My last post listed reasons why many children don’t learn to read. Poverty was behind many of the items.
Poor students attend poor schools where they miss out on the arts, a whole curriculum, even qualified, well prepared teachers. Students might end up in “no excuses” charter schools with only digital learning.
But, next to hunger and healthcare, one of the worst losses for children in poor schools is the loss of a school library with a real librarian.
Stephen Krashen, a well-known reading researcher and advocate for children, provided a study he and his co-authors did as proof why school libraries help children be better readers. He is adamant that children need access to books, and he believes good school libraries are “the cure.” We often hear that getting books into the hands of very young children is important. It’s also critical to ensure that children who are in fourth grade and beyond have access to books!
Many poor schools have closed their school libraries, citing a lack of funding. Oakland, California lost thirty percent of their school libraries. Cities from Los Angeles to New York report library closures.
Chicago has lost school libraries. Some there blame the teachers union who pushed not to replace the librarian at one elementary school with volunteers. But good school libraries require good librarians.
School districts in many places keep school libraries open, but they let go of their certified librarians. This is a loss for children.
In 2013, when I started this blog and website, I listed under “Reading” a link showing a map of all the schools in the country that no longer have certified school librarians. That link began in 2010, and sadly the list has grown!
The School Library Journal with the help of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) breaks it down.
Between the 1999–2000 and 2015–16 school years, the NCES reports that the profession lost the equivalent of more than 10,000 full-time school librarian positions nationwide. That translates to a 19 percent drop in the workforce, from 53,659 to 43,367. The most rapid declines happened from 2009–10 to 2013–14. The decline slowed from then to 2014–15; but resumed larger losses in 2015–16, the latest data available.
Someone asked me what librarians do. Librarians help children and teachers find information. Librarians choose good books that they think children will enjoy. They do a wealth of other things. Here’s a great article for more on what librarians do.
They also claim that in some places, librarians are changing into digital learning specialists, digital media content specialists, technology integrators, and information literacy teachers. Many schools have removed books from the shelves, and they have installed technology. But schools should have both, and it is troubling, even draconian, for such drastic changes to take place.
This transformation of school libraries to all-tech is taking place without any thought as to the long-term repercussions. I’ve written about this unwarranted conversion before in How Students Are Hurt By Replacing School Librarians and Libraries with Computers.
Jim Neal the university librarian emeritus at Columbia University says we must “Fight for School Libraries.” He includes technology in that fight, and he is correct. Most likely he is speaking also of university libraries. Tech is a part of libraries, but it should not be the only part.
This problem is not unique to America. A 2016 report in The Guardian indicates it’s quite serious in the U.K. They say:
Libraries should be a right in schools. We must give pupils the opportunity to go to a quiet place to do extra study or to choose a book to read. It is particularly important to children from deprived areas. Opening a library door helps children open their mind. For many, books are too expensive and a library allows students to borrow them.
So for those who are concerned about the NAEP scores and want to raise them, if they want children to learn how to read and comprehend text, they must ensure that children are healthy, well-fed, safe, and have access to good schools. And in those good schools should be beautiful, well-maintained school libraries with certified librarians.
Sheila Resseger says
I agree completely! Several years ago I volunteered in a library in a middle school in a disadvantaged area in Providence, RI. They had a wonderful library and a terrific librarian. Students were in and out, getting suggestions from him, and borrowing books. What is also important is the nature of the books. I read somewhere that books should provide both a mirror and a window. In other words, children should see themselves in books, and also see out into the wider world. Trained and experienced librarians know how to stock their shelves with books that are engaging, thought-provoking, and enjoyable for their students. That so many schools are without trained librarians, without libraries at all, or have libraries with only digital content is reprehensible.
Nancy Bailey says
Librarians were always incredibly helpful to me as a teacher, suggesting resources, and also they knew how to help me with the latest in technology. They could also always point my students to books they seemed to instinctively know would be of interest.
