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Funding problems for school library media centers nationwide causing cutbacks in library
media specialists, resources, and hours

 

School media centers are the heart and hub of schools. Studies have shown that library media centers staffed with library media specialists play a crucial role in increasing literacy for students and in boosting student achievement. But many school library media centers nationwide are facing funding shortages leading to elimination of trained library media specialists, shortened hours, inadequate materials, and even closures of media centers.

 

Key recent news reports and editorials about school media center funding cuts include:

 

Escondido, Calif. (Feb. 11, 2006):

 

Drastic decreases in state funding have made keeping Escondido's school libraries filled and updated a challenge for Escondido Union School District, officials there say. And as new schools come on line in the elementary district, the limited funds are making it tough to establish new libraries on those campuses. State funding for school libraries across California has been dropping for several years but has become practically nonexistent this academic year. In the 1999-2000 school year, the state paid $29.16 per student to supply libraries. That number has since dropped to just 41 cents per student this year and shows no sign of reversing course, said Kathy Shirley, coordinator of technology and media services for the district.

 

Merced, Calif. (November 11, 2006):

 

School library media specialists may be cut in Merced in order to have the money to pay district employees a promised 8.4 raise for the next two fiscal years. 

 

Click here for more information:

and search by the name of the city, library type, or name of library.

 

Jones County, Ga. (August 17, 2006):

 

School library shelves at the Jones County Academy (Ga.) library are mostly bare. According to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accreditation program, a school library should contain 10 books for each student, placing the number needed for the academy at approximately 4,000. The school library has roughly 300 books. Each of the county's schools has seemed to face the same dilemma as they opened because education budgets are typically stretched for construction and furnishing the facilities.

 

Click here for more information:

and search by the name of the city, library type, or name of library.

 

Evansville, Ind. (November 18, 2006)

 

Bosse High School librarian Paula Boenigk, helps students in a French class do research in the media center of the school on Friday. Paula Boenigk went to state education superintendent Suellen Reed's recent town meeting in Evansville, not to ask a question but to plead her case. Boenigk is Bosse High School's librarian. She told Reed that her ability to keep a relevant, interesting and well-conditioned inventory is getting more challenging each year. She said she had only $2,000 to spend on books for the current calendar year. Of that, $1,300 went to replace or repair materials that were old or lost. That left $700 for new materials, which Boenigk said isn't nearly enough to meet students' needs.

 

Click here for more information:

and search by the name of the city, library type, or name of library.

 

Indianapolis, Ind. (June 16, 2006)

 

I have been reading with concern the reports in The Indianapolis Star about Indiana's poor reading skills. Proficiency in reading is a key component of all learning. Indiana's reading scores could be greatly improved with a few changes. The money spent on school libraries and public libraries is an important factor in this equation. Obviously, if the reading materials are out of date they have little appeal or value. Nationally, the total local funding for school library media centers (not including salaries) for all elementary schools is $23.76 per student. Indiana elementary school library media centers average between $10.40 per student and $15.06 per student. That means Indiana's elementary schools spend 36 percent to 56 percent less per student than the national average for reading materials alone. The Indiana statistics are equally grim regarding the expenditures for the middle school and the high school libraries, according to the 2004 Association of Indiana Media Educators' Survey.

Margaret L. Hamilton, director of the Greenwood Public Library

 

Click here for more information:

and search by the name of the city, library type, or name of library.

 

Norton, Mass. (June 23, 2006)

 

Due to the failure of Norton's fiscal 2007 $2.67 million operational override, libraries at the L.G. Nourse School, J.C. Solmonese School, Henri A. Yelle School, and Norton Middle School will be closed and three library assistants eliminated. "How can we properly educate children without access to all that a library has to offer?" said resident Cynthia Slattery.

 

Click here for more information:

and search by the name of the city, library type, or name of library.

 

Wellesley, Mass. (June 1, 2006)

 

School libraries in Wellesley should undergo instructional, staff-based and physical changes in order to provide students with the best experience, but currently lack the financial resources to do so, a library department review committee has concluded.

