School Librarians Get the Third Degree

BlogHer Original Post

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is having serious budget problems. There is a section on the district web site that shows a chart of how they spend the money. One of the LAUSD solutions is the closing of elementary and middle school libraries.

Most of the library staff have received layoff notices. Senior high school libraries will remain open for the present time.

There is an ignorant persistent cultural murmur about we have the Internet now, so we don’t need educated book pullers anymore. So that we are on common ground, please watch this video about what 21st-century school librarians actually do for K-12 students.

School librarians or teacher librarians in California are dual credentialed. This means these are teachers with a library certification, librarians with a teaching certification or have a masters in both education and library science.

Not Seeing the Forest for the Trees

Now remember, the school libraries will be closed, that hasn’t changed as of this writing. This issue that caused a ruckus is the treatment of these library professionals in an administrative hearing.

At the Library is Not a Fruit blog, Mizz Murphy gives a detailed account of the level of grilling and idiocy the LAUSD attorney subjected the teacher librarians to such as:

  • Do you take attendance?
  • Do you know the physical education requirements for first graders?
  • Are you familiar with the Dewey Decimal System?

The above questions might look innocent until you realize that the point of the hearing is to prove that these professionals are not qualified to be transitioned into a regular teaching classroom.

The Pat Morrison show at KPCC has an interview with Los Angeles Times reporter Hector Tobar and some of the teacher librarians that attended the hearing. As interesting as the interview was look at, the comments from those people that truly don’t understand the need for contemporary libraries and librarians.

The fact is that the LAUSD no longer wants to pay for that level of librarian or teacher experience. What the attorneys for the LAUSD were trying to prove is that the people that teach reading, literacy, research skills, or expose young children to their future favorite book do not have the ability to transition into a regular classroom.

Still, I have a problem. I can’t get off on the sticking place that elementary and middle school libraries are still closing and nobody is kicking up about that except the librarians. I don’t think it is just because of losing their jobs. We are removing reading instruction books and technology in order to balance the budget.

Is it just me or did we just jump into the abyss?

Part of this is battle fatigue. This is one of many frustrations with the LAUSD. In a prior election, citizens approved a $20 billion bond measure to build new facilities including libraries. It passed.

If LAUSD knew it didn’t have the money to staff libraries or keep them open, then why in the hell did they float the bond measure? This is one of many illogical practices that the LAUSD has been known to perform.

And no, the $20 billion bond money is allocated for building, not staffing. Not the first time LAUSD has done stuff like this. It won’t be the last.

Re-Institutionalized Illiteracy

I have to wonder if local citizens don’t know or care about the school library closures. Another culture murmur I hear is that they don’t have kids in school or they resent their tax dollars supporting public education when they do not derive any direct benefit from that education.

I, and other people, feel it is the intentional mis-education of middle class and minority students.

  • Get rid of the libraries and you have to get rid of knowledge workers that teach their students literacy, resources and verifying information skills.
  • Without in-house librarian support teachers can focus on teaching to the test without pesky interruptions of providing content to the assignment or having a librarian to help you find professional resources outside of your teaching area.
  • Lower the student testing scores so badly that people will demand charter schools that will not have to accept learning disabled, behavior problems or so called underachievers which is another name for kids who don’t know how to read.
  • Push the lure of vouchers only to have those parents realize that the price of admission to quality private schools will forever be outside their reach when the tab starts ringing up additional charges for books, computers, equipment, school activities and fees.

I do believe this is intentional. Dumb students down enough and one day maybe no one will notice how ludicrous the Tennessee Tea Party’s request to eliminate any historical references to slavery or any factual historical event that obscures the contributions to the founding fathers from the Tennessee  school curriculum.

Sounds reasonable? Without critical thinking skills or the ability to read how would you know?

Gena Haskett is a BlogHer Contributing Editor. My Blogs: Out On The Stoop and Create Video Notebook

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