Monday, July 16, 2012

Case Study No. 0446: Laura Hall, the "Missing Librarian"

The Missing Librarian
With their school corporation in the process of eliminating elementary and middle school librarians, the Templeton Elementary School Family Playwrights presented the play, "The Case of the Missing Librarian" during National Library Week. In this behind the scenes video, the inspiration for the play, librarian Laura Hall delivers a compelling and authoritative case for school librarians. Students and teachers express hope that their play can help change the minds of the people who are cutting professional librarians from the school budget.
Tags: Library School Librarians Templeton Elementary School Duane Busick MCCSC Bloomington Indiana
Added: 2 years ago
From: knoeful
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During National Library Week
Templeton Family Playwrights
Produced the Play

"The Case of the Missing Librarian"

The play dealt with the topic
of the proposed elimination
of the school's librarian

[scene opens with Michael Shipman ("Principal, Templeton Elementary") speaking directly to the camera]
MICHAEL SHIPMAN: We've had to reduce our media specialists across the corporation, with the exception of one or two. Uh, we've lost a lotta funding for Bradford Woods, Strings programs, other personnel as well. So we're having to really dig deep to see how we can make ends meet in a time of financial crisis.
[cut to some footage from the play, then cut to Adam ("Student, Templeton Elementary") speaking directly to the camera]
ADAM: Well, I was nervous. It was more people than I had thought it would be, and then there were cameras and ... microphones and lots of other stuff. And so it was, made me nervous. But, we made it through.
[cut to Lucia ("Student, Templeton Elementary") speaking directly to the camera]
LUCIA: I mean, they clapped before we even did anything, so ... I think they were excited, and they wanted to see what we were doing, or they felt that it was gonna be good.
[cut to Stella ("Student, Templeton Elementary") speaking directly to the camera]
STELLA: We perform these plays, it's just like our parents or family and stuff, but this time it was ... like, there was a guy filming it and it was a lotta people I didn't recognize. It wasn't the best play we ever did, but I, it was the most important.
[cut to Breshaun Joyner ("Director, Templeton Family Playwrights") on stage speaking to the audience]
BRESHAUN JOYNER: The families got together and really really wanted to make their voices heard in a way that they've not been heard before, and deciding to take the crisis in our community of budget cuts and bring it home and show you what they felt about it, focusing on librarians.
[cut to Rise Reinier ("Teacher, Templeton Elementary") speaking directly to the camera]
RISE REINIER: The whole class was involved because we have a session called "What's On My Mind?" every week ... and one of the topics had been budget cuts.
[cut to more footage from the play]
RISE REINIER: [in voice over] So everyone was taking about that, and I think it's how we all became informed about what was going on.
[cut to Layla ("Student, Templeton Elementary") speaking directly to the camera]
LAYLA: I think this one was kind of easy to understand, at least for me, because it's about budget cuts and it's about something in real life, and ... I don't know, maybe we'll get our librarian back. Maybe sometime.
[cut to Laura Hall ("Librarian, Templeton Elementary") speaking directly to the camera]
LAURA HALL: I was touched when I heard about the play. I ... It was just unbelievable.
[cut to more footage of the play, where the students are screaming and rolling around on the floor and throwing papers into the air]
LAURA HALL: [in voice over] In the scene in the play, where the librarian is gone and the kids are just like "Raaah!" ... That's kind of my vision of the place without us there. Um, so I think they were spot-on with some of the ways they portrayed both the adults and the children in the building with this news.
[cut to Lola ("Student, Templeton Elementary") speaking directly to the camera]
LOLA: I think it was the best play that we ever did and, um, the most important, so ... Lot of people hope that it will change the minds so we would get to keep a librarian.
[cut to Tess ("Student, Templeton Elementary") speaking directly to the camera]
TESS: I hope it changes the, um ... people who decided to cut the librarians, 'cause kids need librarians, it seems like. And everybody loves librarians, because we get to read a book and we get to pick out books.
[cut to Vivian ("Student, Templeton Elementary") speaking directly to the camera]
VIVIAN: I think, like everyone else, that this was like the most important one and I really hope that it changes some minds about the librarians.
[cut back to Principal Shipman speaking directly to the camera]
MICHAEL SHIPMAN: Even though it, you know, it sounds kind of cold in the press that we're losing the media specialists to the students here at Templeton, that's a person that they love very dearly ...
[cut back to Vivian speaking directly to the camera]
VIVIAN: I, I was really upset. Um, I was like ... I was actually crying when I heard about it.
[cut to Jennifer Livesay ("Parent, Templeton Elementary") speaking directly to the camera]
JENNIFER LIVESAY: She read the paper and she started to cry, and it was not just the librarians, but the whole list. But the librarians hit her really hard ...
[cut back to Vivian speaking directly to the camera]
VIVIAN: I was really upset about the librarians, so I just ... I just sat down at the computer and I wrote a letter to the editor. Um, my parents write letters to the editor all the time, and it, it was really easier than I thought it would be.
[cut back to Laura speaking directly to the camera]
