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Behind the Scenes: Town Hall Followup

Behind the Scenes – Just Info – Just Links – Just Awesome

This Behind the Scenes is a no frills – no graphics – no quotes from me - update.

I know many of you are anxious for the links for the Town Hall Meeting from last week – but please keep reading – Save the date for the Business Meeting, the Model Curriculum on SAS, an exciting video contest to win Amazon gift cards and AASL Town Hall meetings all follow.

PSLA Town Hall Meeting - April 21, 2020

Thanks to all who attended the Town Hall Meeting. We are so excited that we had over 150 attendees. The Chat Transcript is filled with ideas and links that you don’t want to miss. PLEASE fill out the evaluation form so that we can determine if there is enough interest to continue to hold virtual town halls. We are considering another meeting in May – but we need to hear from you.

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Behind the Scenes: Just OK is NOT OK! We’ve Got Your Back!

Just OK is Not OKEven if you were unable to attend the Rally to Restore Philadelphia School Librarians on January 24 in front of the School District of Philadelphia’s administration building, hopefully you’ve been following both PSLA’s news as well as the state and national media coverage. With 150 or more attending the rally, I was honored to speak for PSLA and all school librarians in Pennsylvania to put the issue of the loss of school librarians in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the nation in the spotlight.

This rally did not happen without the enormous help of PSLA’s partnership with EveryLibrary (John Chrastka and Patrick Sweeney) who helped us enlist Lauren Comito (LJ Librarian of the Year) as our emcee. EveryLibrary's experience and expertise for a rally enabled PSLA to consider the idea of holding a rally during ALA’s MidWinter Conference and then led us through every step to make it happen successfully. Of course, PSLA’s work was done through the never-ending determination of our State and Local Advocacy Committee, particularly our co-chairs, Deb Kachel and Robin Burns, PSLA President-Elect. We also partnered with the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools (APPS), many of whom are former teachers and school librarians from School District of Philadelphia, helping us secure from Philadelphia, a city council member, teacher, school librarian and a high school student on our list of speakers. Kevin Harley and Quantum Communications rounded out the team to ensure that we had legislators speaking and attending as well as local media coverage.

As a PSLA member, regardless of our own situations, we all want adequate staffing of certified school librarians in all schools in Pennsylvania. If you are not part of School District of Philadelphia you might be wondering what the rally means to the other 499 school districts.

First, the media coverage we received has truly brought this issue to stakeholders beyond the Philadelphia geographic area. We are using this momentum to speak for all 500 districts to demand that our students receive equitable access to certified school librarians with quality school library program.

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Behind the Scenes: Contentment and True Belonging

Behind the Scenes: Contentment and True Belonging

True BelongingAs I sit on my porch with my husband (and cats) and reflect upon the past year as the PSLA president, I am filled with emotions. The one I feel most is contentment. I am a goal-oriented and improvement-focused person, so contentment doesn't come easy for me. Right now, at this moment, I am content in my situation - with what I have and who I am. 

This year, I learned about true vulnerability and belonging by presenting my "authentic, imperfect self" to you

As much as I would love Brene Brown's quotation to be the center of my last "Behind the Scenes," one of Seth Godin's posts from a few weeks ago has been swirling around in my head.

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Behind the Scenes: PSLA Awarded AASL Affiliate of the Year

“Behind the Scenes” Allison Mackley, Cathi Fuhrman, Operations (Aimee Emerson, Vickie Saltzer, Bob McConnell) and Communications (Mary Schwander, Laura Ward, Corey Hall) wrote and submitted an application for the AASL Affiliate of the Year Award.  On Wednesday, March 27th, I was notified that PSLA is receiving this recognition.
The AASL Affiliate of the Year Award recognizes the AASL Affiliate most active and dynamic in achieving the goals of AASL at the state and local level. AASL established this award to acknowledge the important contributions made by AASL Affiliates and encourage affiliates to take pride in their accomplishments. Through this recognition, AASL encourages educational growth, increased involvement at the national level and community, and legislative involvement.

