Sunday, October 17, 2010

Don't Close the Book on Libraries

New Jersey Association of School Librarians President Pat Massey testified in Trenton earlier this year and reminded legislators that "School libraries are cost effective. Every resource in a school library that includes books, media, computers, and other learning tools is available to every student and teacher in the school."  Mount Prospect Library circulated more than 32,000 items to both teachers and students last year.  Our resources are used over and over again.  We are the original "green" enterprise.

Although our collections won't expand this year or be as current as we would like, your librarians still like nothing better than to match a child or a teacher with a book.  We love the thrill of the chase to track down the best materials for a particular need.  We are pleased to see students empowered to used the library look-up and other computer resources.  We'll keep the doors open as much as possible and maintain as much access by students and staff as can be managed.  The library isn't a warehouse for printed matter; it's a service organization with a mission in the school to bring kids and teachers together with literature and information.  Closings can't keep us from our mission, although some delays in service will be inevitable.

Monday, October 4, 2010

There is no Such Thing as Good Education without Good Libraries.

There is no such thing as a good education without good libraries. Budget cuts have made a significant impact on library service for your children this year at Mount Prospect School. It was a school board decision to "postpone" the library book budgets for 2010-2011. More accurately, that should read "eliminate" funding for books this year. (See page 271 of the Board minutes for May 24, 2010.) On the same page you can see that it was also a board decision to "reduce 4 elementary library aides." More accurately, that should read "eliminate" four elementary library aides.

Since the school district will have to pay unemployment benefits for the aides, a savings of $16,000 can be expected this year. The cut will remain in place in the future, and savings in future years can be expected to be $40,000 per year. Meanwhile there are over 700 students at Mount Prospect, with 29 regular K-5 classes and six preschool sections, all looking for regular library services. Book repairs and special services for teachers are on a back burner as I deal with the more than 700 children in my face.

You are probably also aware that we no longer have foreign language study with a specialist at the elementary level. Only 4th and 5th grades have a foreign language, and that is Latin word study out of workbooks. Enrichment is gone, and class sizes are creeping up. Will your child still get an excellent education in Basking Ridge? Yes. Will it be as rich and full as a few years ago? Definitely not.

Without a library program that can reach out and fill all sorts of information literacy needs, the overall educational program is not at its best. Your child needs to read, think, ponder and read some more. Your child needs to learn how to locate and information. The library in its current configuration can provide checkout, even though access is severely limited compared to last year. But library should be more than just checkout. Information literacy skills are the skills your child needs for life. There is no such thing as a good education with good libraries. Librarians have the tools your child needs to be a lifelong learner and thinker.

Are there more hard times ahead? For sure. Since the library programs have been nearly eviscerated this year, look for cuts in other areas in the future.

To paraphrase Arnold Lobel:

Books to the ceiling, books to the sky
My pile of books to repair is a mile high.
How I love them. How I despair for them.
I'll have a long beard by the time I can care for them.