Endangered School Libraries

by Vicky on September 21, 2010

My friend, Deb, a master teacher and retired principal who now teaches at the college level, sent me this Edutopia blog posting by Kate Brown: “Let’s Make Information Literacy a Priority.”  In response to a thread (“School librarians being cut“), Brown wrote:

“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….We know information like nobody else in the district, but nobody…realizes what we know and how critically important we are to their success in bringing kids and faculty into the modern era….[We] are the people they should be looking to to bring about the changes they want in the schools.”

Brown points out that “nobody…realizes what we know” because school librarians are working so hard (due to previous cuts) just trying to stay even that they do not do the crucial community organizing and advocacy for information literacy that would transform parents, faculty, and administrators into school library supporters and advocates.

This Google map, A Nation Without School Librarians, “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).”

During the time I have worked in both academic and public libraries, I’ve had a chance to observe the lack of information literacy skills in college students.  I’ve even had some ideas of ways to help younger kids get started learning these vital 21st century survival skills.  So this was a well-timed kick in the pants!

I can start with the kindergarten teacher who scheduled a field trip to bring her class to our library in order to combat the falling-off of library awareness among her students and their parents.

One of the messages in Kate Brown’s posting is that librarians are so busy trying to keep up with 20th century library issues that they are failing to keep up with the rapid pace of change in our profession and in the world.  This is definitely an issue in my library system, where the technology is badly outdated and budget cuts have been severe.  This article from School Library Journal, “Things That Keep Us Up At Night,” is keeping me up at night too.

I’ve been really inspired by a couple of school librarians who are doing really exciting things with their students, Doug Valentine at the Harry McKillop Elementary School in Texas, and Gwyneth A. Jones, the Daring Librarian, at the Murray Hill Middle School in Maryland.

Check these awesome book reviews by students at McKillop Elementary!

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