I am a published author. An international speaker. A school librarian. Twelve months of the year I am employed by San Diego Unified Schools as the district’s only resource librarian. We have over 228 schools in a district with nearly 132,000 students. For the first time since I took this job 9 and a half years ago, we have every school library open except one.
Our School Board is currently in the process of making budget reductions for the 2011-2012 school year. Of over 200 schools, we only have about 30 Teacher Librarians. School budgets have excessed about half a dozen of them. Another 13 Teacher Librarians have received a layoff notice. Though I don’t work at a school site, I got caught in the big net of media credentials, so I am one of the thirteen. It appears that certificated library staffing could take a 50% cut.
Classified staffing seems just as grim. We are projecting that 37 school libraries will close due to no staffing. Eleven additional secondary schools will have less than one person working full time. Most of these have more than 1000 students who will need to check out textbooks.
Our library staff is a mixture of mostly classified and just over 30 certified people. In the last two years, we have trained almost 100 new staff members. Many of these library workers began as volunteers. Their children attended their school. Then they saw the value in what they did. They do their job, not for the summers off or for the salary. They do it because it’s important. They do it because it matters.
There is a common misconception about what a “librarian” does. The average person thinks a librarian reads stories to children and checks out books. Today’s “librarian” is much more than that. Libraries with adequate staffing level the educational playing field. Not every child has internet access at home. Not every child has a 4G phone. Not every child has books to call his own.
But in the library, students may have access to current technology. They have access to books. Most importantly they have access to trained staff who can guide them from 92 million Google hits on poetry to 184 educationally appropriate sites. Someone who can teach him about how to find the most current data. Someone who can find that just-right book.
Yes, I am an international speaker and a published author. But I am also a school librarian. I chose to work in this district because it matters. These are my schools. My teachers. My students. They need me. They need all of us. Libraries matter because kids matter. Libraries are more than storage rooms for books. They are the doors to literacy. Let’s keep them open. Shall we?