 It is exciting to see such an engaged, active and exemplary affiliate. - Kathryn Roots Lewis, AASL President

The award will be presented at the American Library Association’s 2019 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. during the AASL Awards Ceremony. The ceremony will be held on Saturday, June 22nd from 5:00 – 7:00 pm.  If you are attending the ALA, please be sure to attend the ceremony to help us celebrate!

Ever Curious,
Allison Mackley
President, PSLA (PA School Librarians Association)
National Board Certified Teacher Librarian
Hershey High School
550 Homestead Road
Hershey, PA  17033
[email protected]

Behind the Scenes: PSLA Awarded the AASL Past-Presidents Planning Grant

“Behind the Scenes” Allison Mackley, Cathi Fuhrman, Deb Kachel, and the PSLA Teaching and Learning Committee Co-chairs, Dustin Brackbill and Leah Lindemann, wrote and submitted an application for one of three AASL Past-Presidents Planning Grant for National School Library Standards. Last week I was notified that we were awarded the grant in honor of E. Blanche Woolls (sponsored by Roger and Susan D. Ballard). E. Blanche Woolls, a Distinguished Service Award winning member of the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association, was the Intellectual Freedom Committee Chair (1977-1978) and the Communications Committee Chair (1986-1988). See her bio below.

The AASL Past-President Planning Grant for National School Library Standards will provide the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association (PSLA) with the funding necessary to develop, market and carry out professional learning initiatives that support school librarians as they implement best practices that impact academic achievement for learners. PSLA is dedicated to transforming teaching and learning not only through quality school library programs but also by leveraging the AASL National School Library Standards for local advocacy efforts.

“This prestigious award showcases the impact of strong school library programs in schools and highlights the importance of the school library program in the educational community.”  - Kathryn Roots Lewis, AASL President, and Susan Yutzey, 2018-2019 AASL Awards Chair

The award will be presented at the American Library Association’s 2019 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. during the AASL Awards Ceremony. The ceremony will be held on Saturday, June 22nd from 5:00 – 7:00 pm.  If you are attending the ALA, please be sure to attend the ceremony to help us celebrate!

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Behind the Scenes: It’s Not the Critic Who Counts

“Behind the Scenes” it’s not the critic who counts. This is the vital lesson I have learned from Theodore Roosevelt’s “Daring Greatly” speech through the work of Brené Brown. (This is a mashup of my words with theirs.)

As the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association is in the midst of our annual elections, I have been thinking about this lesson and the way it comes through in my life.  The PSLA leaders before me and with me have stepped into the arena.  This did not happen by accident. This happened because we chose to be committed to the school library profession. We chose to be leaders (with or without a title).  We chose integrity by practicing our values rather than professing them. We chose to come together whether in agreement or not. We chose to lift each other up. We chose to leave our association and profession a little better off than the way we found it. 

This happened because we all chose courage over comfort.

…when you choose courage. When you choose to dare greatly, you will have your critics.  You will stumble. Your face will be marred by dust and sweat and blood.  You will make errors. You will be the ones who strive valiantly and come up short. You will fail.

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Behind the Scenes: Local and State Advocacy Committee

“Behind the Scenes” the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association Board approved a special committee: Local and State Advocacy Committee for a duration of two years (January 2019 – December 2020). The co-chairs, Deb Kachel, Legislative Liaison, and Cathi Fuhrman, President-Elect, will be seeking members for this committee.

Proposed by Cathi Fuhrman, President-Elect and Allison Mackley, President

Background: According to the PSLA Bylaws, special committees can be established by the president and approved by the board. The president acts as an ex-officio member, and the chair(s) are appointed by the president with board approval. The chair(s) are voting members of the PSLA Advisory Council.

Rationale: Although PSLA has approved the role of Legislative Liaison to work as a member of the Communications Committee, legislative efforts must extend beyond the work of one person.

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Behind the Scenes: Our History, Our Future & Embracing the Bumpy Road

“Behind the Scenes” the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association Board of Directors and Committee Co-chairs embrace the bumpy road to make a meaningful and (hopefully) visionary difference for the members of our association. The bumpy road is not easy, but we believe in the future of PSLA and realize we can only be successful if we all work together.

