American Library Assn. president visits East, cites library importance

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On Monday morning, Loida Garcia-Febo, President of the American Library Association, visited the Cranston High School East media center as part of her ‘Because Libraries = Strong Communities’ national tour, visiting while in town for a conference in Warwick.

She had already visited libraries as far away as Colorado and as close by as Harvard and MIT last week before stopping in at East. Librarian Heidi Blais introduced Garcia-Febo to a room filled with students who often use the school’s media center, such as English Language Learners, a Media Studies class, and a reading class, as well as various staff members and local community representatives and librarians from both the Cranston Public Libraries and the Cranston Public Schools.

“We have a special guest with us today, Loida Garcia-Febo, who is the president of the National Library Association. She flew in yesterday to come to Rhode Island to participate in a conference that is being held in Warwick and also to visit a school. You can see on the sign, ‘Because libraries equal strong communities.’ Schools, communities, libraries, they all come together. All of those things are very important to Ms. Garcia-Febo,” said Blais. “She has chosen Cranston East as the school she would like to visit while she is here in Rhode Island because she has heard about us. She has heard about our diversity, how well this school works together, how much we value learning, how much we value libraries, so this is her school visit while she’s in Rhode Island.”

Garcia-Febo said libraries had influenced her own life as a young student, having been a member of her local library club from the first grade through tenth grade.

“I loved it, so I have been a strong supporter of libraries for a long time,” she said. “I am going around the country advocating for libraries and school libraries are very special to me, so that’s why I when I heard the wonderful things this library is doing and how they are helping the community, I said I was very happy to join you here in Cranston because this can help amplify the message to other areas of the country. You have great resources here, you have a certified librarian; you have the latest technology and access to databases and resources. We want this type of thing in all school libraries across the country, so it is very important. Your support today means it will encourage others around our nation.”

She took a few minutes to go through her prepared remarks with the students before going table to table to speak with staff and students.

“This is a national advocacy effort that highlights dynamic library programs like this one that transforms lives through education and lifelong learning. Cranston High School East library media center was selected because of its comprehensive approach to teaching and learning and we want that in all the libraries around the country,” she said. “The library’s award-winning staff, the librarian here, consistently demonstrates the connection between learner, librarian and school library standards. The library’s technology resources include lib guides containing more than 300 customized web pages to aid instruction. This school library program fosters critical thinking by providing students with research skills they need to analyze form and communicate ideas in compelling ways.”

Garcia-Febo recognized Blais for her work as the school’s librarian and for the adoption of the national school library standards for librarians and school libraries, which provide the backbone for each school district’s vision in the country. The standards were crafted by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA).

She also recognized all of the librarians in the room and noted she has heard that the school library at Cranston East is very rarely empty.

“Teachers view the library as the hub of the school and the heart of the school and the library has changed the entire culture of Cranston East, that is just amazing,” she said.

She spoke of the opportunities for students as leaders, as participants in library events such as the after school student book club, and as volunteers in the school library at Cranston East.”

Garcia-Febo highlighted the community service projects that are spearheaded through the CHSE library, such as the ones which are done each year for veterans, as well as the unique partnership between the school department and the local library, which allows the students to access the Tutor.com website at no cost to them, as part of the many resources available to them.

She encouraged those in the room to advocate for libraries such as the ones in Cranston so that such resources and opportunities can be available to all, nationwide.

Cranston Public Library’s director, Edward Garcia was pleased to be a part of the day’s events at Cranston East.

“It was an honor to have ALA President Loida Garcia-Febo visit Cranston East High School to advocate for the importance of school librarians. Having the message delivered at a school with an amazing librarian in Heidi Blais and in a district that through the leadership of Superintendent [Jeannine] Nota-Masse has shown tremendous support for school librarians is important,” said Garcia. “The Cranston schools and the Cranston Public Library have a strong partnership and I am thankful that all the work that has been accomplished in Cranston for student success is recognized nationally. Perhaps Cranston can be an example of collaboration for other locations around Rhode Island and the U.S. that are questioning the importance of school librarians in student learning.”

Nota-Masse issued a statement, thanking Garcia-Febo for including Cranston East’s library on her national tour.

“We are honored that ALA president Loida Garcia-Febo has selected Cranston High School Library as her site for her Libraries = Strong Communities tour,” said Nota-Masse. “We are proud of our strong relationship between our schools and Cranston Public Library. The support we receive from one another is critical to the success of our students in Cranston.”

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