AASL collects data of cuts to school library programs

Contact: Melissa Jacobsen
AASL Communications Specialist
(312) 280-4381
mjacobsen@ala.org

NEWS
For Immediate Release
April 13, 2010

CHICAGO – A community of parents, students and teachers in Bloomington, Ind., are artistically mourning the loss of their school librarian. Each semester, the Templeton Elementary School community joins to create a production around a topic that has affected the students. In the past, characters ranged from an ear to "Booger Boy," a snot-soaking problem solver. This year, the central character reveals a much bigger problem – state budget cuts.

"The Case of the Missing Librarian" tells the story of how the decision to eliminate the school librarian's position has deeply affected the students of Templeton Elementary. The elimination of their school librarian has literally stripped them of their ability to speak.

Comparative data from the 2003-04 and 2007-08 "NCES School and Staffing Survey Report" shows that the number of full-time certified school librarians has decreased significantly in 24 states. From 2003 to 2007, the ratio of students to full-time certified school librarians nationwide increased roughly 4 percent, while the number of full-time certified school librarians in each state increased only 0.07 percent. The most startling cases are in states like Oregon, where the number of students per school librarians increased more than 26 percent, while the number of full-time school librarians in the state decreased 17.57 percent. The report shows 11 other states with striking differences between the ratio of students to school librarians.

This spring, an informal survey was conducted by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) of its state affiliates to gauge the scope of position eliminations/reductions nationwide. The data collected shows that the ratio of full-time certified school librarians to students will continue to significantly decrease each year.

With almost half of the states responding to the survey, results found that many districts nationwide have had to reduce multiple certified school librarian positions in response to substantial state budget deficits.

Because of these reductions, many affiliate presidents report that school librarians find themselves travelling between two or more schools within a district. This means that each school in that district is staffed by a full-time certified school librarian, part-time. Other school librarians find themselves juggling multiple roles in their schools or districts. A respondent from Iowa commented, "What is happening is that librarians are supervising multiple districts/multiple buildings or are teaching classes in addition to being a librarian among other scenarios."

Many states are still ironing out the details of their budgets, leaving school boards in the dark about how their budgets will be affected. In New York, a respondent said, "School boards are crafting budgets without knowing how much help they will get from the state. This makes for a troubling situation."

AASL maintains that it is critical that every school should be staffed by a full-time certified school librarian. School librarians are not only best able to instill the love of reading in students, but they are a school's go-to staff member for learning about new technologies, teaching students how to properly research and helping students filter and use digital information. Multiple studies have shown that schools staffed with a full-time certified school librarian have higher test scores than those without.
The widespread reach of position cuts and reductions can be easily seen on a Google map ( http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF&msa=0&msid=117551670433142326244.000482bb91ce51be5802b) created by Shonda Brisco. Open to all collaborators, this grassroots movement to illustrate "A Nation without School Libraries" has received more than 91,000 views since its inception and contains more than 250 submissions from across the country. As more grassroots efforts like this show the growing epidemic of "missing librarians," AASL will continue to work to make sure that they are catching the attention of key decision makers at the local and national level.

The American Association of School Librarians, www.aasl.org, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), promotes the improvement and extension of library media services in elementary and secondary schools as a means of strengthening the total education program. Its mission is to advocate excellence, facilitate change and develop leaders in the school library media field.