Michelle Hilburn: Faith in the future of literacy

April is not only a month to celebrate the return of spring, but it’s also the month the library community celebrates school libraries and school librarians.

Executive members of the American Association of School Librarians created this annual celebration to highlight the work school librarians and school libraries do to support student learning.

While often unsung heroes, librarians are the backbone of school reading programs. They work to provide the reading materials necessary for student success and offer reader’s advisory to students to help them find the best books according to their interest and reading ability. Because of this, school librarians play an essential role in student success.

Each April, the Missouri Association of School Librarians (MASL) holds its annual conference. This conference offers school librarians all over the state an opportunity to meet for professional development activities and networking with colleagues.

As the only librarian in my district, this yearly conference is a much needed chance for me to learn from other librarians and experts in the field and discuss new ways to make a difference in my district. I always return back to work rejuvenated with new ideas and plans on how I can better help the students and teachers in my district.

Last year was an incredibly difficult year for school librarians in Missouri. It was a year that brought fear and uncertainty to many in our profession. When it came time for our yearly conference, I felt that many school librarians needed the support given by their colleagues at the MASL conference.

When the first session began, I looked around the room at smiling faces, at the kind people that I had grown to know over the course of my time as a school librarian. I could not be more proud to be in this midst of those amazing people because school librarians are truly the kindest, bravest, most wonderful people. They serve the students and teachers in their school districts with a servant’s heart every single day.

A year later, I am preparing for this year’s MASL conference and the climate of our profession has not improved. This is devastating not only to the field of education but to the future of literacy. It is pushing librarians out of the profession and deterring others from joining the profession.

I want the future of education to be bright for not only our students but for future generations of educators. Advocating for libraries, for students and for my fellow educators is crucial in order to protect the future of our nation.

We need to not lose our focus that schools support kids and our future is dependent on our kids.

On April 22, Cassville Area Friends of the Library will host U Turn in Education at the Barry-Lawrence Regional Library Cassville Branch at 6 p.m. The organization supports educators, students, and community members as they seek to maintain freedom of information and educational opportunities for everyone. We invite everyone to attend to learn about this organization as well as attend our quarterly meeting.

I have faith in our future because of my students and my own children — they deserve a bright future, and I won’t give up until they have it.

Michelle Hilburn is the president of the Cassville Area Friends of the Library and a librarian at Purdy schools. She may be reached at mhilburn@purdyk12. com.