Monday, February 04, 2008

ALA Presidential Candidate and Grassroots Advocacy

My friend Camila Alire is running for ALA President. (I know I posted about this here.)

Camila has been thinking about the issue of school libraries and librarians with the situation in Washington State uppermost in her mind. She recently posted some of her thoughts about the grassroots advocacy on her blog. However, they are important enough that I am going to (with her permission) reprint them here.

I use the term grassroots particularly when I refer to library advocacy. But, I never knew the origin of the term. I assumed, correctly, that it had to something to do with grass and its roots. That was about all the assumptions I could make. So, I went online to find more about the origins of the term. Voila, I found what I was looking for. On, grassroots is described as getting beneath the grass and its soil to the roots which are vital in keeping the grass alive, thriving, and green.

This made perfectly good sense to me and fits into the whole concept of grassroots library advocacy. The grassroots effort goes beyond our organized political system. It starts back home. I call it back home advocacy. Case in point is the growing grassroots movement in Spokane, Washington, where three mothers refused to accept the cutting of certified school librarians from the school libraries in the Spokane school district due to budget cuts.

These three moms started the Washington Coalition for School Libraries and Information Technology – WSLit ( ) They are the roots embedded in the soil of their children’s educational success. This group of women, joined by others, have lobbied their state legislators for the introduction of Senate Bill 6380 (House Bill 2773) which would provide Washington school districts with the funding for certified school librarians based on the size of the school districts as one of the components of legislation. Sound familiar? This is somewhat similar to the SKILLS Act that we in ALA have been lobbying for with our U.S. Congress. (The two bills also include allocating $12 per student for school library materials budget.)

This past Friday, the Coalition held a summit – the Washington School Library Media Program Summit – and rally in Olympia, Washington’s state capitol. ALA was well-represented by President Loriene Roy, AASL President, Sara Johns, and Julie Walker, AASL Executive Director, Julie Walker. The event was to garner more support for their grassroots efforts on behalf of school libraries.

As an ALA presidential candidate, I maintain that grassroots library advocacy goes hand-in-hand with back home advocacy. My back home advocacy has two purposes. The first is to engage library supporters at the grassroots level to raise the awareness level of the value of libraries and library employees. These roots include parents, patrons, trustees, students, faculty, frontline librarians/library staff, and library administrators. The second purpose is to implement a nationwide Back Home Advocacy Day at the local level in August when both our state and federal legislators are “back home” in their legislative districts.

Let the Washington Coalition’s roots spread to other states to get organized in efforts to put certified school librarians back in school libraries and to fund school library materials budgets more responsibly. As your ALA president, I would not only support the spreading of the roots for support of school libraries but I would also use this grassroots effort as an excellent model for organizing and implementing a systematic Back Home Advocacy Day.

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