 

Click here for more information:

and search by the name of the city, library type, or name of library.

 

Forest Lake, Minn. (May 25, 2006)

 

The Forest Lake School District may see a loss of $6 million if the board does not ask voters in fall 2006 to renew an operating levy that was approved in 2001. If the district has to cut $6 million, the consequences could be severe including the closing of school libraries and the elimination of seven library media specialists and nine media clerks.

 

Click here for more information:

and search by the name of the city, library type, or name of library.

 

Nashua, N.H. (June 16, 2006)

 

It's possible that none of the city's 12 elementary schools would be left with a full-time librarian next year, said Nashua High School North librarian Joan Poltack, the head of the school librarians. As part of the plan to absorb $4.2 million in cuts to the $85.7 million budget, administrators had recommended decreasing the number of librarians in the elementary schools to nine. Currently, there is one full-time librarian for each of the dozen schools. Some simple arithmetic indicates there won't be enough people to cover the libraries all five days of the week. The plan leaves nearly every elementary school with a gap in its weekly schedule. At some point during the week, each school will have to either close the doors to the library or simply leave it unmanned

 

Click here for more information:

and search by the name of the city, library type, or name of library.

 

Charlotte, S.C. (Feb. 2, 2006)

 

Across the Catawba Valley, many school libraries are grappling with old or depleted book collections, leaving students with limited outlets for learning -- and imagination. Every high school library in the Unifour has a below-average number of books, and many collections are aging, according to state data. Educational research has repeatedly shown that well-stocked, well-staffed school libraries boost student achievement. They help schools meet testing goals. They provide a place for student research. At their best, they educate and inspire. But centers with old or depleted collections can do just the opposite: misinform students, many of whom have little access to books otherwise, and turn them off from reading, librarians and other school officials say.

 

Click here for more information:

and search by the name of the city, library type, or name of library.

 

Dallas, Texas (February 12, 2006)

 

With a hefty budget shortfall predicted for the coming school year, district officials are considering cutting funding for new library books at all 18 schools to save roughly $100,000. The one-year cut would not preclude principals from buying books if they can find money elsewhere in their campus budgets. School board members say the proposal, one of many cash-saving plans under review, certainly isn't ideal, but they contend it beats slashing other classroom costs or staff in this tight budget season.

 

Click here for more information:

and search by the name of the city, library type, or name of library.

 

Provo, Utah (March 17, 2006):

 

The Provo City School District is stepping up its plans to phase out most of its certified media specialists at the elementary- and middle-school levels. Instead of awaiting retirements and resignations to shift the positions to classified employees-nonteaching staff members who are trained to maintain existing media centers and circulate materials-officials will cut budgets by 50% for K-8 libraries district-wide as of the 2008 school year. The savings will total some $250,000 per year and help the district absorb the costs associated with revaluing assets and liabilities under the Governmental Accounting Standards Board system as mandated by federal regulations, according to Business Director Kerry Smith. "It's a desperate thing that's happening in Utah, and we're not happy about it," said Laurel Harris, chair of the Utah Library Association's School Library Section, adding that the staffing changes in Provo mean "we'll be down to just three or four districts in the state that have elementary librarians." She went on to say that at Jordan High School in Sandy, where she is the librarian, "I get kids here that don't understand how to use Dewey Decimal, let alone how to do basic research." Certified media specialists in Provo who aren't leaving the system are being transferred to classroom posts.

 

Click here for more information:

and search by the name of the city, library type, or name of library.

 

Washington, D.C. (May 15, 2006)

 

When Coolidge High School librarian Lynn Kauffman received notice a few weeks ago that her position was being eliminated, she was dumbfounded. After all, it wasn't as if she hadn't been doing her job. The library was a shambles when she came to the school in the District's Brightwood neighborhood in the fall of 2002. Years of leaks had damaged the ceiling. Moldy, mildewed books were stuck to the shelves. The card catalogue was on its side, contents scattered. In 3 1/2 years, Kauffman and a crew of students, teachers, parents and neighborhood volunteers transformed the library, cleaning it and discarding outdated and inappropriate books. She organized a partnership with the Special Libraries Association to assess needs and set up a computer catalogue. And she raised about $16,000 for new books and materials from foundations and donors, including this newspaper. Under pressure from parents and residents who support Kauffman's efforts, Coolidge Principal L. Nelson Burton has agreed to let her return half time next year. But his initial decision to install a "computer lab coordinator" in the library stands -- one more example of the D.C. public schools' misplaced priorities and shortsightedness.

