Over the last decade, school libraries have been disproportionately hit by the funding crisis in education with cuts to programs and personnel far exceeding most other members of the instructional team. And these cuts continue. Across the country, more and more students have lost, and continue to lose, access to staffed (and stocked) school libraries. I'm of the belief that there's no elevator speech or strongly worded letter to legislators that will stem this bleeding. The only thing that will save school libraries is exceptional work on behalf of children. The more school librarians who establish themselves as indispensable members of the learning community, the greater the chance that the perception (and in some cases, the reality) of school libraries as being nice, but not necessary, will change.
Awards like the two new honors sponsored by School Library Journal: School Librarian of the Year and Build Something Big, (a school library design award), along with the inclusion (starting last year) of school librarians as a category for recognition at the Bammy Awards provide an opportunity for us to shine a light on innovative practitioners who represent the real and significant role that school librarians play in student learning. But more than that, they represent an important opportunity for us to raise awareness of the work of school librarians - but only if we take the time to a) nominate ourselves or our peers b) participate in the process by voting (when applicable) and c) share our own nominations with the people without whom our work would be meaningless: our communities.
As someone whose received a few honors over the years, I won't lie, winning is AWESOME. (And I'm honored to have been selected by the Bammy Committee this year as an "official nominee.") But winning is kind of the least important part of the process. While it's cliche to say "Oh... I'm just happy being nominated," every nomination and vote can be leveraged as a conversation starter, as evidence of your impact and as a point of advocacy for us all. By casting your vote or nominating someone whose work matters, you're not just patting that person on the back, you're casting a vote for school libraries and, as such, for children. Please take the time to make your voice heard today.