Poverty plagues school libraries

Gary D. Price writes:

At Mariposa Elementary School in Redlands, students scouring the school library for books on the space program can find them tomes that date back to 1965.

“We have books on the space program written in 1965 before man even walked on the moon,” said John DeLandtsheer, the school’s principal. “We’ve pulled those books. There’s current literature out there that kids need. We want them to be able to check out two books a week.”

However, funding for new library books is scarce. The school once had $11,000 a year for library books. Now it has $2,000.

While PTA fund-raising and some federal funding help offset the cost of library books, the school still “needs at least three to four times that much,” DeLandtsheer said.

Like DeLandtsheer, many educators remember when California’s school libraries received about $28 per student to stock library shelves. Now that funding is at its lowest ever $1.41 per student when the national average is about $20. As a result, school libraries have fewer books and less money to buy new ones making it harder to encourage students to read on their own.

Until 2001, schools got about $28 per student based on average daily attendance earmarked for library books. That amount has all but disappeared.

For Valerie Lichtman, being the librarian for the Rim of the World Unified School District isn’t easy, trying to keep Beatrix Potter and Dr. Seuss books stocked and available.