Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The ALA Astounds Me

Everyone knows that the average librarian and the ALA are more politically left than the average American. Not that this means much in practice, since no one in Washington pays the slightest attention to the political ramblings of librarians or the ALA, at least as evidenced by the ALA's defeat on just about every political issue it as supported.

Also, the ALA does not usually represent or defend librarians in any way designed to help them find employment. One only has to think of the "librarian shortage" canard to see what I mean. You just have to read the mission statement and see the issues to see that librarians as such aren't very important to the ALA. It's the American Library Association, not librarian association.

But now the ALA has surprised me by reversing both of these tendencies with their position on the "No Child Left Behind" act, which, as we know, is one of President Bush's favorite acts. As you're probably aware, the "No Child Left Behind" act has been opposed for various reasons by many people. Public school teachers and their nefarious unions tend not to like it because they don't like the idea of pay raises being tied to student performance on standardized tests. Of course public school teachers and their unions don't seem to like pay raises being tied to anything other than them marking time in their jobs or moving up into a bloated bureaucracy or getting an "advanced" degree that if possible is even more ridiculous than the MLS, so intelligent and thoughtful people can dismiss their concerns as self-serving.

Plenty of Democrats oppose "No Child Left Behind," too. Coincidence? According to this article, Obama recently said he'd end NCLB if he is elected. According to this, Bill Richardson said to the DNC: "Look at the last twelve months. Not only are we still in Iraq, we still have the failure called No Child Left Behind." Many other Democrats think it needs an "overhaul," which seems to mean spending a lot more money on it without making it accountable in any way, and certainly without giving merit pay to teachers who improve student achievement. (Even if some Democrats secretly did like NCLB, they certainly wouldn't want to oppose any teacher's unions, because as we all know the teacher's unions just want the best for us and our children and to oppose them is to oppose education itself.)

The ALA seems to think the NCLB act is perfect, though, except for one crucial gap--that it doesn't include librarians. This just astounds me, because something the ALA might ordinarily be opposing they support, and they are doing so in a way designed to get librarians jobs. I'm not conversant with the details, and since I have absolutely no personal interest in school libraries or public schools I'm not going to bother to make myself conversant, but as I understand it there's some rule about requiring teachers of various kinds, and since librarians aren't teachers, some schools get rid of their librarians so they can keep the teachers when the budget gets tight. Don't quote me on that. Someone at ALA was telling me about it in earnest tones, but I was distracted because it was almost 6pm and martinis beckoned. Regardless, we can count this as another instance where there isn't a librarian shortage at all. Usually the ALA lies to everyone about that. Why not now?

The ALA wants something called the "Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries (SKILLs) Act" to be included in an overhaul of NCLB. It's important to have the informal "kids" rather than the proper "children," because otherwise the acronym doesn't work. Among other things, the SKILLs Act:

"* Requires school districts, to the extent feasible, to ensure that every school within the district employs at least one state-certified school library media specialist in each school library;

* Establishes as a state goal that there be at least one state-certified school library media specialist in every public school no later than the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year;"

In other words, for whatever reason, it wants to get school librarians employed. This is absolutely astonishing. The ALA is not only implicitly admitting there's no shortage of school librarians, but they're saying there's a shortage of school librarian jobs and they want a law to fix it. There are some "talking points" about how children don't learn anything without librarians , but I'm not sure many people believe that. Besides, there's a difference between having a library with people working in it, and having a "state-certified school library media specialist in each school library." The whole "state-certified" thing doesn't impress me at all, and I can't help but notice that many of the best schools in the country (i.e., the posh private ones) don't require all this state certification and educrat baloney for their teachers or librarians. But if you can't provide a great education, at least provide some state-certified people. It makes everything look official.

So there we are. Nothing to get me particularly annoyed. This is just my expression of astonishment that the ALA is working on behalf of the school librarians to get more of their noses in the public trough by act of law . . . I mean get more of them employed, and all but approving an act that the Republicans and President Bush support. If Laura Bush could just use her librarian mojo on her husband and and get him to support this SKILLs thing, the ALA might have to endorse a Republican for President.

At least one thing doesn't surprise me. The ALA is supporting a political issue that seems destined to fail, since if this article in the Washington Post is accurate, it looks like Congress may not reauthorize NCLB. No reauthorization, no SKILLs. And once more the ALA spends our dues for nothing.


