Sample Op-ed

Your child's school library is a classroom shared with every other student in the school, every teacher and administrator, and all of the staff. The school library provides instruction, resources and services to every grade level in every area of the curriculum, including professional resources to support teachers and administrators and parents as well.

School librarians have expertise and knowledge of both print and non-print resources and specialize in teaching information literacy and research skills. The literature and information professional in your child's school is the school librarian, sometimes called the teacher-librarian or library media specialist.

In many areas of the country, the school librarian is required to be a certified classroom teacher and must take specialized courses to qualify for the job. Some states require that school librarians have classroom teaching experience and/or earn a Master's degree in library and information science. The school library is the classroom of the school librarian.

The school librarian meets and teaches every student in the school on a regular basis. Students use the library to locate information for personal use, to find a good book to read, or to find resources for an assigned paper or report.

The school library is where students learn to use the online card catalog (OPAC) to identify print and non-print material available in their school. They learn to use electronic encyclopedias and databases containing magazine and newspaper articles. They learn to use reference materials such as atlases and almanacs and how to correctly cite sources in reports and papers. Students learn to evaluate, use and manage information. Their information literacy teacher is the school librarian.

Lack of funding for materials is an on-going problem for many schools and districts. However, a more current threat to the quality of school library programs comes from a campaign called the "65% Solution" proposed by an advocacy group calling itself "First Class Education." This simplistic "solution" for public education woes requires that 65% of available funding for public education be spent on "classroom instruction." While non-academic areas such as sports and the prom are considered instructional, a restrictive definition of "instructional expenses" does not include school librarians and school library media programs.

You can support your child's school library program by becoming informed about this issue. School library programs must be included in the definition of "direct classroom instruction" by the National Center for Education Statistics. Voice your concerns to your state and national representatives. Contact the office of First Lady Laura Bush to encourage her continued involvement to ensure that school libraries are not eliminated from our public schools.

Speak to district and state superintendents of education, to building principals, and to school board members in your area. Remind them that, in the last 12 years, 16 states have conducted research studies linking well-stocked and professionally-staffed school libraries with student academic achievement. Students with more access to information (books and other resources) read more, write better, and get better grades and better test scores. (For a synopsis of these studies, see School Libraries Work, published by Scholastic Publishing, 2008).

School libraries are classrooms for reading and research, for group and independent study. The school librarian is a teacher, an information resources manager, and a technology and curriculum leader in the school. Don't allow your community to eliminate these critical teachers and classrooms from your child's school. Don't be fooled by "The 65% Solution." If enacted in [your state], it will prove not to be a solution, but a huge problem. It could effectively eliminate a professional educator and educational resources from your child's school. It could mean that your child will not be prepared to live and work in the 21st-century world of information.