a newsletter of the Montana Library Association
- FEATURES & ARTICLES -
We’re All Advocates!
Who is an advocate? Merriman-Webster states: a person who works for a cause or group.
Today I’m going to talk to you about being an advocate for the Montana State Library and the Montana Library Association. I know as I say these words a hundred different things are going through your mind. Everything from “I can’t speak in public” to “I don’t have what it takes to be an advocate.” I remember early in my career I was visiting with a library patron and told him “if I had to sell used cars for a living, I’d starve to death.” He started laughing and said you sell me a used car every time I come into the library. At my puzzled look, he explained “When I look at the books on the shelf and can’t decide what I want to read I ask you for a recommendation. You pick out several books and tell me a little bit about them. From your enthusiasm I decide which book or books to check out. You’ve sold me another used car!”
So it is easier to be an advocate than you think.
The Montana Library Association’s Purpose Statement reads: “The purpose of the Association is to promote library interest and development and to raise the standards of library services in the state of Montana.”
How can we do this? We can write or speak with our Legislatures, County Commissioners, City Councils, speak to our patrons, our community leaders, testify at legislative hearings, send stories, pictures and anecdotes about your library services to the Montana State Library and legislators, take a governing role in the Montana Library Association and most important: Join the MLA.
So, why should you join MLA? I think our purpose statement says it all. “The purpose of the Association is to promote library interest and development and to raise the standards of library services in the state of Montana.” The mission statement is why the Montana Library Association is a persistent advocate for the Montana State Library.
How does MLA accomplish this task? In many ways! Our major initiative in this area is the MLA Government Affairs Committee. The committee chair is John Finn, Library Director at Lewis & Clark Library in Helena. As committee chair, John’s task is to keep all Montana Librarians and Trustees informed about legislative bills, etc. that will impact the library community for better or worse. John contacts us through many different channels to keep us informed and updated as bills work their way through Montana and the United State legislatures. He asks for your help also. When you see an email that asks to you to contact your local legislator, please take the time to contact them. As library workers, we should know our legislators. As this year is an election year, what better time than to speak to the senator or house of representative candidate or previously elected legislator. Introduce yourself to them. Tell them a little bit about your library and how important it is to your community. Thank them for their previous support or ask them for their support in the future. “Sell them a used car!”
This is the year that House Bill 203 which was sponsored by the Montana Library Association sunsets. This bill called for a statutory increase in the amount of state aid funding for public libraries to .40 cents per person -- an increase of .30 cents per person from the state aid amount prior to this biennium. This increased funding was badly needed and warmly received by all public libraries, but it’s time to continue working on this task.
According to Montana law, it is not illegal for State Agencies to lobby on their behalf, but most state agencies don’t as they would have to pay a lobbying fee. This is where the Montana Library Association steps in. MLA lobbies on behalf of the Montana State Library. This is a practice that has been going on for decades. The Association hires the lobbyists who carry legislation for the State Library as it did with HB 203 in 2013.
For the past six years the Montana Library Association has had full-time lobbyists at work. The Association found that lobbyists were needed to work with Interim Committees on non-legislative years. I found it very interesting that a lot of ground work is accomplished during the Interim year and without lobbyists to continue their work for the Montana Library Association on behalf of the Montana State Library valuable time was being lost. Whether you believe in the work of lobbyists or not, it is a fact that they are needed. In order to continue the excellent projects and programs from the State Library, legislative money is needed. MLA lobbies for Montana State Library regular funding and also for special funding as HB 203. MLA has lobbied for increased funding, new staff positions, money for special projects and special funding.
During each legislative session, the Montana Library Association sponsors a Legislative Reception. The evening is devoted to expressing our appreciation to our legislators. It is also when the “READ” poster photos are taken—hopefully you all have these hanging in your libraries. Nearly every legislator has his or her picture taken at this event. It’s great publicity for them and a wonderful opportunity for librarians and trustees to visit with their legislator in a relaxed setting. When the invitation to attend the reception is announced, please make plans to attend the evening reception. I’ve attended several and found them to be very educational and a wonderful opportunity to get to know legislators from all over the state. It is another example of your membership dues at work with the printing of the “READ” posters.
Now that I’ve covered how MLA advocates for the Montana State Library, please keep in mind that MLA will need you during the upcoming legislative session to continue our support for State Library funding. You may be asked to testify in Helena at a legislative hearing, write a letter of concern to your legislator or speak with your local legislators. The needs are endless, but just as importantly MLA needs your financial support. The money raised from membership dues pays for our lobbyists. This year MLA will spend almost $15,000 on lobbying fees.
