Why I signed the library petition posted November 28 2011, 5:55 AM by anna koval
A recent petition to the White House (1) has caused a slew of controversy in school library circles lately.
It stated that there should be a teacher-librarian in every school library -- or else.
"Any school receiving Federal funds should be required to have a credentialed School Librarian on staff full time with a library that contains a minimum of 18 books per student. Failure to have a school library open to all students and/or failure to have a credentialed School Librarian to run that library should be punishable by a immediate withdrawal of all Federal monies."
I grant that it was an aggressive proposition, but with 99,180 school libraries in the United States (2) and 62,364 credentialed teacher-librarians (3), it's appalling to me that the petition expired because it didn't meet the measly 10,000 signature threshold.
Influential leaders in our field came out against it. Buffy Hamilton didn't sign the petition (4) and Doug Johnson didn't either (5).
I, too, had a moment of hesitation, a pause, a gasp even, when I read the petition's fine print.
I think I actually said to myself, "omg, this thing is really hard core!!"
But was it really that hard core??
The petition essentially asked us to stand up not just for school libraries, but for *strong* school libraries.
And strong school libraries require a teacher-librarian at the head of them.
This petition asked our government to do what it's supposed to do: to call schools to the carpet when they violate the law in that regard.
In California, the law is CDE's Ed Code in the form of the Model School Library Standards, and they say (6):
"The school library is staffed by a team consisting of a credentialed teacher librarian and paraprofessional support staff."
It's what Connie Williams, past president of CSLA, aptly calls the "library team" and policy wonks need to know and understand that both members of it are essential (7).
Because in spite of the Standards, in California these days, few school libraries still staff a full-time teacher-librarian. They're reassigned to "regular" classrooms or outsourced to multiple school sites. And the largest classroom on campus becomes a book depository manned by well-meaning but insufficiently-skilled paraprofessionals or even parent volunteers.
We don't let paralegals work as lawyers. We don't let nurses work as doctors.
The school library is a classroom and it must be lead by a teacher-librarian, and this petition was meant to tell lawmakers loudly and clearly that we think so.
We have to be willing to put our money where our mouth is... especially in this economy...
As fabulous as my library assistant is, she could not run our library without me (legally, and realistically), nor would she want to. And shrinking budgets should not require her to try.
If we really believe in strong school libraries, then we all would have signed this petition instead of bickering about semantics or worrying where we'll sit when the music stops.
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