School librarians in Vermont won a standards victory early this month when the Secretary of State’s Office approved Education Quality Standards that emphasize the essential role of school librarians and libraries in student success. The effective date, April 5, couldn’t have been better timed since April is School Library Month.
Vermont School Library Association (VSLA) President Denise Wentz says that the original draft of the standards “excluded any mention of the word ‘library’ or ‘librarian.’” That omission triggered VSLA to swing into high advocacy gear, meeting with the Vermont secretary of education and the state board of education, launching a statewide postcard mailing drive, and attending all three hearings about the standards that were held across Vermont.
Wentz says school librarians are thrilled “to have a ruling that keeps the library program in Vermont schools.” The Education Quality Standards (PDF file) now specify that every school “develop, maintain, and expand as needed a collection of print, digital, and technology resources, administered by a certified library media specialist.” All schools are to have school librarian services on at least “a pro-rata basis,” but schools of more than 300 students “shall have at least one full-time library media specialist and sufficient staff to implement a program that supports literacy, information, and technology standards.”
The standards also require that each school “provide students access to the library on a regular basis to use materials for reading, research, and for instruction in the skills needed to select and use information effectively” as well as a schedule that enables school librarians and classroom teachers to collaborate “as they integrate information research skills into their curriculum.”
The Vermont victory comes a year after Louisiana decided to retain its state school-librarian mandate after weighing whether to drop it altogether. New York State and California have also adopted school-library standards in recent years.