LAURA HALL: Vivian's letter broke my heart, but was very heartfelt as well ...
[cut back to Vivian's mother speaking directly to the camera]
JENNIFER LIVESAY: She wants to be a writer, and she loves to read. She's constantly reading, and so the library's just a big part of her life.
[cut back to Vivian speaking directly to the camera]
VIVIAN: She gives us an opportunity to check out books every week, and some people don't get that chance. Um, even though there is a wonderful library in this town ...
[cut to Kevin Gallagher ("Teacher, Templeton Elementary") speaking directly to the camera]
KEVIN GALLAGHER: We have a great public library in town, but sadly a lotta kids don't have a chance to go there, or to utilize the bookmobile. So, I remember one student we had several years ago, and I won't say his name, but every single day, first thing he did when he came into school was ... he walked to the library and got a book, or magazine, and had a conversation with the librarian. Y'know, a positive adult in his life, for many years. And I know there are countless stories like that. I saw it happen.
[cut back to Laura speaking directly to the camera]
LAURA HALL: For our kids, we're sometimes their first and only exposure to libraries. And I feel like we make kids lovers of libraries, users of libraries.
[cut to footage of Laura helping children in the school library]
LAURA HALL: [in voice over] And without us here, I know our board had said the solution to cutting the libraries is parents.
[cut back to Laura speaking directly to the camera]
LAURA HALL: Parents can take their kids to the library, we have a good public library. In my population, many times ... um, those parents are not able to do that, or they aren't even with the students. That comment was made at a Friday board meeting, and on Monday I had two different students tell me, one couldn't bring their books back because their dad's in jail and they're not allowed to go back to that home. And another one said, "I can't get my books because they're with my mommy and she doesn't want us anymore and I'm with my grandma." What're those kids gonna do? I just ...
[she pauses and puts her head down]
LAURA HALL: They're already at a disadvantage. I feel like we help level the playing field for them, by getting them involved, getting them to love books. Um, making readers out of them, and without that, that deficit just keeps getting bigger for those kids. And technology-wise, they don't have computers in their homes, so how are they gonna learn those skills? How are they gonna learn to be researchers or inquirers of information or judges of what's good information or bad without our help?
[cut back to more footage of Laura helping children in the school library]
LAURA HALL: [in voice over] And the perception is, when you Google something and you get a million results, that's great!
[cut back to Laura speaking directly to the camera]
LAURA HALL: And I've worked really hard to explain to the kids, anyone can post information, you've got to learn how to evaluate a site, your source, and really make those judgments. And it's amazing to me, when we do these lessons with the kids, that misperception. And then, when they come back and say, "Hey, I used that where I just wanted sites from education or from government that you showed us." And y'know, for a more reliable source. And so, I think it's an invaluable tool. There's a lot of adults that don't have those skills, and I think if we can reach the kids at this level to be evaluators of the material they're reading, no just takers in of whatever's thrown at them, that's a huge plus for those kids.
[cut back to Kevin speaking directly to the camera]
KEVIN GALLAGHER: Seems like we're going, stepping backwards in time, and there's all this emphasis on literacy in our schools, and now you're gonna take someone ... I mean, these kids love reading, and it's part of our environment and our school, but I think it all comes from Miss Hall. She, I mean, she talks with kids daily about new books she has, and I think loving to read is part of learning to read.
[cut back to Lucia speaking directly to the camera]
LUCIA: The librarian's affected too, you don't just choose. They should have a decision about how they feel about their job, and what happens to them.
[cut back to Rise Reinier speaking directly to the camera]
RISE REINIER: But I've been really discouraged as I've looked at budget cuts and this whole process in the school system. Um, because I've heard people try to make the difference and not notice that it's really changing. I don't, I hear people say they're listening, but I don't see a change.
[cut to more footage from the play, where the students are holding up signs ("Save the Library", "We'll Take Revenge", etc.) and singing "We Shall Overcome"]
RISE REINIER: [in voice over] And so what I'm looking at right now is children coming together and singing "We Shall Overcome," which moved me to tears, and reminding me again to be really hopeful.
[cut back to Laura speaking directly to the camera]
LAURA HALL: If I could just say one thing about this whole situation, I just don't think people realize what a valuable resource the librarian/media specialists are in our community, especially in the schools. It is the great equalizer, we do a service to those students that no one else provides. We service every child in our building. There's very few people in any building that could say that, and I just ... If you look at the research, having certified people raises the ever-important test scores, raises literacy, it's just, it's unbelievable to me that that would be a cut, a complete elimination of such a valuable program.
[cut back to Lucia speaking directly to the camera]
LUCIA: Well, I think she has to leave, unless this play might help change part of that ...