Bunny Watson said...

Considering the number of conservatives against NCLB (just do a site search at a place like, I wouldn't be surprised to see the renewal fail. And wouldn't it be incredibly ironic to see ALA fail again, even after jumping into bed with those evil Republicans whose cabal has been running the country for seven years?

Anonymous said...

Here's the missing link - school librarians are often not required to have an MLS, or at least not an "ALA-accredited" MLS. Once schools have to have librarians, more teachers will have to go to library school.....

Anonymous said...

All the jobs I ever saw for school library jobs required a teaching certificate but necessarily an MLS.

And from personal experience, well via my offspring, some of these librarians are hacks who couldn't make it as teachers so they wound up in the library. Sadly, because of union rules and tenure, these people stay long enough to scale the salary ladder. I know of two within a relatively small school district that make more money than the state law librarian.

I bet if you said LibraryThing to these hacks, they would say "I think that might be a Dr. Seuss book, I am not sure." The Dewey Decimal system? Does that deal with math department? LC. Down the hall and on your left for the women's LC and the right for the men's LC.

Anonymous said...

accc I meant to type "All the jobs I ever saw for school library jobs required a teaching certificate but NOT necessarily an MLS."

mea culpa

Anonymous said...

There was an Ohio study that showed a strong correlation between student achievement and media centers. Many schools cut media centers first when trying to save money, and students are negatively impacted. AL, I'm not a school librarian, or don't have children for that matter, but I would want my children to attend a school with a media center and "certified" (which means having a teaching certificate) staff. School librarians need our support. Yes, some may be in it for the tenure, but many are in it because they want to help students. And, AL, think of it this way, if students don't have a school library/librarian to help ("train") them early on, it will be more work for you to help them once they get to your university.

Anonymous said...

I am a former teacher with an MEd and an MLS who is certified to be a school librarian but chose to work in an special library instead.

Firstly, contrary to popular belief, NCLB does not tie teacher raises to standardized tests. Some individual states choose to, but this is not part of NCLB and is NOT why teachers oppose it. The main reasons teachers oppose NCLB include:

1) It is a statistically untenable plan. The goal is to get 100% of students in 100% of schools passing the standardized tests by 2014. This includes students who just transferred in last month from Zimbabwe and don't speak any English. This includes severely mentally disabled kids. This is unfortunately a simplistic explanation of the law, but it would take pages and pages to explain properly. Essentially it is a law designed to produce automatic failure, and many of us believe it was engineered to convince the public that the education system is irredeemably broken and make them more accepting of school vouchers for private schools.

2) It's flat-out bad for the kids. Valuable and scarce instructional time is wasted teaching test-taking strategies on a daily basis in most schools, and classes don't cover as much of the subject material by the end of the year as they used to as a result. Art, music, and any subject not related to the test is on the chopping block because students need to focus on the subjects being tested.

3) When a school is labeled as "failing," the government responds by cutting Title 1 funds, money directly tied to the percentage of low-income students a school has. So who gets hurt? Not the rich schools who are failing (and yes, there are plenty of those). The poor schools get their budgets slashed, and then are forced into a deeper hole without the financial resources to dig themselves out.

Obviously, I think the whole mess out to be repealed as soon as possible. That's not going to happen soon though, so I support the ALA's move to require that school librarians be state certified. I know a lot of school librarians, and how much library school they've had seems to be pretty highly correlated to how well they serve their students. At least state certification requires some library school, even if most states don't require the full MLS.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the Children that get left behind can obtain their MLS.

I hear that it is a cake walk program.

Book Calendar said...

In many ways, the ALA is a ridiculous institution. I haven't found it particularly useful. The only thing the organization has ever produced for me that was useful was RUSA-- the Reference and User Services Association, a subgroup. The overall group leaves something to be desired.

However, it does have a function, keeping out people who have no real interest in books or information. It is a union card to have a MLS.

Librarians are not teachers, don't make that mistake. They are there for literacy and managing collections.

rcn said...

Perhaps you need another blog by the name of Astonished Librarian.

Anonymous said...

But, ya know, naming that proposed act with the proper "Children" instead of "Kids" would change its acronym from SKILLs to SCHILLs ... and that just sounds too much like "shills" ... which would put a whole new light on things somehow or other.

