Today is the first day of October, and it is a special month for IASL. It marks International School Library Month (ISLM), a month dedicated to highlight the importance for school libraries in the education of our children.
The origins of ISLM go back to 1999 when then President of IASL, Blanche Wools, proclaimed 22 October as International School Library Day (ISLD). This was reaffirmed by Past President Peter Genco in 2005. Then in 2008, Immediate Past President James Henri extended it to a whole month, to allow schools around the world to choose one or more days in October that would best fit their specific situations to celebrate the occasion.
We know that school libraries are important! But not everyone else does. It is a paradoxical situation when we hear of countries like Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, and others placing emphasis on the development of school libraries to the extent that there are insufficient school librarians. On the other hand, there are countries where school librarians are being laid off. Clearly, some stakeholders do not see the importance on school libraries. We need to get school libraries back on their agenda. We need to continue advocating for school libraries.
There is a great deal of evidence from research and other documents, together with many anecdotal reports, which show that school libraries make a difference to student achievement. The IASL web site has links to many resources which show that school libraries have a positive impact on students and on learning. A recent posting on the IASL listserv, quoting findings from the 2012 Softlink Australian School Library Survey, points out that there is a positive relationship between well-resourced libraries and higher student literacy outcomes.
The theme for this year’s ISLM is School Libraries: a Key to the Past, Present & Future. School libraries are indeed a link between the past, the present and the future. They are keys that open doors to resources that tell us of the past. They provide access to critical resources for teachers and students for today’s curriculum. And they help develop skills that will be essential for students’ survival and advancement in the future. Lord Buddha once said, “What you are is what you have been. what you will be is what you do now” (Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C). We know what has happened in the past and we can learn from it. We know what is happening at present and we can observe it. We do not know the future, but we can influence it; we can shape it by what we do today. We can make school libraries important.
We have our ideas on how to make school libraries important, but we need to act if we want to bring about the change we want. We need to convince others and get them to support us. The International School Library Month is an opportunity. There are many, many activities that can be carried out to promote the role of school libraries, be it at the school, district, national or even international level. A sample of activities carried out last year can be seen at the IASL web site http://www.iasl-online.org/events/islm/2011a.htm One activity that has been going on for a number of years is the ISLM Bookmark Exchange Project which involves matching schools making homemade bookmarks (of any style or shape). Last year, almost 17,000 students from across the world participated in the project (see http://www.iasl-online.org/events/islm/islm-projects.htm for details). We are not limited to these projects; the variety is limited only by your imagination. For those who are active users of social media, please blog, tweet, post on Facebook or any other media about ISLM. As suggested last month, please get the traditional newspapers, radio and stations involved too.
Whatever you do, please let us know about it. Send us your reports, with pictures or video clips if possible, on what you did for ISLM 2012. Send in your submissions to the IASL Web Manager <firstname.lastname@example.org>, or to the IASL Secretariat at <email@example.com>
School libraries are important – tell the world about them!
International Association of School Librarianship