Monroe County Community
School Corporation
Voted February 19, 2010
to eliminate Elementary
and Middle School Librarians

Video Production by
Duane Busick
(husband of a librarian)



Templeton's Family Playwriting Project Tackles a Timely Issue in Bloomington, IN.

Templeton Elementary kids and parents write a play about the effects of the budget cuts on their lives. Each semester, a lively, passionate, creative process evolves in the Templeton gym on Tuesday evenings for the past seven years. Members of the Family Playwriting Project– students, parents, and occasionally teachers — co-create an innovative production – from script-writing, costumes, set design, to music, lighting, and of course the acting itself. The Project is the brainchild of former Bloomington Playwrites Project Education Director Breshaun Joyner. This will be her last production, as her job was cut last December due to budget cuts.

"The Case of the Missing Librarian" hits especially close to home. Responding to the loss of their own school librarian, Mrs. Hall, the Templeton students in the Family Playwriting Project have written a play about the effects of the state budget cuts on their own school, their education, and their lives. Using the themes of four fairy tales, the members of the Project are putting on a compelling production. Characters in the play ask important questions, like "Mrs. Bookend (the librarian), what's a budget cut?," "Where did all the money go?" and "What's more complicated than losing your librarian?" When burglars steal the librarian, curious things begin to happen, most notably, the children lose their ability to speak. Rather, they are speaking, but no sound is coming out. At this point, the play becomes a silent play, until the end, when the children find their voices again as they march to Indianapolis in protest.

The events of the play offer these children the opportunity to respond to the decisions that have been made for them, and invite audience members to interrogate these questions for themselves, and hopefully shine a fresh young perspective on the recent decisions of the Monroe County Public School Board.

The Family Playwriting Project is a collaborative venture from start to finish. During their first meeting each semester, students and families brainstorm ideas about the theme of their play. Students make suggestions about characters, scenes and plot developments, and no idea is too crazy for Joyner. She dutifully records everything and does what she can to include it in the script, when she puts it together later. Past characters, all dreamed up in the imaginations of Family Playwrights kids have included a fountain, an ear, a slug, and a superhero marionette named "Booger Boy" who solved problems with large gobs of snot.

The unique process empowers the students and teaches them how to put ideas together to form a story. Within a few weeks, their crazy patchwork of ideas is strung together by Joyner to form a script and they are onstage acting.

While this discussion spins among the grown-ups in a variety of grown-up forums in Monroe County (as in many other communities), The Case of the Missing Librarian gives audiences the opportunity to hear from the population most deeply affected by the budget cuts: our children. As one character says upon learning about the axing of her school librarian, " We'll do anything! Write a petition, have a bake sale…..write a play!" By the end, the characters in the members of the play do find their voices to speak up about what is important to them; the student actors hope the members of our community, and of the Monroe County School Board, are watching, and listening.

* The Case of the Missing Librarian! The final Family Playwrights presentation
* 6:00 p.m., Apr. 15, 2010, Templeton Elementary School Cafeteria
* Cost: Free, donations appreciated
* Who can come: Anyone
* Press is welcome to come to event!

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