Saturday, May 19, 2012

Reducing library access is wrong move

A few months ago I added my name to a petition asking the Obama administration to make school libraries a national priority. School Library Journal reported on Jan. 31 that the petition had surpassed 25,000 signatures needed for the White House to issue a response.

The petition was launched by Carl Harvey, a librarian at North Elementary School in Noblesville, In. and president of the American Association of School Librarians.

As SLJ reported, the petition specifically asks that school libraries have a dedicated funding stream in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to “ensure more students have access to the resources and tools that constitute a 21st century learning environment.”

The issue took on localized significance this week when the Record-Bee reported that the Kelseyville school board voted to lay off a library clerk. District Superintendent Dave McQueen is quoted as saying, “We were going to eliminate both (library clerks) because of budget deficits but decided to keep one.”

This leaves the district with one library clerk whose time will be divided at each school site.

This issue is of vital importance to me as a lifetime user of libraries. Given the widespread benefits they provide, I believe reducing student access to libraries is wrong.

Consider that school libraries provide access to the written word in a variety of formats; books, periodicals, online.

Exposure to news media at my high school library helped me to become engaged with my community. Fiction and non-fiction books at elementary and high school libraries promoted recreational reading and the chance to explore subjects and interests that appealed to me.

How much more information is accessible to students in an unending barrage; librarians promote information literacy so that students become knowledgeable consumers.

Students who are left to fend for themselves in navigating information options will be placed at a disadvantage. Students on the wrong side of the digital divide, without access to information on the Internet, will be disadvantaged all-the-more.

I was lucky growing up to have a public library located in my hometown and a mother committed to making sure I had access to the public library each week.

Public and school libraries provided me with access to information as I needed it. They played an important role in enabling me to cross the digital divide.

Students at Kelseyville schools do not have a public library alternative. There is no public library in the greater Kelseyville area; if students need to supplement or find an alternative to the school library, they will have to travel to Clearlake or Lakeport.

School libraries also provided me a haven from constant teasing and bullying. If school libraries are closed, what safe haven will be left to students who are bullied and ostracized?

I know that money is tight, but school officials need to find a solution that doesn’t reduce students’ access to libraries.

McQueen mentions two statewide tax measures that are likely to qualify for the November ballot. I agree with McQueen that these tax measures are crucial to educational funding.

As reported in the Record-Bee, McQueen said the district would possibly bring back the library clerk if one or both tax measures are passed.

I also agree with Harvey that the White House petition is “not a silver bullet.” Library supporters must continually advocate at local, state and national levels.

Read staff reporter Kevin N. Hume’s article at

Read SLJ coverage of the White House petition at Read Harvey’s blog entry about what happens next at

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