Back to Skills

School Librarians and Budget Cuts

Back to Skills

Carl Harvey, president of the American Association of School Librarians, has graciously agreed to answer questions reporters might have on the cuts to school libraries and librarians. I wanted to re-post this rundown on some of the stories you have already written.

A few more stories have been written since this was posted, including a column onwhy librarians should be more like Lady Gaga, the Indiana Jones of school librarians, and a proposal in Wichita, Kansas to replace school librarians with clerks.

Here is the original post:

Recently I noticed that several school districts are cutting back on their librarians. To quote an old journalism joke: three makes a trend and a lot more than three districts have already made those trims. Los Angeles is scaling back on staffing its middle school libraries – after eliminating elementary librarian positions last year. In Charlotte, several principals are choosing to eliminate librarian jobs instead of other non-classroom positions. Salem, Oreg., also axed elementary and middle school librarians. Pinellas County, Fla., is doing the same thing.

In fact, so many districts are cutting back, that the American Library Association put out a “School Library Funding in Crisis” press kit.

Erik Robelen in Ed Week’s Curriculum Matters Blog noted that Target is contributing funds toward school libraries even as the federal government zeroes out its “Improving Literacy through School Libraries” initiative.

A middle-school librarian in Los Angeles vividly described her ordeal. She also wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times. And here is the follow-up after her original blog ran in the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet.

I’ll also point that Susan B. Neuman, who headed the Reading First initiative under President George W. Bush, published a study correlating the access to print in a community to literacy. And she wrote, with a colleague, an account chronicling how — despite lower circulation numbers — families in poor neighborhoods regularly used libraries to the point of standing-room only.

And this comes as city and county libraries cut hours and close. So what are kids in low-income neighborhoods supposed to do? Their families are less likely to have books or technology. How are districts in these circumstances supposed to “race to the top” without easy access to books?

So what are the implications of these cutbacks? In Camarillo, Calif., parents are raising money to save their school librarians. Not all places can afford that. What happens then? Who maintains the library stacks? Will kids have access to their school libraries if no one is running it? And if a school uses volunteers, will they know how to help the students with questions?