This guest blog post is from Dr. Darrell Willliams, Assistant State Superintendent for the Division for Libraries and Technology at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
Compassionate. Encouraging. Dedicated. Resourceful! Those are just a few words to describe one of our most invaluable professions – school librarian. Wisconsin’s Superintendent of Public Instruction proclaimed April as School Library Month. A time when we recognize and celebrate our licensed school library media specialists, and the libraries they maintain, who help us establish literacy skills and a passion for lifelong learning. As Assistant State Superintendent for the Division for Libraries and Technology, I want to personally thank our school library leaders, staff, and volunteers for their hard work in providing a dedicated learning space for all our students.
Libraries across Wisconsin and within our schools perform a tremendous role in increasing literacy for both students and adults. As a child growing up in very rural Abbeville, Mississippi, there was no library available. To access the library, I had to catch a ride or walk to the library in Oxford several miles away. It was at the library where I discovered that I could travel the world through accessing the many books and using the resources available. This is why I say, “The library is the most important place in our communities and our schools…because you can go everywhere without having to go anywhere!” The library is a critical resource, and its use is paramount to helping to close the academic, information, and opportunities gap for all students. The library played a key role in my education and my overall development, and it will for the students of Wisconsin.
School librarians are inspiring. They provide activities to encourage our youth to be inquisitive, expand their reading interests, and be innovative in using all sorts of technology. School librarians help their fellow teachers with research and collaborate with them to develop high-quality educational programs. And school librarians build a safe space for all our students to have access to accurate information from all points of view.
Our school librarians have been strong during a tough time for their profession. At times, their integrity has been called into question as they follow their library plans and stand up to controversy surrounding book challenges. They support, as does the Department of Public Instruction, the freedom to read and the right of a parent or caregiver to follow a school’s policies and procedures if they question a resource in a school library. But that right should not open the door to criticizing our librarians for their consistent efforts to bring high-quality books and other materials to the library to foster a learning environment that feels safe, inclusive, and educationally encouraging.
During these challenging times and especially this month, we salute our librarians for their consistent efforts to bring high-quality books and other materials to the library to foster a learning environment that feels safe, inclusive, and educationally encouraging. We believe, while all students and adults may not read every book in the library, there should be books and resources that reflect the rich diversity of every student and adult we serve within our State.
So, as we celebrate School Library Month, I support your work and am grateful for school librarians and their staff. You are empowering, invaluable, and outright amazing.