The American Library Association and librarians across the country submitted comments to the Department of Education (ED) in response to its 11 proposed priorities. The priorities, standard for a new administration, are a menu of goals for the ED to use for individual discretionary grant competitions. Over 1,100 individual comments were filed with the ED, including several dozen from the library community.
ALA noted the important role of public and school libraries in several key priority areas and how librarians help students of all ages. ALA commented on the role of libraries in providing flexible learning environments, addressing STEM needs, promoting literacy, expanding economic opportunity, as well as assisting veterans in achieving their educational goals.
In its letter to the ED, ALA noted:
“Libraries play an instrumental role in advancing formal educational programs as well as informal learning from pre-school through post-secondary education and beyond. Libraries possess relevant information, technology, experts, and community respect and trust to propel education and learning.”
Many librarians responded to ALA’s Action Alert, urging the ED to include libraries in its priorities, reflecting the range of services available at public and school libraries.
Responding to the need for STEM and computer skills development in Priority 6, one Baltimore City library media specialist wrote:
“Computer science is now foundational knowledge every student needs, yet students, particularly students of color and students on free and reduced lunch in urban and rural areas, do not have access to high-quality computer science courses. Females are not participating in equal numbers in the field of computer science or K-12 computer science courses. This is a problem the computer science community can address by giving teachers access to high-quality computer science professional development and schools access to courses focused on serving underserved communities.”
Highlighting the importance of certified librarians at school libraries, one commenter noted that “certified librarians found in school libraries are instructional partners, curriculum developers, and program developers that meet the objectives of their individual school’s improvement plan. School libraries are a foundational support system for all students.”
Echoing these comments, another school library advocate stated: “School libraries and school librarians transform student learning. They help learners to become critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers, skillful researchers, and ethical users of information. They empower learners with the skills needed to be college, career, and community ready.”
The comment period has closed, but individual comments will be available on the ED website.