The Resourceress says
Gayle Benage says
I totally agree. Books bring student mind to develop.
Paula Cline says
Too often, adminstrators think that they can replace the School Media Specialist by just placing technology in the school library setting, They automatically assume that teachers have the skills to guide their students in responsibly and effectively using this technology. However, it has been my experience that it is with the guidance of a certified Media Specialist, working with both the teachers and their students, that technology becomes an truly effective teaching and learning tool! Thus, empowering a future generation with the skills to become lifelong learners!
Nancy Bailey says
I agree! Everything I initially learned about the Internet, I learned from the media specialists (real librarians) who worked at the high school where I taught. They provided teachers professional development. Great point! Thank you, Paula!
Cathy Sutton says
It appears that the map you shared is pretty dated and thus, rather inaccurate. Do you know if there are any attempts being made to keep it current? I also want to add that the loss of school librarians in Indiana has not been confined to high poverty areas. In fact, since Indiana capped property taxes and significantly cut school budget, many positions have been lost in suburban districts once considered very well off. I worked in one such district for 23 years before being laid off in 2010. I currently work in another such district and all the elementary school libraries are staffed with only assistants. My hometown, which once had certified librarians in every school are now down to just three.. The rest seem to have Masters degrees in Elementary education with endorsements in technology (the “technology integrators” you mention) or literacy. What I find particularly troubling is that their official titles are still “library media specialists” which I feel is very deceptive. Parents and teachers need to be aware of these changes and ask their administrators if a certified librarian is running their school library. Thank you for being one of the very few educators to speak out in our defense!
Nancy Bailey says
Yes, the map is dated, you’re correct. But I believe there are new entries. I noted some in Florida, unless I am mistaken. I will keep searching for a new map.
Your point is well-taken that the loss of libraries and librarians is happening in all schools, not just poor schools. It seems clear that the march to school privatization will involve all schools in the end.
It seems like 2010 was the start of the lay offs. I agree about the deception. It’s happening with librarians and teachers. I think schools should give parents a booklet each year describing the bios of the staff. Where they got degrees, what degrees they have obtained, and their experience. This would not be a difficult thing to do and it would only need some updating every year. I remember when certification was important. Now it seems questionable. Parents deserve to know this information.
Thank you for your comment, Cathy. Your point is well taken and appreciated.
Deborah Bobo says
I just clicked on a spot for Charleston County. We have a librarian in every school. I don’t know where that information came from.
Nancy Bailey says
So it says you don’t have librarians, when you do? Or you have librarians when you don’t. I’m sorry, it is an old map, but it gives some correct information to show there’s a problem. Thanks!
The schools in Nashville used to post teacher and administrator bios on their website. I haven’t seen it lately though.
Nancy Bailey says
Thanks. Perhaps it’s because they don’t have qualifications.
Barbara Trafton says
I retired 12 years ago as a certified Library Media Specialist. When I was hired, (1980 ) the state of Maryland required a Master of Library Science and Certification as a teacher to qualify as a “media specialist”. Now I don’t think there are more than a handful with these qualifications-I am not sure there are even any accredited library schools in our state (accreditation by AASL and ALA). As mentioned in the article, schools always had a school librarian AND THEN they don’t. In my experience, some of the problems — overwork — 800 children to teach (1 school grades K-5), no clerical or other help, no book budget (20 years running — became a book reviewer on my own time to get to keep the review books), and DUTY! 2 full hours of breakfast lunch and bus duty. Oh then they went to “shared librarians ” for the ES. 2 or 3 schools were put together for each librarian — some had upwards of 1100 children to read stories to and teach and run 3 separate libraries. (Remember no clerical assistance). Add in morning announcement program, teach the gifted class once a week (2 hours) and other duties as assigned. One year had to teach a reading class daily — raise those scores! (but not in my specialty). Some years some principals asked for no librarian (wanted something else) and so the library idle for 4 years or under “volunteer leadership). Now school board says School librarians are good but they did not significantly raise scores for the whole school testing and so librarians out and testing co Ordinator in! Pretty sad. I still can go all over my county and have “my kids!” now in their 30-‘s to 40″s come up and tell me the stories they remembered. They also say they sure wished their kids got that kind of teaching.
