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.