Monday, June 6, 2011

Thanks for CASL Awards

On Friday, May 27, at the 2011 CLA Conference in Halifax, CASL presented me with the Angela Thacker Memorial Award.  My thanks were carried to the conference by Coquitlam TL Judith Comfort, recipient of the Follett-International Teacher-librarian of the Year Award, and shared, as follows:
In thinking about how to say thank you for this award, it was necessary to do some serious research.  Being something of an expert in inquiry, as TLs are, I sought advice from colleagues who had worked as TLs during Angela B. Thacker’s time in school libraries and was re-directed to the expert Liz Austrom, formerly a District Principal for Library Services in Vancouver, now retired.  What were the qualities of Angela and her work that would lead to the creation of such an award? I asked.  Liz was clearly a fan. 
  • Formidable, Liz said, a very strong presence, a force to be reckoned with.  She spoke her mind, spoke directly, but with such good manners that, should you disagree, you were always at a loss because she had said it so nicely.
  • Angela knew everything about school libraries, a shining light who got the excitement going. When she was in charge of library services in West Vancouver, they were the best-funded in Canada.  Her work in West Vancouver set a standard that generated respect for the work and thus enabled other districts to move ahead.
  • She was the President of the BCTLA and the CSLA; she was a founding member of the ATLC (now CASL).
  • Angela was always looking for ways to make things better and for better ways to keep TLs moving forward.  As Angela moved forward, she pulled others in her wake.  She just kept going and going and going.
Surely, I thought, working with this Angela B. Thacker must have been a little like tailing Haley’s Comet.  Even as I compare some of what I bring to the field to the qualities exemplified by Angela -- maybe a certain obsessiveness and unrelenting focus, certainly a strong sense that we must move forward, and a tendency to use the words “school library” in every second sentence! -- I am struck by the powerful message about the importance of relationships in what we do. 

I am fortunate to work within the most supportive of professional learning communities, the teacher-librarians in Vancouver and in British Columbia.I have been well introduced to the field by truly excellent role models and lucky to have had fantastic opportunities to travel to hear and work with some of the biggest names in provincial, national, and international school library contexts.  I always hope that the excitement about learning and moving ahead in school libraries, in partnership with others in our schools, as well as the drive to provide new and improved services and resources for teachers and students, has been shared.  TLs are, like Angela, always so gracious, so appreciative of work done to support their work.

 I do believe that we have moved ahead, despite setbacks here in BC, that we are seeing glimpses of the light now and will soon be taking our rightful place in the provincial conversations about education reform grounded in collaboration and in meaningful teaching for the love of reading and the pursuit of inquiry, the integration of technology including new tools and resources, and learning to learn.

In a recent post to his blog The Culture of Yes, West Vancouver Superintendent Chris Kennedy, an influential voice in the provincial conversations about change, wrote that, as we move forward, “teacher librarians are more important than ever.”  He said that his experience has been that, “next to the principal, the teacher-librarian is often key in moving the learning agenda forward. In schools that are moving forward, it is very often the teacher-librarian, working side-by-side with teachers on staff, who find new ways of working with students. ... As we lament that little change has taken place, or how slow the change has been, many teacher-librarians have transformed what they do to stay relevant and ahead of the curve. [Many] are seeing their roles ... 'as producer, concierge, connector, teacher and impresario.'"

Couple Chris’s vision with the recent political development, the BCTF’s winning their years-long challenge under the Charter of Rights that had sought to reverse the 2001 Liberal government’s stripping of language and ratios that had, amongst other dreadful effects, undertaken a deliberate and intended outcome of reducing the numbers of TLs in BC schools.  Add in that the judge expressly declared an expectation of remediation within a year, and you can see there is reason for hope for restoration of TLs and strong school library programs in BC schools.  We have been working hard to make sure our TLs are ready.   
On this hopeful note, I wish to end by thanking CASL for its important work in supporting the very different struggles to keep school libraries alive and strong across Canada and, in particular today, for honouring me with this Award which Judith Comfort is gratefully accepting for me.  In speaking with Liz Austrom, I found myself incredulous and incredibly honoured to think that in some small way, by comparison, I have been enabled to follow the very significant and clearly hewn path laid down by the formidable Angela B. Thacker.  

Thank you again.

Thanks, too, to our brilliant leader, BCTLA President Heather Daly, herself a winner of the Margaret B. Scott Award, for her kind comments in the In Circulation blog.  With permission, here is Heather's acceptance speech:
Thank you so much for the honour of naming me the 2011 recipient of the Margaret B. Scott Award of Merit. It sincerely means so much to me.  

My first experience with the Canadian Association for School Libraries was in 2004, at the CLA conference which was held that year in Victoria. I believe my first introduction—in person—to what was then called the Canadian School Library Association was actually at the awards ceremony at that conference, which took the form of a luncheon held in the Victoria Fairmont Empress hotel.  

The amazing Lillian Carefoot from Nanaimo, BC, was the recipient of the Margaret B. Scott Award of Merit that year. Her acceptance speech, in which she talked about the role of the teacher-librarian, inspired and had a huge influence on me. Lillian also handed out stickers in the shape of turtles, in honour of the amazing Margaret B. Scott and her “Turtle Club”, which celebrated teacher-librarians who were not afraid to “stick their necks out”.  

One of the loveliest notes that I have received since it was announced that I had received the 2011 award was from BC legend Donald Hamilton, who received the Margaret B. Scott Award of Merit in 1988. He said, “welcome to the Club”, meaning the Margaret B. Scott Club and he also said that, “the list of members in this august group reads like a history book on school librarianship in Canada. I am humbled when I consider all the people who helped me and who gave so much to an idea that seems to losing its flavour. I hope that you can stick your neck out”. 

On that note, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize all of the teacher-librarians and library technicians who every day ARE doing just that, from coast to coast to coast. From Prince Edward Island to here in BC and everywhere north, south, and in between, we are PROVING that our role is critical and needed.  

I hope that the recent BC Supreme Court challenge win that could ultimately restore the contractual teacher-librarian to student ratio in BC and therefore, restore teacher-librarians to every school in the province, and the very significant positive media coverage about the closure of school libraries in Windsor, Ontario, are signs that the tide is at long last, finally turning.  

Following the 2004 awards ceremony at which Lillian gave the speech that meant so much to me, I attended the last AGM of the Canadian School Library Association at which the Canadian Association for School Libraries, CASL, was born. I am sorry that I can’t be with you today, for what I hope will NOT be the final AGM for an association that was launched with such promise just seven years ago.  

CASL has played an integral role in building a national network between—in particular—the territorial and provincial teacher-librarian and school library associations. I know this networking will continue, no matter what happens, and I wish to thank the current members of the CASL Executive—Linda, Diana, Richard, Dianne, Wendy and Cindy—and all of the members of the CASL Publications Team, for everything that they have done to build and promote teacher-librarianship in Canada. 

Finally, thank you to Judith Comfort, both for accepting this award on my behalf, and for exemplifying what a school library program can look like in the 21st-Century when it is being developed by a superb teacher-librarian. We are very lucky here in Coquitlam School District.  

Thank you so much!
Judith Comfort's speech can be found in her blog on the BC Teacher-Librarians' ning.

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