An Open Letter to Idaho School Librarians

It has come to my attention that I may have left out a very important piece in my keynote address this last Thursday during the Idaho Library Association Annual Conference–the critical role of Idaho school librarians. I apologize for this and want to make sure that I clarify certain content from my presentation. As you know, I feel that Idaho libraries are leading the way, compared to our educational system. Librarians are very skilled at using technology and have made that transformation from analog to digital. And of course, I should have been very clear by stating that when I refer to Idaho librarians, I am also talking about Idaho school librarians.

As I said in my presentation, in many schools, the only places where students have access to Internet-connected computers are in school computer labs and school libraries. School libraries and librarians serve an essential service to the schools. Not only do they offer the tools students absolutely need, but they provide essential technology instruction to students and curricular support for Idaho teachers.

I also realize that teachers and school librarians are severely limited in how they can offer technology-infused instruction by financial restrictions, school policies, and lack of an overall state plan for providing Internet access at home for all students. I am not placing blame for digital inequalities on teachers, librarians, or school librarians. In fact, if it weren’t for your tireless work and visions for the future, we would not be where we are today.

What I would like to see is removal of restrictive Internet policies in our schools, real planning for technology access outside of the schools, and creative ways we can really address severe discrepancies in student achievement across various socio-economic and ethnic groups. We need to help ALL students reach their full potential, and I argue that one of the essential elements–helping all students have high-speed Internet access at home–is not being addressed nor implemented. It’s not the only piece of the puzzle, but it’s an important one, and one that needs our lawmakers’ attention.

We read, write, view, evaluate, communicate, collaborate, and most importantly CREATE using powerful technology tools. We need to enable all students to experience these opportunities, and through this, I believe student achievement levels have a better chance of improving. I gratefully acknowledge and credit the work that Idaho teachers, school librarians, and librarians are doing every day. Let’s work on this together to keep pushing for digital and social equalities in our schools.

And one more thing–I would be delighted to visit your school library, learn more about what you are doing, and help you come up with ideas for improving student access to technologies and high-speed Internet. Please feel free to contact me at bschroed@boisestate.edu.

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