Ray Bradbury aptly stated that “Without libraries what do we have? We have no past and no future.” At the National Charter Schools Institute, we believe that for charter schools to continue to grow and succeed we need to know and remember our past. That is why the Institute is spearheading The Ember Reichgott Junge Research Library. This library is named after the Minnesota state senator who authored the first charter school law in the nation.
The vision for the library is to create an online, digital portal through which researchers, policymakers, and others interested in charter law can access the foundational, primary source material from the origins of charter law. Documents will be housed at a local site, digitized, and connected throughout the country.
Digital access to documents is the future of libraries, because documents are preserved and accessible to anyone throughout the world. Since charters started only 25 years ago, charter school documents are not too old to digitize and therefore are the perfect candidates for a digital library.
The response to this initiative has been strong. Ted Kolderie, who was instrumental in the design and passage of the nation’s first charter school law in Minnesota, will preserve his papers with the library, as will former Senator Reichgott Junge. Commitments are also secured from other national leaders.
“I’m very grateful to the Institute for their leadership and initiative on this cutting-edge endeavor,” said Ms. Reichgott Junge. “Earlier this month I visited the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas. Eighty-percent of his documents on education and charter school policy are digitized. This is a great start that we can build upon to create a national digital library in collaboration with the states to preserve the pioneering origins of chartering. Many chartering pioneers are retired and seeking a place to house their original records and tell the story about the roots of the charter school movement.”
When Minnesota passed the first charter school law in the nation in June, 1991, no one could predict that 25 years later, 44 states and the District of Columbia would pass charter school laws, and that today three million children throughout the country would be attending one of the 6,700 public charter schools in America.
The first quarter century of charter schools in America has been ground-breaking and transformative, and the library will be equally transformative. As myths regarding charter schools continue, the library will present the truths behind chartering and be a tool to help the movement succeed.
The library’s ongoing purpose will be to preserve the origins and updates of charter school policies. This will help chartering succeed and give future researchers, teachers, and administrators access to critical documents to inform the future of chartering.
For more information on this project or for updates on its progress, contact Don Cooper at the Institute at firstname.lastname@example.org.