Varzil said...

At first they wanted to call it the Strengthening Children's Awareness of Media, but then after 9 committee meetings they realized that calling the group SCAM might tip off some members of Congress.

RedLipstick said...

AL: "And once more the ALA spends our dues for nothing."

Not mine thank goodness!

Anon 11:45AM summed it up pretty well. My cousin is an Asst. Prin. but was in the classroom for well over ten years and she says the law does not come close to doing what it proposed...making sure children have some basic reading and math skills before getting promoted to upper grades and holding teachers/schools accountable.

Why I wonder can places like India teach children basic math, science, and reading comprehension at a fraction of what we spend here in America and with far greater results?

kicking mule said...

sounds to me like AL and her union-hating blowhard mugwumping got a comeuppance from "the former teacher with an MEd and an MLS"

AL is starting to sound like Paul Harvey and not in a good way.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:45 again.


You wondered why the statistics show that countries like India are getting much better results in math and reading comprehension? The answer is simple: They're not teaching every child, nor are they testing every child.

Our educational system in the US is fairly unique. Very few other countries maintain a public school system that does not separate out and track children from a young age. In most of the rest of the world, the brightest students are attending separate schools from their less gifted classmates.

In international rankings, the US average test score is often held up against the scores of countries that only administered the test to these brightest students. In countries like India, it's often only the richest and brightest students who even make it through the school system.

Anonymous said...

And what, pray tell, will happen to all the non-certified' school librarians if this becomes a requirement? Are there steps in place to assist them in becoming certified? Contrary to comments posted here, I know many extremely competent and dedicated school librarians, and it seems a pity to just eliminate all of them because of a broad across the board new requirement. Many of them don't make much as it is, not compared to other position in the field. Are they to just be thrown away in the name of 'progress'?

AL said...

That's a good question, and part of my point. I never said schools shouldn't have libraries, but having competent people isn't the same as having them state certified.

And got my comeuppance, indeed.

As for the "Shorter AL" moron, when you are actually capable of reading closely and summarizing my posts, I'll let your comments remain.

Stephen Denney said...

I agree with anonymous 6:05 pm. Discharging school library workers because they don't have a particular certificate is another case of bureaucracy getting in the way of education.

Anonymous said...

Hi, AL,
Disappointed to see you gratuitously teeing off on classroom teachers - why not take a shot at public school administrators,instead? They're not on the firingline yet get to impede, in many ways, those who are.
Besides, who is accountable when kids/children/students do bad in school? - I would think parents bear the largest percentage of clearly identifiable responsibility. This relates to public libraries. If nobody uses them anymore whose fault is that?


AL said...

Yeah, I might have seemed harsh on the teachers, but it's not the teachers that annoy me. It's both the unions AND the administrators, plus the reward system in public education. The idea that the best teachers get paid less than the bad teachers who get booted up into what in many places is an unnecessarily large bureaucracy is annoying, as is the fact that then these bad teachers who are now administrators have a lot of control over the good teachers. I'm not sure how rewards should be established, but basing raises purely on longevity, unnecessary ed ed degrees, and administration is detrimental to the education system. But this is exactly what the public school unions want.

And don't get me started on this state certification nonsense. The educracy is a ridiculous boondoggle. The best education for the best is the best education for all, as Robert Hutchins said, and the best education is not that controlled by the educational training and credentialing establishment in this country.

Arthur Bulwerlytton said...

"Of course public school teachers and their unions don't seem to like pay raises being tied to anything other than them marking time in their jobs or moving up into a bloated bureaucracy"
"With all their faults, trade unions have done more for humanity than any other organization of men that ever existed.
They have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the betterment of the race, for the developing of
character in men, than any other association of men."
-Clarence Darrow

AL said...

Ah, I see. Some unions have done good some of the time, thus all unions do goo all of the time and are beyond criticism. Where'd you learn that clever logic? At your last Wobbly meeting?

Jonathan said...

You're really reaching now AL. You said "The ALA seems to think the NCLB act is perfect..." yet on the page you linked to, it says "ALA applauds the objectives of NCLB."

Then you base this entire post on "their position of the act." How does their applause of the act's objective mean they think it's perfect?

This is a tactic of rhetoric spewing talking heads: make an assumption not based in reality, then rant on about it.

Surely you can do better than this.

webbygrl said...