Nancy Bailey says
This is sad, Barbara, but not surprising. Still it is startling to read. I’m struck how similar it is to what I recently posted about qualifications and teaching students with learning disabilities. It too was reduced to less and foisted on general ed. teachers, as I’m sure library science has been pushed on them too! When I was teaching the school librarians and media specialists were the “go to” experts for support. I can’t imagine a school without them. Thank you for sharing.
I love this post. While I am fortunate that my district is fully staffed with certified librarians and clerks, there is a statewide trend to allow people to add on media or IT certification to work as a librarian. This watering down of credentials is weakening the profession. I see questions on groups about basic cataloging, collection development questions, and other questions that would be covered in foundational classes in a library program. I was recently asked by a new librarian in another county where he could find the list of books he was not allowed to buy because they “would cause him trouble”. If anyone asks about becoming a librarian, please refer them to an accredited program.
Keep up the good work, Nancy!
Nancy Bailey says
That last part is especially worrisome.
I learned how to use the Internet in PD by our librarians who were called media specialists before the changes.
Thank you, Linda. I appreciate your comment. It’s informative and interesting.
Maria Carvalho says
Our politicians do not realize the school librarians, teachers and books enhance child’s reading interest and intelligence. If a child’s interest is not picked at an young age, they are not going to be good readers which means they may not seek professional/career position in life. Books improve ones knowledge. My relatives and friends who are teaching at the university level are frustrated that some students graduating from high school lack knowledge of the world or even problem solving skills.
Poor schools does not mean students are not capable of having careers in the future. In this country, there are several career adults from poor families having careers position as scientists, researchers etc. because the librarians assisted them to choose books of their interest.
Nancy Bailey says
Reading is so exciting! But if a child learns at an early age that it is nothing but a chore, why would they want to do it? They have to be curious about stories and want to read. They won’t be interested if they don’t have books. It’s as simple as that.
I absolutely agree with you, Maria!
Barbara Trafton says
I am also afraid many children are taught that reading is only for a trinket prize. Especially early in the reading career (grades 1-3) This was a commercial program sold to schools. You read a book (generally you had to read at YOUR level Green dot, yellow dot etc children were not suppose to know but they called them easy or dumb books(yellow) while red were for “smart” kids) then take a test or perform some kind of project (book cover or whatever) and then you got a prize from the “prize chest”. It became a race to see who could “read” the most and clever children knew what to look for so within an hour could “pass” the test and grab their prize. Unfortunately many kids then did not care to read once the “prize and recognition” went away. I myself, was taught in the 1950’s to “speed read”. Wide eye span down the center of the page. I was tested at 900 words per minute in 6th grade! Later I found some reading problems — missed little words like NOT and Don’t and Stop. Technical reading at 900 words per minute — uh had a problem.
Just read to your children and have them read back to you. (at home). Be aware some children just hate to read out loud (a different skill set) and children are all gifted just in different ways and different packaging. Don’t stop reading out loud because you child can read at 2nd grade level — expand the world for them with books that they can understand and enjoy long before they can read it. Most of all model reading. If kids don’t see you reading, why would they think that adults need to read. Enjoy reading yourself or at least model how reading is helpful (cookbooks or yes phone/FB/etc). Trust yourself and trust your child. Have books around and the child will read them. Yep they really do.
I want to add to your comment to model reading. I’m a parent and all 3 of my older children loved books. I have always been a reader, so modeling reading was easy for me. I had noticed that my youngest didn’t seem interested. I don’t remember when it clicked, but I was using a Kindle and he wasn’t seeing me read BOOKS. I started making a point to pick up physical books to read, and soon he started showing more interest. He’s now a huge reader and enjoys reading both physical books and from my Kindle. It amazed me how much difference modeling made for him.
