During the OLA Super Conference of 2019, the Open Shelf team offered a session which allowed participants to brainstorm and to develop ideas for future issues of the publication. During this collaborative process, I had the privilege to connect with professionals from other library sectors and to look for commonalities in our experiences. We quickly discovered that the narratives and experiences of the users we serve are the common thread that makes our work in all forms of librarianship meaningful and fulfilling. We discussed seeking out stories from a variety of users to see if we could capture their experiences and could look for patterns in the work we do.
Inspired by this discussion and the understanding (through my role as OSLA president) that there continues to be a huge range of staffing and funding models in school libraries across Ontario, we developed the idea of “good news” stories. We would gather stories from K–12 students and staff throughout the province about the great things happening in school libraries, including learning commons spaces. For decades, the Ontario government, through the Ministry of Education, has offered guidelines and has provided funding for school library staffing and financial support. However, once this money and the staffing suggestions are sent to school boards, the board members are not required to spend the funds on school libraries or to adhere to the staffing-model recommendations. The legacy of this lack of accountability has deeply impacted some school communities and has resulted in a massive equity gap in the learning experiences for children and youth across Ontario. Under the current wave of education sector cuts, many boards, even those previously in support of school libraries, are faced with an even harsher reality: Reports are coming in throughout the province that access to a thriving school library learning commons may become an impossibility for thousands of children.
So, why share “good news” stories right now when the political and the financial climate seem so bleak?
To me, the reason is simple: We know that our role in school libraries is to serve our students and to support student achievement across all grades and curriculum areas. As long as there are still staff members available to offer this support, we need to share and to celebrate the amazing work happening every day in school libraries.
To that end, we invited staff and students to complete the survey below and created a series of infographics to share participants’ responses. If you or your students would like to share some “good news” stories, please feel free to complete the survey and to distribute it widely.
Jennifer Brown is a teacher librarian with the Peel District School Board at Castle Oaks Public School in Brampton and currently the president of the Ontario School Library Association. You can read more of her thoughts about issues in education, social justice, school libraries and more by following her Twitter account @JennMacBrown or her blog “Finding The Magic”.