Librarians are not teachers, don't make that mistake. They are there for literacy and managing collections.

In Texas, you must be a state certified teacher for 2 years before you can become a school librarian. And while you are teaching with your MLS under your belt, you're being paid a mere $1,000 more a year than a teacher without a masters. Now THAT'S a real incentive for that higher ed. And no, you don't get a pay raise when you become the librarian. I took the state teaching exam for ELA 4-8 and passed and yes, it was a real challenge. But now I would have to actually go teach for 2 years at a significantly lower salary than my special librarianship gig so I decided to pass.

In my neck of the woods, most of the teachers don't like the NCLB because it makes them take tests too - and they certainly don't like that. The NCLB weeds out bad teachers. THAT'S why the Texas Education Assoc. doesn't like the NCLB and has signed on to fight it. God forbid we hold teachers accountable. And as for Republicans supporting it too? Republicans are not Conservatives...don't confuse the two.

AL said...

"Surely you can do better than this."

Not this week. I have real work to do.

Arthur BulwerLytton said...

"Some unions have done good some of the time, thus all unions do goo all of the time and are beyond criticism. Where'd you learn that clever logic? At your last Wobbly meeting?"

Yes, we sat around drinking corn liquor after while playing musical saws. The worst, most intractable union boss and goons in the land cannot match the destructive bottom-liners who thought up No child... So true what a poster said about Repubs and true conservatives who deserve some respect for having principals as opposed to the Abramoff's who would chisel Indian tribes and suck dough out of every available orifice. Yep, that was Jack having his photo taken in the oval office where they launched the disaster known as NCLB.
Any union is only as good or bad as its members. If the teacher's union is really holding kids back then blame the members who don't get involved and turn the direction away from themselves and toward actually helping educate the little ones.

Anonymous said...

Never mind merit pay for teachers--what about merit pay for LIBRARIANS?

At the public library where I work, there are no performance reviews and no merit differentials of any kind. People in the same job get the same pay.

Except for part-timers. They get paid LESS than the full time staff for doing the same job, even if experience and credentials are identical. Even if a performance review would show they are doing a better job.

tanner said...

I agree that the topic of school certification for librarians is not very interesting. I believe that this is a pet project of the person in ALA Headquarters who oversees the Allied Professional Association and it keeps getting brought before Council (I am an ALA councilor, btw) and we just rubber stamp it so we don't have to waste time discussing it ad nauseum.

(AL-- I'm back! I haven't been reading your blog for months and am just now catching up. I've missed you).

AL said...

Welcome back, Tanner. There's probably a decent post somewhere in the last two months.

I also think librarians should get merit pay.

Also, I'm not sure it's relevant, but I don't support NCLB for anyone who's curious. The moron who thought I'd been given some comeuppance by someone pointing out the flaws in the NCLB apparently seemed to think I supported it.

AL said...

By the way, in case you haven't noticed, I'm a bit cranky and uncharitable this week.

Anonymous said...

Of course NCLB, or some form of it, will be reauthorized. It is the current version (mostly written by Ted Kennedy, by the way) of ESEA, the elementary and secondary education act, which since 1965 has provided the primary source of federal funds for basic education programs such as Title 1 (federal funding to schools in high poverty areas).

Fail to authorize ESEA, by whatever title you choose, and you cut $15 billion or so of federal funding for education annually. It will be revised, no doubt, but no congressmen is going back to his or her state for re-election after tossing hundreds of millions of federal dollars out of the state education budget window.

One of the things NCLB says is that teachers should be qualified to teach their subject -- maybe even have a degree in it, heaven forfend. Imagine that! Librarians are exempt from the highly qualified requirements under current NCLB rules by virtue of accounting categories used by NCES, the National Center for Education Statistics. Which, by the way, was the justification for axing school librarians under the so-called 65% solution because the categorization by NCES classified librarians as "out of classroom" expenses (along with janitors and overpaid administrators). What SKILLS does is confirm librarians and libraries as integral to and a part of direct classroom support and, oh by the way, says that if teachers have to be qualified, so should librarians. What's wrong with that?

Gilbert Bland said...

...Wow...calling posters morons is uncharitable. Maybe a little less vermouth in the "blabbermouth soup" dear lady will improve the disposition.

