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A Plan to Save School Librarians

Looks like we can add Delaware to the growing list of cities and states getting rid of their school librarians. School librarian professional morale is probably low, knowing that any year their state or city could decide that it’s not worth paying them twice as much as a paraprofessional, or worse, not worth paying anyone at all. That’s got to be the most dispiriting, including for the children who can no longer use the library.

The largest school district in Delaware “no longer has librarians in its six middle and high schools. Students who want access to the stack of books can only go if the teacher takes the class.” That’s something, I guess.

The President of the Delaware Association of School Librarians is bravely making her case public. She says that school librarians have master’s degrees, which the public never realizes, and the “technology know-how to help students properly research and document papers and prepare them for college-level research.”

We can let academic librarians decide if the students take advantage of that know-how.

Also, “they can help students differentiate real information from fake news — a critical skill in today’s Internet and social media-dominated landscape.”

Indeed, they probably can help students with that, but do the students want to be helped? How do they know this isn’t just a left/right-wing conspiracy to try to get them to believe the real news is somehow “fake”? After all, we just had the U.S. President wrestling some fake news on Twitter or something.

The president (not the wrestling one) is “librarian at the private Salesianum School for boys,” so she has the right idea about where the steady money is in librarianship. It’s a Catholic school, so it’s probably not “tony prep school” money, but she won’t be fired by the state, and that’s where the danger now constantly lurks.

Except for rich suburbs. They’re probably fine, too. They always are, at least when it comes to school money.

According to the article, “part of the reason schools are jettisoning librarians is money.” Everything’s about money. All of it is that the public school districts making the choices value librarians less than they do something else.

After hearing about one school with “a lot of kids who have a high level of anxiety in school, and have a trauma going on at home,” and who like to decompress at the library, we hear about a school district “taking a different route” by “spending $600,000 of taxpayer dollars and a $250,000 donation from Discover Card to renovate the library into what it’s calling a cutting-edge Innovation Center.”

Of course they’re calling it that. They better keep at it if they don’t want to look ironic in 10 years, when they’re either still “innovating” or become a mere place where students can find books and computers and people to help them use the space, after which they’ll have to go back to calling it just a “library” not to look silly.

I didn’t have the heart to research the socio-economic demographics of those two school districts, but detectable trauma at home versus corporate sponsorship and cutting edge innovating hints at a wide possible gap there.

I considered that briefly as the solution for school libraries. They should all get corporate sponsorship. Why not? From what I read Coke and Pepsi have been sponsoring schools for years, and all they ask in return is easy student access to healthy carbonated sugar water.

Libraries could place advertisements everywhere. Name the library the Mastercard Library, or READ style signs with Ernest Hemingway munching a tostada with a tagline, “Don’t ask for whom the Taco Bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” It’s important to emphasize books after all.

Librarians could wear sweaters with corporate logos on them. How hard could it be for them? I see people wearing corporate logos on their clothing all the time, and they actually pay for the clothing, whereas the library clothing would probably be free.

And honestly, how many librarians would pass up free clothing?

But alas, even corporate sponsorship couldn’t save the poor librarians. It’ll be “will be staffed by a paraprofessional and a distance learning coordinator.”

Maybe it’s time for public school librarians to find individual corporate sponsorships instead, like tennis or golf pros do.

It could be an opportunity to develop synergy, or something like that. Corporations like ProQuest or Ebsco could sponsor individual librarians, and all they would have to do is wear corporate polo shirts to work and say “this lesson has been brought to you by Ebsco” (or whatever) after each student interaction.

Corporations get some publicity, librarians keep their jobs. Win-win. Eventually, that might be the only option left.

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