G & T educator says
Sorry to go off topic, but please don’t use the expression, “all children are gifted”. All children have strengths, but in education, “gifted” refers to a neuro-diverse subset of students (top 2%) who generally require significant intervention to succeed at school. Libraries, and qualified library staff, are essential for these kids, as they allow them to learn without the confines of a school curriculum.
Sorry you do not agree with my choice of gifted. Gifted is a very non specific term in most educational settings (or at least in my day). I was the “gifted teacher” for most of my years of teaching. It met that I took a group of children on Friday to do some different programming. Some years they made me take two children per class. An aggressive mother could have a “gifted” child by her sheer will power. Children needing special education services went through yearly programs and IEP’s and had meetings up the well you know. Gifted kids never. Both my children were labeled gifted and went to magnet schools but there were big differences in their abilities. Each is successful and now a University Professor of Chemistry and the other is a STEM teacher. I agree that this country really needs to identify and develop the highest range of students — their minds must not be wasted. We need their abilities for the good of the nation. Every gifted program I have ever seen has more than one path to identification though language ability is usually the main critieria. Secondary is math ability. Outgoing verbal children are the most often labeled gifted. Public schools these days spend almost nothing on education specifically for the top 5 % of intellect. They are required to spend much more on the lowest ranges of intellect (specific learning disabilities). Kids in the middle get very little — regular education and large classes. Wish all gifts were recognized and developed. What a wonderfully wealthy country we would be.
Marcia Edwards-Sealey says
A major problem with children and reading is that schools do not have reading programs aimed at teaching students to read and developing their skills with reading, and using reading as a gateway to good writing. Students are not given instructions in developing their depth in reading. For instance analytical or close reading with a more experienced person which helps a student to evaluate content, and how the author conveys a message through the characters presented and the emotions conveyed by the words they utter. As an adult reading a book, I do not only focus on entertainment, but knowledge is of greater importance than entertainment. This is the reading development children need’; development of reading and analytical skills to help them with the immersive reading required for higher academic work, and developing their writing skills. If children get into the habit of reading as part of their classroom instructions, they may be better able to appreciate the benefits of reading for their learning journey.
When I went to school, we had reading as a subject. First we read for decoding, then we started reading for comprehension, followed by reading to learn where we were taught analytical reading skills through reading a text, discussion, vocabulary building, and advanced comprehension exercises. My parents didn’t read to me directly, but they read, and we had copious amounts of books around, along with many magazine subscriptions. I remember my father would sometimes read and laugh, and when we asked what was so funny, he would say to us that we can read it and experience the humor which we did. We had no school library, but at a certain time in our school life, we were all taken by our class teacher on a trip to join the library. And I remember the excitement thereafter, when we had to go and borrow books. On a Saturday, a group of friends would arrange an outing to go to the library which was a two mile walk of all fun and chatter, with added fun when we chose our books. After books were read, we would advise our friends if they should borrow the book we had already read. But what supported our reading adventures was the fact that we read at school all the time as part of our classroom instructions. This is why i believe that reading at school is a strong driver to develop the habit of reading for pleasure. A school library is a premium, but the act of reading as part of classroom instructions is the key.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you, Marcia. Many fine suggestions here. I appreciate your taking the time to share your insight.
Barbara Trafton says
Marcia you stated this idea that reading is more than decoding so very well. Decoding is rather hard work but reading opens the world– such a joy. If you can read AND write well you can literally do almost any other task — at least you have a good chance at it. With high stakes testing the current rage (and corporations make so much money from that testing) , education is gone and in its place is try after try to accomplish what good teachers, books and freedom of choice in reading accomplish naturally. I fondly wonder if we will ever go back to the joy of reading!
