ALA President Maureen Sullivan writes about the state of school libraries in the Huffington Post
For Immediate Release
Manager of Communications
ALA Public Information Office
CHICAGO — As school libraries celebrate National Library Week (April 14 - 20) and School Library Month, American Library Association (ALA) President Maureen Sullivan expresses her concern about current and future challenges in an opinion piece published in the Huffington Post.
Sullivan writes, "As an educator and president of the American Library Association (ALA), I am concerned that school administrators may not fully understand the critical role school libraries and their librarians play in fostering and academic achievement and student success in a technology-driven world."
In the article, Sullivan cites figures from the recently released State of America's Libraries Report that indicate the impact of sequestration on school libraries. "Under sequestration funding to the Department of Education was cut more than 5.2 percent. This is likely to have a direct impact on grant programs that provide school library funding," she writes, noting especially that the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) - the only federal funding set aside for libraries - saw a reduction of more than 5.2 percent.
Sullivan details the current situation facing school libraries by giving examples of news reports of school districts throughout the country that are planning to eliminate school librarian positions.
She asks, "Do school officials who are making these decisions understand the valuable resource that they are casting aside? Do they know that that the ability to find accurate and reliable information to solve problems and make decisions has been identified as an essential 21st century skill by business leaders? Do these school districts consider the effects of eliminating librarians on student learning and student success?"
Sullivan says school librarians offer students much more than access to books. "They serve as a vital component of the education teams found in today's schools. Librarians teach essential skills of inquiry, critical thinking, digital citizenship and technology. They foster a love of reading," she says.
She also wonders how students will meet the new Common Core Standards without the guidance of school librarians, saying, "(I)t seems that many school administrators hold a false assumption that search engines, Wikipedia, and social media are adequate substitutions for the research expertise - and the guidance of - school librarians."
What they fail to see, she says, is that "school librarians help more than 30 million students each week navigate a vast landscape of digital content, because the majority of students still lack the ability to analyze information found online."
She concludes, "School librarians make a significant difference in student achievement and their work is a critical component of the success of all of our children."