Annoyed Librarian
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Emotional Learning Not @ Your Library

Sometimes earnest ALA Councilors want to use the ALA as a mouthpiece for their irrelevant (to libraries) radical political views.

And sometimes, they want to use the ALA as a mouthpiece for their well meaning but still irrelevant (to libraries) political views.

Such was the case last week when a well meaning Councilor proposed that someone write up a resolution for the ALA Council supporting H.R. 2437: Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning Act of 2011.

Here’s the email to the ALA Council list:

I have been tracking this bill for months, wondering when I should write a resolution. And it has recently gained more attention, I believe, due to the tragic shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin.  Two more Senators have added their names as co-sponsors. It still has a long way to go. The bill has to do with requiring socio-emotional instruction in classrooms. Here is more information from Casel Emotional self-regulation is taught to students which includes anger management, etc. School librarians and teachers on Council, please feel free to correct me–I am simplifying quite a bit.

Here is part of the Bill’s text:

(6) Social and emotional learning programming also results in reduced problem behavior, improved health outcomes, a lower rate of violent delinquency, and a lower rate of heavy alcohol use.

I think the times is now to bring a resolution to the floor.  I am so heartsick over what happened, as I’m sure you all are too.  I just want to do something productive.  Does anyone here want to co-write a resolution to support this bill with me?

If this resolution ever gets written, which it won’t, and ever passed, which it won’t, it would be yet another example of the ALA Council wasting its time on frivolous resolutions, and I say down with that sort of thing.

But there’s nothing frivolous about emotional self-regulation, AL! Yes, yes, I know. But let’s dissect this proposal a bit.

First, the Councilor is understandably upset about the recent mass shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin. But then she says she wants to do something productive…like write an ALA Council resolution, which is about the least productive thing anyone can do.

I could see supporting some sort of gun control bill as something productive to do, although the ALA Council should keep out of that since gun control isn’t a library issue, and, as I pointed out in Guns @ Your Library, there have yet to be any mass shootings in an American library.

Linking a bill supporting “social and emotional learning programming” to recent mass shootings is a tenuous connection at best. Both those shooters are violent lunatics, and a class on emotional learning wouldn’t have stopped them.

In addition, according to Govtrack, the House bill has about a 5% chance of being enacted. It’s still in committee. It doesn’t make much sense to pass a Council resolution about a bill that probably won’t even go up for a vote.

What’s even more useless than an ALA resolution is the bill itself. Uselessness isn’t an argument against legislation, at least for Congress, but it should be. The bill itself follows a decades-long trend of trying to solve all social problems through the schools.

American students rank poorly in international tests for reading and mathematics. If schools can’t teach students basic skills very well, why would we expect that they could teach things like “emotional learning”?

The schools are already supposed to teach kids about reading, writing, mathematics, sex, and drugs. Adding emotional learning will take away time from the basics.

The lesson is that librarians shouldn’t try to use the ALA to address non-library issues. There are other organizations for that.

Besides, it’s best not to make yourself conspicuous when a bunch of gun-toting lunatics are about. Council meetings aren’t exactly heavily fortified. As Colorado and Wisconsin proved, there’s no safety in numbers, only in bunkers.



  1. Do I see a Father Ted reference?

  2. thelibrarina says:

    “since gun control isn’t a library issue”

    It wasn’t a movie-theater issue, either, until someone came in and started shooting. The issue of gun control vs. the right to bear arms is kind of an every-public-place issue, and there’s obviously no simple answer.

    I agree that the ALA doesn’t need to be getting into it, not least because however they came down on the issue, they’d probably lose 50% of their supporters.

  3. Library Spinster says:

    No, there hasn’t been a mass shooting in a library. But within the past few years police shot a robbery suspect in a Free Library of Philadelphia branch. It’s hardly out of the realm of possibility.

  4. crankylibrarian says:

    um…. where did the Columbine shooters go? the library and the cafeteria. it is unfortunate that many school shootings involve the busiest places in the educational institution (this includes colleges as well)

  5. madamlibrarian says:

    At Hennepin County Library a few months ago, a patron was shot by another patron in the bathroom of our Franklin branch.

  6. I was thinking Columbine, too.

  7. Public Librarian says:

    Why not do something productive like bring in outside groups to offer workshops on bullying, depression, caregiving for mentally-ill loved ones, handling stress. Many local agencies will do a one-time program for free. A library with a large programming budget and more space could offer Krav Maga workshops. I think that would help the public more than this resolution.

    My brother just retired from teaching in an inner-city high school. He had 50 kids in his classes and was expected to make sure they all passed a standardized test. Many could not speak English. I don’t know how he could have factored in some emotional learning time. Perhaps some of the ALA Councilors should spend some time in a localschool.

  8. I was thinking of the shooting in 2010 at the University of Texas Library. The Shooter was eventually dead on the 6th floor.

  9. It sounds like you might not be very familiar with social-emotional learning, or what it is already doing.

    All states currently have at least some SEL learning standards through the K-12 level.

    It’s not one class. It’s an integration of skills such as self-management and responsible decision-making throughout the entire curriculum.

    (Note to “Public Librarian:” Outside groups offering one-time programs have not been found effective in teaching SEL, unfortunately. When the programs are fully supported and integrated throughout the school, though, the benefits can be enormous.)

    It doesn’t take away from class time. It’s actually been shown to decrease the disruptions in class which take away from instructional time. Further, it helps students’ standardized test scores increase substantially.

    When something can actually increase the amount of time students CAN spend learning to read and write, and do the rest of their schoolwork as well, can we really say that that’s a non-library issue?

  10. Well, yes. I’m all for anything that helps kids have more time to learn to read and write, but that doesn’t make anything a library issue.

  11. Unfortunately, there has been a mass shooting at a university library in California:,_Fullerton_massacre .

  12. Allison: You’re right, it’s not unequivocally a library issue. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s irrelevant. Supporting literacy is certainly good for libraries. It will probably just take a little time before awareness of SEL reaches a point where the benefits are widely understood.

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