Right, left or middle we all have a common object of scorn and that is the "American Library-Administrators Association"

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised you see this as an opportunity to for librarians to get "their noses in the public trough," instead of an opportunity for librarians to get reliable information into the hands of children.

Librarians can be more than a burden on the budget. They can contribute to the objectives of the parent organizations in which they work.

It's all in the words.

Anonymous said...

One of the posters mentioned the Ohio studies. In fact, there are many studies which consistently demonstrate that children perform better when the library has more books (well, duh) and is open longer. These impact studies can all be found here:

Funnily enough, the one thing that these studies DON'T prove is that the libraries must be staffed by "professional" (ie: Masters level) librarians.

Anonymous said...

In my area one district is contemplating removing all elementary libraiansand replacing them with Clerks. Which means they can fill the jobs in with those "pool" workers AL is ragging on so often!!

I do sometimes worry about people who cling to Socialistic Jobs when we live in a Capitalist Country, especailly as we move futher away from Sputnik and our Governments realize they don't NEED to give Schools as much money as they used to.

Face it, if you can't compete against the clerks, it's time for a career change. Compete is the word of the day!

Merc kat

Anonymous said...

re: Funnily enough, the one thing that these studies DON'T prove is that the libraries must be staffed by "professional" (ie: Masters level) librarians.>>

Apples and oranges, the "ticket" for school librarianship is not the MLS. The studies do correlate with what the states refer to as library media specialists, as opposed to clerks, paraprofessionals and other non-professional workers. Each state has its own requirements for the library media specialist. In some cases, it's a praxis exam or a certain number of graduate credits; in others, it's NCATE endorsement. According to some court rulings, states can't compel teachers to have a master's degree as a condition of employment and that has generally been extended to school librarians. They may, of course. But states have their own requirements for the designation of LMS, which most of the studies do positively correlate. Contrary to assertions elsewhere, school library media specialists are, by most definitions and state requirements, teachers.

Ellcee said...

I have been in a school library for 14 years. I have a Master's in Educational Media and the School Library Media endorsement. I have taken the Praxis and passed,

BUT, according to the SKILLS Act, (and our state requirements), I am not "qualified." I should be fired or demoted because I don't have a teaching certificate.

Don't get me started.

Anonymous said...

And, AL, if you think that the ALA-certified library programs are a joke, you haven't heard or seen any of the "assignments" or class requirements that those non-ALA certified library programs have. Those programs are just unbelievable!

Anonymous said...

"Here's the missing link - school librarians are often not required to have an MLS, or at least not an "ALA-accredited" MLS. Once schools have to have librarians, more teachers will have to go to library school....."

This comment is wrong in the fact that school media specialists are required to have a master's degree. It is correct in the fact that the degree does not have to be from an ALA-accredited university.
I believe that it is wrong for 'educators' to finish up their final years in the media center or for them to get out of their chosen profession as classroom teachers because they believe that the media specialist job is easier. The media specialist's position in a school is usually viewed as not as important as the classroom teacher.
With this in perspective, I believe that the SKILLS component of NCLB is a way to make the education community realize that the school media specialist is a vital part of the education of our children, as well as the fact that the media center is more that a cushy place to work.

Anonymous said...

re: This comment is wrong in the fact that school media specialists are required to have a master's degree. <<

This comment is wrong in the fact that it is wrong. This varies from state to state. Some states require a teaching certificate and passing of a praxis, for example, and cannot compel anyone to have a masters, MLS or otherwise.

Liza said...

As a former school library media specialist, I want to point out that in many schools (at least in my neck of the woods) school library media specialists actually teach full classes of students as part of a prep rotation for the teachers. Since they write lesson plans, it makes sense to me that these people should a)have the same training a teacher has and b)get the same compensation that a teacher does. They have the same responsibilities(well actually, the have more responsibilities because they also manage the library collection, purchasing etc.,) but basically, my argument is that anyone who has to write lesson plans and teach should be trained and paid as a teacher, not an aide, a clerk or a 'para-professsional' It's not just librarians. In Utah, it's also computer teachers, music teachers and PE teachers. Would you go to a dentist who never went to dental school?

I'm not even going to begin to attempt to address the other comments about the so-called 'hacks' in the library. I have seen both ends of the spectrum in my limited experience. Doesn't matter the field, you always get some people who are great at it and others who are not.