MLA wants to return the amount of your yearly dues back to you in many monetary as well as non-monetary ways. As not all libraries are able to pay their employees dues, these dues come out of your pocket. I understand I paid my dues myself for years. I felt it was my duty to help MLA to promote library services in Montana. After all, if it weren’t for my library, I wouldn’t have had a job. (By the way, your dues are tax deductible)
Have you spoken with your Library Board about the benefits of membership in the Montana Library Association for you and your trustees? After they understand how vigorously MLA works to support Montana libraries, perhaps they will also be willing to pay or renew your MLA dues and join or renew themselves. After all it is very important your trustees have training as well. Frank Martinelli wrote in “Building an Effective Board” article on his Create Your Future website:
“Every Public Library must have a Board of Directors. But, beyond this legal requirement, a well-informed and well-trained board is absolutely essential. An effective board of directors has a clear understanding of its roles and responsibilities.”
MLA offers it members many, many wonderful benefits for their membership.
Membership discounts for all MLA retreats and conferences.
Educational opportunities: SLD Summer Retreat, ASLD/PLD Fall Retreat, Offline and the annual conference. (What a wonderful way to network with other librarians!)
- Travel grants to help members attend conferences, retreats and Offline.
These grants are available for members who want to attend the Association's annual conference. Fifteen $150.00 grants are available. Up to five of the grants will be made available to those members who are new to the profession and to the Montana Library Association and grants are available to members who want to attend their division’s retreat or Offline. There is one $50 grant available for each retreat and two $50 grants available for Offline. The deadline for applicants is one month before the event.
- Professional Development Grants provide members with the opportunity to further their education.
These grants are available to those Association members who want to further their professional development by attending a national or regional conference or professional development event. The Association budgets $1,600.00 annually for Professional Development Grants to qualified members; the maximum that can be awarded is $800.
Cates Scholarship funds are available to assist MLA members who are pursuing a Masters in Librarianship or a school library certification.
Membership fees for the Collaborative Summer Library Program in conjunction with the Montana State Library. MLA pays the membership fee and the State Library pays the cost of the manuals.
Sponsor representatives to regional and national library associations.
Covers the travel costs of representatives to represent Montana in the American Library Association, Mountain Plains Library Association and the Pacific Northwest Library Association.
Leadership training by serving as Division Officers, Interest Group Chairs and members, or Committees chairs and members.
New MLA members receive a complimentary breakfast at the annual conference and great networking opportunities for library staff, trustees, and friends at annual conference.
Intellectual Freedom: MLA is front and center to help all Montana librarians and libraries that experience a book challenge or other intellectual freedom concern. If any school librarian or school district needs help, MLA is there to help until the problem is solved.
I hope that I have been able to express to you how important the Montana Library Association can be to you as an individual librarian, library worker or trustee and to your library. I don’t know how to indicate to you more clearly that the Montana Library Association needs you as a member. We need your passion, your experience, your education, and your leadership ability. Please join or renew your membership so together we can “promote library interest and development and raise the standards of library services in the state of Montana.”
A Spotlight on Displays
EDITORIAL NOTE: We had so many beautiful submissions in response to our call for submissions that we decided to feature them all in this one eye-popping collage! Each display is numbered for ease of identification.
[[ Click the image for full resolution. ]]
- Tricia DesJarlais, Arlee Elementary School Library
- Margot LaFountaine, Medicine Crow Middle School
- Alison Boone, Franklin Elementary School
- Brittany Alberson, Billings West High School
- Jodi Oberweiser, Drummond School & Community Library
- Anya Smith & Polson Middle School students @ North Lake County Public Library
- Aarica Phillips, Flathead High School
- Mary Griel, Chief Charlo Elementary School
- Mattila Dianne, Rose Park Elementary School
- Melissa Bockting, Dillon Middle School
- Ann Gentry, Frenchtown School and Community Library
- LaVonne Limpus Jurack, Lewistown Public Library
- Nicki Young, Meadowlark Elementary School Library
- Lisa Lykins, Glacier High School Library
Thank you to all of the librarians who loaned us their images for this issue!
MSL is developing a strategic plan, and wants your input!
