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Not Extinct Yet, But Getting There for Some

If you want some less than cheerful news about the future of school children in Los Angeles who are forced to attend public schools, check out this article.

The headline begins, “Are school libraries headed toward extinction?” Yes, begins, because headlines can apparently be more than one line these days. It’s a sad scary world we live in.

If we follow Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, the answer is of course, “no, they aren’t going extinct.” That’s ridiculous. There are rich and even not so rich private schools all over Los Angeles with libraries that are doing just fine. What are people worried about?

People are all up in a bother just because five more high school principals are going to divert funding from school librarians to whatever it is they’re replacing them with. That will be only 15 out of 84 high school libraries, a mere 18%.

It’s important to remember in times like these that there will still be 69 public high schools in Los Angeles with school libraries, or 82%. Those are pretty good odds.

There are some school board members who want to make sure that funds budget for school librarians go for school librarians, but that’s an uphill struggle. After all, it would take away the autonomy of the school principals to shutter the libraries and deprive the students of access to books and computers.

But maybe that’s okay, because the book collections are older than they should be anyway. “State guidelines recommend that the age of the book collection be no more than 15 years old, and LA Unified’s is 21 years old.”

How in the heck are students supposed to learn anything reading books that are six years older than some arbitrary state guideline says they should be? Close the libraries!

Plus, to add indignity of offense, “there should be 28 books per student; there are 18.26 now.” That should be okay if the students can swap the books and don’t have to read the same 18.26 books all year, as if most students will read anywhere near that many anyway.

The middle schools aren’t doing any better. Only half of them have a library aide, and they’re cheaper than librarians.

One reason this struggle probably won’t end is the internecine warfare.

For example, a school board member reported:

I talked to a principal who said he’d rather buy an extra teacher with that amount of money to reduce class sizes…. And when I happened to mention library aides I got bombarded with insulting notes from teacher librarians who made them sound like they had fallen off a turnip truck. Library aides should be well respected too.

Library aides are respected by librarians when librarians have secure jobs. Otherwise, library aides are simply threats to the professional existence of librarians, since if worse came to worst it would be better to have a school library open with a trained library aide than not open at all, except for the librarians.

That’s the way the Man always gets you, by making the relatively powerless fight for the scraps from the Man’s high table.

Library aides?! Screw the library aides! And the art teachers. And the reading intervention teachers. And the EL specialists. And, of course, the libraries and the poor students whose parents can’t help with extra funding.

Commenting on one school with a well staffed library, a board member asked, “That’s fantastic for this elementary, but why should the students at that school have it and others do not?”

The answer has been increasingly obvious for years, but nobody wants to say it. It’s because the public, in various places around the country, doesn’t care if poorer kids get a good education.

Maybe they’ll get one despite that, but it’ll be an uphill struggle against an indifferent and sometimes hostile society. These days people take care of their own, except when they don’t even do that.

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Comments

  1. Robert Jensen says:

    On people taking care of their own these days, etc.:
    No one would speak against the once inviolate belief in the local control of education – by which I mean not having to worry about other people’s kids who go to school 5 or 10 miles away from where your kids do – if the cities in this country had not gone to hell in the last 50 years, under leftist governments dominated by leftist ideologies.

    • I actually agree with this. Except I can get behind state controlled education, wouldn’t even mind going so far down as county, though some cities are just too small to support the school system by themselves. But I for one don’t think we need to do a nationwide curriculum…a la Common Core.

      Are you advocating for school systems to be reduced down to cities taking care of their own and not expanding it any further? That’s what it reads to me.

  2. Libertarian Librarian says:

    In California the lack of school libraries and librarians has been the norm for decades. Attending public schools the “library” was always on sad corner of the cafeteria. I would go on my own and check out books (staffless library!). Not the ideal and not the situation we need to teach children how to read and think. It does give me more reasons why school choice is a positive for students. It’s not about providing jobs but an education to all.

    • anonymous coward says:

      ” Not the ideal and not the situation we need to teach children how to read and think”

      But, surely, YOU learned how to read and think in such a situation. So, either it’s not as bad as all that OR you are an amazing exception. (I kid- don’t worry. I agree, just advocating for the devil.)

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