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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

School Librarians being cut

School Librarians being cut

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Our district has agreed to eliminate all the school librarians but one. That is 17 positions being cut. Its very disheartening and feels like a death in the family. Eight of us will be without jobs next year and wondering how we will make it after 21 years in the district. I was wondering if there are any other school districts that are contemplating cutting school librarians? I was very active before and now I feel like there is no hope. Any suggestions for dealing with this and for maybe trying to find a solution?

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Nancy's picture

Gals,
My district began with cutting elementary librarians. Collectively we attended Board of Education meetings explaining that as professionals we impacted not just a few within our buildings but ALL the students and faculty as well. We had parents and students rally with our cause, wrote to the local newspapers and blogs but in the end the explanation was that cuts were needed and this was the only way. It has now moved to cutting middle school librarians. This unfortunately has come with the fiscal issues in NJ that has affected most of the 500+ districts throughout the state.

I was the only lucky elementary person to stay in the district since I had previously been a classroom teacher. Currently I am teaching first grade in the school were I was a Media Specialist and although I love the building and the people I work with, it is frustrating to see parents "running the show" with the idea that book circulation was the only thing I did. Research and computer skills, book discussions, databases, and most importantly knowing the children and their interests to instill the love of reading were all a part of my previous life. I continue to guide my own classroom children to the joys of the library but know that the other 500 children I saw weekly are missing out on the "best place in town." Teachers still come to me with research and collection questions, students visit my classroom wanting my review of a book and the principal has inquired as to how I circulated and tracked usage of the laptops. My greatest regret is that never a new book will enter the walls of the school library. This is not to say children cannot experience those new books through their public library but for many young children with busy parents, a leisurely trip to the public library is not on the weekly agenda. So I continue to share the Caldecotts with my first graders and use the tools I know will be important in their 21st century lives. Hang in there...time will show the importance of school libraries!

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer
Staff

I came across this very moving Google Map:

A Nation without School Librarians

This map marks the cities, towns, communities, and states that have made the decision to either eliminate certified school library positions (indicated in blue) or require one school librarian to work with two (2) or more school library programs throughout the week (indicated in red).

Although hundreds of studies show the impact that School Librarians have on student achievement, these school districts believe otherwise.

Let's compare the student achievement scores without a school librarian in a year or so to discover what thousands of library supporters already knew.

School Librarians DO make a difference!

Maybe this forum is a good place to collect research to make the case for school librarians or it could also be a good place to follow the latest developments with the cutting of school librarian positions. Thoughts?

Kate Brown's picture
Kate Brown
K-8 Librarian and Information Literacy
Blogger

I, too, am extremely disheartened by the course of events over the past several months. But I also find that I am becoming increasing angry with each additional story I read about a layoff or RIF or whatever.

I have not seen articles indicating that music, art, or PE teachers are being laid off in similar numbers, or that whole music, art, or PE programs have been abandoned or turned over to volunteers. Classes have not been increased to 25 children so that one teacher/grade level could be eliminated. Advertisements for positions for professional and para SPED and support staff personnel -- speech, OT, PT, adjustment counselors, social workers, psychologists, career program staff, etc. == positions continue to fill the help wanted columns at the same level as years past; there are no reductions there. Nor are there ANY reduction that I can tell in ANY of the sports programs. None.

Classroom teachers and specialists occasionally, and library media specialists especially, have been the positions hit. Heck, even the NYT has picked up on the fact that the libraries in many of the schools across the country are all but done forever. Hey, who needs libraries, right? With google and the internet, books are obsolete, or even dead as some say.

Okay, watch out, 'cause here comes the nasty blow. We are getting what we deserve.

What have we done for the last 50 years that would indicate that we are an invaluable part of a learning community and that the mere suggestion that a district rid itself of its libraries and librarians would bring on howls of protest and/or gales of laughter. Absolutely not one thing. Nothing.