 

Click here for more information:

and search by the name of the city, library type, or name of library.

 

Federal Way, Wash. (May 10, 2006):

 

The superintendent of Federal Way Public Schools in May 2006 recommended eliminating 27 of 34 librarian jobs as part of a $4 million budget cut. Under Superintendent Tom Murphy's plan, there would be one librarian for every five schools starting in September. While library hours wouldn't change, each school would have a librarian just one day a week. A leader of a state library association said Federal Way isn't an isolated case, but its proposed cuts are the most sweeping. Districts with budget problems "look around at what they perceive as being expendable and choose librarians or libraries," said Marianne Hunter, president-elect of the Washington Library Media Association. "It's a very disturbing trend," said Hunter, teacher-librarian at Timberline High School in Lacey. Librarian supporters, including parents and students, have been protesting the cuts.

 

Click here for more information:

and search by the name of the city, library type, or name of library.

 

Milwaukee, Wis. (June 30, 2006)

 

According to a recent report by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, only 44 certified librarians serve 157 Milwaukee schools. Some three dozen schools in the Milwaukee area have been given 14 months to ensure that a licensed librarian oversees each of their libraries.

 

Click here for more information:

and search by the name of the city, library type, or name of library.

 

Monroe, Wis. (May 20, 2006)

 

The Monroe School District is planning to eliminate four of the district's five librarian positions. This follows the fall 2005 lay-offs of all library support staff. Through sheer volume alone -- the Monroe school district has about 2,700 students and 390 staff -- one librarian can't adequately respond to everyone's needs the way five do now.

 

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and search by the name of the city, library type, or name of library.

 

Wisconsin (October 2006)

 

In the 2006-2007 school year, students in Wisconsin have access to 70 fewer Library Media Specialists than in the previous year. During the 2005-2006 school year, 199 of Wisconsin's 426 districts (46.7%) employed only one certified Library Media Specialist. The number of districts in the state with only one certified librarian continues to increase due to tighter budgets and staffing cuts, according to the Wisconsin Educational Media Association.

 

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and search by the name of the city, library type, or name of library.

 

Wetzel County, W. Va. (March 31, 2006):

 

In response to a looming fiscal crisis, the superintendent of the Wetzel County (W.Va.) Schools has proposed eliminating as of fiscal year 2006-07 all library staff at the system's four high schools. The $150,000 saved by laying off 1.5 certified media specialists and one half-time aide would help offset more than $1 million in cuts that Wetzel County school officials must realize due to declining enrollment, according to Superintendent Paul Barcus.

 

Click here for more information:

and search by the name of the city, library type, or name of library.

 

PERSONAL STORIES

To read personal stories from across the country on library funding in libraries and school libraries, visit: Tell Your Story! These stories share the human side of state and local budget decisions, and help ALA to inform legislators that libraries need to be a priority.

http://www.ala.org/ala/news/libraryfunding/libraryfundingstories.htm

 

STUDIES & STATISTICS

The status of school library programs in Illinois

Statistics About Libraries

 

School Librarian Data 1999-2003

 

A History of Public School Libraries and Federal Legislation from 1953-2000

 

Canadian study on school libraries and student achievement

 

Funding issues in U.S. public libraries, fiscal years 2003-2006


RESOURCES:

 

AASL Issues & Advocacy

Library Funding

 

School Library Funding


Dollar General Grant: Beyond Words - the Dollar General school library relief fund

 

@ your library School Library Campaign

 

ALA Advocacy
WEB SITE LINKS
American Library Association
The Campaign for America's Libraries
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