Looking Back 

The PSLA officers and directors value our history, so the Board initiated a small history project. Cathi Fuhrman, President-Elect, worked with Marge Tassia Outstanding Contributor (1995)/Past President; Sharon Nardelli, Past President; and Celeste Nalwasky, Outstanding Contributor (1991)/Past Board Director, to put together a PSLA History Timeline and Narrative to share how the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association began.  Thanks for revealing our roots!

You can also find a few other historical documents on this page:

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Behind the Scenes: PSLA Annual Conference

"Behind the Scenes" the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association Conference Committee has been working over the past year to bring a quality professional learning and networking experience to you at the 46th PSLA Annual Conference.

This post will not come close to doing justice to the work the entire conference committee completes over the course of the year, so I will share some highlights. Please visit the conference website for more information.

The Pennsylvania School Librarians Association annual conference is entirely planned, organized and implemented by volunteers. The president appoints an Executive Director of the Conference for a term of two years with the approval by the board. (Conference Policy) For the past four years, Caitlin Linsenmann has filled this role and worked with Jennifer Bates (2016), Allison Mackley (2017), Cathi Fuhrman (2018) and Robin Burns (2019) as conference co-chairs. Before Caitlin took on the enormous task of planning the conference, Connie Burlingame served as the previous Executive Director of the Conference.

Requests for Proposals and Contracts

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Behind the Scenes: PSLA Legislative & Advocacy Efforts

"Behind the Scenes" the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association’s officers, board, and committees are working very hard on legislative and advocacy efforts for you. Below are just a few recent efforts. This list is not meant to be all-inclusive.


In March 2019, during the SXSW EDU conference in Austin, TX, I will present on a panel moderated by John Chrastka of Every Library, to discuss ways high-level policy can be introduced nationally. Other panelists include Keith Curry Lance, Kafi Kumasi (Wayne State University), and Azadeh Jamalian (Teachers College Columbia University).

Deb Kachel, PSLA’s Legislative Liaison, is working with unwavering efforts at both the state and national levels to advocate for school librarians. 

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Behind the Scenes - Leadership Academies: PSLA & University of Pittsburgh

“Behind the Scenes” the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association (PSLA) offers its members Leadership Academies in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh School Library Certification Program (SLCP). The academies are funded through a grant from the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) by the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, Pennsylvania Department of Education.  The grant application process is an intense time of writing and revision during the summer and early fall, generally under tight timelines. Over the past five (5) years, the leadership academies have supported best practices in teaching and learning, as well as leadership development, for 104 active Pennsylvania school librarians.

Dr. Mary Kay Biagini, Director of the University of Pittsburgh School Library Certification Program, has held the position of Leadership Academy Project Director for each of the academies. She has called upon the expertise of an assistant project director and a steering group, as well as mentors and coaches to support the academies.

2018 – 2019 Grant Cycle

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Behind the Scenes - AASL Takes PSLA Concerns and Commendations to Heart

"Behind the Scenes" the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association Board of Directors discuss local, state and national "concerns" and "commendations" to bring to the American Association of School Librarians Affiliate Assembly bi-annual meetings.  What does this mean?

Statement of Concern

Concerns submitted to the AASL Affiliate Assembly from each of the regions across the United States are important communication links between the AASL Board of Directors and school librarians at the front lines. Concerns enable the AASL Board to keep their fingers on the pulse of the profession across the country and develop strategies for the issues facing the profession.

Presenting the concerns at Affiliate Assembly meetings builds awareness and provides an opportunity for input. Affiliate Delegates are able to network, share, and brainstorm strategies at the state and regional levels. This essential and highly effective process makes the association and Affiliates responsive to the needs of the profession and strong advocates of school library programs across the country.

Statement of Commendation
Commendations are similar to Statements of Concern, the difference is Affiliate Assembly Delegates nominate outstanding programs and events deserving of recognition at the national level. Receiving validation and praise at the national level for successful programs or events that follow the mission and principles of AASL is a powerful advocacy tool.
Programs or events must align with AASL's guidelines, mission, and principles as expressed in AASL's mission and vision statements. While many individuals are worthy of recognition, Commendations are limited to programs or events.
Commendations recognize programs and events outside of the state's school library organization.