Tamara R says
Agreed! Although a library is a big bonus. I would hope that any city with a school with no library at least has a public library. My son loves to read. But he reads so much that he had read through most of his school library and we have to go to the public library to supplement. We’ve been going weekly for years. I think parents are the biggest encouragement to kids to want to read, but teachers and librarians help, too. And when parents aren’t leading the way at home, then teachers and librarians become even more important.
Nancy Bailey says
Thanks for your comment, Tamara. I’m glad your son lovs to read. But a school library should not be considered a bonus. Schools that have good school libraries have students who make better progress in schools.
Nikki Koon says
I absolutely agree Nancy. School libraries are so important, even if there is a public library in the same city. As much as we want parents to be driving the love of reading, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes the only exposure that kids get is at school, and sometimes the only library they will be able to get to is the school library. If we take that away, we limit so many potential readers.
Nancy Bailey says
Absolutely. Thank you so much for your comments.
With funding from Follett we launched saveschoollibrarians.org where we are supporting the fight for Oakland and Chicago school librarians (and many others) as mentioned in this article. If a school is cutting librarians, let us know and we can provide a lot of pro-bono support to push back against the cuts and even some funding.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you for sharing. However, I have concerns.
1. Our tax dollars should fund our school libraries and librarians.
2. While that doesn’t seem to be happening, and a partnership would appear to be the next best thing, I have several concerns about Follett.
A. They want “Future Ready Librarians,” buzz words referring to personalized learning.
B. They’re connected to Alliance for Excellent Education.
C. The Alliance for Excellent Education is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. .
So it might be true that Follett is working to fight for librarians, but the above connections make me question their motives.
Sorry for my skepticism.
laura H. Chapman says
I agree that you need to look the gift horse in the mouth and not grow used to the idea that education should be supported at the whim (and profits) of corporations or from grants-based sources, usually private foundations. Both should be supporting public schools as a civic duty and libraries in particular. Excess wealth in this nation is becoming a real problem because so much of it has come at the expense of funding for social and educational institutions.
Clare Kirchman says
I just wanted to add to this. I recently moved to the Manatee-Sarasota area. The two counties could not be more different in terms of their public libraries. I visited the closest one to my home in Manatee County and the closest in Sarasota County as I am right on the border of both and can utilize both.
Manatee County has more poverty than the wealthier Sarasota County. The Manatee library was tiny with few books. I actually could not find the books I was looking for which is why I went to the Sarasota County one where they had everything and more. Whereas the Manatee one was in a building that had seen better days with old racks and old everything, the Sarasota one was up to date, clean and decorated well. It was a showcase for a modern library.
Thus, I bet this is not unique to my area. I am willing to bet that poor areas do not have the public library access nor the school library access that is so important.
We ought to have school and public libraries merge in areas where there is much poverty. The two entities could share (and thus save) resources and the school would also be more part of the community.
Nancy Bailey says
The loss of public libraries is a whole other issue of concern. It contributes to inequality in the country, that goes without saying. Thank you, Clare.
I have worked in and with libraries for over 50 years, finally learning that my passion is arranging and providing knowledge to decision-makers. In retirement, I’m working again as a volunteer. When children come in for a library tour, my main point to them is that information will help them to think for themselves. I tell them to listen to parents, teachers, clergy, friends, etc., but first to learn the facts then make their OWN decisions. Not always popular with the moms, but the kids understand.
Nancy Bailey says
Good for you! Thank you for your service!
Roy Turrentine says
Libraries and the librarians who run them and dream up programs for kids are every bit as important to producing readers as technique and skills promotion. Making sure that real books are there should be a priority for any community. Within a school, libraries have always borne the brunt of the budget cuts during the bad times, but modern pressures to spend more on techno-solutions to a shortage of information will not create readers.
