Saturday, September 10, 2011
Let's Just Close the Library
First the unthinkable happened- our district decided that in order to save money, they were going to lay off all of our certified, qualified librarians from their professional positions in school libraries. Each librarian was offered the opportunity to return to the classroom. Because we are required to have a master's degree in library science, current school librarian state certification, a current teaching certificate in our grade level, and a bachelor's degree in education, we can be classroom teachers. Most librarians believe the library is the largest classroom in every school. But the news was hard to hear, and harder to accept. Some of our librarians retired before they wanted to do so, others left the teaching profession, some left the state, and a handful returned to the classroom. With this one school board decision, we lost a wealth of expertise, dedication, and talent in our schools. The hole left by these wonderful, gifted educators is huge, and they are missed every single day.
I didn't think it could get any worse, but I was wrong.
Now there is a dangerous trend underway in our local school libraries to close the library in order to use the aide who was hired to run the library to provide coverage for teachers who need to participate in planning meetings. Our aides are pulled to provide study hall, silent reading time, lunch duty, recess duty, etc. which requires hanging a CLOSED sign on our library doors. Most of our library aides are currently serving students for half the number of hours previously served by full-time librarians because they are being tasked with other duties. Some of our libraries are closed half-the-week, if you look at the total number of hours available to serve our students. This trend negates the fact that open, accessible libraries staffed with full-time certified librarians is one of the most influential factors in accelerating student achievement.
Imagine you are 6 years old, and you're in a vibrant, active first grade classroom. You read books every day. You enjoy browsing for them, choosing them, checking them out, reading them, and repeating that process day after day. But you can't. Because it's Tuesday and the library's closed. So you have your heart set on getting a chance to go to the library on Wednesday, but you can't. Because the library's closed again. You have to wait until Thursday to get a new book, but by then you've waited a long time for another opportunity to fulfill your need for new books. On Thursday, you check out two more books, and you read them Thursday, take them home to read with your family, and bring them back to school on Monday. You want to take your books back for new ones, but you can't. They've closed the library so the library aide can cover a class for a teacher who's in a meeting. So you wait until Tuesday, but it's closed again for teacher meetings. And it's closed again on Wednesday, so you can't go back for new books until Thursday. Some folks will say, So What?? But what research tells us (proven, in-depth research) is that children who have flexible access to books through their open libraries are outscoring and outreading children with limited access. It's not rocket science--when we read more, we achieve more. And maybe it IS rocket science, because children who read more and achieve more become rocket scientists, and doctors, and technicians, and educators.
Our schools are under a lot of pressure to make things happen. When librarians were in our school libraries, they could provide instruction for students as part of the collaborative team on each campus. By replacing them with library aides, you're asking paraprofessionals to fill some awfully big shoes, and you're not compensating them in terms of salary or preparation for their duties. By eliminating full-time librarians in all of our schools, there is no professional librarian managing the operational budget of the library, which includes time, as well as tens of thousands of dollars in assets (both print, non-print, and equipment). So we're losing ground academically, as well as fiscally. Where is the public in all of this? Where is the outcry? There should be many loud objections, conscientious objectors if you will, but instead there seems to be an apathetic acquiescence to the inevitable.
I hope every educator I know will stand firm when they see their library closing again and again. It makes no sense to misappropriate library resources. It's not what's best for kids, and that is supposed to be the bottom line. I'm going to Be the One to speak up, and to protect and defend our libraries for all users-- children, parents, and teachers. Please join me!