Wednesday, March 12, 2008

When school students flunk reading, what do you do? Cut funding for the library of course!

I am not sure what to make of this. In the last post, I mentioned bad news in libraryland due to the recession. Arizona in particular will be hard hit because the economy relied so heavily on construction and the housing market. Arizona is notorious for underfunding education and the students having poor reading skills. In fact, Arizona ranks last in education (read the full report here

So of course, when the budget crisis hits home and there needs to be cuts in education, they of go after the library. Well-funded school and public libraries have resulted in increased test scores for students year affter year, but they are not protected by the state as mandatory. Here is a clip from the article:

Shrinking budgets mean fewer school librarians by Pat Kossan The Arizona Republic
Arizona's consistently low school funding is claiming another victim: the school library.

Many Arizona school districts are shedding librarians and cutting their hours. Like most other states, Arizona has no dedicated funding for libraries and no law requiring school libraries to exist. The fate of the libraries and librarians is up to district officials.

"Almost any district at any time facing a funding crisis can say, 'Here's an easy fix,' " said Sara Kelly Johns, president of the American Association of School Librarians. "They're looking at what programs are mandated instead of what programs are effective," Johns said.

Research shows that strong library programs improve student test scores. That has caused some states to maintain or even strengthen K-12 libraries. But Johns said more and more school libraries, especially in elementary and middle schools, are taking a hit, many in Western states.

Traditionally, school librarians have found books to inspire kids to read for the sheer joy of it and helped them to unravel the Dewey decimal system.

Now, librarians also build and maintain computer-based libraries, teach kids to sort fact from fiction on the Internet and help teachers find online training or videos for lesson plans. "The need for the librarian and the expert in the field hasn't changed; it has just multiplied," said Jaqie Gardner, the librarian at Fountain Hills High School. "We have the physical space to take care of, plus we have the virtual space."

I think this one is a vote for "librarians do MORE complex work." I liked the line from the librarian stating that, "We have the physical space to take care of, plus we have the virtual space." I find it quite amazing that educators don't place libraries, librarians, and education together. The impact of a good library is always long term. Anyone can view the results of a literate population, simply by the types of businesses that move in. Good libraries create a strong workforce that help attract great businesses to the area, and create a thriving economy. It is amazing what a few dollars of library service provides a community. The effects are felt far beyond the year to year. Good investments lead to strong communities. It is too bad that we have stuck with cutting the bottom line regardless of value, especially when we are dealing with our children's education.

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