Sue Bursztynski says
School libraries and teacher librarians to run them, started being removed many years ago here in Australia. Principals are to blame. It was a budgetary thing, easier to scrap the library than make cuts elsewhere. I have recently retired from the school system, where I continued to have my library – and teach – only because the campus principal thought my job was important. My poor library technician has been left completely alone in a library that has doubled in needs because two campuses have been merged until our new school is built on our old campus. She is a paraprofessional who is very good at her job, but can’t do what I did. She will help kids and staff get books they need, but that’s about it – and most of her work involves processing for the school’s literacy program. Imagine – a school with a major literacy program and no qualified librarian to run the library! No more lunchtime activities- that would involve supervision of students and as a non teacher she can’t do that without risking being sued if anything goes wrong – her, not the school. No more book club. No mor3 Premier’s Reading Challenge. No more book launches.
Only private schools seem to have decent library staffing now, and that’s because their budgets allow it. Mine is a disadvantaged school. I did what I could do without spending money I didn’t have. A book launch or a trip to a writer’s festival or recording virtual readouts for Banned Books Week can be done by any school with even a small library staff. (I was sole librarian and had to teach as well, and my tech only came a couple of days a week to my campus). You do what you can – but you need so,done qualified to do it.
Well said, Nancy!
Jim Mordecai says
Democracy is frustrated when citizens don’t read. Just ask frustrated Mr. Mueller who is challenged by average citizen when it comes to reading his Report. And getting Congress to read his report is an equally sad story.
Possibly there is a connection between loss of librarians and public school libraries and lack of will for American’s citizens and their representatives to read the Mueller Report. Perhaps asking Americans to read the Mueller Report was a civic responsibility set too high?
In California the history of public school libraries is the history of being public school libraries being under funded and then de-funded. I’ve lived through as first a student and then a teacher the growing de-funding of California’s public school libraries.
California was prior to proposition 13, behind many states in total public school library funding. while California funded books for its school libraries and was politically supported by school library publishers. The Governor’s budget did not have a funding code for public school librarians. It was always up to local school districts to fund out of their operational budgets fully credentialed school librarians.
During the economic down turn of 07-08, the line item in the Governor’s budget for school library book purchases was fold into block grant for school funding. Funding for public school library books was no longer a restricted budget item but shifted to unrestricted portion of California Public School districts’ budgets.
California to invest in the right of all students to have access to a public school library, a library maintained by a fully credentialed librarian and with a line item for appropriate number of clerk assistants (depending on library collection size) is not happening in California, but it should.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you, Jim. Appreciate the lesson in school funding when it comes to libraries in California, and your interesting thoughts about citizens reading the Mueller Report.
I am a middle school ELA teacher for a large elementary/middle school district in the heart of the Silicon Valley in California. We serve about 6000 students at 3 middle schools and 9 elementary schools. We have a district librarian who is certified and has a master’s in library sciences, but our school’s libraries are staffed by non-certified and non-college educated library technicians. These people are helpful and organized but they make the same salary as a para educator, and they cannot teach or even legally supervise student helpers. They cannot apply for grants or endowments to beef up the book collections, they are called “librarians” but they have not earned this title. To me that’s like calling someone “doctor” just because they know how to take your temperature. If I was a librarian, this would kill me.
My 17th year of teaching has just ended, and I am feeling so completely done. One certificated librarian and one school nurse for 6000 kids? Don’t tell me we are acting in the best interest of students. Veteran teachers who are amazing educators at the top of their game, routinely forced to quit through manipulative maneuvers by administrators, only to be gleefully replaced by teachers fresh out of college who don’t know any better.
At this point I am convinced that they are NOT looking for excellent teachers – they are looking for mediocrity, and it is rewarded year after year.
Also, just letting the rest of the country know that our district, which is less than 10 miles away from Google headquarters, the Apple Campus, Microsoft, and thousands of other huge tech companies, does not have 1:1 technology! I have to fight for a chrome cart if I need tech!
What a lost opportunity for everyone involved.
