Learning to Read

by Jessica Kahn, Ph.D.

Over the past eight years, as a retired, reading education college professor, I have worked with Philadelphia public and charter schools to get books into the hands of children. I collect books from wealthy neighborhoods and books that children no longer want and take them to inner-city schools. In five of those schools, I have also created or re-created libraries, cataloging the books and arranging the library, in the hopes that someday a school librarian will be hired to run the library and teach students. I have literally cataloged thousands of books for these libraries.

One of these libraries is fully functional today in a charter school. It has a certified school librarian and an aide. In another school, a chronically understaffed public school, where I have set up a library collection, there is a crew of dedicated volunteers and middle school students who circulate 1400 books a month, to as many as four classes a day. Volunteers at this public school also read to children on a regular basis, using the library to meet with students and encourage reading.

I am currently organizing a library in another Philadelphia charter school where the principal assures me that a bilingual media specialist will be hired to oversee the library. I hope this happens. For my part, in addition to supplying an initial book collection, I will train parent volunteers and middle schoolers to help maintain the library.

Read More

Conversation with our PA House Representative

After working as a public school librarian for 23 years, I did something for the FIRST time.  I lobbied! And it was a wonderful experience thanks to Deb Kachel and all the supporting material she made available.  As a librarian at North Penn High School, (Lansdale, PA) and a resident of Philadelphia, I am keenly aware of the lack of school librarians throughout the state of Pennsylvania. I wanted the legislator who served a part of our school district to support the co-sponsored house memo: One “Certified Librarian” Per Public School.

On Monday, March 6, Deb Kachel and I had an appointment with State Representative Todd Stephens, who represents the 151st Legislative District, which covers a part of North Penn’s schools.  Deb made the appointment to see Mr. Stephens at his Montgomeryville office after my school day.  But before we went, Deb and I talked on the phone and strategized what we would say.  There are two great documents on PSLA’s website that guided our planning. Talking Points “One Certified Librarian per Public School” Legislative Campaign and the Template for Preparing a Conversation with Your Legislator.

We wanted to keep our meeting short, just 10-15 minutes.  Our goal was to ask the representative for his support for the memo, by either signing on to the memo or supporting if it became a bill. We had three talking points about the need for a certified librarian in every public school:

  1. Importance of digital citizenship and cybersafety
  2. The Instructional role of the librarian
  3. Preparing students for college and career

While we explained our roles as librarians, Mr. Stephens had some questions, explained his point of view, and thanked us for coming to talk to him.  He was very genial and kind, as I’m sure most legislators are when talking to their constituents.  He was genuinely concerned about the students in his district. Our conversation lasted about 30 minutes.  Deb and I left feeling cautiously optimistic, and with a promise to follow up on any outstanding questions Mr. Stephens had.

Read More

21st Century Librarians: Servant Leaders

Academic Reference and Instruction Librarian at Bloomsburg University Linda Neyer discusses how PSLA President Allison Burrell, President-Elect Jennifer Bates and Vice President Allison Mackley exemplify and embody the role of servant leaders in the PSLA organization and in their own school districts. As an academic librarian working with freshmen, Linda sees first-hand how the role and value of the school librarian influences a student’s research and literary skills in higher education.

Read more on how school librarians are leaders in many areas and are vital to their students’ success beyond high school.

Philadelphia School District Librarians: A Species Nearly Extinct?

The Philadelphia Inquirer examines the dwindling number of librarians in one of the nation’s largest school systems. The number of full-time, certified librarians in the Philadelphia School District is now in the single digits.

Read more on how shrunken Philadelphia school budgets are almost pushing librarians to the point of extinction.

Libraries Remain a Cornerstone of Schools: Rep. Thomas Murt

Published by The Intelligencer, PA State Representative Thomas Murt says a shortage of librarians and libraries in the School District of Philadelphia is negatively impacting students because “the library is the heart and soul of the learning process.” As an educator, a parent and a state representative, Rep. Murt has begun work on a bill that dedicates a portion of state budget funding for schools specifically for school libraries and library staff.

Read more on Rep. Murt’s belief that professional librarians are essential in utilizing what the shelves have to offer.