Montana State Library (MSL) is committed to strengthening libraries and information services for all Montanans through leadership, advocacy, and service. For nearly the past five years, staff of the State Library have been guided by a long range plan that was adopted by the State Library Commission in April, 2012. That plan helpfully identifies the focus of our work in areas of collection development and access, training, collaboration, consultation and leadership, and working to sustain MSL as an excellent organization. However, we have found over time that the plan itself is not strategic and does not serve to provide us direction in times of change and uncertainty. For this reason, MSL is undertaking a strategic planning process under the guidance of facilitator Ned Cooney. Ned was selected to help the State Library to develop a strategic plan that:
Reflects the needs of identified stakeholders;
Delineates strategic from tactical components of the plan;
Identifies a course through which programs, projects or practices may be strategically abandoned; and that
Reflects an awareness of scale with regard to resources available to and through the State Library.
Over the course of the summer Ned, the State Library Commission, and staff worked together to develop a draft plan that is based, in large part, on the work of the 2015 Library Development Study Task Force, structured interviews with key stakeholders, and facilitated work sessions through which MSL developed the following draft vision:
Connected Community Partnerships - connecting and building communities through MSL's work. Working with other agencies and libraries to create community partnerships that benefit our respective end users. Engaging our end users in building a community around engaged, crowdsourced, and curated information.
New and Diversified Funding - it takes financial stability to provide quality service and meet the needs of our end users.
Useful Information Infrastructure - it takes high speed internet access and high quality/open data to meet the needs of our end users.
In order to achieve this vision, the suggested plan sets forth the following suggested strategic directions:
Engagement, Advocacy, and Story Telling - engage stakeholders in envisioning the future; tell the story for MSL and our partners; Commissioners advocate for libraries.
Culture and Impacts - be willing to say no; think end user first; think forward to 2025
Information Infrastructure - work on broadband for libraries; be a role model for open data
Partner Organizations - reframe and re-examine the role of key partners
Staff is also defining specific, timely, actionable items to move each strategic direction forward. Examples of specific action items include:
Engagement, Advocacy, and Story Telling
Map MSL stakeholders
Deliver a clear and consistent message about MSL services
Train ourselves and librarians on how to tell our story
Culture and Impacts
Clarify parameters for pilot projects include a fail forward option
Find routines and processes to aid with internal collaboration
Help libraries measure impact
Develop a plan to get local support focused on broadband
Optimize web search results
Research options for creating an “open data culture”
Revitalize advisory committees and workgroups
Take training on communicating and engaging advisory groups
Define how to better align our goals and our partners’ goals
Because the purpose of MSL is to serve our partners and users, whether or not MSL achieves our mission is largely dependent on whether or not you, our stakeholders, believe that through this strategic plan, we will meet your needs, and will thereby, strengthen libraries and information services across Montana. For this reason, it is extremely important that we hear from you.
Our Questions for You:
Do you see value in working towards any of the strategic directions?
connected, community partnerships;
new and diversified funding;
useful information infrastructure
If yes, what value do you see in working towards that specific strategic direction?
How would you rank the following barriers – strong barrier; we can overcome; not a barrier?
Non-strategic resource allocation
Risk-Averse library culture
Limiting political climate
What other barriers should the Commission consider?
How strongly do you agree or disagree with the strategic directions selected?
Engagement, Advocacy, and Storytelling
Culture and Impacts
What other strategic directions should the Commission consider?
What other concerns, comments, or questions do you have about the draft plan?
Will you help us?
Review the plan
The draft strategic plan is on our website at: about.msl.mt.gov/MSLStrategicPlan2016-2021
Share your thoughts
We asked school librarians what they wished more people knew about their work or library. The following represent some of their responses.
We encourage you to find out more about what our school librarians & media specialists love about their jobs, what they do outside the library, their recommended life hacks and much more -- please visit the full Focus survey results page here.
Special thanks to all who participated in the survey!!!
Indian Education for All Implementation in Montana School Libraries: Answering the Call of Social Justice
To those of us who have been teaching in Montana for a few years or those of us who completed our own teacher education programs in-state, the concept of Indian Education for All (IEFA) grows increasingly familiar with each passing year. For those who have not had that advantage, a brief explanation is in order. In 1999, twenty-seven years after the State of Montana recognized “the distinct and unique cultural heritage of American Indians and committed to provide education preserving the cultural integrity of each Montana tribe” (Elser 1), the Montana legislature passed House Bill 528, Indian Education for All. It mandated that Indian education be integrated into every classroom at every grade level in an effort to provide equitable education for all Montana students, to address ethical implications borne of years of institutional privilege and prejudice, and to improve instruction all around. In fact, many educators have found that by incorporating IEFA into their curricula, they have branched out into even more pluralistic perspectives and created even more multicultural lessons, making their classes more inclusive and well-rounded. Montana is unique in its recognition and implementation of IEFA. It is a proud part of our education system. And, as school librarians, we are uniquely positioned at the hearts of our schools to lead the way in embracing IEFA, exploring the Essential Understandings of Montana Indians, and instigating multicultural education at any and all stages. Unlike our colleagues teaching in more traditional classrooms, we may have limited time with students and must find different approaches that work for our libraries and our library users. This article aims to explore how best to implement IEFA in school libraries, particularly in middle and high school libraries, where flexible scheduling challenges formal lesson-based implementation.
