In recent years, librarians have quietly been disappearing from public schools. While issues with teachers feature prominently in the news, we don’t often hear about what goes on in school libraries. It may not be as well known, then, that librarian positions have been cut in schools across the country.
In 2011, the Wichita school district in Kansas decided to replace high school librarians with aides to save money. Layoffs in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district in North Carolina left 20 school buildings in the district without a librarian. The Los Angeles Unified School District gave pink slips to 85 librarians, and then held hearings in which the librarians were forced to prove their competency as teachers. In 2012, Washington, DC public schools proposed cutting librarians from schools with fewer than 300 students; as a result, 58 schools in the district are without a librarian for the 2012-2013 school year.
These are just a few examples of the cuts that have been made in schools throughout the country. But why is this important? Well, for one thing, studies show that school libraries, staffed with certified librarians, have a positive impact on student achievement. In an age when many schools are failing and student achievement plays a role in funding, this is especially important.
Additionally, we live in a time when information literacy and technological fluency are more crucial than ever. From doing research to filling out job applications, many tasks require the ability to analyze information, evaluate sources, and utilize new technology. Librarians are trained to teach students these skills, which are now and will continue to be vitally important. Without librarians, students will be missing out on essential information, even with the best teachers.
In order for students to become information literate, though, they must first achieve print literacy. It is not possible for a student to analyze and evaluate an article online if the student isn’t able to read the words on the screen. This is yet another reason that librarians are necessary in schools. While reading skills may be taught in the classroom, a love of reading is often nurtured in the library, where librarians develop collections that meet the needs of the students in the school, have the knowledge and tools to connect students to books they love, encourage choice in reading, and help students build good reading habits.
It is more than evident that school librarians play a vital role in helping students develop information and print literacy skills that will help them succeed both in school and in life. So what can be done to keep librarians in our schools?
Well, for one thing, we can make our voices heard on the issue. There is currently an online petition asking the Obama administration to mandate that all public schools employ a full-time, certified librarian. Librarians play a key role in student success, and the government should know that its citizens believe that all students at all schools deserve a full-time librarian.
If you believe that students benefit from librarians, please take the time to sign this petition, and let the government know that depriving students of librarians’ services is not an acceptable solution to a budget problem.
Why do you think school librarians are important? What else can be done to make sure schools have librarians? Let Alison know in the comments, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find her on Twitter @alisonjane0306.