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Bell Asks Librarians To Join Quest for Excellence

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Washington--In an address before representatives of the nation's libraries last week, Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell announced that the Education Department will sponsor a series of seminars to examine, in light of the report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, the roles libraries can play in fostering educational excellence.

Praising the role of their profession, the Secretary told some 4,000 librarians attending the midwinter meeting of the American Library Association, "I'm hopeful that 1984 will be a good year for American education--including American libraries as the heart and center."

"This is a great network--the greatest in the world--that we have," he said, referring to the more than 110,000 libraries in the United States. "All of you collectively and individually have made and are making magnificent contributions to preserving, protecting, and advancing the sacred cause of libraries, learning, literacy, and enlightenment in America."

In announcing the "Libraries and Learning Society Seminar Project," which will involve meetings in Berkeley, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, and Washington, D.C., Mr. Bell stressed the need for "interrelationships among libraries" and "the absolute importance of cooperation and networking for the improvement of library and information services."

The seminars, which will take place in February, will be sponsored by the Education Department's Center for Libraries and Education Improvement, an office that was created in a departmental reorganization last year. Participants will hear papers presented by leaders in the field of library science and will discuss the role of libraries in educational improvement, according to Haroldie K. Spriggs, planning and budget coordinator for the center.

Literacy Coalition

Secretary Bell was joined by Barbara Bush, wife of Vice President George Bush. "I have come to cheer librarians," she said, adding, "I have very high hopes for the Coalition for Literacy."

The coalition is a group of 11 national, nonprofit organizations that will work together to help the nation's estimated 23 million functionally illiterate adults. Their project, launched in September, is the first national effort to address the subject, according to ala officials.

In addition to the ala, which is coordinating the coalition's activities, the organizations involved include the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education, B. Dalton Bookseller, contact Inc., the International Reading Association, Laubach Literacy International, Literacy Volunteers of America Inc., the National Advisory Council on Adult Education, the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, and the National Council of State Directors of Adult Education.

Secretary Bell presented the coalition with a $50,000 grant from the Education Department to support a literacy-awareness campaign. As part of the three-year effort, the coalition will use a toll-free telephone number to recruit 50,000 volunteers to serve as managers and tutors in local communities nationwide and to refer callers to local literacy programs and resources. The number is (800) 228-8813.

Also included in the presentation on literacy was a panel, moderated by Brooke Sheldon, president of the ala, on alliances between libraries and community groups. Participants included Elaine Stienkemeyer, president of the National Congress of Parents and Teachers; Dorothy Ridings, president of the League of Women Voters; and James Fowler, president of Lions Club International. The speakers agreed that strong libraries play a major role in raising society's literacy level and symbolizing its commitment to education. And the speakers maintained that the decline in literacy will be reversed only if community groups cooperate on projects to aid illiterate adults.

Excellence Report Response

Also during the ala meeting, the American Association of School Librarians, in a formal response to the report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, argued that school reform depends on vigorous library-resource programs. Library-media specialists, they noted, ''have the instructional resources of print and nonprint materials which can bridge the gap between the humanities and science and technology. They possess the competencies which encourage access to knowledge and to a broad scope of opportunities in this information society."

The library-association members voted to name Beverly Cleary's Dear Mr. Henshaw (Morrow) as the recipient of the Newbery Medal for the best children's book of 1983. They awarded Alice and Martin Provenson's The Glorious Flight: Across the Channel With Louis Bleriot (Viking) the Caldecott Medal, which honors the best picture book of the year.

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