The Essential Understandings of IEFA operate as a general baseline for implementation of Indian education. They are as follows:
Essential Understanding 1
There is great diversity among the twelve tribal nations of Montana in their languages, cultures, histories and governments. Each Nation has a distinct and unique cultural heritage that contributes to modern Montana.
Essential Understanding 2
There is great diversity among individual American Indians as identity is developed, defined and redefined by entities, organizations and people. A continuum of Indian identity, unique to each individual, ranges from assimilated to traditional. There is no generic American Indian.
Essential Understanding 3
The ideologies of Native traditional beliefs and spirituality persist into modern day life as tribal cultures, traditions, and languages are still practiced by many American Indian people and are incorporated into how tribes govern and manage their affairs. Additionally, each tribe has its own oral histories, which are as valid as written histories. These histories pre-date the “discovery” of North America.
Essential Understanding 4
Reservations are lands that have been reserved by the tribes for their own use through treaties, statutes, and executive orders and were not “given” to them. The principle that land should be acquired from the Indians only through their consent with treaties involved three assumptions:
- Both parties to treaties were sovereign powers.
- Indian tribes had some form of transferable title to the land.
- Acquisition of Indian lands was solely a government matter not to be left to individual colonists.
Essential Understanding 5
There were many federal policies put into place throughout American history that have affected Indian people and still shape who they are today. Many of these policies conflicted with one another. Much of Indian history can be related through several major federal policy periods:
- Colonization/Colonial Period 1492 – 1800s
- Treaty Period 1789 - 1871
- Assimilation Period - Allotment and Boarding School 1879 - 1934
- Tribal Reorganization Period 1934 - 1958
- Termination and Relocation Period 1953 - 1971
- Self-determination Period 1968 – Present
Essential Understanding 6
History is a story most often related through the subjective experience of the teller. With the inclusion of more and varied voices, histories are being rediscovered and revised. History told from an Indian perspective frequently conflicts with the stories mainstream historians tell.
Essential Understanding 7
Under the American legal system, Indian tribes have sovereign powers, separate and independent from the federal and state governments. However, the extent and breadth of tribal sovereignty is not the same for each tribe.
All of the Essential Understandings Regarding Montana Indians can be explored in further detail in The Framework: A Practical Guide for Montana Teachers and Administrators Implementing Indian Education for All which was developed by Dr. Tammy Elser in 2010 and was disseminated to Montana school libraries by the Montana Office of Public Instruction. Additionally, they can be found on the OPI website, along with lesson plans and implementation suggestions.
The Essential Understandings provide a terrific jumping-off point to begin IEFA integration and it is important to recognize that there are different stages of depth and sophistication of any multicultural education initiative like IEFA. These stages are also detailed in The Framework and they were initially identified by Dr. James Banks at the University of Washington. They are, in increasing order of depth and sophistication, Contributions, Additive, Transformation, and Social Justice.
Contributions tend to focus on the efforts or lives of specific individuals or cultural asides that are unique to other societies. This might take the form of a lesson on Kwanzaa or on Cesar Chavez. Contributions are rarely integrated fully into larger lessons or units.
Additive refers to adding a multicultural perspective alongside the established curriculum without having to restructure that curriculum. So, along with a lesson about the Holocaust, a teacher might also touch on the Rwandan genocide or the Khmer Rouge. The Additive approach may allow for more exposure to multicultural education but it does not effectively build communications or present smooth integration for students.
Transformation focuses on perspective. Multicultural education that locks in to the Transformation stage often provides students with opportunities to consider other, sometimes vastly different, points of view on unfamiliar situations. So, as part of a unit on wealth disparity, students might arrange themselves into population ratios that reflect each continent and then their teacher might dispense treats, such as cookies, to them according to wealth distribution statistics. The kid standing in North America might start to feel guilty about her 16 Oreos while the three kids in Africa will no doubt call out the utter unfairness of having to split one cookie three ways. This Transformative lesson has the power to change perspective.
