Made For Each Other: Media Literacy and the School Library Media Specialist
"Media Literacy" has become as popular as the term "fake news."
Bills are being proposed in state legislatures across the nation regarding media literacy in schools. I am concerned that school librarians are being left out of these conversations.
Media literacy is not new. Twenty years ago I earned my Connecticut Certification is 062 School Library Media Specialist and began my career. Media is constantly changing and, like all school library media specialists, my career changes with it. School library media specialists are constantly learning new media...digital media, social media, etc. School library media specialists seek out and create best practices as they develop learning opportunities for students to develop the critical thinking skills needed to use the media effectively and responsibly. School library media specialists have been doing this for a long time.
The new interest and demand for media literacy is a result of the current political state and the rise of varying types of information (I despise the term "fake news"). As a member of the National Association for Media Literacy Educators (NAMLE), I learned about Media Literacy Now, an organization that is behind much of the state legislation.
However, today's need for media literacy curriculum can be traced back to budget cuts and districts not valuing the role of the school library media specialist. The gutting of school libraries has been happening for decades as a result of national, state and local budget cuts. I can only guess that decision-makers see school librarians as a mousy keeper of books.
Don't believe me?
Check out this video from the 2017 Sacred Heart University Media Exchange. The Fake News Real Problems Forum was moderated by accomplished journalist Faith Daniels. Toward the end of the segment, at 1:07:00, Ms. Daniels asked the panel members "Where do you go to check your facts?" One of the panelists quickly answers "librarians." To which Ms. Daniels laughs "Keepers of the Dewey Decimal System?" Thank you to Belinha DeAbreu for curbing the laughter and defending the work of school librarians. Please take a minute to listen to her response.
While I know Ms Daniels is not a direct decision maker in education. The fact that she mocked the idea that librarians are of value in the digital world of information, makes me wonder how many others think as she does.
On their website, Media Literacy Now states they "provide policy and advocacy information, expertise, and resources to develop state laws to implement media literacy education in schools." Again, I found no mention of school library media specialists.
School library media specialists, we need to insist on being included in the media literacy conversations locally and nationally. We need to make sure decision makers understand the critical role a school librarian plays in the education system. I hope that if you are not already, you will follow what is happening with regards to media literacy in your own state legislatures. Attend conferences. Speak up. Don't be afraid to tell people how valuable you are! You can find the letter I wrote regarding Connecticut's Raised Bill regarding media literacy here.
@NAMLE and @MediaLitNow on both on Twitter. I know NAMLE is just one organization. What other professional organizations that are not intended solely for school librarians do you recommend to promote our profession and role in education?