Thursday, April 02, 2009

Librarians Are Important

I wouldn't want to be the person in charge of school budgets when the economy is in the tank. Everyone thinks that anything that might affect their child is something that better not be touched. And I totally understand that if there is no money there is no money.

That said, I really regret that our board of education has decided that a good way to save money is to eliminate the position of librarian in the elementary schools. According to the news reports I've seen, they believe that the lack of librarian can be made up for with school aides, volunteers, and classroom teachers.

I will agree that volunteers are a great asset in a school library. I think our school right now has about four people who volunteer to help out. For a couple of hours at a time. That in no way covers the whole school week. The volunteers can check in books, check out books and shelve books. To some extent volunteers can help a child find a book. But volunteers do not necessarily know what books to recommend or even what books are appropriate for different ages.

I suppose the school aides can do the same thing the volunteers can do - and with the same limitations. They have the advantage of already being paid by the school with an expectation that they will be there for certain hours a day.

Classroom teachers. Personally I think that our society has gotten to the point where they expect way too much from classroom teachers. Not only basic education, but special education and drug awareness, and abuse awareness, and bully awareness and being on the look out for abused children. Anything society wants done regarding children the answer seems to be: the teacher can do it. You know what. No. The teacher can't. Not everything. It's not possible.

Can teachers teach research skills and how to look up books. Of course they can. Will they? If they have time when all the test prep work for the State testing is done. Maybe.

And who is going to order the books? And keep the selection of books up to date? I haven't seen this issue addressed at all.

For some children the only opportunity they have to pick out a book on their own is the school library. Why jeopardize that?

A school librarian is not simply a person in the library with glasses on a chain who reads books to children and teaches them the Dewey Decimal System. A certified school librarian is both a certified teacher and has a degree in library science. There is knowledge that comes with those degrees that a random volunteer has no hope of having.

I realize that hard decisions have to be made regarding budgets, and that these decisions aren't made lightly by the people in charge. But in my opinion doing away with school librarians does a disservice to the students and sends the message that libraries and books and reading aren't important. And that is not the message you want to send young children just learning to read.

Edited to add: From this news report it looks like principals would be in charge of maintaining the library collection.


Liz B said...

Principals already have a job to do; and this? Isn't one of them. Except to make sure the qualified person is doing collection development. And that qualified person -- is the librarian. I'm very curious to know what the principals will be doing.

Plus, are aids/volunteers allowed to be alone with the children? Do you have criminal background checks for volunteers?

Christine M said...

Volunteers are not allowed to be alone with the children. Currently when I'm in the library (there is no librarian the day I help out) the teachers must come down with their class for book exchange. With aids it might be different, they may have background checks since they are paid employees (and are often alone with the children)

PJ Hoover said...

I am so with you on this one. And if others keep the books up to date, it will all come down to a list they are handed and books that are automatically ordered.

Christine M said...

There is no way that the principal at our elementary school would have the time or inclination to build a good library collection. Any new books would most likely come from some pre-approved list. The collection is not kept terribly up to date as it is and it will really suffer from this.

Barb, sfo said...

You said it beautifully. I hope you reformat this as a letter and send it to your school board.

If they eliminate the librarians, what will eventually happen is that the library will never circulate books. It will become a reference area only, and classes will go there when they have projects. The fiction collection will stagnate.

Anonymous said...

Its official; I will have to homeschool my child if the school library collection is left to volunteers (or anyone other than a qualified school librarian)