Update: January 14, 2017 Meeting

Please see the attached document for an update from the January 14, 2017, Board Meeting.

Update from the January 14, 2017 Meeting

Who Should Teach Our Kids the Difference Between Real and Fake News? Our Librarians

In a world where information is accessible with a click of a few buttons or the touch of a screen, Deb Kachel says emotional appeals and unsubstantiated claims sway popular opinions in our current post-truth era. Published by PennLive, Deb argues that, in order to be successful, students must be able to distinguish false claims, fraudulent sales pitches and dubious websites from trustworthy information and sources.

Read more on how librarians can lead students to trustworthy information.

Librarians Are Critical to Communities: John Kurelja, Ed. D.

When hired as the middle school principal in the Central Columbia School District, John Kurelja was introduced to one of the most influential educators he has ever met, a middle school librarian. In an op-ed published by The Standard-Journal, John recalls how Janice Dysart found a way not only to engage students with literature, but to embed their reading into their overall curriculum.

Read John’s story here.

Update: October 29, 2016 Board Meeting

Please see the attached document for an update from the October 29, 2016, Board Meeting.

Update from the October 29, 2016 Board Meeting

School Librarians have a Profound Impact on Students’ Futures

Op-ed: Lancaster Online

School librarians have a profound impact on students’ futures

As a school district library department supervisor, I would love to say that, after 17 years in this position, my district has the perfect school library program. The reality is that our idea of perfection evolves. The needs of our students are constantly changing. So, too, our district’s mission and vision must change to meet the future-ready needs of our students...

Cathi Fuhrman, Ed.D., is library department supervisor for the Hempfield School District. This article was originally presented at a hearing before the state House Education Committee.

School Librarians Even More Important

Allentown Morning Call: School librarians are even more important in a digital world. (Nov. 7, 2016)

Even in the iPhone Age, School Librarians are a Vital Link to Learning

Op-Ed: PennLive

Even in the iPhone age, school librarians are a vital link to learning

As both the president of the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association (PSLA) and the K-12 librarian of a rural PA school district, I know how absolutely vital school librarians are to our students' futures...

Allison Burrell is president of the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association and a K-12 librarian in the Southern Columbia Area School District. This op-Ed was originally presented as testimony before the House Education Committee.

Update: July 14, 2016 Board Meeting

Please see the attached document for an update from the July 14, 2016, Board Meeting.

Update from the July 14, 2016 Board Meeting

Update: May 12, 2016 Board Meeting

Please see the attached document for an update from the May 12, 2016, Board Meeting.

Update from the May 12, 2016 Board Meeting

Update: January 16, 2016 Board Meeting

Please see the attached document for an update from the January 16, 2016, Board Meeting.

Update from the January 16, 2016 Board Meeting

Update: October 24, 2015 Board Meeting

Please see the attached document for a summary of the October 24, 2015, Board Meeting.

Summary of the October 24, 2015 Board Meeting

Update: July 22, 2015 Board Meeting

Please see the attached document for a summary of the July 22, 2015, Board Meeting.

Summary of the July 22, 2015 Board Meeting

Update: April 30, 2015 Board Meeting

Please see the attached document for a summary of the April 30, 2015, Board Meeting.

Summary of the April 30, 2015 Board Meeting

Position Vacancy of Executive Director of the PSLA Conference

PSLA Members...

  • Do you love to plan events?
  • Have you ever considered joining the Conference Committee?
  • Do you want to become more involved in PSLA?

The PSLA Board of Directors would like to announce a position vacancy within PSLA: Executive Director of the Conference

The Executive Director (ED) of the Conference will...

  • Serve as co-chair of the Conference Committee.
  • Be a voting member of the Advisory Council and may be invited to board meetings as a non-voting member.
  • Perform many duties involved with planning the conference.
  • Serve a two-year term and be responsible to the Vice President.

Interested in being the ED? Contact the PSLA Board of Directors at [email protected]

Read More

Update: January 24, 2015 Board Meeting

Please see the attached document for a summary of the January 24, 2015, Board Meeting.

Summary of the January 24, 2015 Board Meeting