Some concerns and commendations do no make it beyond the Affiliate Assembly; however, PSLA presented one commendation and one concern during Allison Burrell's presidency that were successful. 

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Behind the Scenes - PSLA Mission, Vision & Strategic Priorities

 "Behind the Scenes" the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association Board of Directors reviews and updates the PSLA strategic priorities every three to five years to identify critical issues impacting PSLA and its members, as well as the library field, in general.

During the PSLA Summit in July 2018, thirty-four representatives worked with consultant Michael Kumer from Boards Made to Order to review our mission, vision, and strategic priorities.  After a lively and passionate full day of discussion, collaboration and consensus building, we walked away with a framework from which to craft a final document.

The difficult work continued through August and September with eleven volunteers, in a Tier I and Tier II review structure, who brought multiple voices and a broad range of perspectives to finalize the project. 

On October 6th, 2018, the PSLA Board approved the following:

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Behind the Scenes - PSLA Delegates @ the AASL Affiliate Assembly

"Behind the Scenes" the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association has two voting  Delegates on the Affiliate Assembly of American Association of School Librarians (AASL). We are part of Region 2, which includes PA, NY, NJ, MD, DE and DC. In addition to providing PSLA with a voice at the national level, sending representatives to these meetings provides PSLA added opportunities to apply for grants and awards.

The purpose the the Affiliate Assembly is described below:

According to the AASL Bylaws, “the purposes of the Affiliate Assembly are to provide a channel of communication for reporting concerns of the affiliated organizations and their membership to the AASL Board of Directors; to facilitate discussion of activities and concerns of the AASL as reported by the AASL president, Executive Director and Board of Directors; and to report the actions of the AASL to the Affiliates.”  

Made up of 48 school library organizations from 45 states, the Affiliate Assembly serves as the representation of AASL’s (number) members. Each year, the Affiliate Assembly gathers for two meetings at both ALA Midwinter Meeting and ALA Annual Conference to handle official tasks such as voting on Concerns and Commendations, share best practices and knowledge, and learn about AASL activities and initiatives. 

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Behind the Scenes: PSLA and Quantum Communications

"Behind the Scenes" our Association has an ongoing contract with Kevin Harley from Quantum Communications to provide PSLA with counsel on strategic communications and government affairs.

In an effort to support the mission of PSLA and more importantly our members' interests, the PSLA President and President-Elect meet with Kevin through bi-weekly phone conferences to identify targeted areas of need and to strategically communicate with stakeholders. In addition, Kevin strategizes with Deb Kachel, the PSLA Legislative Liaison, and takes part in key meetings of the Association.

Strategic Communications:

Among the activities that Quantum provides are the writing, design and distribution of the quarterly PSLA newsletter. The newsletter is emailed to PSLA members, as well as to all members of the general assembly. It also is sent to school board members, superintendents and principals for whom public emails are available. The purpose of the newsletter is primarily to educate policymakers on the important role that school librarians play in educating our children. Additionally, Quantum helps to write, edit and place op/eds by school librarians and school librarian advocates in newspapers across the state. Quantum also will promote the work of a particular school or librarian to a specific reporter.

Government Affairs:

Quantum helps to promote PSLA’s legislative agenda. An example is the introduction of HB 740, a bill that would require each public school in the state to employ at least one professional librarian. The legislation obtained nearly 40 co- sponsors, which for first-time legislation is outstanding. Quantum also has scheduled and arranged school library visits and tours for key legislators. Among them have been the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, as well as the House Education Chairman. We have a library tour scheduled for the full House Education Committee on October 9 at PSLA President Allison Mackley’s library at Hershey High School. Additionally, Quantum helped to schedule and organize a House Education hearing on the importance of school libraries. Quantum is currently working to gain more support for PSLA’s legislation in the House and, at the same time, getting companion legislation introduced in the Senate.

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