Instead, we have stayed in our libraries, quietly aging ourselves before our time, wearing out our bodies, minds, and spirits until we are but half the person we once were, and doing what amounts to a super-human job without so much as a wimper. How many of you are scheduled for a lunch break, but have to eat a sandwich at the circ. desk because the library has to be opened at all times during the day and there is no one to spell you so you can go to lunch? How many of you, albeit it you are FACULTY members and work under the FACULTY contract, teach every period, every day. Planning periods? What's a planning period.

And that's just looking at the time you're on the floor during the day. Has anyone EVER factored in the work you do that nobody recognizes, understands, or even knows about? The technical, technology, vendor, collection development, collaboration, program planning, access services . . . that make a library in the first place and keep it running in the second? I doubt it. I will bet, however, that you do a little bit on that between each of your eight classes (rather than stopping by the faculty room to get a fresh cup of coffee and say hello or read the headlines), or after school (when you can see everyone's taillights disappearing out the gate of the school and you're just starting your "other job.")

And to whom did you speak about these situations, all of which are "illegal" according to the teacher's contract. You are to have a lunch period. You are not to have a student load in excess of x number of students (hah!), you are to teach five classes a day and have one period for personal planning and one for group or team planning. If I had a dollar, I would put it on the fact like librarians across the country, you said nothing. Not to the principal. Not to your union rep. Not to a friendly parent who would sympathetically have taken it to the community. Not a word. Why?

Because you were too busy -- servicing the kids, the faculty, the administration, the parents, the other buildings, and every other person who walked up to the circ desk, or into your face while you were teaching, or grabbed your arm to get your attention while you were working with a student, or left you notes, messages, emails, etc. about the fact that they contacted you five minutes about and where was the video they needed this block? And all of us -- me included -- took it without a word.

That's the nature of librarians. I have been trying to find a personality profile article about us with no luck, but my best guess would say that we are the most service-oriented, gracious, giving, and caring people imaginable. We don't get angry. We never say "I can't." We always find a way to fit in two more things when we already had ten things too many to do. And we just kept taking it, taking it, taking it, whatever the "it" of the moment was, because that's the way we are.

Luckily, we didn't do that because we thought we would get any sort of personal gain from doing so. (Hard to imagine, I know, but there are people like that out there.) Had that been our motive, we would be even more hurt now by the actions of our school boards than we are.

"HURT"? What hurt? How about furious? How about ripped? How about screaming "injustice," "illegal," "unconsciencable," and "I-G-N-O-R-A-N-T!" from the steps of the admin. building? The supreme paradox of the leaders of the town's schools firing those most prepared to take the children into the 21st century" is astounding. Tech knows plugs, wires, HW, and SW, but we know integration and applications. We know information like nobody else in the district, but nobody knows or realizes what we know and how critically important we are to their success in bringing kids and faculty into the modern era because we have been hiding our own light under a bushel while we allowed ourselves to be scheduled to teach our peers' students so they could have a planning period ... that we didn't get! Because we never got to the cafeteria to talk to our colleagues at lunch ... because we were eating our sandwich at the circ. desk, checking out books, which is all the rest of the faculty thinks we do all day anyway.

Don't get me wrong. Some of you have made tremendous progress and some of you couldn't ask for better working relationships with your faculty and administration. But believe me, if there were opportunities for genuine collaboration with faculty, and if you were able to help them accomplish their learning goals, get the tech worked into their lesson plans like they are supposed to have done, etc., they would have been beating down the principal's door at the first hint that the LMS was on the way out. You would have been so invaluable to them that that would happen only over their dead bodies.

Same thing with the parents and the kids. If parents had seen their kid excited about a free choice book, or clicking on the library website to do homework, don't you imagine they would be right there with the faculty demanding that this outrageous notion of firing the LMS staff be dropped post haste.

But we aren't invaluable like that to people because we have had so much to do, so many classes to teach, so many people's needs to service, and so many people that we care about so to help that we haven't been able to do what we know is what we want to be able to do and what we know is what would do the trick and make us as invaluable as a winning coach.