Finally, the Social Justice stage seeks to educate and empower students to independently recognize injustice in the world around them and to take action to address that wrong. This might take the form of a student learning about a significant event like the Battle of Arrow Creek between Billings and Pryor and, after realizing that current history resources barely address it or don’t even mention it, taking it upon himself to research the battle and to compile materials that he can then use to petition the local school board to incorporate education on the Battle of Arrow Creek into the curriculum.
School libraries can implement IEFA passively and actively simultaneously. Many of us already employ passive implementation. We hang Honor posters and we buy Joseph Bruchac books for our students. We set up beautiful displays of relevant materials during November for Native American Heritage Month. We may even invite speakers in for Lunch & Learns on powwow dances or tribal histories and stories. All of these efforts fall squarely in the Contributions and Additive stages of multicultural education. And this is not a bad thing.
While it is noble to push for the Social Justice level of multicultural education in our implementation of IEFA, doing so without regard to where our students are in terms of their own readiness and ability to absorb IEFA will often backfire spectacularly. This is where we as librarians have to temper our desire to integrate IEFA more actively through Transformation and Social Justice efforts with our mandate to provide a safe, comfortable, open learning environment for all students.
Some of our students are not ready for Social Justice. For some of our students, who have absorbed strong prejudice toward American Indians while growing up, simply seeing The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie or Counting Coup by Larry Colton on prominent display might give them pause while they consider the implications of those titles and their placement in the school library. For others, a gentle Additive suggestion that they consider having a look at Joe Medicine Crow or Chester Nez while they research papers on military heroes might blow their minds and set off future inquiries in multicultural education. The key to successful IEFA integration in the school library is judicious implementation on a case-by-case basis.
As school librarians, we must walk a fine line. We tend to be social justice crusaders and proud of it! And yet, we also must create safe environments for inquiry where all our students feel welcome. Thus, we cannot be on our soapboxes all day, every day. We can stand up for what is just, but we cannot go about alienating our students because, in addition to all the other skills we are trying to instill in our kids, we are also trying to teach them to be lifelong library users. And, as many of us can attest, one bad experience with one librarian can turn a person off to libraries for the rest of her life.
So, while we may use Contribution and Additive methods to integrate IEFA, we must also pursue Transformation and Social Justice. We must make sure we develop well-rounded collections that break down the walls of ethnocentrism in subtle and overt ways and provide our students with opportunities to see themselves reflected in the literature around them. We should invite speakers in to discuss Native American Heritage—but we do so all year round, not just during the designated month of November. We could highlight resources that discuss injustice and prejudice. We can even craft displays detailing the local Native history that our huge state offers in abundance. We can speak to individual students, or perhaps even whole classes, about cultural misconceptions. We create Indian Boarding Schools galleries and invite our students to listen to the stories of individuals who attended, either by choice or by force, some of those schools. We can seek out Native writers and storytellers and invite them in to workshop with our students. We must collaborate with our colleagues on IEFA integration and encourage them to use the library and all its resources. We should work every day to ensure our Native students feel welcome and included in our libraries and, by extension, we should work to include all our students, regardless of their background.
If I have learned one thing from working to integrate IEFA into my library it’s that doing so has created in me a passion for multicultural education that extends far beyond the framework of IEFA and far beyond the mandate of House Bill 528. Being more aware of my inclusion of Indian education has heightened my awareness of other underrepresented cultures in my library and in my school. Thus, I leave you with these parting thoughts: integrating Indian Education for All is not just a professional duty, it is a human responsibility with ethical and pedagogical implications that can only enrich the school library and we don’t have to go it alone. Resources abound and not just from OPI. In my time as a librarian, I have met incredible educators, dedicated to the implementation of IEFA, who have helped me whenever I have put out the call for assistance. Most of these are in my own district, but some are from other parts of the state. Never forget that. As school librarians, we are privileged to be part of a very supportive professional community. I know I can bend another librarian’s ear at any time to better my own educational practices and I encourage all school librarians to take advantage of the vast array of amazing resources we have in our state. IEFA sets Montana apart from other states and we must steadfastly and proudly support its integration, both in our libraries and in our schools.
Elser, Tammy. The Framework: A Practical Guide for Montana Teachers and Administrators Implementing Indian Education for All. Helena: Montana Office of Public Instruction, 2010.
(Brittany Alberson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)