Jim Mordecai says
Soma: You say what I saw in 34 years teaching in the Oakland Public Schools. Positive change in California is needed at the State level with adequate financing of credentialed school librarians, their clerical assistants as a line item in the California Governor’s budget. Concept of common school is that state system of public schools are both free and universal. Universal meaning that all enrolled students entitled to a properly functioning library paid for with education dollars.Jim
Kelley Wolcott says
I have been saying this for years!!! I have taught in four different high schools in NYC over the course of 16 years and only ONE had an actual physical library complete with a librarian. Meanwhile, I have been simultaneously witness a severe drop in literacy levels and an increase in students that proudly proclaims themselves non-readers. The battle to get students to read gets worse every year and the testing mandates are only intensifying. Why does it feel like teaching English is becoming a losing battle when our school system does not embrace or value a culture of reading.
Dr. Donna Clovis says
Thank you for such an informative piece. I am an author and educator. Libraries have given my work, YA diverse novel, Quantum Leaps in Princeton’s Place, a foundation and survival in our society today. Young adults can read the books over and over again for free. More authors need to see your article. Libraries are vital to the survival of our books!
Romi Elnagar, MLIS says
After twelve years of teaching, I got tired of the classroom and took a sabbatical to finish my MLIS. I was very excited to finally have a school library of my own!
Well, I am a Californian, transplanted to a large Southern city, and all the inner city schools are 90%+ African-American. Our district had the longest-running school desegregation suit in the nation, which was only settled AFTER I retired, and the bitterness was palpable.
Needless to say, our state is near the bottom of all education stats nationally, and one reason is the poverty in the district. The school library I inherited had so many woefully out-of-date books that I spent the better part of a year WEEDING. Did I mention that since I was a Californian (a “damnyankee” although nobody actually said that to my FACE), I was placed in the lowest-performing school in the district?
One book in particular, I remember, had a title on the spine, something like “Life in the Soviet Union.”
There WAS no Soviet Union by then. I threw that one out. Even little black children at the lowest-performing school in the district in the poorest state in the country deserve better than that.
My library supervisor thought I was doing just fine, but the black principal had a problem with whites. I took a gun away from a six-year-old while on playground duty and got CHEWED OUT for “not following protocol” (i.e. clearing the area and calling the SWAT team). If I can’t talk a six-year-old out of a gun, I should shine shoes for a living.
.I went back to the classroom the next year. My year in Paradise turned into a year in Hell.
Yes, poverty is part of the problem. Racism is, too.
Kathy Aurigemma says
We live in the Information Age yet we are facing the worst reading crisis in history. So many of our young people do not have the ability to find good information and read it and that is due in part to the loss of School Libraries and licensed School Library Media Specialist (SMLS).
When I started my Library Technical Services Liaison position in 2015, nearly half of the 78 school libraries I serve were staffed by certified Library Media Specialists. As of yesterday, there are only 13 licensed educators left, 9 of whom have an SMLS endorsement. In almost every instance, when a licensed SLMS leaves a position, or is forced out, they are replaced by a Media Aide.
These “Power Aides” as I like to call them, are the hardest working employees in schools today. They are doing a teacher’s job (and multiple duties!) for a tenth of the pay. They don’t know what they don’t know and they certainly don’t get the respect or recognition for the tremendous job they do. These talented,bcaring individuals have so much heart, but what they don’t have is the professional education and administrative support they need to be effective. Going back to school for many of them is simply not an option because it would cost them a ton of money and no one would give them a nickel for their degree.
And guess who loses out– again? It’s our students. In this age of “Close Reading” and leveled reading materials (Lexile, Accelerated Reader, Fountas & Pinell),
the School Library is one of the few places left where kids have a “Voice & Choice” about what they read.
It’s the only place where kids can get a book knowing that the only question they’ll be asked later is, “Did you like it?” Can you even imagine? Reading is a muscle and the only way to get better at it is to practice it, often. School Libraries staffed by trained effective Library Media staff is one way we can make a huge impact on our student’s reading lives & their reading performance.
