Key Findings and Recommendations in School Library Report

By Judi Paradis, Librarian at Thomas R. Plympton Elementary School

The Special Commission on School Library Services in Massachusetts submitted its final report to the Legislature this month.  George Comeau served on this Commission representing the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.  The report of the Commission includes key findings regarding equity and access issues in the Commonwealth’s school libraries.  The Commission provided legislators with a series of recommendations for improving equity in Massachusetts public schools, and provided a comprehensive plan and timeline for their implementation.  In a letter to the Massachusetts Legislature, the Commissioners urged legislators to accept their recommendations and work with DESE to ensure their implementation.

The Commission, which included legislators, members of the library and educational communities, and community members, contacted two respected researchers to conduct a comprehensive academic study to evaluate school library programs for equity using a series of data points specified in legislation passed by the Massachusetts Senate in 2013 (Bill S. 1906).  The leading researcher, Dr. Carol A. Gordon, is a retired Associate Professor in the Department of Library and Information Science at Rutgers University where she served as the Co-Director of the Center for International Scholarship in School Libraries (CISSL).  She was assisted by Dr. Robin Cicchetti, Head Librarian at Concord-Carlisle Regional High School.  The study was distributed by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), and data analysis assistance was provided by CISSL.

The Massachusetts School Library Study: Equity ad Access for Students in the Commonwealth provides a report of the research conducted by Drs. Gordon and Cicchetti along with five broad recommendations that as goals for a long-term plan.  The complete report is available on the website of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and you can find it here.  Analysis of the data and the resulting findings show there are statistically significant differences in measures of status and equity for students from urban and rural districts compared with students from suburban districts.  Based on these findings, the Commission  recommends:

Recommendation 1.0. Improve Access to School Libraries and School Librarians

  • Recommendation 1A. Every public school in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has a school library and a certified school librarian.
  • Recommendation 1B. Establish the position and responsibilities of the School Library Curriculum Specialist at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
  • Recommendation 1C. Support a culture of inquiry in schools that sustains inquiry and resource-based learning, collaborative teaching, and the integration of digital technology to improve access for all students

Recommendation 2.0. Improve Access to Information Resources in School Libraries:

  • Recommendation 2A. Increase access to print resources in school libraries.
  • Recommendation 2B. Increase access to electronic resources in school libraries.

Recommendation 3.0. Improve Access to Information Technology:

  • Recommendation 3A. Improve access to Internet and digital devices in school libraries.
  • Recommendation 3B. Increase access to Information Technology through staffing.

Recommendation 4.0. Improve Access to Library Instruction and Help.

  • Recommendation 4A. Promote best instructional practices in the school library.

Recommendation 5.0. Improve Access to Funding:

Funding cuts across all the dimensions of school librarianship.  Guidelines for Budget Allocation and Expenditure should be developed to support Recommendations 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and 4.0.

The Commission thanks The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners for providing support for this important work.  We look forward to seeing our recommendations adopted to improve school library programs for all Massachusetts public school students.

Keen Eye for Detail Sets Shrewsbury Apart

Shrewsbury’s revamped library held its grand opening on September 21. This renovation and expansion project made room for more computers, a new community meeting space, group meeting areas, and a courtyard adjoining the children’s room.

The new space configuration and furniture setup pays homage to the design details and charm of the historic 1903 building while also accommodating the needs of present-day patrons. Self-checkout machines, plentiful power outlets, and many options for seating – whether visitors want to read for hours, charge their devices, study, or just relax in front of the window for a moment – allow for customizable, user-centered experiences in the library.

Banned Books Week 2016

It’s humpday of Banned Books Week 2016. This year’s focus is on diversity in literature; books that get banned or challenged are disproportionately written by diverse authors.

celebrate diversity for banned books week, september 25-october 1, 2016

For the uninitiated, Banned Books Week is “an annual event celebrating the freedom to read… it highlights the value of free and open access to information, [and] brings together the entire book community; librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types, in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.” More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982, according to the American Library Association (ALA).

Throughout the U.S. at libraries, schools, universities, and other institutions, “read-a-thons” and “read-outs” of books banned over the years will increase awareness of both censorship and the importance of the freedom to read. This year, virtual read-outs from around the country are featured on their own YouTube channel as well.

the top ten most challenged books of 2015 - titles & authors listed below image

2015 Book Challenges in Detail

(from the Banned Books Week website)

  1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  2. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
  3. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
    Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
  4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
    Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
    Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
  6. The Holy Bible
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
  7. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
    Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
  8. Habibi, by Craig Thompson
    Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  9. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
  10. Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
    Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).

