Here’s a depressing library story. Dozens of schools across Los Angeles have closed up their libraries. It’s a story where it seems easy to divide everyone into good guys and bad guys, only there aren’t any good guys.
First of all is the school district itself. It seems that the school district used to pay for library workers, but stopped doing that in 2011, which meant that the schools then had to pay for library workers from their own discretionary funds.
That of course means that if they kept the librarians, then something else had to go. The school nurse or the librarian? The school counselor or the librarian? What to choose?
I’d probably get rid of the counselor, because if the kids can’t read well they probably won’t need much guidance or get into college anyway.
The worst hit schools are middle schools, “83 percent of them are without a librarian, according to district staffing numbers.” Wow, that’s a big proportion of schools without librarians, which also means that’s a big proportion of schools without open and usable libraries.
Surely someone could do something about that, right? Most of the people using any sort of library have no idea who anyone is, whether they’re a certified librarian or a volunteer.
So get some volunteers in there! There must be some parents who could show up and help middle schoolers get books. It’s not like they’ll be doing advanced library research or anything.
Then there were some volunteers, the closest we come in this sad saga to the good guys. People volunteered at some libraries, which then managed to stay open.
But it turns out that California has a law that librarians and library aides are necessary to run a school library, so if there aren’t any librarians or library aides, there’s no library, even if all the books are just sitting locked up.
Some libraries got volunteers anyway. “Classroom aides, teachers and parents had been filling in at dozens of schools.” But then, “the union filed a grievance, naming 47 schools as non-compliant,” thus shutting down the libraries.
So the union would rather have children go without school libraries than have libraries open with volunteers. It makes sense. The union is there to protect the librarians, not the students. They would probably say it’s for the good of the students in the long run, but in the long run these students will all be gone.
If the students have a problem with that, maybe they should start a union so they could have someone looking after their self-interest. Except of course, students don’t have money so they wouldn’t pay dues, and if you can’t pay dues nobody cares whether your interests are served.
Lots of them will probably never make enough money to pay worthwhile dues anyway. Unions these days are most effective among relatively educated and skilled workers, especially in the public sector.
How many of these students will ever become relatively well educated? The article ends: “According to the California Department of Education, only about half of elementary and middle schools students in L.A. Unified can read at grade level.”
Getting rid of their libraries isn’t going to help any.