Wednesday, November 26, 2014

School librarians viewed as ‘extraneous’

My assignment this week for LIBT 210, School Library/Media Center Services, was to respond to the question, “Why are libraries experiencing a budget crisis?”

One critical reason for a school-library budgeting crisis is that the position of state-certified librarian is viewed as “extraneous” according to our course reading, “Surviving the Recession: Fostering Environments that Support School Librarians” by Ann Dutton Ewbank (School Library Monthly, December 2010).

School libraries’ media budgets average $6,970 per year, about $10.64 per student, according to School Library Journal’s spending-survey findings for 2014. As highlighted by writer Lauren Barack in a report published April 15:
“Elementary schools budgets are lower, with just $8.86 to spend on each student, with middle schools slightly higher, spending $9.55 on overall materials per student. High school budgets, however, are significantly better padded, at $13.47 per student.
“Yet school librarians are expecting those numbers to fall in the 2014-2015 school year by an average of 1.6 percent. High schools expect budgets to dip even further, by 3.4 percent.”
In Oregon, the number of licensed school librarians dropped by 82 percent, according to the Oregon Library Association, from 818 full-time equivalents in 1980 to 144 in 2013. In a statement issued June 5, the OLA stated that in 1980 there was one librarian per 547 students. In 2013, the figure was one librarian serving almost 4,000 students.

The view of library personnel as “extraneous” runs counter to published reports that link improvements in students’ achievement to the staffing of libraries with a full-time teacher-librarian supported by full-time staff. Unfortunately, given this current climate, the burden is on library staff to make their case for the value of libraries.

Among Marge Cox’s “10 Tips for Budgeting” (Library Media Collection, January 2008), I especially liked the admonition to “Put on your own oxygen mask first” by including line-items in the budget for professional development. According to Cox, these include school library magazines, books and even association memberships and conferences.

(I am profoundly grateful for professional resources available at no out-of-pocket cost: library listservs like LM_Net for school library/media center professionals and industry journals that are indexed through the Gale CENGAGE subscription database — available to me as a benefit of having a public library card. These resources are worth every penny of investment in school and public libraries.)

The more knowledge I have as a library professional, the better I can advocate for libraries, and the better I can make the case to enlist allies who will understand libraries’ worth.

Works Cited:
  • Barack, Lauren. “SLJ’s 2014 Spending Survey: Savvy Librarians Are Doing More With Less.” School Library Journal, 15 April 2014. Web. 26 Nov. 2014.
  • Cox, Marge. “10 Tips for Budgeting.” Library Media Collection, January 2008. Cuesta College online learning platform. Web. 26 Nov. 2014.
  • Dutton Ewbank, Ann. “Surviving the Recession: Fostering Environments That Support School Librarians.” School Library Monthly, December 2010. Cuesta College online learning platform. Web. 26 Nov. 2014.
  • Oregon Library Association. “Research Supports School Librarians’ Impact on Student Learning.”, 5 June, 2014. Web. 26 Nov. 2014.

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