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We did everything right and failed to save our libraries!

Reprinted here with permission of the author. Originally appeared in the April MEMOrandom newsletter.

We did everything right and failed to save our libraries!

Last year the media specialists in ISD 622, the  North St. Paul, Maplewood, Oakdale school district, put together a presentation for our curriculum committees and school board. We had video clips of programs we created, pictures of students at work, grants we won, all the facts and figures from school library research, and a new curriculum for research in the district.  As the school board adopted the new research curriculum, we learned that budget cuts would cause the loss of central media services, including our coordinator.  At the time, I thought that the new curriculum and the fact that elementary media specialists covered prep time would save the rest of our program. 
In the fall of this year, I made an appointment with our Superintendent of schools. I wanted to talk to her about the research results from school library studies and the implementation of our new research scope and sequence. I sent two highlighted articles for her to read before we met. Superintendent Phillips was easy to talk to.  She proclaimed to be a library lover.  She seemed to understand how important it is to have licensed media specialists to teach vital 21st century information literacy. I left her office feeling really good about the future for our libraries.

chained_door.jpgTurns out the demise of central media was just the first salvo. Toward the end of February this year, we learned that the media department was once again on the chopping block.  The powers that be had given a list of proposed budget cuts to the school board. Those cuts included this item; “Restructure district media and elementary specialist time -- $275,500.”  This cut was listed along side other proposals such as; eliminate 5th grade band (2 FTE); Reduce nurses (2.4 FTE). It was obvious to me that the district was trying to hide the fact that 10 of our 14 media specialist would be cut. Once again all of the media people in district 622 rallied.  We put together arguments to combat the media cuts and contacted supporters to write and speak to the school board. [MEMO leaders] Lars Steltzner and Lisa Finsness came to speak at the budget hearings and made good arguments against cutting libraries. Parents, students and teachers also came forward to talk the board out of the destruction of our program. All to no avail. Our argument seems to have fallen on deaf ears.  At the final meeting, the board brought back all after school sports for middle schools, half of the 5th grade band, two high school counselors, etc., but nothing for libraries. The final wording from the board was: 

“District media services will be restructured, with a skilled paraprofessional or education assistant in charge of the daily operation of each site’s media center. Ten media specialist positions will be eliminated. Four licensed librarians or media specialists will manage the district’s 14 media centers. Media as a prep-time specialty would be replaced with a subject currently taught by the regular classroom teacher, thereby increasing time available for reading and/or math instruction. This recommendation does NOT mean school libraries will be closed – libraries will remain open and maintained.

Are you feeling angry?  I sure am. I am angry that the media specialists in the North St. Paul, Maplewood, Oakdale school district worked hard and followed all of the suggestions from ALA and MEMO, but still failed to save our program.  I am angry with the board of education, why are we required to earn a license in media when schools are allowed to keep libraries open with paraprofessionals and education assistants?  Would the department of education allow paraprofessionals to keep math, language arts, or science classrooms open? What is going on? I have only been a media specialist for 7 years and have now been cut from two districts. 

Okay folks, what do we do now?  How do we make the public as outraged about the loss of library teachers as they are about the loss of after school sports? What will it take to make people as angry about losing 9 elementary libraries as they would be if they lost the entire elementary math curriculum? Something has to change or we all might as well go back to school and learn to do something that people value.  It seems to me that we don’t have a leg to stand on as long as the state is not behind us. No wonder there is a shortage of media specialists. We can’t survive the way things are now.
Tori Jensen, Media Specialist
John Glenn Middle School

Yes, Tori, I'm angry - and sad and frustrated. And out of ideas on how we keep this from happening in other schools in Minnesota and around the country/world.

Or do we sadly accept the fact that society today does not value what libraries represent - the love of learning, the joy of  reading, the exploration of personal interests, the variety of views, the search for real knowledge, the reverence for the accumulated wisdom? I hope not - but I worry.



Odds and Ends - ADD edition

They say I have A.D.D. but they just don’t understand.  Oh Look! A chicken!

Dark Room (Windows)
Write Room (Mac)
JDarkroom (Java for Mac, Windows, Linux) 

main-screen.png Easily distracted while writing? How about a return to the good old days of nothing but you, your keyboard and a green-screen monitor. No e-mail, no chat, not even as-you-type spell checking.

 I love it.



Just who are these people and where are they living?



Laura Pearle recommends a good article, 'To the average Joe, blogs aren't cutting it" from The Guardian. about the "so what" factor of blogging. Reaffirms my belief that we are all blogging to the choir.

Blogs are also still essentially pull rather than push technologies. Pull technologies (like newsstands) require that one consciously  go to a source for updates (the daily newspaper). Push technologies (like home delivery) send the information (the newspaper) to you. I read my delivered newspaper every day; the newspaper I have to go somewhere to purchase only a few times a week.

Yes, I know RSS feeds go a long way into turning blogs into pushers. But when we teach folks about blogs, do we also teach feed aggregators at the same time? (And why is it so tough to get people to understand the concept behind them?)

This is why my district newsletters will continue to go out via listserv rather than simply appear as a blog entry. 


What I thought might be the ultimate long-tail topic has been generating some comments. In January, I posted my reminiscences from the early 1960s about a school assembly speaker, Al Bell. I was delighted to read the comments other Iowans made about the profound impact Mr. and Mrs. Bell had on us young Iowans. This blog entry might be the ONLY posting on the topic of Al Bell on the web. although he is mentioned in a couple histories of Iowa schools available online. I hope Russ Wills gets his Al Bell project going!


Forget your camera? Run out of battery life or memory cards? No worries. Get the e-mail address of other folks on the tour who are planning to upload their vacation photos to the web. This has happened on the last 3-4 tours I've taken.

I suppose about 90% of the pictures of the Eiffel Tower look about the same anyway. Who's to know you didn't take the photo?

The LWW having way too good a time with the kayak guides. Phuket 2007







For anyone interested (and I have NO idea why they would be), my Thailand pictures are now online.


I am still thinking about Tim O"Reilly's proposed Blogger's Code of Conduct.  Puts me in mind of the old adage about laws - those that will follow them don't need them, and those that do need them won't follow them. As much as I am an advocate ofbcclogo.gif free speech, it stops at the front door of the Blue Skunk blog. Anyone posts something that would upset my mother, either in language or topic, it will be deleted and the person posting blocked. The Blue Skunk just must attract a higher-class of readership with very good ethical standards since I don't ever remember receiving any abusive posts (or I am too dumb to recognize them). 

Oh, there has been a Code of Blogging Ethics  (and others writing about them). around for sometime.

And I have my own personal set of guidelines for what I post.  


Absolutely gorgeous weather weekend here in Minnesota. Can't think of any state that deserves it more after this winter. 


Edublogger 2007

From Will Richardson's Weblogg-ed:

Edubloggercon2007–This first-ever, international, one-of-a-kind “meetup” of educational bloggers will take place on Saturday, June 23rd, at the Georgia World Conference Center in Atlanta just before the start of NECC.

All are invited–whether you yourself blog, are just an educational blog reader, or even just want to hang out with an interesting group of people.  The event is free, and you can indicate that you are coming (and see who else will be there) at the Edubloggercon wiki.  This event will be unique in that it is going to be organized by the participants in real time at the wiki.  We have access all that day to the large Open Source Pavilion room at the Conference Center and there will be free wi-fi:  beyond that is up to you.  So come join the discussion and help us plan a fun and stimulating experience.

The good folks at NECC and ISTE have thrown their support behind this. It could be a really great day depending on how the “unconference” format works out…

 Cool library stuff and now this! NECC sounds like an experience. Be there or be square.