School librarians are fast becoming the Rodney Dangerfields of librarianship. I used to think that dubious honor went to children’s librarians, but they’ve been out disrespected by school librarians.
Some school districts have been reclassifying librarians so that they’re no longer considered teachers, and thus not protected by union contracts or whatever school librarians are protected by.
Regardless of where you fall on school librarians as teachers, it’s not hard to make the case that they’re not doing exactly the same thing as regular classroom teachers, just like in academic libraries the librarians can call themselves “faculty” all they want, but they’ll never be considered quite the same as the teaching faculty.
But now it seems some places don’t even want them as librarians.
The largest school system I’ve found trying to get rid of its librarians is New York City.
There are state regulations dictating whether and how many librarians schools must have. According to the WSJ article, “A middle or high school with 100 to 300 students is required to have a certified librarian who spends at least two periods each day on library work. Schools with 700 or more students must have full-time librarians.”
However, the NYC Department of Education is asking the state to waive those requirements so that schools don’t need librarians at all. And they’re only doing that because unions complained that many schools were already in violation of the regulations. Before they were perfectly happy to not have the librarians and just not tell anyone about it.
Then there’s the even shiftier move where NYC closes high schools, then opens many smaller high schools in the same building. Same location, same number of students, but since they’re all technically different high schools they don’t require librarians.
Or something like that. I can’t quite figure out why large schools need librarians but small schools don’t. Maybe the small schools don’t even have libraries. And why should they when we know that everything’s on the Internet. That must be true, because I read it on the Internet, and it’s believed by all the people who don’t know what they’re talking about.
Expect more of that kind of thinking from kids who grow up without the resources available only through libraries.
It could get worse, though, and now has. In Harrisburg, PA, the school librarians get even less respect. They opened their public schools this year with no librarians at all.
Instead, “Officials say they plan to engage volunteers trained to check out and organize books and other materials.” Librarians replaced by volunteers. Wow.
Last year they closed most of the school libraries because the district laid off all but one school librarian. Harrisburg isn’t the size of NYC, I assume, but the schools must need more than one librarian in the whole city.
Except that they don’t need librarians when they can’t even keep the libraries open. A lot of kids can’t even get into the libraries now.
“While some students didn’t seem to care because they don’t use them, others cited frustration Monday over their inability to freely use the computers and study space afforded by the facilities.” They don’t so much mind the lack of librarians as the lack of libraries. And they can’t do book reports, because they can’t get to the books. Good plan!
School librarians like to trot out statistics about various positive student learning indicators that come with having school librarians. For whatever reason – bad budgets, low tax revenues, or just a lack of interest in providing public education anymore – it’s obvious that no one’s listening.
That’s the biggest sign that school librarians are getting no respect. The schools aren’t even bothering to justify getting rid of them anymore. They’re just doing it.