Thinking about my high school librarian brings back warm memories. She was friendly and the library was welcoming. But lack of funding is crowding out our school librarians.
A dilemma in education
How frustrating for an administrator to have to choose between a nurse, a counselor or a librarian.
This means that while 91% of US public and private schools have libraries, only 61% have a certified librarian, according to a 2019 article on americanlibrariesmagazine.org.
A 2021 report from School Librarian Investigation—Declin or Evolution? A research project found that 20% of full-time school librarian positions were cut between 2010 and 2019 in the United States. The impact was felt in large urban areas and small rural communities.
One in five school librarian positions were cut between 2000 and 2016 across the country, where elementary and secondary school libraries are being funded, repurposed, or simply abandoned.
The number of school librarians in Ohio has dropped by half in the past 10 years despite studies showing that students do better when librarians are in the building. What? Ohio has lost more than 700 school library positions in a decade. How is it possible ?
Data from the Ohio Department of Education reported 923 school librarians in the 2013-2014 school year, down 43% from 1,628 in the 2004-05 school year, according to a 2015 article from the Akron Beacon Journal.
Ohio and Certified School Librarians – “The number of certified school librarians continues to decline in Ohio’s K-12 schools, as positions are replaced by less qualified staff members, or, as librarians retire, none at all,” reported a 2015 article in The School Library Journal.
Instead of hiring certified librarians, many school libraries are staffed with untrained helpers. Why? Lower wages. So, follow the budget cuts and the trail of defunding.
School librarians are irreplaceable in the educational cake. When it comes to a student’s reading, librarians play a crucial role in helping them succeed. Studies have long shown that strong school library programs are the biggest benefit for vulnerable students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Several studies suggest a link between school librarians and improved reading scores, even controlling for differences in school funding and student income.
Read what the Ohio Department of Education proclaimed about libraries in 2021: “A strong school library program staffed by a certified library media specialist has a powerful effect on literacy and learning of all learners. The work of school librarians and the impact of school library programs directly support Ohio’s strategic plan for education, Every Child, Our Future. Strong library programs support the four learning domains of digital literacy, foundations of lifelong learning and literacy, information literacy, and media literacy.
School librarians are becoming digital literacy experts. Students will often use the library throughout their studies for help with safe and efficient Internet browsing and learning new software. School librarians teach students where and how to access resources and link them to appropriate and reliable information.
Contact your child’s school librarian. Talk about the importance of school librarians in the education system. Round up other parents and attend school council meetings. Contact local officials about the importance of a librarian to students. Ask them to increase funding and support the library on behalf of the people they serve.
“The mission of the Ohio Educational Library Media Association (OELMA) is to be the responsive, forward-thinking center of the school librarianship profession in Ohio, bringing value to school librarians as they support the educational needs and personal learning for all students and teachers.”
SaveSchoolLibrarians.org continues to support school librarians in crisis and the advocacy platform engages parents and the public on school library budgets and school librarians.
Learn more about the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). Visit [email protected]
Each school has a school library and a certified school librarian.
Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is a child therapist, early literacy advocate, picture book author, and editorial opinion columnist. She lives in southern Ohio.