A new vision for public school libraries

I am so proud to be leading Friends of the Oakland Public School Libraries. Taking over from my friend and our long-time Executive Director, Kari Hatch, was daunting.  Kari and her dedicated board reopened or renovated an incredible 26 libraries and volunteered 25,000 to support Oakland public school libraries.

Now that it is my turn to lead our organization, I knew I needed more information – beyond my own experience. I spent the last three months on a listening campaign, talking to people throughout Oakland and throughout the state, and have formed a vision for what I’d like our organization to accomplish.

The first, is to adopt a positive, pragmatic and inclusive vision for public school libraries. In order for any vision to be a success, it’s critical that those people affected by the vision are involved in its development. Understanding each constituent’s needs is crucial to the process. Collaboration is essential, bringing in people with disparate visions and expertise makes for a better overall product.

Secondly, we need to look for more partners who believe in the role of libraries, not only to support literacy, but understand that libraries lift up every element of an academic program, including science and math, social-emotional learning, and the needs of special needs students and English Language Learners.

Thirdly, we need to modernize the way we think of libraries. School libraries are not quiet places any more. They are not only vibrant, exciting places, full of great reading materials and technology. They’re also are home of clubs, author talks, maker activities and more.

Finally, we need to be creative about how we finance libraries. If libraries lift up all elements of the academic program as well as social emotional learning, supporting special needs students and English language learners, then they should be funded that way, as a fundamental component in the educational model.

It is my hope, that working together, with administrators, program leaders, community members, library experts, parents and students, we can bring these pieces together to create a vision for Oakland public school libraries that allows us to expand services to every student in Oakland.