How to Kill a School Library
December 6, 2013 | 4:39 pm
By Joanna Cabot
Thanks to Nate at The Digital Reader for sending this article my way. It’s from a website called The School Library Journal, and it’s called “How to Kill a School Library in Ten Easy Steps.” I bet you could probably guess most of the steps without even reading the article: fire the librarian, replace them with clerks or volunteers. rush kids in and out of there, off-load the professional development library specialists used to provide to Pinterest and Google…
I read this article with a sad, sinking feeling. My own well-meaning school has seen many of these shifts happen. We lost our library specialist years ago, and we do rely on parent volunteers, over-worked teachers and admin staff to fill in the gaps. And now, with the rise of the e-stuff, some of this has been off-loaded onto the designated technology people (aka me). I’m spending more of my limited prep time than I might care to on downloading content for iPads, running training sessions for clueless staff and trying to squeeze in a good experience for the kids above all else.
The reality is that in any school, staff and time and money and resources are limited. Every teacher thinks, correctly, that their work is vitally important—but how do you fit it all in? I looked at some of the functions of a school library that were listed in this article, and it made me feel like we could spend all day in some of these libraries and never run out of good stuff to do. But there isn’t time. We have other things we have to focus on too.
And sometimes, every member of the staff has to make compromises. My primary role at school is teaching French, which in my province, is a required curriculum area. I may have my strengths and weaknesses, but I do my best. I teach good classes, and sometimes sneak in a little extra and use my French on the playground or the lunchroom. And yet, even my required role can sometimes be usurped by something else—I have been pulled in to sub for absent teachers before, I have lost whole mornings to dress rehearsals for the holiday concert or classes departed for a field trip, or even kids missing days or weeks for illness or travel for a family emergency.
The difference is that my work, while capable of being interrupted, is still capable of being resumed. They come back from the field trip or the illness or the play rehearsal and I am still here, with all of my resources and lesson plans and designated blocks on the schedule. Our library specialist? Not so much.
I have actually thought of taking the library specialist training myself. I would love to set up a Calibre library on our school computer and show kids how to plug in their devices and download great stuff. I’d love to show them how to use Wikipedia and have the luxury to sit down with a group of kids and simply read with them. But I know what would happen if I took the training—any free time that wasn’t being sucked up by iPad maintenance would disappear into the black hole of library book shelving, and I’d have not time to do anything fun.
So, I am sticking to my current little areas, and our school has, as of now, an admin who orders new books and a cadre of parent volunteers who does the shelving. And that is our library book program. Sad, isn’t it? But…what can we do?