So sad… In our school, the library is slowly being eliminated by turning it into a “Maker space”. It is so sad to see the library books disappearing, and the Maker Space taking over. The students arent checking out books as much as they have in the past, and the once quiet library, has become a loud “recreation” room. Unfortunately the librarian and teachers had little choice…
When principals have control of their own school budget, they are free to shift priorities and focus on their favorite initiates. That resulted in the total elimination of the elementary school library in a school that I taught. Despite the fact that the teaching staff and parents who were aware of it overwhelmingly disapproved of the move, they had no say in the matter. Poof! The library was gone before the start of the next school year.
Nancy Bailey says
Barbara, That’s terrible on so many levels! Just because a principal holds the purse strings doesn’t mean they should be dictatorial. That’s pretty drastic. It’s sad to hear that there are principals like that.
Always has been and if the dictator is not the Principal then it is the Secretary or the Janitor! Someone runs the show and it is not teachers or students.
Sandy Earnest says
I have just become part of the statistic. District #81 in Spokane is the 2nd largest school district in Washington State and they just “restructured” our library program. You guessed it, they eliminated teacher-librarians in our K-12 schools.
One of my 6th grade girls, a voracious reader, started coming to the Library more than ever. When I asked her about this she said, I have to get your help as long as I can to find good books”. A 3rd grade boy said, “Who’s going to teach us how to use the library?!” Other students just were shocked. They looked at me just stunned.
Our school is a K-6th grade school that’s 74% free and reduced lunch.
It is a sad day in Spokane when you take away teacher-librarians who not only share the love of reading with students, but we infuse technology into our lessons on a daily basis. When the librarians asked what we wanted, they said, “We just want our jobs back!”
Nancy Bailey says
That’s horrible! That’s sad for you, the librarians, and especially the children! It sickens me. I wish teachers and parents in Spokane would march with Red for Ed. or that the teachers union would step in.
Connie R Neumann says
Being an elementary school Media Specialist / Teacher Librarian for 27 of my 32 years as an educator was the best job in the school! I worked from 1980 to 2007, during the advent of microcomputers, the transition from card catalog to online circ/catalog, integrating all kinds of media formats to the library media center. I emphasized learning to read and reading to learn – the focus of every school and the heart of the school library. Integrating school curriculum and collaborating with teachers was our hallmark for the Colorado Power Libraries designation.
By the time I retired in 2007, I could see the “writing on the wall” and just a few short years after that the school district dissolved the elementary school Teacher Librarian positions into Information Literacy Specialists, requiring them to disassociate from books and literature and only instruct from technology. The library was only run by a Library Tech or Aide and had no connection to the classrooms or curriculum thereafter. It’s been such a loss for the children and classroom teachers to not have a “real” librarian working alongside them in a coordinated, collaborative manner to show another adult who loves stories, books, and learning.
I now work as a sub at our local public library at the Children’s & Teens Desk and enjoy readers advisory and doing special programs on favorite authors. Technology is integrated but not the only thing we do!
Libraries and librarians are also refuges for the kids who are lonely, shy, or outcast. Some kids urgently need an escape from the constant jostle of bodies and noise in cafeterias and hallways. Like art and music, libraries serve a critical social-emotional function that goes beyond their academic focus.
Nancy Bailey says
Wonderful! So true. Thank you for bringing up this great point! I always appreciated the school library to collect my ideas as a teacher too!
Karen Thoele says
My school does not have a librarian. It has a media specialist. Our library is now called A Learning Commons I get it, technology is important, but this person spent thousands on technology nothing on books or to promote reading. She admitted she wasn’t a reader as much as a techie.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you, Karen. What you describe is unfortunately becoming all to common. Many libraries are also being converted into makerspaces where students work on projects. It is unbelievable to think students will become good readers if their schools don’t value books, school libraries, and librarians.
evangeline shinali says
Great piece indeed, a lot has been said and yes its nothing but the truth, children should be introduced to books at an early age so that the reading culture can well develop. School,both primary and secondary should work towards having the best libraries as well as employing professionals. Proud to be in this profession and I do all I can to make sure the library is functional and relevant.