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Headline of a piece on NPR - Librarians Are A Luxury Chicago Public Schools Can't Afford
Excerpt: Two years ago, the Chicago Public Schools budgeted for 454 librarians. Last year, the budget called for 313 librarians, and now that number is down to 254.
With educators facing tough financial choices, having a full-time librarian is becoming something of a luxury in Chicago's more than 600 public schools.
It's not that there's a shortage of librarians in Chicago, and it's not mass layoffs — it's that the librarians are being reassigned.
"The people are there, they're just not staffing the library, they're staffing another classroom," says Megan Cusick, a librarian at Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative School. She says all across the district, certified librarians are being reassigned to English classrooms, world languages or to particular grade levels in elementary schools.
L.A. Unified paid for library staff in every school before the recession began in 2008. Today, it provides librarians in high schools but leaves most elementary and middle school campuses to make tough choices on whether to use their limited discretionary funds on library aides, nurses, counselors or other key staff.
Since 2011, the union has alleged that L.A. Unified laid off their members, then illegally allowed parent volunteers, instructional aides and others to do their work at nearly four dozen campuses. The district issued a bulletin last year clarifying that library work can be performed only by those with proper credentials, but the union asserts that violations are still occurring. Without trained staff to make sure books are properly checked out, returned and refiled, she said, thousands have gone missing.
Aiming to stem the problems, the Los Angeles Board of Education recently agreed to form a districtwide task force to seek ways to improve access to school libraries with more dollars, alternative arrangements and collaboration with other public libraries and charitable organizations.
From The Chicago Sun-Times: A beautiful new library opened last week in Humboldt Park for the 800 students of Daniel R. Cameron Elementary School. Puffy pillows await children for story time; new chairs sit at brand new tables, and shelves of books line the long, light-filled room. Quotes from children’s literature adorn the freshly painted walls. “Let the wild rumpus start!” reads one from Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are.”
A very grateful Cameron community celebrated the opening with Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who praised the room as “absolutely amazing” and told children that libraries were her favorite place as a girl.
“You are fortunate now to have a library,” Byrd-Bennett said at Thursday’s festive ribbon-cutting. “We know you’re going to be successful because you have this precious resource.”
But still, 252 of the 527 Chicago Public Schools that are staffed by union teachers lack a librarian, and 18 more schools have just a part-time librarian, according to the Chicago Teachers Union. By CPS’ count of 658 schools, which includes charters, 517 schools have libraries, according to district spokesman Joel Hood, who did not provide a count of librarians.
"Parents in Idaho called the cops last week on junior-high student Brady Kissel when she had the nerve to help distribute a book they’d succeeded in banning from the school curriculum.
The book in question was Sherman Alexie’s young adult novel “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” Published in 2007, it won the National Book Award and has become popular with young teens, supposedly for its universal themes of fitting in, making sense of race, and sexual discovery."
ABC Local: Kickstarter has been used to fund everything from new gadgets to space missions -- but in Berkeley, CA a group of kids just successfully used it to fund a library. A can-do attitude is at the core of the REALM Charter School's curriculum. Now in its third year, the school has classrooms full of technology and teachers full of energy, but no library. The eighth grade class is about to change that. "I really want the future students to love it because we worked really, really hard on this," student Agustina McEwen said. Call it a legacy, when they graduate, they're leaving behind a gift. They're calling it "x-space." "It's a space made out of x's and we use these x's to make
everything in here" Agustina said.
From the bookshelves, to the tables and chairs, it all started in their design class taught by a local group called Project H. "It's sort of humbling and awe inspiring to watch a 13-year-old build something that came from their head, that they prototyped on their desk, and now is full scale," Project H founder Emily Pilloton said.
San Diego’s school libraries will be open at least one day a week next school year. That’s actually the good news.
Some schools’ libraries have been closed for years. Even worse: Many of the libraries sitting empty are gleaming new facilities filled with comfy sofas, rows of computers and shelved full of books.
Budget cuts leave about half of L.A. Unified's elementary and middle schools without librarians
The crisis has exacerbated educational inequalities across the nation's second-largest system, as some campuses receive extra money for library staff and others don't. It has also sparked a prolonged labor conflict with the California School Employees Assn., which represents library aides.
Since 2011, the union has alleged that L.A. Unified laid off their members, then illegally allowed parent volunteers, instructional aides and others to do their work at nearly four dozen campuses. The district issued a bulletin last year clarifying that library work can be performed only by those with proper credentials, but the union asserts that violations are still occurring. The issue is set for a hearing by the state Public Employment Relations Board in May.
Via Twitter: Cecelia Larsen @celialarsen "in which a classroom library is destroyed by flood, and book bloggers help save the day": #books
Read all about how volunteers helped restore a flooded classroom with new books at Cecilia Bedelia's Blogspot. Nice to hear about people adding books to school libraries (instead of removing them).
Check out this partial list of titles donated to Ms. Larsen's 9th Grade English classroom (Ms. Larsen is the author's sister):
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach
Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
Mexican WhiteBoy by Matt de la Pena
Monster by Walter Dean Myers
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
White Cat by Holly Black
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
The Only Alien on the Planet by Kristen D. Randle
If you have any further suggestions of books that belong in a 9th grade classroom (for self-directed reading), please mention them in the comments. Ms. Larsen and I thank you!
Yes and no, according to your perspective.
City Limits, a NYC blog reports that earlier this summer, the Department of Education requested a variance from the state, asking official permission to offer fewer librarians in schools. While the DOE says it recognizes librarians' value, in the face of fiscal challenges and technological changes the department is looking for alternative ways to provide students with library services. In place of hiring certified librarians, schools could train teachers to offer the same services, bring in parent volunteers or have librarians circulate between schools.
Meanwhile, elementary schools are exempt from the regulation altogether. Some elementary school libraries are staffed by teachers or librarians without certification. Some even go without.
And from the librarians' POV: "The idea that a shelf full of a books somehow replaces a librarian is wrong," says Christian Zabriskie, Executive Director of Urban Librarians Unite, a professional group that supports librarianship in urban settings. "If I'm exploring things about, say, my sexuality, drug issues, health issues, I can't grab those books in front of my peers," he adds. Zabriskie's own middle school librarian had a significant impact on his life by supporting him when he was being bullied and teaching him how to stand up for others.
The New York City Department of Education, one of the largest educational organizations in the world, has effectively given up on librarians. As DOE officials call for a variance to state law which requires the presence of a school librarian in every middle and high school in the state they have passing up on a key, high performing, cost effective, tool for student success.
There is a strange dissonance when it comes to libraries. We are both armored by our stereotypes and defeated by them simultaneously. People are ready to hurl themselves on the barricade of our intellectual freedom but when budgets come we are universally tisked and shuttled off into the budget memory hole, quickly snipped away. The idiom of the dusty shelves comes up in the press every time in order to evoke mood.