As one body, we must become nationally visible, vocal, and vigorous about broadcasting evidence of work that clearly mandates that a school's or the district's Library Media Specialists be part of and actively involved in transforming the schools into 21st century-style learning communities. For heaven's sake, with a significant portion of the world adopting an information-based operating paradigm, why do school leaders fail to recognize that reality? More to the point, why are they so out-of-touch with the potential that is represented by their own staff to solve the problems they can't even fathom? Why do they immediately turn to today's heroes, the tech staff, for answers when in fact, tech people know plugs, wires, and loads, not applications and integrations? That is our specialty, and we are the people they should be looking to to bring about the changes they want in the schools.

I go back to my original point: because we are too busy doing what we do at this minute or that to think of our future and build in our own safety nets like everyone else does.

Time to take on a different personna folks, because as Humphrey Bogart said, "It's a tough world out there," and you have to take care of yourself first. ~~ Kate Brown

Gail Bram's picture

I also am a Media Specialist in NJ and just finished my MA in Library Science, only to be faced with cuts in education that are having a huge impact on each district, and ultimately our students and co-workers. I am also the technology teacher and decided to return to school several years ago to earn my certification for SLMS because the state was threatening to eliminate computer teachers. Now I see media specialists being eliminated throughout the state in an effort to save money. I am guilty (as most of us are) of continuing to take on more and more responsibility, working lots of extra hours, keeping up with evolving and emerging technologies, etc. We need to become more vocal, but I believe it will have to be at the state level. Many of our districts hands are tied by the actions of the state. We can educate our districts about the importance of Media Specialists and how we can help increase student achievement; however, many districts see that we don't have Core Content Curriculum Standards that are specific to us, so that is the easiest place for them to make cuts. Many of us have had to coordinate parent volunteers to assist us with shelving, check-in/out, and now we are being rewarded with them taking over our positions! It is ironic. Yes, we are going to have to be more assertive and loud, and we need to support each other.

Kate Brown's picture
Kate Brown
K-8 Librarian and Information Literacy
Blogger

You're damn straight we need to be VOCAL, but we also need to be more VISIBLE and more VOCIFEROUS. Every one of us has to get out from behind that desk! Every one of us has to log every single thing we do each day, how much time it took, who it helped, and how it related to the standards/frameworks/goals.

And that needs to be compiled and translated into a dollar value (one hour of teaching children = $100; co-teaching, 1/2 hour = $50; accomplishing three state standards -- one math, one social studies, one ELA -- for four sixth grade classes @ 21 students = 252 students learning goals completed = $1,260; etc.) so people get a sense of the monetary value added by our services.

Then we do the same for the content that we teach.

With those same lists, we develop a plan of attack. What do the recipients of our services receive as a result of their interface with us? If librarians are gone, what will be missing from their education? This has to be full of VITAL services, not just the nice, sweet things with which librarians have always been associated. Use the big words! Use all the ed jargon you can. Tie items to the headlines. "Earthquake in Haiti kills thousands" becomes "enabled students to locate the site of the disaster via online atlas skills, training in web searching brought students to headline stories as well as editorials, work with website evaluation helped student separate good and bad information sources ... "

Yes, it is going to take work, but the only thing people understand these days is money, and we have to turn what we do into a dollar value that results in the betterment of their kids with the least amount of money coming out of theirs.

Kate Brown

Joan McCall's picture

Kate, I like your style! Education leaders in California do not seem to be content with our bottom of the heap status - they are trying to send us even lower by cutting the few Teacher Librarian positions that still exist and keeping class sizes at 35 - 40. I went from being the Teacher Librarian for one middle school to four schools last year when the individual positions were cut. My staff did scream - my principal cobbled together a position to keep me and I would have taken it, but she took an early retirement offer and the future did not seem as secure.