Globe-Horn Book Awards Kick Off Children’s & Young Adult Award Season

Editor’s note: This post was written by Shelley Quezada, the MBLC’s Consultant to the Unserved.

Here in New England, September marks both the beginning of fall and the start of the children’s book award season, recognizing some of the most excellent books for young readers published in the past 12 months. A perennial favorite with youth services librarians, authors, and publishers, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards Ceremony will take place on Friday, September 30 at Simmons College in Boston. The Boston Globe Horn Book Awards has been presented annually since 1967 and is considered among the most prestigious honors in the field of children’s and young adult literature.

Selections are featured in three categories: Picture Book, Fiction and Poetry, and Nonfiction. Additionally, each category includes two honor books. Unlike many American Library Association awards, the winning titles may be written or illustrated by citizens of any country as long as they are published in the United States. Awards are chosen each year by an independent panel of three judges appointed by the editor of The Horn Book.

This year’s award winners were announced by video on the Horn Book website in May. However, next Friday’s ceremony is especially exciting because it features speeches by the award winners, followed by a book signing.

2016 Award & Honor Winners

covers of the three 2016 horn book award winners. titles are listed below

Nonfiction Award Winner

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin (Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan)

Fiction Award Winner

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams)

Picture Book Award Winner

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph written by Roxane Orgill, illustrated by Francis Vallejo (Candlewick Press)

covers of the 2016 horn book honor award winners. titles and authors follow below in text.

Nonfiction Honor Books

  • Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M. T. Anderson (Candlewick Press)
  • Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement written by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (Candlewick Press)

Fiction Honor Books

  • The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz (Candlewick Press)
  • Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House)

Picture Book Honor Books

  • Thunder Boy Jr. written by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
  • One Day, the End: Short, Very Short, Shorter-than-Ever Stories written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Fred Koehler (Boyds Mills Press)

Attendees at the Friday ceremony are in for a treat: with the exception of authors and illustrators Frances Hardinge, Sherman Alexie, and Yuyi Morales, all awardees will be on hand to give presentations to the audience. Many of these authors will also participate the following day at the 2016 Horn Book Colloquium “Out of the Box” that will also be held at Simmons College.

Fall Library Conferences & Meetings in New England

Ah, autumn in New England – the return of students, crisp air, and an overabundance of pumpkin-flavored things. And… lots and lots of library and archives conferences and events!

Here’s just a handful of the upcoming options for professional development, networking, and skill-building around the area.

The New England Assessment in Action Symposium
presented by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL)/New England Chapter & Massachusetts Library System (MLS)
Tuesday, September 13
Assumption College, Worcester, MA
“Assessment in Action: Academic Libraries and Student Success is an initiative to help academic librarians build skills in carrying out data-driven assessment projects. Join your New England colleagues who participated and learn how the academic library community might build on its success at the national and regional level.”


Special Library Association (SLA) New England Fall Conference: Building Skills, Creating Value
Friday, September 30
Southbridge Hotel and Conference Center
“Sessions from SLA members focusing on measuring value, working with stakeholders, and career transitions. Our keynote speaker for the conference is Tracy Z. Maleeff (@LibrarySherpa), the principal of Sherpa Intelligence, a research and social media consulting firm in the Philadelphia area.”


Society of American Archivists (SAA): Privacy and Confidentiality Issues in Digital Archives
Thursday, October 13
Hampton Inn Hadley-Amherst (MA)
“This course covers privacy and confidentiality legal issues specific to archives of digital material. You’ll examine the intersection of (and the tension between) privacy/confidentiality, free speech and freedom to research/write, and focus on how electronic records and the digital realm have altered the scene.”


New England Archivists (NEA) Fall 2016 Meeting: Bridging the Gaps
Friday, October 14
Yiddish Book Center, Amherst, MA
#NEAfall16
“NEA’s Fall 2016 Meeting will offer inspiring examples of how archivists, associated professionals, and record stakeholders are working to bridge gaps in collection development and accessibility of materials.”


New England Library Association (NELA) Annual Conference: Imagining Tomorrow
October 16-18
Doubletree by Hilton, Danvers, MA
#NELA2016


Massachusetts Library System 2016 Annual Meeting (“save the date” link)
November 7
College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA
Keynote speaker: John Palfrey, author of Bibliotech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google
More details to come, but presentations include final projects from this year’s ProjectSET (Skills, Empowerment, Talent) participants and the MLS Strategic Plan for 2017-2019.