, fuel and medicine, are suffering from the maritime discipline of the day, and are showing signs of scurvy along with their frostbite. There is no game to hunt and no hope of rescue. The ships' ironclad hulls are breaking up from the pressure of the ice floes. Oh, and there is a giant monster with fangs and claws out on the ice that is taking great pleasure in making man-sushi out of the crew one and two at a time.

And for the next 700 pages, things go downhill for the expedition.

The author of The Terror is Dan Simmons, one of my favorite science fiction writers. His Illium, Hyperion and Endymion series are about the best thing going on the sci-fi front. The Terror is a very well-written story told from multiple points of view.  Simmons displays incredible research, provides great detail, and creates well-drawn characters (who for the most part are eaten soon after you get to know them.) This is compelling reading.

But it is grim, as I have been telling the LWW on nearly a daily basis, And she asks in rely why I keep reading the book. I think it might be because Minnesota has experienced 20+ consecutive days of below zero temperatures - and I am identifying. 

I am watching for creatures on the lake ice. Just out the back door.

Middle Jefferson Lake, LeSueur County, MN, January 2008 - D. Johnson

Every book its reader... I guess.