You are absolutely right about the value of voracious vocalization. What do I do? I work my way into every staff development opportunity I can. I send email blasts with cool web sites. I develop pathfinders whenever I hear someone talking research and send them out to everyone. I put my name in the daily bulletins with announcements of everything I can think of. When a teacher wanders in for a video, I talk to them and suggest ways I can help them teach. I try to attend workshops with staff so I know the new things they are learning and can suggest my supporting collaboration. I tell the principals what I am doing and invite them to visit when I teach. I present at conferences and apply for awards and make sure everyone knows about it. Fortunately I have a terrific support person in each library to help me out. My "California Dreamin'" is that when I retire in a few years, they will want to replace me times four.

Larry Jolliffe Sr's picture

It's interesting that we have all this money to feed and clothe and then kill all of our "enemies" in this world, but we cannot seem to find the resources to educate the next generation of leaders....How does this make sense!
Libraries are places where kids can go and explore anything they want, including the subject matter being taught at school. I know I got off the subject in the first paragraph...But it's such a big issue....My opinion is that teachers, police, and firefighters should be the highest paid public employees. Where would we be without the teachers....Nowhere.

Debbie Jo's picture
Debbie Jo
School Librarian - RUSD

I am going into my fourth school year split between two elementary schools. We have been told countless times that we would be full time in one school if they had the money. Our elementary school students have library ever other week - which usually ends up being about 18 class for the entire school year. If it was not for the kids I would have lost my mind long ago. I spent alternating weeks at my schools - so when I return to either school it's wonderful to be greeted by happy kids eager to tell me about what they've been reading or working on. The staff is happy because they will have 40 more minutes of planning time that week. There are also staff members who are thrilled to have me there to help them with a technology question or troubleshoot something on their computers. Of course, this is also when our students get to check out new library books! Not all of our kids are able to get to our public library - which has also had to cut their hours.

We have collected signatures on petitions and presented them to our BOE. We have had parents, teachers, community members, students of all ages, public librarians, school librarians...speak in favor of reinstating our full time positions. We have begun the process of going before our District Wide School Improvement Council - to study the need for school librarians and work through the process of making that happen. This summer we have two school librarians revamping our library curriculum to better align what we teach with state and national standards. It is clear that we can not possibly teach all we need to in about 18 forty minute classes.

I am a union representative for my home school and we have worked with our union to get changes in our contract - but sadly we have no specific contract language. Sports coaches and extra curricular positions all have contract language - but for some unknown reason our district will not budge on this issue.

I have had a principal tell me things will never change. I had to tell him that I can not live that way - if something is wrong and needs to be changed I will work for that change no matter how long it takes. It was very disheartening to hear that for whatever reason he was not willing to help rock the boat. That's why places like this can be so vital in helping us join together an learn from each other. I hope to learn more about what is happening in other school libraries in the states and around the world.

So...has anyone heard about how the Education Jobs Fund will be used in their school district? In mine, we have heard that teacher coaches will be hired. We have had some suggest that school librarian positions be filled with these funds - but what happens when the funds are gone in a year...

Ann Daigle's picture

The school I was in (High School) changed the contract language to read that we were in designated Impact Areas... then when the cuts came, even though I am certified to teach I couldn't bump anyone.... how do we get the union (whom we pay big money to) to side on our side and put language to help librarians and protect us???? I am no longer a union member and have found a new job.... but I had to move 600 miles away and sell my house ... unfair I say... the union was absolutely no help... my point is how do librarians get a fair representation????

Amy Young-Buckler's picture
Amy Young-Buckler
Librarian, Meade Heights ES, Anne Arundel County Public Schools

Our Superintendent's budget for next school year (Prince George's County, MD) will cut more than half of the school librarian jobs in our district. There will be 88 of us for more than 180 schools. Only our high schools and middle schools with enrollment of more than 1,000 will have a full-time librarian next school year. Those of us who keep our jobs will be assigned to two or three schools next year. The short term gain of 7.4 million dollars in salaries will be eaten up in the loss of school property (books, equipment, computers, etc.) whether through theft or damage. Based upon our seniority list, I know that I will have a job next year, but do I want the job that this BOE has for me?

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