Wednesday, April 20, 2016



   April is a busy month - celebrating many wonderful peoples and issues. One that is mostly ignored outside the school library community is School Library Month.  Sadly the statistics on school libraries are dismal.  In California we are absolute last place in funding our school libraries and yet we are the 8th largest economy in the world, on a scale with countries.  The disconnect that I have felt between these facts has never been adequately communicated, in my opinion.  One fact that has stood out to me is that we have about 500 school librarians state wide in California, while New York has had, at least in the past, 10,000.  We in fact have a larger number of schools and students than New York state.  Doesn't matter.  Literacy apparently has never been an important issue in the state of California.

   We in the library world have conducted hundreds of studies that prove the link between professionally staffed and well funded libraries and high scoring schools and districts.   While I am against testing in general, and hate that we are using test scores as the way to compare schools, the importance can't be missed -- we are not serving our schools.

A quote from the American Library Association -

"More than 60 education and library research studies have produced clear evidence that school library programs staffed by qualified school librarians have a positive impact on student academic achievement.

Yet, many students are returning to school without a resource essential for success: a strong school library program lead by a certified school librarian."

Here is a quote from the ALA further explaining the situation - AND HIGHLIGHTING THE LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT.  There is no question that our district, the second largest in the country, is the worst off:
"Despite their important contributions to student success, school libraries and school library programs throughout the United States are in danger. As a result, many students aren’t developing all the skills they’ll need for success in college and their careers.

"The primary problem is money. Since the start of the global financial crisis in 2008, many districts have fewer tax dollars to spend. Cuts must be made. Unfortunately, in some districts, school libraries are seen as a “frill”—nice to have, but not essential to student learning. Some decision makers view the Internet and Worldwide Web or public libraries as replacements for school library programs guided by a certified school librarian in every school. The Internet and Web are not replacements for school libraries.

"School libraries are being closed or underfunded—often in districts with disadvantaged students who are most in need of strong school library programs led by a state-certified school librarian. When school libraries and school librarians are eliminated, students suffer. Districts large and small have reached a crisis. For example, in Los Angeles, “About half of the 600 elementary and middle school libraries are without librarians or aides, denying tens of thousands of students regular access to nearly $100 million worth of books, according to district data.” [1]
   THE INTERNET AND WEB ARE NOT REPLACEMENTS FOR SCHOOL LIBRARIES.  I need to highlight this -- we are in an age when in fact the need for professionals guiding students in research and critical thinking is more important than ever.  In fact our money goes to high stakes testing and computers on which we test the students.  STUDENTS DO NOT LEARN FROM TESTS NOR COMPUTERS.
   Here's a photo of what a good elementary school library should have:  story steps.  Students should be read to every day.  We know that many of our students in Los Angeles have no books nor internet at home, and no access to public libraries (or they are in dangerous neighborhoods).

    In Los Angeles Unified we do not have one professionally trained school librarian at the elementary level.  Many of our middle schools are also without a qualified person.   Fortunately we do have dedicated classified Library Aides (a truly ridiculous title as these people should at minimum be called Library Managers or Library Technologists) at most of our elementary schools.  But few of these schools have money to buy new books.  Our one way of raising money for books is to hold book fairs, but many of the schools use the money for PTA.  Even when there are some dedicated funds for the library, most of our Administrators use the money for other needs.

If for no other reason than providing all students with EQUAL ACCESS to information, I ask that you support school libraries today.  Write a letter, start a campaign -- OPT OUT OF TESTING, OPT INTO SCHOOL LIBRARIES -- but make sure that your child is getting library experience.

One more distress for all of us -- many districts are going to Charter Schools.  Charter schools never have libraries.  If they do, they never fund a qualified professional to run them.  Contrary to charters, public schools at least do what David Shannon says here - TEACH EVERY STUDENT, even the naughty ones!


American Association of School Libraries campaign 
School Libraries | I love libraries -   
Bleeding Libraries - 
School Libraries Impact Studies - 
Jesse Ramey on School Libraries Tell Our Story -- 
School Libraries Build Strong Students - 
L.A. Unified Libraries are forced to close -   

1 comment:

  1. I am glad to see how much time from on will be devoted to kids’ self-education at the library. This will help them do their own research and will make them really strong and smart people. I hope to visit all the links you have so generously provided in the post and I am sure I will post them I my blog as well for my students to see that they have an easy access to the information and resource. I am sure that library month will become a powerful tool to help writing essay online for all of us to use.