The California School Library Association is reviving a grassroots promotional campaign from a dozen years ago, which successfully gained state funding for California public school libraries. Library funding has been lost, along with most school funding. The time has come to revive the "Best Sellers" Campaign for Strong School Libraries, using today's communication tools and new research on the influence of libraries in student achievement.

History of the CSLA "Best Sellers" Campaign

During the CSLA Fall Conference in November 1995, CSLA President Bonnie O'Brian tapped Jackie Siminitus and Janice Kessler to co-chair a publicity campaign to raise awareness of the California Public School Library Protection Fund, a state income tax check-off (line55). The donation option required a minimum of $250,000 raised each year in order for the check-off to remain on the state tax form.
  • At the time, Janice had broken her arm and had not yet learned how to use e-mail! That was the early days of the Internet, before www and browsers.
  • Peter Milbury had started CSLA's listserv, CALIBK12, so Jackie decided to use that as a key way to communicate with members. Jackie posted a "contest" for the best name for the promotional campaign and received a long list of creative names from Bolsa Grande High School Librarian Richard Moore. He won the prize for "Best Sellers".
On March 15, 1996, CSLA and the San Mateo County Office of Education invited local press to the announcement of the "Best Sellers" campaign for Strong School Libraries. The announcement came two weeks after NetDay and a host of educational technology efforts related to teacher training. CSLA announced its program for two reasons:
  1. Networked schools need site-based coordinators that could also teach students HOW to find and evaluate content -- conduct research -- as well as how to use computer equipment. The Teacher Librarian often fills this role, sometimes doing both the technology (keyboarding, wordprocessing, PowerPoint instruction) and the information literacy (academic) skills; sometimes doing it in partnership with a computer teacher.
  2. One month from that day was April 15 -- tax day! We wanted to remind the public to check off a donation to the California Public School Library Protection Fund.
Press Release from the San Mateo County Office of Education

A press conference was held at Franklin Elementary School in Burlingame, California. San Mateo County Superintendent Dr. Floyd Gonella was key speaker, along with Assemblywoman Jackie Speier and CSLA President-Elect Susan Martimo Choi. The purpose was to raise public awareness about the California Public School Library Protection Fund, which requires a minimum of $250,000 from the state income tax check-off (line 55). Joining the group were Robert Beuthel, Superintendent of Burlingame Elementary School, Richard Caldera, Principal of Franklin Elementary School, and Susan Levy, Franklin School Librarian.

CSLA named eight "Best Sellers" to kick off the campaign:
  • Dr. Floyd Gonella, San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools
  • Jere Jacobs, President, Pacific Telesis Foundation
  • Assemblymenber Jackie Speier, 19th District
  • Marion McDowell, President, State School Board
  • Willie Brown, Mayor, City and County of San Francisco
  • Waldemar Bill Rojas, Superintendent of Schools, City and County of San Francisco
  • Diane Filippi, President, State Friends of the Library
  • Carol Ruley, President, California Congress of Parents, Teachers, and Students
Quote from Jackie Siminitus, Co-Chair of the California School Library Association "Best Seller" Campaign: "Our strategy is to invite influential non-librarians as spokespersons -- Best Sellers -- to the campaign, willing to advocate that strong school libraries are a key indicator of student success, regardless of a school community's socio-economic status."