Monday, June 6, 2011

School Librarians

Not too long ago my mentor, a National Board Certified, Master's holding, School Library Media Specialist, wrote to me to let me know that her position was in danger of becoming a point five.  This means she would be responsible for running two elementary school libraries by spending 20 hours in each library per week.  My mentor had been one of the last Librarians in the district to retain her 40 hour/1school status because she works in a Title 1 school.  Now, even those positions are on the chopping block.

Over time, the education system has made a mockery of the School Library Media Specialist position.  Their first mistake was hiring people who are NOT Librarians.  By this I mean, people who do NOT hold a Master of Library and Information Science from an ALA accredited University.  Instead, they allowed people with a Bachelor's degree in anything to simply take the School Library Media Specialist exam and then call themselves a School Library Media Specialist.

ALA has tried to rectify this by officially stating that they support the title School Librarian over School Library Media Specialist but still the practice of hiring non-librarians continues.  Unfortunately, many of the people holding these watered down SLMS positions over the years have not been performing up to the ALA's standards of what is expected of a School Librarian.  By failing to teach Information Literacy, supplement and enhance the school curriculum, and become the center of academic life in the schools, these "Media Specialists" have reduced the perception of the school library as simply the place where students can check out books.  Therefore, when principals are faced with budget cuts and have to decide between a Guidance Counselor and a Media Specialist- the Media Specialist gets axed.  This isn't to say that all Media Specialists who are NOT Librarians are doing an awful job- but without the MLIS backing up their credentials, they may not know what School Librarians are supposed to do for their schools.

This sad turn of events in the School Library world is directly affecting new graduates from MLIS programs all over the country- there simply are no jobs.  Even though there are people sitting in these School Library Media Specialist positions without the proper credentials of a Librarian- actual Librarians are scrounging for work.  Many School Librarians are having to take Public Library positions ,and even those are being cut- thanks to the economy..  School Librarian positions are being fought for like dogs fight over a bone.

And who, ultimately, suffers because of all this?  Students.  Students who are graduating high-school completely ignorant as to how to perform proper research for college; students who have no idea how to use a library; students who have no relationship with reading other than to send and receive text messages; students who do not know how to question and analyze information for accuracy and credibility- students are missing out on the rich education in information literacy and literature that can only be obtained from a well-run school library.  Students who will become voting citizens in this nation need to learn how to find the best information and protect themselves from misinformation.  They need Librarians to teach them how to question, research, analyze and make informed decisions.

Maybe that is the real reason School Librarians are being cut from schools.  Maybe we are too dangerous because we teach children not to accept information at face value.  We teach children to question.  How frightening to face a future where that intrinsic American right has been eliminated.

The only way to save these positions is to vocalize their importance to law makers.     If you share in the passion for school libraries, make your voice heard!

Fill up President Obama's In-Box until change happens!

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