The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –
Recent changes in the structure of school libraries in Tennessee have many concerned that school librarians are being trained to push more than just books.
The state legislature passed a bill that reinstated the position of “State Coordinator of School Libraries” within the Tennessee Department of Education. This came after a great deal of lobbying from the Tennessee Association of School Librarians (TASL), the American Library Association (ALA), and the American Association of School Librarians (AASL).
The new legislation requires that anyone holding this position must be a “certified school librarian.” The role of the state library coordinator would be to “consult, guide, and train school librarians to strengthen school library programs” and to “support school and district-level instructional programs.”
It would be expected that school librarians would follow state laws such as those prohibiting teachings of critical race theory and prevention of access to obscene materials by minors. However, some fear that the political agendas held by many of the overseeing agencies will filter down into the practices of these individuals.
According to James Ritter, the newly appointed State Librarian and Archivist for Tennessee, TASL received a grant from the AASL prior to the COVID-19 pandemic to help navigate the implementation of new National School Library Standards from the AASL.
These AASL standards draw heavily from the ALA’s platform for advocacy and intellectual freedom. TASL recommends that librarians can “create, facilitate, and encourage student led groups (ex. ProjectLIT, Sustainable Schools, Urban Green Lab, GSA [Gay-Straight Alliance].”
Emily Drabinski, the new president-elect of the ALA, tweeted after her victory, “I just cannot believe that a Marxist lesbian who believes that collective power is possible to build and can be wielded for a better world is the president-elect of @ALALibrary.”
In her campaign for the position, she said, “So many of us find ourselves at the ends of our worlds. The consequences of decades of unchecked climate change, class war, white supremacy, and imperialism have led us here…”
One of the AASL’s shared foundations is “include,” which they define as “[d]emonstrate an understanding of and commitment to inclusiveness and respect for diversity in the learning community.”
Other framework recommendations include activities that “facilitate and share lesson plans that incorporate banned books” and “seek balanced perspectives, global learning, empathy, tolerance, and equity.”
The AASL touts the school librarian as a “collaborator, change agent, and leader.” However, the AASL standards could leave school librarians in opposition with state law by encouraging a push of ideals that are not aligned with Tennessee state laws.
To learn more, please read Joanne Bregman’s in-depth article on DailyRollCall.com.
About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career. Most recently, he served as Deputy Director for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History. Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com